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Thursday, September 26, 2002

Baseball Could Use Some Major Changes

Shaun steals the Commish’s chair for a day.

Several things could make baseball better and return fan interest to pre-1994 strike levels, including realignment, a better playoff system, some schedule changes, a few rule changes and a better way to evaluate umpires.

Here are some needed changes that I would make if I
were commissioner:

1. The first thing baseball needs to do is get rid of interleague play or keep interleague play and use a
more uniform schedule for teams in the same division.  If there?s interleague play, every team in a
particular division should play the same teams the same number of times so that one team doesn?t have a
weaker or stronger schedule than a team in their division. I vote no interleague play because, while
some match-ups are interesting, most aren?t really that exciting. Plus, the World Series is more
interesting if it?s between teams that haven?t faced each other or haven?t faced each other in a long time
in games that matter. Think of how much more exciting a Mets-Yankees World Series would have been had it
been a rarity.

2. In the World Series, the team with the best record should get home-field advantage. This would encourage
teams to win as many games as possible not just because of home-field advantage in and of itself, but
because it forces a team?s World Series opponent to play with or without the Designated Hitter Rule in
most of the games.

3. Pickoff throws should be limited to speed up games.  Three pickoff throws per at-bat seems reasonable.
After three, a ball is called on the hitter.

4. Pitching changes should be limited to speed up games. Only one mid-inning change per game unless a
pitcher gives up two or more runs in an inning.

5. Offense is ridiculously high, which slows down games. To combat this the batter?s box should be
moved back and umpires should more strictly enforce the rule about being in the batter?s box when hitting.
This change would do a great job in shifting the balance back to the pitcher.

6. Change the save rule. Most saves now happen when the game is already all but won. Changing the save
rule would give saves to pitchers who pitch in key situations, give big contracts to pitchers who
"deserve" them and would make games more interesting by encouraging managers to go to their relief aces in
key situations. The save rule, in my opinion, is pretty liberal now. My proposed new save rule is
pretty liberal but still takes away a lot of "cheap saves."

A pitcher should earn a save when:

     

  1. He comes in during the seventh inning or later with
    the tying run on base or at bat and he retires at
    least two batters.

  2. He comes in during the seventh inning or later with
    the tying run at bat, on base or on deck and does not
    give up the lead before he retires at least three
    hitters.

  3. He comes in during the seventh inning or later with
    his team up by three runs or less and retires at least
    six hitters without giving up the lead.

  4. He comes in during the eighth inning or later with
    the tying run in scoring position and does not give up
    a run before he retires at least one batter.

 

7. The umpires should have a better rating system and they should be paid according to it (along with
tenure). The system would be based on bad calls made.  There would be an umpire reviewer at each Major
League ballpark, much like an official scorer, whose job it would be to watch every play and keep a record
of bad calls made by each umpire. On tough calls the reviewer would have to judge whether a call was too
tough to count against the umpire, much like an official scorer judges errors. The umpires? union may
not accept such a proposal, but maybe some incentive for the best umpires would help the accept it. The
best umpires would work the playoffs and All-Star Game and the very best would work the World Series.
Umpires would get a hefty playoff and All-Star bonus and an even heftier World Series bonus. Hopefully
this would be enough to satisfy the umpires? union.

8. Baseball should not have a wild card. Having a wild card ruins great pennant races between great
teams (see the 1993 Braves-Giants race, the 1996 Dodgers-Padres non-race and this year?s would-be great
race between the A?s and Angels), plus it allows a second-place team the chance to win the World Series.
In baseball, the team that wins more games is the better team, not the team that wins "when it counts."
There are several realignment options baseball could go with to make pennant races more interesting and
increase the chances of the World Series trophy going to a team that deserves it.

Option A is the "Old-School Realignment" option. This is basically the divisional setup that was in use from
1969 to 1993, with a few changes to cater to expansion and geography. The advantage of Old-School
Realignment is that it keeps the American League and National League traditions alive. The disadvantages
are it may be a little tougher on teams, as far as travel is concerned, than my other realignment plans
and it is not as friendly to new baseball fans as at least one of my other realignment plans. While it
would have been more logical to put Milwaukee in one of the Western Divisions, I?ve placed them back in the
AL East because there?s no room in either the NL or AL West and they have a tradition in the American League;
they won a pennant there. I placed Tampa Bay in the NL East frankly because that?s where there was room
for them.

Without interleague play, NL teams would play teams in their own division 14 times each and teams in the
other NL division 8 times each. AL teams would play teams in their own division 20 times each and teams in
the other AL division 6 times each.

