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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Conlin: MLB should raise the mounds and lower the ERAs

And…hey, ladies! Don’t raise the bridge, lower the river!

So here we are in 2009, and most games it takes at least four pitchers working off those itty-bitty mounds to seal the deal - or blow it. Know how many extra beers and hot dogs all those pitching changes sell?

The hitters are in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Era - blown up and going for the downs. And the new wave of retro parks would have been perfect for Willie - Keeler, not Mays. Imagine Mike Schmidt hitting in the Bank - and he’ll turn 60 next month. Picture DiMaggio’s elegant swing in Yankee Stadium Lite. Al Gionfriddo would have to play him on the subway platform.

The game has gone full-tilt. Now that the orthopedic surgeons have done enough Tommy Johns and labrum debridements to retire on Hobe Sound, it’s time to restore the 4 inches of dirt the Lords bulldozed away for no good reason after the 1968 season. Reverse the moundectomy.

Tim Lincecum might be a scary sight, long-striding off a 15-inch mound, but I think Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA is safe. Expansion to the current 30 teams - come on, AL, you’re two light - has added so many high-ERA pitchers to the talent pool, a few less runs and trips to the mound per game won’t make a dent.

Repoz Posted: August 12, 2009 at 10:47 AM | 102 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, special topics

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   1. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 11:57 AM (#3289953)
I agree that something should be done to decrease offense a bit. This isn't it. This will just result in even more strikeouts. Thicken the bat handles and change the specs for the balls a bit. And maybe leave the balls in play longer. There's no need to have a new baseball every time the ball hits the ground.
   2. TomH Posted: August 12, 2009 at 12:10 PM (#3289959)
Once again, a sportswriter makes the claim that expansion has diluted pitching. And does not mention that it has diluted hitting. Conlin, you are one of set of lemmings. Happy landing.
   3. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 12:32 PM (#3289977)
Once again, a sportswriter makes the claim that expansion has diluted pitching. And does not mention that it has diluted hitting. Conlin, you are one of set of lemmings. Happy landing.


I wonder if there might be some truth to the conventional wisdom here. Is the "curve" for pitching talent steeper than for hitting talent? It could be. Also: it's clear that when forced to add more pitchers to the league, you end up with worse pitchers. When forced to add more position players, you could end up adding mostly guys who can hit well enough, but can't field their positions. That would lead to a rise in offense. Now, I'm sure there are people who have studied this and have answers to these points, but I personally don't know the answers nor how reliable they might be.
   4. The Pequod Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:11 PM (#3290002)
Has expansion really outpaced the growth in population, expansion of scouting overseas, racial integration, improvements in training, medical advancements that keep pitchers around longer, etc? I'm sure someone has done a study on this, but I really doubt that average fans and mainstream media types think about all the changes that have expanded the talent pool.
   5. TomH Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:14 PM (#3290003)
proposes simple test: If the curve were steeper for pitchers.... minor league games would be higher scoring than the majors!
   6. Rally Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:24 PM (#3290014)
I agree we have enough strikeouts. I would prefer to see outfield fences moved back 10-30 feet. It will be a self-feeding cycle. Not only will the sluggers lose homers, you will need faster outfielders to cover the extra ground, and the speedier guys who replace the behemoths will have games that depend less on power.

You might see teams try hiding some slow movers at 2nd or 3rd base. Probably not at catcher though (like Josh Willingham going back there) because the speedy outfielders would put a premium on a strong throwing catcher who can stop the running game.

Oh yeah, and ban the DH.
   7. Repoz Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:26 PM (#3290017)
I'm sure someone has done a study on this

Didn't Bill James do a study on this and figured there's still enough ML talent to go around and fill up another dozen or so teams?
   8. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:34 PM (#3290024)
Didn't Bill James do a study on this and figured there's still enough ML talent to go around and fill up another dozen or so teams?


I don't think it was a study as much as a proclamation without supporting evidence.
   9. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:39 PM (#3290031)
proposes simple test: If the curve were steeper for pitchers.... minor league games would be higher scoring than the majors!


