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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The 2020 Schedule Meets the Chopping Block

Life isn’t fair, as it continually reminds us, but we try to keep sports as far from the harsh light of reality as we can. The New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays certainly don’t start in the same place when creating a roster, but when those players are on the field, everybody has to play by the same rules. Whether you’re facing Gerrit Cole or whatever fifth starter the Baltimore Orioles Mad-Libbed onto the roster, you have to get actual hits, score actual runs, and make actual Statcast-blessed defensive plays.

It’s extraordinarily difficult to keep the schedules teams face fair. Ideally, we’d want every team to face the same strength of schedule. With complete discretion over the design of the season, that’s still a nearly impossible task, without knowing which teams will be the best and worst ones ahead of time. And it becomes definitely impossible with unbalanced division schedules, series played mostly in three or four-game chunks, and a need to avoid having teams travel thousands of miles every day, like some character in the final season of Game of Thrones.

And even if you avoid all these things using some dark magics from the Necronomicon or Carson Cistulli’s personal notes, you’re still bound by the laws of the physical universe. Teams can’t play themselves, so even if every team played every other team the same number of games each season, the Yankees get a bonus by not having to play the Yankees, while Orioles’ hitters never get the opportunity to feast on Orioles pitching.

A consideration of the consequences of this season being shorter than usual.

 

QLE Posted: April 21, 2020 at 01:02 AM | 9 comment(s)
  Beats: 2020 season, dan szymborski, schedule, shortened season

Friday, April 17, 2020

Hall of Fame case closed? These baseball legacies could suffer if MLB’s season is canceled

The 2020 Major League Baseball season is delayed, indefinitely, and it’s not at all certain to ever begin. It’s not clear when the country will be able to lift measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, or how baseball could fit into the much larger puzzle of society this year.

With the season in question, there also come (less important, but nonetheless interesting) questions about how the history of the sport will reckon with the shortened slate or potential gap in action. Such as: Who in the game right now might eventually have their Hall of Fame case altered by the pandemic-stricken 2020 season?

There have been strikes, and players have left for military service, but missing games are missing games, and they will affect some more directly than others when legacies coalesce years down the line. With that in mind, the Yahoo Sports staff got together and explained why these Cooperstown hopefuls have the most riding on 2020. - Zach Crizer

A list that may be of interest to compare with the ones of Jay Jaffe’s I’ve linked to in the last few days.

 


Saturday, April 11, 2020

MLB considering radical realignment for 2020 season: Grapefruit and Cactus leagues

PHOENIX — How about the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies being divisional rivals for the season?

Or the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves?

And the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians?

Major League Baseball, assessing myriad proposals, has discussed a radical plan that would eliminate the traditional American and National Leagues for 2020, a high-ranking official told USA TODAY Sports, and realign all six divisions for an abbreviated season.

So, what would you make of it if this was how the season was conducted?

 

QLE Posted: April 11, 2020 at 12:22 AM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: 2020 season, realignment, shortened season

Friday, April 10, 2020

Could a Shortened Season Resurrect the Four-Man Rotation?

As strange as it sounds right now, a day will come when baseball people start thinking about how to win baseball games again. That might not be until spring 2021, if COVID-19 forces Major League Baseball to sit out an entire calendar year. But there is still a chance it happens sometime in the next couple of months, and if that’s the case, teams will be preparing for a season unlike any they’ve played before. In addition to all of the structural changes that might be necessary for games to proceed, the simple fact of the season being considerably shorter than normal could change the way teams approach the games. In light of this, one strategy for teams to consider is a return to the four-man starting rotation.

Four-man rotations — or at least, the concept of throwing your best arms on three or fewer days rest — used to be fairly commonplace in the majors. In a piece by Russell A. Carleton at Baseball Prospectus from 2013, he found that around 40% of starts occurred on what we’d now call “short” rest as recently as the early 1970s. Soon after reaching that recent peak, however, the practice nosedived, with short rest starts happening less than 10% of the time by 1984 and continuing to free-fall until reaching a point of near-extinction over the last two decades.