NL EAST



Atlanta Braves

Cincinnati Reds

Florida Marlins

Montreal Expos

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

NL WEST



Arizona Diamondbacks

Chicago Cubs

Colorado Rockies

Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers

St. Louis Cardinals

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

AL EAST



Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

New York Yankees

Milwaukee Brewers

Toronto Blue Jays

AL WEST



Anaheim Angels

Chicago White Sox

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Texas Rangers

Realignment option B is the "Conference Realignment" option. This would split baseball into two separate
conferences much like the NBA or NHL. The advantages of this option is that it?s easier on teams as far as
travel is concerned, it is fan-friendly (especially to new baseball fans), and it creates some good geographic rivalries. The negatives are that it does away with some tradition and something would likely have to be done about the DH Rule. With that many teams switching leagues, there wouldn?t be a clear cut way to decide which league would get the DH Rule and which one would not.

Without interleague play, Western Conference teams would play teams in their own division 14 times each
and teams in the other Western Conference division 8 times each. Eastern Conference teams would play teams
in their own division 20 times each and teams in the other Eastern Conference division 6 times each.

EASTERN CONFERENCE?NORTHEAST DIVISION

Boston Red Sox

Montreal Expos

New York Mets

New York Yankees

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

Toronto Blue Jays

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE-CENTRAL-SOUTH DIVISION

Atlanta Braves

Baltimore Orioles

Cincinnati Reds

Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Florida Marlins

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

WESTERN CONFERENCE-WEST COAST DIVISION

Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks

Colorado Rockies

Los Angeles Dodgers

Oakland Athletics

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

Seattle Mariners

WESTERN CONFERENCE-MIDWEST DIVISION



Chicago Cubs

Chicago White Sox

Houston Astros

Kansas City Royals

Milwaukee Brewers

Minnesota Twins

St. Louis Cardinals

Texas Rangers

The third realignment option is the "Eight-Division Realignment" option. The advantages of this option are that it keeps the extra round of playoffs without the wild card, it keeps some tradition, the alignment makes more sense than probably any of the other realignment options and it encourages expansion. The disadvantages are that, with only four teams in each division, teams that don?t have great records could make the playoffs if they play in a weak division and an extra round takes away from the regular season (although not as bad with this format as with the
current format in Major League Baseball because a second-place team will not qualify for the post-season).

Without interleague play, teams will face each team in their own division 14 times each and each team in other divisions 10 times each. With this option, every playoff series should be seven games with the team with the better record earning home-field advantage in each round. The more games, the more likely it is that the better team will win.

NL SOUTH



Atlanta Braves

Cincinnati Reds

Florida Marlins

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

NL NORTH

Montreal Expos

New York Mets

Philadelphia Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

NL MIDWEST



Chicago Cubs

Colorado Rockies

Houston Astros

St. Louis Cardinals

NL WEST

Arizona Diamonbacks

Los Angeles Dodgers

San Diego Padres

San Francisco Giants

AL EAST



Baltimore Orioles

Boston Red Sox

Charlotte (or eastern city) Expansion Team

New York Yankees

AL CENTRAL



Cleveland Indians

Detroit Tigers

Milwaukee Brewers

Toronto Blue Jays

AL MIDWEST



Chicago Cubs

Kansas City Royals

Minnesota Twins

Texas Rangers

AL WEST



Anaheim Angels

Oakland Athletics

Portland (or western city) Expansion Team

Seattle Mariners

 

Shaun Payne Posted: September 26, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Paul Mazurkiewicz Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606422)
I like the "Conference Realignment" option much better than the other two. Maybe we can make like the old NHL and name them after people--the Babe Ruth and Ted Williams Conferences, with the Willie Mays, Sandy Koufax, Walter Johnson, and Ty Cobb Divisions. That would be awesome. (Please don't nitpick over the names--I just picked some off the top of my head).
   2. Shaun Payne Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606423)
Paul,

Just wondering what you would like baseball to do with the DH Rule, if they were to go for the Conference Realignment plan. One of my ideas that I didn't put in the article is to let the home team decide on whether to use a DH on a game-by-game basis. Just a thought.
   3. Shaun Payne Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606425)
Keith,
Bill James addresses your concerns in The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstracts (p. 317-324) in an article entitled "The Perfect Machine." In fact I "borrowed" ("stole") some aspects of his ideas. His argument is that the interests of a manager and his team to win games often undermines the interests of the fans to enjoy games.

In basketball a team can't build a big lead and sit on the ball because of the shot clock. In football there's the play clock. In hockey there are off-sides and two-line pass rules to keep players from blasting the puck from one end of the ice to another. Well, why not change some rules to force pitchers to pitch, which would speed up the game and get rid of some of the "dead time" during games? It might also cause a return of high stolen base rates.