I'd probably buy that if the quality of lighting in minor league stadiums was as good as in the major league stadiums.

Has expansion really outpaced the growth in population, expansion of scouting overseas, racial integration, improvements in training, medical advancements that keep pitchers around longer, etc? I'm sure someone has done a study on this, but I really doubt that average fans and mainstream media types think about all the changes that have expanded the talent pool.


The flipside is that football and basketball were complete sideshows until recently. But there's another point which is that sudden expansion leads to changes in talent level, even if there's talent enough for steady expansion.
   10. Zonk demands an audit of your post Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:44 PM (#3290037)
I agree we have enough strikeouts. I would prefer to see outfield fences moved back 10-30 feet. It will be a self-feeding cycle. Not only will the sluggers lose homers, you will need faster outfielders to cover the extra ground, and the speedier guys who replace the behemoths will have games that depend less on power.


I agree that, to reduce offense, it's probably park dimensions rather than mound height. Adding more Ks to an era already bloated with them isn't the answer.

But I do have to say, I'm not so sure I'm particularly in favor of seeing more Juan Pierre's and fewer Adam Dunn's.
   11. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:47 PM (#3290042)
I think the minor leagues are no higher-scoring than the major leagues primarily because there are a lot more inept hitters down there as well as worse pitchers, and more position players whose main skill is defense. A lot of pitch-to-contact veterans who walk very few hitters are able to post sub-4.00 ERAs at AAA, but get blasted if they're promoted (though I've seen Mike Emeigh say that defense is much worse at the minor league level, which makes my speculation problematic).

I'm pretty sure that offense is higher nowadays because of the strike zone, the fence distances, the bat handles, the practice of using a new ball for every few pitches, and video study by hitters, not because of the inherent quality of the pitchers. The pitchers are darned good to overcome all those disadvantages to the extent that they do. I think that increased video study has improved the quality of hitters' at bats, and their ability to diagnose a pitcher's stuff, even in-game, to an enormous degree, as evidenced by the fact that most every starting pitcher seems to be helpless the third time through the batting order. Once managers realize this, ERAs will drop, but starters will rarely be forced past the sixth inning.
   12. ellsbury my heart at wounded knee Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:49 PM (#3290044)
Another way to reduce offense (without necessarily adding more strikeouts) would just be to deaden the ball a bit. I don't know if it was ever determined that balls are much different then they were 20 years ago, but softening the balls even a little might make for fewer home runs. I don't know if it would be possible to do this without changing the feel of the balls for pitchers, or what other downstream effects it might have, but when people talk about crazy ideas for reducing offense a little, I rarely see it mentioned. It would certainly be cheaper than adjusting the dimensions of parks. Also, why not make the spitball legal again? That could be awesome.
   13. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:50 PM (#3290045)
Oh yeah, and ban the DH.


That should be done regardless of any other intentions.
   14. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:52 PM (#3290050)
Also, I may be crazy, but it has increasingly seemed to me that high-scoring and low-scoring games come in clusters, as though a juiced ball is being used on certain days--weekends, maybe. I've thought of trying to do a study of scoring on weekends as opposed to weekdays.

Another thought is that the unbalanced schedule increases offense, because pitchers have to face the same hitters more often, though the effects of video study might trump this.
   15. wjones Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:53 PM (#3290055)
Conlin and his ilk are close to having a point, but miss, IMHO, the real cause.

Expansion created more JOBS for players, but the last expansion was 12 years ago. But here's the thing. Prior to the last expansion, the typical roster was 15-10 or 14-11 (position players vs. pitchers). That has gradually eroded to now we have 13-12 generally, and in some cases 12-13. So the combination of expansion AND the additions of pitchers per team has created more jobs for pitchers than for position players. Add to that fact, complete games have decreased in that time, innings per start have decreased, innings per relief pitcher have decreased (the two inning "stopper" is nearly extinct), which means that a lot of innings are now being pitched by the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth man on the staff, pitchers who formally were just hanging onto a job while rotting in the pen, or who were in the minors. While turning over the game in the ninth, eighth, and perhaps seventh innings to a fresher, dominant closer or set-up man would most likely make hitting more difficult, the demands put on these releivers often make them less than effective when overused, or require them to be rested and replaced by the lower level relievers, which would help batting numbers. That's my theory, anyway.
   16. BDC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:57 PM (#3290060)
I would prefer to see outfield fences moved back 10-30 feet