The point of Carleton’s study was not to find out when the four-man rotation died out, but why it did. To that end, he came up with little statistical reasoning. Pitchers who threw on short rest did not seem to perform any worse than they’d be expected to on full rest, nor did any cumulative effects seem to wear them down faster over the course of a full season. This was true regardless of the time period, too, which means it didn’t seem to have anything to do with whether a pitcher was more or less conditioned for it. The best explanation for why teams broadly and swiftly shifted to a five-man rotation was simply fear of injuring arms, and hoping that more rest might prevent that.

Carleton’s piece didn’t take the extra step of actively calling for the four-man rotation to return, but plenty of others have. Major league teams, however, have been taking steps to limit the responsibilities given to starting pitchers, not expand them. In 2014, David Price led the majors with 248.1 innings pitched, while 34 pitchers reached 200 innings, and 65 reached 180. In 2019, Justin Verlander’s league-leading innings total was just 223, with 15 pitchers reaching 200 innings, and 33 pitchers reaching 180 innings. Over a full season, a four-man rotation could add as many as eight starts to a pitcher’s workload, amounting to 40-50 extra innings of work. It would be rather shocking to see a team take that kind of step over 162 games.

I suspect that the usual law about questions as titles applies here…..

 

QLE Posted: April 10, 2020 at 01:47 AM | 1 comment(s)
  Beats: four-man rotation, shortened season

Thursday, April 09, 2020

Assessing Reliever Value in a Shorter Season

Trying to predict how a reliever will perform from one season to the next can be a pretty frustrating exercise. Some amount of uncertainty surrounds all players, but being a pitcher makes things a little more difficult and being a pitcher who is often asked to throw with max effort with little to no rest complicates further still. And even after we move past those factors, we’re faced with a smaller sample of outcomes for bullpen arms. A 60-inning season is a complete season for a reliever, considerably fewer innings than a starter throws and many fewer batters faced than the number of times most starting position players come to the plate. Trying to predict reliever performance in half a season is even more difficult; attempting to put a value on relievers in a potentially condensed, shorter season becomes quite challenging.

Consider that last season, there were 158 qualified relievers with at least 48 innings pitched. Ken Giles produced 1.9 WAR, ranking 10th in baseball among his bullpen brethren. Brett Martin ranked 60th among relievers with a 0.8 WAR and Matt Albers ranked 130th as a replacement-level reliever. Now, let’s cut those seasons in half. Giles still ranks 10th with just under a win, but he’s now closer to Matt Albers in half a season than he was to Brett Martin in a full season. It is considerably harder to tell, in terms of results, the difference between a good and bad reliever under those constraints. This is further complicated by the fact that the smaller the sample size, the less likely that the results will match the actual performance.

I separated pitchers into three groups from last season: pitchers with at least 100 innings, qualified relievers, and pitchers with at least 20, but less than 40, innings on the season. Then I ran some correlations between WPA, which shows how the actual results on the field mattered to the team, and ERA, FIP, and WAR, to show some measures of performance.

With starting pitchers, we see a good relationship between all three metrics (i.e. the better or worse a pitcher pitched, the better or worse the result was for the team). When we drop the innings requirement down and look at relievers, the relationship gets weaker (i.e. the results vary more, with the pitcher’s performance showing a little more randomness). When we drop the innings requirement down further, we see the relationship grow even weaker. That last set is most representative of the number of innings we might see from relievers in a shortened season.

Once you’ve figured this out, can you teach me how to win big at roulette?

 

QLE Posted: April 09, 2020 at 01:53 AM | 2 comment(s)
  Beats: relievers are inherently fungible, shortened season, statistics

How Should MLB Experiment in a Shortened Season?

Despite reports this week about the possibility of baseball in May, we don’t know if there will be any games in 2020. We just don’t. What we do know is that if there is a 2020 season, it won’t be of the length we’re used to.

A shorter season may nudge MLB to be more open-minded to changes surrounding the conventions of the game we’re used to, from roster size to playoff format to ... innings in a game. The length of season will dictate just how experimental the league is willing to be, but some change feels inevitable.