I'm not suggesting that baseball ruin it's "purity," but I am suggesting baseball create an atmosphere where fans see players playing more baseball and doing less standing around.
   4. Shaun Payne Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606426)
Also, what Keith means by "simplicity" or "purity" of baseball, I believe is an illusion. Baseball, I argue, needs rules changes to help it along and has always needed rules changes. Baseball's forefathers came up with balls and strikes so that a hitter doesn't just stand at the plate for a long time and wait on a perfect pitch probably because that was becoming a problem; it made the game boring to any spectator and to the other players. Strategy changes and baseball needs rules so that strategy doesn't overtake the enjoyment and fun of the game. In my opinion, allowing the pitcher an unlimited amount of pickoff throws is allowing strategy to overrun the pleasure of watching the game.
   5. bob mong Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606428)
Regarding pick-off attempts:

Do they really use that much time? I mean, I have watched/listened to a lot of games this year (most of the Mariners' games) and I can't recall that many (any) multiple-pickoff-attempt innings. Does it happen often enough that we need to legislate it out of existence? Or is it just an easy target cuz it is so darn annoying when it does happen?
   6. Michael Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606431)
Yeah, I like the speed up suggestion that once a batter steps into the batter's box for an at-bat he is not allowed to step out of it or call time except after foul balls. None of this after every ball and strike I need to touch my batting gloves 18 times.
   7. Shaun Payne Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606435)
I didn't mention anything in my article about the economics of the game, but I think teams should split earnings from local television 50-50 with their opponents. Without opponents, what good is a TV deal? I like the idea of limiting local TV contracts. I think that would go along way in solving some of the revenue disparity.

While we're on the subject, imagine how good the A's would be with as much revenue as the Yankees or how good the Yankees would be with a GM as smart as Billy Beane!

I also think there should be a salary cap and a minimum payroll, but that's not going to happen, even though it would benefit the majority of players and only hurt the guys with the highest earning potential. Let the owners set the cap, but give them some sort of limits and let the players set the floor but give them some sort of limits. I don't know how this could be done, but I'd love to hear some ideas on it.
   8. Alan Shank Posted: September 26, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606437)
"The third realignment option is the "Eight-Division Realignment" option. The advantages of this option are that it keeps the extra round of playoffs without the wild card, it keeps some tradition, the alignment makes more sense than probably any of the other realignment options and it encourages expansion. The disadvantages are that, with only four teams in each division, teams that don?t have great records could make the playoffs if they play in a weak division and an extra round takes away from the regular season (although not as bad with this format as with the current format in Major League Baseball because a second-place team will not qualify for the post-season). "

It seems to me much worse for a sub-.500 team to make the playoffs, which can easily happen with 4-team divisions, than for a second-place team with a good record to make the playoffs. Of all the changes since the old two-8-team-leagues system, the "mini-divisions" have done the most harm to the integrity of the pennant races. That is, they have reduced the probability of the best team winning more than anything else. With an unbalanced schedule, the weakness of a division will be partially hidden, since they will be playing each other so much more. In 1994, with a balanced schedule, Texas was in first place, ten games BELOW .500, when they struck. That would have been a travesty! The team that would have been the AL wildcard was playing .584 ball.

The unbalanced schedule within a league is just as unfair (as far as determining the wildcard (which you advocate eliminating) and home-field advantage in the playoffs) as interleague play with teams playing different sets of opponents. The A's are struggling to keep up with the Yankees for the #1 seed, while the Yankees have been fattening up on Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Toronto. Do you think Minnesota would be playing .580 ball if they didn't get to play the execrable Tigers and Royals 40 games or so?

OTOH, it has made for some very good series toward the end of this season, as Oakland/Anaheim and SF/LA have played home & home series head-to-head while fighting for a division title or the wildcard. Of course, the wildcard rendered the OAK/ANA series less meaningful, as the loser of the division will be the wildcard, but SF and LA would have been playing for nothing without the wildcard.

If I had my 'druthers, we'd have two leagues, two divisions of 7 or 8 teams each, a balanced schedule and only division winners make the playoffs, but that has a snowball's-chance-in-Hell of happening.

Cheers,
Alan Shank
   9. Shaun Payne Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606438)
Pete,

I don't see that I'm treating the Reds like a "red-headed stepchild." I didn't really consider rivalries too much when I wrote this article. I was more concerned with geography (and tradition, in some alignments). I also never threw the Reds into the American League. I threw them in with some former AL teams in the Conference Realignment, but I threw lots of teams in every direction because the NL/AL traditional setup goes completely out the window when realigning based purely on geography.

I was concerned with keeping the Cardinals-Cubs, Giants-Dodgers and Red Sox-Yankees rivalries alive because, let's face it, those are the biggest in baseball. But it wasn't that hard to keep those teams in the same division because geographically it makes since. The Reds, like a lot of teams, don't have any rivals that immediately come to mind, like the Yankees-Red Sox, etc.

In the Old-School plan, if I put the Reds in the NL West, who do I put in the NL East? Every team in the NL West is more western than Cincinnati. I suppose I could have put them in the NL Midwest and moved Houston to the NL South. But I was thinking more west than midwest.

Finally, I think the Reds had some pretty good battles with the Braves in the old NL West, and to tell you the truth, I did think about the Braves and Reds starting a good rivalry. They are among the oldest franchises in history and they aren't that far apart geographically.