If it weren't that this would mean the cheap seats moving back along with them, I'd think that would be great. One of the drawbacks of the generously-dimensioned ashtray parks of the 1970s was that the outfield seats could be pretty far even from the outfield. The "home run porch" in Arlington, by contrast, is a fun place to watch a game from, but the price one pays is lots of home runs.

Are there any current parks built, like Shea Stadium, with no outfield-wall seating at all? What's the closest alignment? In a park like that you can move the fences with wild abandon :)
   17. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 12, 2009 at 01:58 PM (#3290062)
If you want to slow down the offense, you need to do but two things:

1. Enforce the strike zone that's in the rule book, and fire any umpire who won't go along.

2a. Refuse to award a base to any batter who gets hit by a pitch while leaning across the plate; OR

2b. Outlaw all protective body armor above the waist and below the head.
   18. JPWF13 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:00 PM (#3290063)
it’s time to restore the 4 inches of dirt the Lords bulldozed away for no good reason after the 1968 season


If there was no good reason to lower the mound after 1968, there is no good reason to raise it after 2009.

I agree we have enough strikeouts. I would prefer to see outfield fences moved back 10-30 feet.

Ditto, except 30 feet seems kind of excessive.
   19. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:01 PM (#3290064)
The solution is simple - deaden the balls a bit. I'm 99% certain the balls are livelier than they were in 1992. Just bring them back to where it was.
   20. Randy Jones Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:08 PM (#3290073)
I agree we have enough strikeouts. I would prefer to see outfield fences moved back 10-30 feet.


Never going to happen.

2b. Outlaw all protective body armor above the waist and below the head.


Also never going to happen.

How bout we stop bringing these two ideas up when the "how to diminish offense" discussions start? We all know that the owners will never agree to move back all the outfield walls because of lost seating and that the union will never agree to outlawing body armor because it's a safety issue (also, I don't think it would actually affect offense all that much at all).
   21. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:08 PM (#3290074)
The solution is simple - deaden the balls a bit.


This is the purpose of the humidor in Denver, which, near as I can tell, has been a success in every single way. While it's still a hitter's park, Coors is now more analogous to Wrigley Field in the 1970s than the Baker Bowl in the 1930s. It increases most facets of offense except that it's neutral for homers, which has led to a more exciting version of the game.

And it may be coincidental, but the team has been more successful in the humidor era as well.
   22. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:11 PM (#3290079)
The solution is simple - deaden the balls a bit. I'm 99% certain the balls are livelier than they were in 1992. Just bring them back to where it was.


They use the same specifications, and they measure the balls. I think the balls are machine-stitched now, though, and they are almost all up against the liveliest end of the specs, instead of being all over the range.
   23. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:12 PM (#3290080)
the union will never agree to outlawing body armor because it's a safety issue


They might agree to make a rule that if you get hit on the armor, other than the helmet, it's a ball and not a HBP.
   24. TomH Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:22 PM (#3290085)
Agree. Two solutions:

1) If you get hit on the armor (except head armor), it's merely a ball. Tough for you if you wear an ankle guard.
2) MOVE THE BATTER'S BOX AWAY FROM THE PLATE. One inch a year for the next three years. As long as Eric Gregg doesn't show up to give the pitcher a strike 6 inches off the outside corner.
   25. DJ Endless Grudge Is Nobody's Disciple Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:24 PM (#3290089)
There have been 1120 HBP so far this year, or about 0.009 per every PA. (In other words, for every 116 PA there is 1 HBP.) And remember, if you reduce the number of HBP they don't all become outs - hitters would presumably either walk or hit safely at about the current rate in those PAs. I think even if you halved the number of HBP in MLB (which I don't think either proposal would come close to doing), you wouldn't see a significant change in the run-scoring environment.