How would you like to see Major League Baseball experiment?

The floor is open.

 

QLE Posted: April 09, 2020 at 01:30 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: experiments, shortened season

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Call to arms: Compressed schedule could mean more pitchers

NEW YORK (AP) — When and if opening day comes around this year, New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake anticipates a brimming bullpen.

Major League Baseball and the players’ association have talked about a compressed schedule to get in as many games as possible. That will set off a call to arms.

“I think if you have 15 guys it gives you some depth,” Blake said Wednesday.

Active rosters were to expand from 25 to 26 from opening day through Aug. 31 in exchange for the limit dropping from 40 to 28 from Sept. 1 on. When a strike delayed the start of the 1995 season until April 25, teams were allowed 28 players through May 15.

And, should things end up poorly for a good hunk of the pitchers, A Farewell to Arms.

 

QLE Posted: April 02, 2020 at 01:51 AM | 0 comment(s)
  Beats: pitching, shortened season

MLB reportedly discussing a 100-game season that would include a neutral-site World Series at Dodger

The COVID-19 pandemic has the sports world on hold. We have no idea when and *if* there will be professional sports in 2020. The MLB season was supposed to begin last Thursday, and there’s no way they will be able to play close to 162 games with the way things are going.

At this rate, a best-case scenario would seem to involve the MLB season starting in late June or early July, and having roughly 100 games (keep in mind a ramp-up period/second spring training that will be needed too; it’s not like things clear up with COVID-19 and the regular-season MLB games can immediately start).

Well, 670 The Score’s Matt Spiegel reports that, according to “a well informed source that does business with multiple MLB execs,” MLB is discussing the idea of a 100-game season that would feature a neutral-site World Series at Dodger Stadium. The 2020 All-Star Game was to be held at Dodger Stadium, but it’s extremely unlikely that there’s time for an exhibition game in the middle of a shortened season that will already have enough scheduling concerns. So, while they will (almost surely) not host an All-Star Game, Los Angeles would at least host the World Series “as compensation.”

Spiegel adds that the 100-game season would begin July 1, and conclude October 15. The regular season finishing more than two weeks later than originally planned (currently scheduled to end Sept. 27) is why a warm-weather location would be good for the World Series; the Fall Classic would go well into November.

Compensation for the viewers: I’ll take the World Series being at Dodger Stadium if Jon Miller gets to call the World Series. Deal?

 

QLE Posted: April 02, 2020 at 01:29 AM | 33 comment(s)
  Beats: dodger stadium, neutral site games, shortened season

Monday, March 30, 2020

If 2020 season is cancelled, which teams would be hurt the most?

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently expressed his optimistic outlook, saying that he hoped the league would begin “gearing back up” in May. That would put a regular season return potentially at the end of June or at some point in July. He expressed that the league may have to get creative, likely referring to ideas like playing doubleheaders, extending the season deep into fall, and playing some games at neutral parks in warm-weather areas.

Manfred isn’t the only one champing at the bit for a return to normalcy. President Trump recently said he wanted to “open” the economy back up by Easter, meaning that our social isolation plan could be done in two weeks. And, frankly, I’m sure many of us are starting to become a little stir-crazy as we attempt to flatten the curve.

It’s hard to imagine life returning to normal when Coronavirus (COVID-19) is really starting to spread in the United States. It would be ill-advised for us to go back to business as usual. This is a time when we need to put other interests ahead of business interests. Frankly, there’s a very real possibility that there is no MLB season in 2020. Or, at the very least, there may be a point when Manfred has to choose between starting a season or protecting the health of the players and coaches, journalists, fans, and all of the many people that would interact with them and potentially become vectors for the virus.

In the event the 2020 season is cancelled, which teams stand to lose the most? Let’s take a look at some contenders.

 

 

QLE Posted: March 30, 2020 at 01:23 AM | 10 comment(s)
  Beats: cancellations, dodgers, phillies, reds, shortened season, what if

Friday, March 27, 2020

MLB, players agree to $170M deal on early season pay, cut down draft

Major League Baseball and the players association have reached a tentative agreement regarding several issues surrounding a potentially shortened or canceled season, sources confirm to Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported the deal Thursday night.