I considered geography and keeping the old teams in their old leagues in both NL/AL Realignment plans and I don't think I treated the Reds differently than any other team.
   10. Shaun Payne Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606439)
Alan,

I agree. I don't like the four-team division format too much. I do like it better than the current system because at least you can prove yourself against a division opponent throughout the season and you won't have to beat them again in the post-season. The eight-division plan was more an option to keep an extra round of playoffs without giving a second-place team the chance to win the World Series.

I don't think the Wild Card is very good because it a) allows a team to beat a division opponent in a short series even though they could have been a worse team all season, b) there's something funny about second-place teams getting a chance to be World Champs (particularly in baseball where good teams don't always win short series), and c) pennant races just aren't as interesting. Without the wild card you may have a scenerio like 1993, when the Giants had baseball's second-best record, but failed to make the playoffs, but it made the races much more interesting. I'd rather see teams grind it out during the regular season than in a playoff series because in the regular season you have to be good over a long period of time and just not over a period of a week or two.

And, I like the unbalanced schedule without a wild card and interleague play because if you beat the teams you are in a playoff-spot battle with, you have a good chance of making the playoffs; in other words you have to beat teams in your own division to win your division and it seems like that's what you should do. Also, with an unbalanced schedule, you aren't playing a different schedule from the teams that you are battling for a playoff spot, so I don't see that it hurts.

If I had my way, we'd just have two leagues and the teams with the best record would make the playoffs, but I think that may be even more farfetched than the ideas in my article. The owners would never ever go for that and there may be too many teams to do that. But it sure would make the regular season more interesting and about as simple as you can get. I'm a firm believer that the team(s) that takes care of business during the regular season should have the best shot at winning the World Series. But post-season series are so much fun so it would be silly not to have at least one of them.
   11. MGL Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606441)
So after the pitcher uses up his maximum number of pickoff attempts, the runner takes a 30-foot lead and steals a base? Am I missing something?
   12. TeddyA Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606443)
MGL:

I assume that Shaun would allow an unlimited number of successful throws to a base (well, you could only pickoff 3 guys in an inning).

Think of unsuccessful pickoff attempts like unsuccessful throws to home. Early in MLB there was a variable number of balls allowed for a walk as the leaders of the game tried to strike a balance between hitter, pitcher, and the dullness of having multiple balls thrown to home without any action. 4 balls for a walk seem about right. Of course, as the number of balls goes up (2-0, 3-0 counts) the advantage shifts to the hitter.

What Bill James and Shaun (and I) are arguing is that baseball would be better if the same dynamic applied to baserunners. Pitchers would be penalized for making half-hearted throws to first just as they are penalized for throwing pitches that are way out of the strike zone. If the pitcher makes two unsuccessful throws to first the "count" is in the runners favor making stolen bases more likely and increasing the excitment for the fan just as a 3-2 count increases excitment.
   13. Shaun Payne Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606448)
As far as pickoffs go, I should have been more specific. I do mean unsuccessful throws. That means runners won't be able to get a huge lead. And also catchers could still make unlimited snap throws to first because this wouldn't take much time away from the game. The pitcher still has to throw to the plate in order for the catcher to attempt a pickoff attempt.

I like the idea of limiting intentional walks, but it might be hard to do that. If you say you can't intentionally walk certain hitters, how is anyone going to know if you are "unintentionally intentionally" walking a hitter? I do think intentionally walks are boring (and bad strategy), so I'm all for making pitchers pitch to Barry Bonds. If I were a manager, seeing me intentionally walk anyone would be rare.

   14. Brian Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606449)
One major improvement should be to shorten the season by 14-21 games. Early games in April and late games in September are too often negatively impacted by weather. The World Series should be completed no later than mid-October.
   15. Shaun Payne Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606450)
Chris,

I don't think any system is perfect for eliminating teams that aren't that great from the playoffs. It will happen every once in a while with any system. The only system that seems to work for that is to have two leagues and no divisions (which I would be for, but not many would like that). I'd even be for doing away with divisions and just having the top four teams make the playoffs. Or keep the current system and give the team with the best record a bye while the other two teams play a three- or five-game series.

In my opinion, the wild card cheapens pennant races. The races you see are between pretty good teams, but we'll never see a race between two great teams, like in 1993, because one of those teams will now win the wild card. I'd rather see the A's and Angels battling for first place and a playoff spot than battling for first place and home-field advantage.

Besides that, maybe it's just me, but I think there's something funny about giving a second place team, which has been worse than a first place team all season, a chance to make it up in a short series. Also, there's just something funny to me about giving the second place team a chance to win the World Series. I know the 1997 Marlins are the only wild card to win it and the 2000 Mets made it, but just giving a second place team the chance seems odd to me.