It's a shame that this has to distract from the point about the strike zone, which is probably the easiest way to effect change in the run-scoring environment.
   26. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:28 PM (#3290095)
There have been 1120 HBP so far this year, or about 0.009 per every PA. (In other words, for every 116 PA there is 1 HBP.) And remember, if you reduce the number of HBP they don't all become outs - hitters would presumably either walk or hit safely at about the current rate in those PAs. I think even if you halved the number of HBP in MLB (which I don't think either proposal would come close to doing), you wouldn't see a significant change in the run-scoring environment.


It's not the HBP that matter really. It's that the batters can lean over the plate without fear. They take the outside pitch away by leaning over the plate, and the inside pitch away by leaning into it and taking their base.
   27. Randy Jones Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:28 PM (#3290097)
They might agree to make a rule that if you get hit on the armor, other than the helmet, it's a ball and not a HBP.


While this may be within the realm of possibility, it is still highly, highly unlikely for two reasons. One, the union will oppose it as it discourages players from wearing body armor. Two, MLB will be hesitant to implement a rule like this because it would be a subjective call for the umpires to make and something else for them to watch for when they already have a lot to pay attention to.

Also, I don't know that it would make that much difference anyway. There are many, many players who lean out over the plate and wear no body armor. Andy just opposes body armor because Bonds wore an elbow guard and to Andy, Bonds = Satan.
   28. Gaelan Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:29 PM (#3290101)
Whether it will happen or not Arom and Andy are absolutely right. The offense is mostly created by power to the opposite field. Those two measures would be great.

Also the size of the population and expansion have a negligable effect on talent levels. Population is pretty irrelevant compared to other factors. See San Pedro de Macoris.

Since baseball is pretty clearly a learned skill (which is why the minor leagues exist at all) expansion increases the number of major league quality players by giving them the opportunity to learn on the job. There might be a short term dip but that gets washed out very fast.
   29. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:32 PM (#3290106)
Two, MLB will be hesitant to implement a rule like this because it would be a subjective call for the umpires to make and something else for them to watch for when they already have a lot to pay attention to.


My guess is that a pitched ball striking body armor makes quite a different sound from a pitched ball striking flesh.
   30. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:34 PM (#3290110)
They use the same specifications, and they measure the balls. I think the balls are machine-stitched now, though, and they are almost all up against the liveliest end of the specs, instead of being all over the range.

Right, and I remember reading that that in and of itself is enough to push the average fly ball some 10-15 extra feet. That's a lot of balls that were warning track flies in the 80s that are home runs now.

If all the balls are going to be uniform, that's fine, but they should be uniform in the middle of the range, not at the top end.

They need to outlaw whip-handled bats, too, by introducing a minimum bat diameter.
   31. Randy Jones Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:36 PM (#3290111)
My guess is that a pitched ball striking body armor makes quite a different sound from a pitched ball striking flesh.


Depends on the specific design of the body armor in question and where it hits it. Still more for the plate ump to pay attention to when they already have a tough job.
   32. OsunaSakata Posted: August 12, 2009 at 02:57 PM (#3290145)
They need to outlaw whip-handled bats, too, by introducing a minimum bat diameter.


Which would help the other problem of maple bats breaking in a dangerous manner.
   33. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:30 PM (#3290194)
The fact that they're being so pokey about this issue indicates that they know it could affect offensive levels, and don't want to. Whether that's evidence that the ball is juiced or that it isn't, I have no idea, but it's clear that the powers-that-be like the current level of offense (which is lower than it was in the late '90s, at least).
   34. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 03:55 PM (#3290219)
They could combine these changes with some restrictions on the number of pitching changes you can make, which might help the offense a bit.