MLB owners have agreed to advance players portions of salaries to be spread out over April and May. If there is no season, that money will be kept by the players. Each of the 30 teams will contribute just short of $95,000 per day to eligible players for 60 days or until start of 2020 season, not to exceed $170 million. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal adds that salaries will be pro-rated based on length of season, and players have agreed not to sue for full salaries.

As previously reported, the players would accrue a full year of service time if they are active for the shortened season. If the season is canceled, players would gain the same amount of service time they accrued in 2019, which is important because it means players like Mookie Betts or Trevor Bauer would become free agents as scheduled.

 

QLE Posted: March 27, 2020 at 12:49 AM | 31 comment(s)
  Beats: draft, free agency, labor issues, negotiations, salaries, service time, shortened season

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Baseball brainstorm: Brackets? 7-inning games? How MLB could experiment in a short season

The fate of Major League Baseball’s 2020 season is up in the air as the world reels from the coronavirus pandemic. At the very least, its form will have to be altered.

That is not what anyone wished for, but if public health eventually stabilizes enough to allow for sporting events, an unusual season could carry a small opportunity for America’s most tradition-bound game. The baseball world is constantly obsessing over the tug of war between adaptation to the contemporary entertainment environment and adherence to the rules, numbers and structures that, over more than a century, have created a rich framework around the sport. A season that is already inherently different is a chance to float a trial balloon, to see how different the sport can be before we denounce it as too different. (When the NBA began a lockout-shortened year on Christmas Day, for instance, many were convinced every season should start on Dec. 25.)

So, we assembled the Yahoo Sports baseball staff in Slack, put the more pressing pandemic-related questions to the side for a moment, and took to the whiteboard, so to speak: What experiments could baseball run in 2020 that might stick around?

So, how would you handle such matters?

QLE Posted: March 26, 2020 at 12:46 AM | 5 comment(s)
  Beats: bad ideas, brackets, seven-inning games, shortened season

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

How Much Do the Playoff Odds Change in a Shorter Season?

Will there be a 2020 baseball season? How many games will teams play? What will that mean for the 2020 baseball season? Normally, these would be extremely upsetting questions to contemplate; in the world in which we’re currently living, they’re somewhere around the 75,000th most important quandaries facing us. But as someone qualified to serve as a baseball writer rather than an epidemiologist, they’re also the kinds of questions I can actually seek to answer, and the differences between how baseball will eventually look versus what we’re used to are bigger than you might think. Assuming we have a season, that is; if no games are played, the projections will be 100% accurate.

So how much do the playoff races change in a shorter season? To answer this, I spent the weekend reconfiguring ZiPS so that it wouldn’t assume a 162-game season — an eventuality I had hoped not to have to deal with unless or until there was a strike — allowing me to run playoff probabilities for seasons of any length. Let’s start with the baseline projections, how ZiPS saw the races before the world turned upside down

....

There are no COVID-19-based changes in here, just the projection based on if the world had frozen in place two weeks ago and everything happened as we would normally expect. But let’s assume we hit one of the better-case scenarios, get a quickie two weeks of “spring training” in late May, and start the season on June 1. Let’s further assume that, with MLB having a vested interest in playing as many games as possible without killing people, they come to an agreement to play the playoffs in neutral warm-weather cities throughout November, giving the league an extra month to play regular-season games. Under this scenario, the league could theoretically fit somewhere around 140 games in. How do great teams look in a 140-game season instead of a 162-game one? Let’s run the numbers.

Before we do, keep in mind that there’s no adjustment made in the below numbers for, say, James Paxton and Aaron Judge being healthy. We’re just trying to gauge how much things change based only on season length

Jim Mora has some thoughts on this topic….

 

QLE Posted: March 18, 2020 at 01:00 AM | 8 comment(s)
  Beats: odds, playoffs, shortened season

 

 

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