Baseball is different than other sports because any team can beat any other team on any given day. Defeat is more "meaningless" in baseball than in any other sport. I don't have a problem with decreasing the "meaningfullness" of defeat in the post-season, but why not make the regular season as important as possible without getting rid of the post-season (because it is fun). The regular season is the best indicator of how good a team is.
   16. Shaun Payne Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606451)
No one has talked about the save rule. I thought that would be a hot topic for discussion. That's one change (besides realignment) that I feel passionate about.
   17. tangotiger Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:50 AM (#606452)
Shaun, Saves, and passion:

Shaun, I too am not too fond with the "save" rule. So, I ignore it.

Rather than changinig the rule, create a new one. It'll probably be easier. When I was growing up, the term used was "fireman", as in, to put out the fires. A 3-run lead in the 9th is not a "fire", unless Mel Rojas comes in.

Therefore, I would create the "fire" rule, to count the number of fires put out, and not. The best way to identify those "fire" situations is to look at win expectancy charts and determine where the true high leverage situations are.
   18. Shaun Payne Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606455)
Sam,

I think your idea is a good one, too. While it does give a second place team a chance to win the World Series, they have some fairly large disadvantages.

a) In a one-game wild card playoff, you are going to start your best pitcher, which makes him unavailable in the first two games of a division series.

b) In a one-game playoff, you are going to pull out all the stops, which may mean using not just your best pitcher, but your second and third best pitcher, which may make them unavailable for a division series.

Your proposal is an interesting one and if we must have extra rounds and wild cards, I think it's the best idea I've heard. Like I said, in a way I'd like to just have an AL Champ and an NL Champ and a World Series, but I also love the intensity of the post-season.

Your idea is an interesting one. I've heard people talk about it, but I've never really thought about the advantages. Maybe I'll amend my article with my thoughts on a three-division alignment and two wild cards.
   19. Shaun Payne Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606456)
With my proposed save rule, more than one pitcher could get a "save." Maybe we shouldn't call them saves in my proposal. Maybe, since relief aces are associated with firemen, we should call my new saves exstinguishes. My point was that there should be a more meaningful stat which judges relief aces. Saves, in my opinion, is the most meaningless "important" stat in baseball.

I'd like to see someone take my proposed criteria for exstinguishes, or whatever you'd like to call them, and see who the best "exstinguisher" in baseball is, according to my system. If anyone has the time or resources, that would be fun to see.
   20. True Blue n/k/a "DeJesusFreak" Posted: September 27, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606457)
I agree with MGL -- a basestealer will get a halfway decent lead, draw 2 throws, then get a 15 foot lead and a running start before the next pitch.

The proposal to artificially limit pickoff throws, the the pitcher or catcher, seems to fall within one of Bill James's examples of fixing something that really doesn't need fixing with a rule that wreaks all sorts of unintended consequences.
   21. Shaun Payne Posted: September 28, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606461)
DW,

In my new proposed "save" rule, a pitcher from a losing team could get a save. It's not his fault if his teammates don't protect the lead. I suppose my new stat is comparable to quality starts for a starter.

In my head I see the umpire review plan as a guide on what to pay different umps based on skill. There would be different levels of pay and each ump would get paid according to missed calls and tenure.

Your idea on different win requirements for a wild card team in the playoffs is interesting. I still like the idea of two wild card teams and a one-game playoff between them. That adds some drama and awards division winners.

I don't know about your idea on intentional walks. I'm sure any pitcher would jump for joy if a hitter turned down a walk (except for maybe the most feared hitters).

I don't know about taking away intentional walks, even though they are rather boring. You are still giving up something when you intentionally walk a hitter, namely a baserunner and a chance for an out. And why should we blame teams for intentionally walking Barry Bonds in some situations. Shouldn't it be the Giants' responsibility to either get on base in front of Barry or produce behind him so that he doesn't get walked so much?

Sure intentional walks are boring, but the team doing it is giving up something. With pickoff attempts, the team doing it has nothing to lose by trying to pick a guy off. They can do it as often as they'd like. There's some incentive to not intentional walk a hitter, but none to avoid pickoff attempts. So I propose creating some incentive.
   22. Shaun Payne Posted: September 28, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606462)
A reader made the comment that it may not be necessary to limit pickoff throws because they don't waste that much time, and that may be true. Now that I think about it, baseball may need to limit the number of times a pitcher can step off in between pitches and the number of mound visits by the catcher or other players. Limiting things like that may be more important than limiting pickoff throws because they seem to slow the game down as much if not more.

I'd like to see a study on what takes up the most time during a ballgame: mound visits by coaches or managers, mound visits by the catcher or other players, pickoff attempts, or step-offs. I think baseball could do a better job limiting all of those time-consuming activities.
   23. Shaun Payne Posted: September 28, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606465)
SP,

I guess we'll never know if more people would have been interested in the 2000 World Series, but my guess is people would have been more interested had it been a rare matchup. But that's just a guess. I'm not sure. I think a lot of things are to blame for the 2000 World Series not being as watched as it could (should) have been.