The point is that balls in play are where the entertainment comes, except for the case of a real artist striking people out.
   35. Randy Jones Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:09 PM (#3290237)
The point is that balls in play are where the entertainment comes


Disagree. I like K's and HR's. I grew up in the 80's and 80's baseball sucked.
   36. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:26 PM (#3290255)
Disagree. I like K's and HR's. I grew up in the 80's and 80's baseball sucked.
Well, that's an... idiosyncratic view. One of the nice things about the 1980s was that the game was balanced enough that you could have a real contrast in playing styles. You could win without hitting HRs (e.g., the 1985 Cardinals). The relatively less entertaining part of the 1980s wasn't the level of offense, but the variance among players/teams, which was way down. I don't need every team hitting 200 HRs or every player hitting 50 HRs, but it's nice for some teams and some players to do so.

As for Ks and HRs, sure, they can be dramatic. But they're relatively static plays. You hit the HR, and then trot around the bases. Everyone else trots also. The fielders watch. You strike out the batter, and he trots back to the dugout. The runners stay where they are. The fielders watch. On the other hand, you hit the ball in the gap, and everyone on the field is involved in the action.
   37. ?Donde esta Dagoberto Campaneris? Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:35 PM (#3290263)
I'd agree with David and add that the other problem with HR/K brand of baseball is that it comes with a lot of walks- the least exciting part of baseball. Particularly when the walks are the result of a tiny strike zone.

If I could make any changes I'd get he umps to call a legit strike zone- watching players beg the guy with the chest protector stuffed in his shirt for a free pass is one of the only negatives I can find with the current version of MLB.
   38. Gaelan Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:36 PM (#3290265)
I completely agree with David. I don't care too much about the level of offense one way or another. However if it were harder to hit homeruns there would be more variance and that would make the actually special players more special. There is nothing worse than a cheap homerun.
   39. SoSH U at work Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:39 PM (#3290272)
I'd agree with David and add that the other problem with HR/K brand of baseball is that it comes with a lot of walks- the least exciting part of baseball. Particularly when the walks are the result of a tiny strike zone.


Absolutely. TTO might be the most effective way of building an offense, but it is the least appealing from an aesthetic standpoint.
   40. Gaelan Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:47 PM (#3290284)
Yeah, walks suck. ######## about calls is even worse. That settles it, Kevin Youkilis should be kicked out of baseball.
   41. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:51 PM (#3290287)
If we really want to increase balls in play (other than the #1 most brain-dead obvious thing to do, thicken the bat handles), you could try moving the mound back 2-3 feet and slightly expanding the strike zone. (The result would be significant, perhaps drastic, drops in strikeouts and walks.) That's in the 'radical pipe dream that has a 0.00000% chance of ever happening', though, moving the location of the mound.

The very, very obvious solutions to the too many walks, too many K's problem, as already said many times in this thread, are to thicken the bat handles and call a real strike zone.

Someone's going to have to die from a bat splinter in the throat before they'll consider thickening the bat handles, and even then they'll likely as not figure some other way to keep the whip handles and make them safe. Simple fact is modern baseball sells just fine, and no one's about to make any significant change to it.

But if I wanted to start an upstart independent league, that's exactly the strategy I'd pursue to make my product different from Major League Baseball--I'd call a real strike zone, have a minimum bat handle thickness, establish minimum park dimensions around 340-380-430, and put the mound at around 62.5 feet. There would be few strikeouts, few walks, few home runs, and tons and tons of balls in play. The game would reward athleticism a lot more than MLB does, and would present a different--and to many people, more exciting--brand of baseball.

Going to have to write an article about this for Friday...
   42. AJMcCringleberry Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:52 PM (#3290289)
I think Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA is safe.

What does Dutch Leonard have to do to get some respect?
   43. Rally Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:52 PM (#3290290)
Yeah, walks suck. ######## about calls is even worse. That settles it, Kevin Youkilis should be kicked out of baseball.


I'll second that motion.
   44. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: August 12, 2009 at 04:53 PM (#3290293)
On the other hand, you hit the ball in the gap, and everyone on the field is involved in the action.

Right. To some extent, I think that television, with its focus on the pitcher-batter matchup, has encouraged fans to pay more attention to the three true outcomes, but the real excitement comes from the ball in play.
   45. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:01 PM (#3290305)
Yeah, walks suck. ######## about calls is even worse. That settles it, Kevin Youkilis should be kicked out of baseball.