So maybe homefield advantage to the team with a better record awards teams in a weaker league, and that may or may not be true. The A's will have the best or second-best record in baseball and they play in one of the toughest divisions. But giving homefield advantage to the team with the better record would help make the regular season a little more meaningful.

I think more research needs to be done on how much time pickoffs take. I also don't think it would be a bad idea to limit the number of times a pitcher can step off.

I don't think limiting pitching changes would take strategy out of the game. Managers would just have to put the pitcher they want to face one hitter in for the whole inning. And if the rule is one mid-inning change per game unless the pitcher gives up one or two runs, fans aren't going to have to sit through the problems of a pitcher who doesn't have it. Waiting for one run to score isn't that agonizing. And you'd still get one mid-inning change a game.

I should have specified that my batter's box rule wasn't move the batter's box farther away from the pitcher. It was move the batter's box farther away from home plate. I believe the number one reason that offense is so high today is that hitters stand on top of the plate and wait on the outside pitch to drive. I don't know if raising the mound would help that much. Hitters would just make adjustments. I think it's less likely that hitters would be able to make any major adjustments if the batter's box was moved back from home plate.

I think an umpire rating system is perfectly fair to the umpire. In almost every job, you are punished or rewarded by your skill level. Why should umpiring be any different? I'm not suggesting no pay for bad umpires, but I am suggesting rewarding good umpiring. As far as a ratings guy, the umpire wouldn't be able to see his rating until the end of the season and the ratings system would be taken as a whole, not on a game-by-game basis. The umpire wouldn't be able to say, "well, I think this was a mistake by the ratings guy in Cleveland."

I don't think official scorers do as bad a job as you say. I rarely see a play that the official scorer makes the wrong judgement on. Likewise, I don't think an umpire rater would do as badly as you think. Baseball doesn't have to and wouldn't necessarily hire "fat drunks" to rate umpires. There may not be a perfectly accurate way to rate umpires, but why shouldn't baseball do the best they can? There isn't a perfectly accurate way to judge whether a play was an error either, but baseball does the best they can.

I'm not sure what you mean by your last point. If you are talking about a one-game playoff for two wild cards, the point is to give a competitive disadvantage to the two wild card teams. They should have a disadvantage. They didn't win their division(s). I don't think it makes the playoffs a joke. It simply give more of an advantage to teams that actually win their divisions. The wild cards shouldn't have the same advantages that the division winners have.
   24. Shaun Payne Posted: September 28, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606466)
I like the idea of three divisions and two wild cards in each league with the wild cards playing a one-game playoff, but I don't know how fair it is. If one of the wild card teams is the second-best team in baseball and the other is an 85-win team, is that really fair to make the second-best team in baseball play a one-game playoff? Even though they are the second-best team, they are the wild card and didn't win their division, so maybe they should be punished for that. Two wild cards may make the regular season more important and interesting without shortening the playoffs.
   25. Shaun Payne Posted: September 28, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606477)
sp,

You have a rater at each ballpark. He watches every play and decides whether the umpire made a bad call. This would be easy on some calls, but difficult on close ones. In the cases where the call is close, the reviewer would have to make a judgement on whether to penalize the ump for the bad call, much like an official scorer with errors. A reviewer does this for every game, keeping track of "umpire errors." The ump reviewer is no more a fat beer drinking official than an official scorer and I don't hear many people saying we should do away with official scoring. At the end of the season the umpire gets his report card. The reviewer doesn't wait until the end of the season to review games, but the ump gets his report card at the end of the season so he doesn't hold grudges against the reviewer.

I admit that I don't have the details down, but I think baseball could benefit from a system like this. The questions you raise could be raised with regard to official scorers, but no on does because they are doing a pretty good job. I don't think baseball is doing it's best with umpires. In my opinion, umpires are not doing as well as they should be because there's really no system to keep them accountable, or at least not an affective one.

The thing that's most problematic is getting the umpires' union to agree to such a system. Frankly I don't know how baseball could accomplish this. Maybe hire former umpires as reviewers and increase umpire salaries.
   26. Marc Posted: September 29, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606478)
Considering that baseball is a game of such great tradition, here is another alternative alignment.

American League

New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Philadelphia A's (rename Phillies move to AL)
Washington Senators (expansion or former Montreal Expos)
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

National League

New York Giants (rename Mets)
Cincinnati Reds
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chicago Cubs
St. Louis Cardinals
Baltimore Orioles (move to NL in honor of 1890s Orioles)
Atlanta Braves

International League

Toronto Blue Jays
Kansas City Royals
Tampa Bay Rays
Texas Rangers
Florida Marlins
Houston Astros
Milwaukee Brewers
Montreal Expos (unless contracted or moved)

Western League

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Seals (rename Giants)
Anaheim Angels
Seattle Mariners
Arizona D'Backs
Colorado Rockies
Oakland Oaks (rename A's)
San Diego Padres
   27. Shaun Payne Posted: September 30, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606481)
Marc,

Interesting idea. I've thought about baseball realigning into divisions and leagues based on history. That would be pretty interesting. The problem would be travel, and other than tradition, it really makes no sense. But it would be fun and interesting.

Reading all of these comments, I definetly think baseball's current format needs adjusting or replaced. I don't think I read a single comment applauding baseball's current system. I'm not sure what a good system would be because there are a lot of better ones out there than the one baseball uses now.

My vote is for "Old-School" realignment with no interleague play and an unbalanced schedule. I like the fact of teams having to play well against their own division in order to win the division. I also think the team with the better record should have homefield advantage in the World Series. It's true that a team may play in a weaker division and may be worse than their record indicates, but I think with seven or eight teams in a division, there would be a variety of teams so that the team with the best record would most often be the best team. In other words, with seven or eight teams in a division, it's not likely that enough of them will be weak enough to make the division winner look stronger than they actually are.
   28. Shaun Payne Posted: September 30, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606488)
m.a.p.,

I agree with your points, but whether the owners would like it or not, I like the four-division format. I agree that the eight-division format may be too spread out and the divisions may be too thin. Maybe an eight-division format would work if MLB expanded to 40 teams.

I like the four-division "Old-School" format best because it keeps tradition alive and doesn't give a second-place team a chance to win the World Series.

I think changing the divisions so that every division has an equal number of teams is a good idea, but it's still the same format we have now, which allows second place teams to win the World Series.

Since you brought it up, Florida needs to do something about their Major League Baseball. First of all, Major League Baseball should have put a team in Orlando. Orlando is in the center of everything and its population is large enough to support a Major League team. Miami isn't a Major League Baseball town. I don't know if it's the stadium or what, but they should be moved. Either move Florida or Tampa Bay to Orlando and move the other somewhere else.
   29. Shaun Payne Posted: September 30, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606489)
Glenn,

Saving time isn't the only reason I'd like to limit pickoff throws; it also seems pretty logical. Pitchers have a limit on the unsuccessful throws they can attempt to a batter, that's why there are balls. Batters have a limit on unsuccessful attempt to hit the ball or a limit on how long they can stand up there and wait on a perfect pitch, that's why there are strikes. Why not limit unsuccessful pickoff throws?

In my opinion, the easiest thing to fix that slows down the game is pitching changes. Relief specialists have caused a rise in pitching changes and a rise in long games. Baseball could easily do something about this.

As far as I know, a manager can make two trips to the mound, one right after the other, as long as he removes the pitcher on the mound on the second trip. I don't see how this would affect the time of games.

I'm sure hitters have several spare bats ready, but the bat they use is usually their number one. I'm not sure, but I think what takes so long is that hitters have to go and pick out which spare they want to use. I guess baseball could do something about this, but broken bats don't happen that much.


   30. eric Posted: September 30, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606492)
There are other ways to hold a baserunner on besides throwing to first. One is to step off the rubber and fake a throw to first, another is to look him back, and still another is just to hold onto the ball a long time before throwing a pitch. All of the above are as effective at holding a runner on as throwing to first, but even more boring to the fan, because at least with a throw there is the chance of either an out or an error happening. Penalizing pickoff throws would end up making the game longer and more boring.

As for interleague play, it would seem to me that the primary purpose of interleague play should be that fans in every major league city have an opportunity to see every major league team and every major league player, just like fans in all other major sports. Up until this year, even the owners forgot that by scheduling East-East, Central-Central and West-West. So all of these proposals that limit interleague play to just one rival defeat interleague's purpose. It would make more sense to scrap interleague altogether in that case, which would mean that half of all baseball fans would never see Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa. All basketball fans get to see Shaq and Kobe, all hockey fans get to see Yzerman, Federov, and Hasek, all football fans eventually get to see Emmitt Smith. So interleague is inherently a decent idea if executed properly, which it hasn't been. The Costas idea or some offshoot of it seems to be the way to go there.

As for playoffs, see my postings in the article "Changing Things Around: A Modest Proposal" elsewhere on this site.

Regarding pitching changes, keep them unlimited, but no mid-inning warmup tosses except in cases of injury. Make it the responsibility of the manager and pitching coaches to get their pitchers ready to go in the bullpen.

Umpire rating is a good idea, except I would rate crews instead of individuals. Baseball is the only sport where officials don't huddle to get calls right. By rating crews, umpires would be forced to put individual egos aside, and confer with their umpiring "teammates" to get calls right and improve the rating of the umpiring "team".

Here's an idea to toss around, maybe it's good, maybe not. Have a DH in both leagues, but only if both managers agree to it on a game by game basis. I personally don't like the DH, but it is good to see guys like Edgar Martinez get their at-bats. So instead of letting the DH take away from the strategy of the game, this "veto" rule would add to it. For example, maybe you have a pitcher who can hit, maybe the other team has a bat that you want to keep out of the lineup, or maybe as a manager, you just think you're smarter than the other guy. All of these would be reasons to exercise the DH veto. My guess is that you would probably see less of the DH, (which I think is good), but still enough of it to keep some aging stars around, and you would have uniformity of the rules. Maybe this idea is flawed but I like it. Comments?
   31. eric Posted: September 30, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606494)
Oh, I almost forgot, about the turning down a walk rule. Interesting idea, here's how I would do it. First of all, the statistical integrity of the game demands that it should apply to all batters, not just a few select superstars, even though obviously it is the superstars we're instintuting this rule for. Also, intent of the pitcher is a subjective thing, so the rule has to apply even if the pitcher is just simply wild. With those things in mind, if a batter gets 4 balls without a strike (a 4-0 count if you will), the batter then has the option of turning down the walk until he gets a strike. Turning down the walk entirely again would adversely affect the statistical integrity of the game. After the first strike, whether a foul ball, a swinging strike or a called strike, the batter takes his base. If the batter puts the ball in play, the result of the play, whether hit, error or out applies. If the pitcher keeps throwing balls, he keeps pitching, and the all-important pitch count keeps going up-up-up.

This will give the Barry Bonds' at least one strike per at-bat, but will still sufficiently penalize wild or overly cautious pitchers, since after 4 balls, a walk is assured unless the batter actually makes an out via the defense. I suspect most times it wouldn't have any effect at all, except in key moments during a game, which of course is the point, to generate excitement without making a mockery of the game.
   32. Shaun Payne Posted: October 01, 2002 at 12:51 AM (#606503)
Interesting observation that Jim Baker of ESPN.com pointed out: why do we need a first round if they can't find enough interest to put it on anything but a cable network like ABC Family? Plus, most "hard-core" baseball fans aren't going to be able to see much of the first round because there are a lot of day games. Why not have only post-season series that most "true" baseball fans can see, just the LCS and World Series?
   33. Cris E Posted: October 03, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606522)
Replace saves with Stops, and credit one for each time a pitcher enters a game or starts an inning with the tying run on base or the winning run at bat and finishes that inning with the lead intact. Award more than one per appearance if earned. It reflects pitching in a tight spot (bases loaded with a three run lead, coming in to protect a one run lead, etc), recognising quality, and it credits guys who throw multiple innings, recognising quantity.

   34. Smitty* Posted: October 03, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606527)
I'm in agreement with Shaun, but don't you think that we should go back to the days when the uniforms made more sence. I mean don't you hate those pants.
   35. Smitty* Posted: October 04, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606544)
Shaun,
No no, I didn't mean the way players wear their pants, I meant the pants themselves. They confuse me. I mean c'mon, don't you hate the pants.
   36. eric Posted: October 05, 2002 at 12:52 AM (#606553)
Let's run with the premise that pickoff throws are a major reason games take so long. (I'm not that sure that it's nearly as big a problem as multiple pitching changes and batters goofing off between pitches.)

A pitcher's job is to prevent runs from scoring, so holding runners on base is a part of that job and it seems a bit unfair to penalize a pitcher for doing his job. So if one wants to limit pickoff throws and do it fairly to all parties concerned, here is what I would propose. After three (or some other set number) of pickoff throws to first base, the pitcher is required to throw to the plate. However, the baserunner cannot leave the bag until the pitcher starts his motion. This is a variation on the rule used in Little League, except that in Little League, the runner cannot leave the bag until the ball crosses the plate. We don't want to do that because that would eliminate base stealing altogether. What this rule would do is guarantee the runner a good jump, but it would make him run an extra 10-15 feet. It seems like a fair tradeoff and would eliminate the excess throws to first base that seem to annoy so many people. Personally, I'd rather leave that part of the game alone, but if one must tinker, this seems way better than giving the batter an extra ball and the advantages that go with it that he did not earn, and giving the runner another way to screw with the pitcher's head.

Here's a thought. Bill James came up with the idea of regulating the thickness of bat handles to try to rein in offense, and somebody earlier agreeed with that. Instead of doing that, and again in the interest of speeding up the game, why not just declare an automatic out for breaking a bat on a foul ball? This doesn't seem inherently unfair because a broken bat is usually the result of a bad swing on a good pitch, and it would in fact have the same effect as regulating handle thickness, because thin-handled bats are more likely to break. (Maybe I'm wrong, but there seems to be a lot more broken bats now than there used to be before thin-handled bats came into vogue, has anyone done a study on that?)Also, we would be spared having to watch the batter pick out another bat, and there would be an improved safety factor to both players and fans in the front rows. (And before anyone asks, no, I don't favor aluminum bats, just better-constructed wood ones!)

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