I'll second that motion.


I'll third it.
   46. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:02 PM (#3290308)
As for Ks and HRs, sure, they can be dramatic. But they're relatively static plays. You hit the HR, and then trot around the bases. Everyone else trots also. The fielders watch. You strike out the batter, and he trots back to the dugout. The runners stay where they are. The fielders watch. On the other hand, you hit the ball in the gap, and everyone on the field is involved in the action.

One more amen to that. And then there are the walks, which seem to have increased markedly with the spread of the formerly esoteric skill of fouling off pitches to stay alive. As a Yankee fan I appreciate Johnny Damon, but when he was in another uniform he'd drive me absolutely nuts.

watching players beg the guy with the chest protector stuffed in his shirt for a free pass is one of the only negatives I can find with the current version of MLB.

Well, that and the bullshit that they throw on you between pitches and between innings. But that's not so much the game as it is the godawful marketing.
   47. Randy Jones Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:03 PM (#3290313)
You know, for some reason I just don't feel hate for Youkilis. I know why I should hate him and I want to hate him, but I can't. The Red Sox I really hate are Pedroia and Beckett and Papelbon.
   48. Davo Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:04 PM (#3290314)
41. (...)and put the mound at around 62.5 feet.
Jeez, and Conlin got all this crap for wanting to raise it to 15 inches, you want to go 60 feet? ;)

Though that is how I read it the first time.
   49. ?Donde esta Dagoberto Campaneris? Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:04 PM (#3290315)
TTO might be the most effective way of building an offense

A bit off topic but I always wonder at what point that ceases to be the case if you get a larger strike zone. At some point (I would think) the walks and HRs hit while comfortably ahead in the count become rare enough in a "strike rich environment" that attempting to accumulate them becomes sub-optimal.

I'd like to get to that point not just because I'm not a big fan of walks, but rather because I think the "strike poor environment" has a nasty impact on the pace of the game. Pitchers aren't in any hurry to throw when the zone is tiny- this tends to lead to the 4 hour stuff- which doesn't look like good baseball to me.
   50. 185/456(GGC) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:05 PM (#3290317)
One of the nice things about the 1980s was that the game was balanced enough that you could have a real contrast in playing styles.


Is there a way to tell which eras were more heterogenous than others? Some professor who is also a SABR member once did a poster on quantifying the unusualness of players' seasons. I figure his methods might come in handy. He used a measure called Mahalanobis distance.
   51. Gaelan Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:08 PM (#3290321)
My worry about a larger strike zone is that a lot of the deeper counts come from the fact that the waste pitch 0-2 has become ubiquitous. Deep counts happen because pitchers are going for the strike out all the time. A larger strike zone would only increase that tendency.

If homeruns were harder to hit then pitchers would have an incentive to pound the strike zone. The answer is to move hitters off the plate to take away their opposite field power, to move the fences back, and to standardize the ball. I think the strikezone is fine.
   52. Davo Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:08 PM (#3290322)
TTO might be the most effective way of building an offense, but it is the least appealing from an aesthetic standpoint.
It occurred to me that every major sport has this exact same problem--the "best" way to win games is also the most boring.

In baseball, it's TTO. In football, it's the 'ball control, running game, defense' style. And in basketball, it's... well, the "Pistons and Spurs" style over the "Suns and Warriors" style. It's odd.
   53. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:09 PM (#3290326)
You know, for some reason I just don't feel hate for Youkilis. I know why I should hate him and I want to hate him, but I can't.


Then you're not trying. It's really quite easy to feel hate for Youkilis, in the same way that it was remarkably easy to feel hate for Paul O'Neill.

The Red Sox I really hate are Pedroia and Beckett and Papelbon.


I'm not a big fan of any of these guys either, both because of their tendencies toward macho bullshit, and their general "Proud to be ignorant" attitudes.

Apparently, the Red Sox have decided that unlikeable players are the new market inefficiency.
   54. SoSH U at work Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:10 PM (#3290328)
A bit off topic but I always wonder at what point that ceases to be the case if you get a larger strike zone. At some point (I would think) the walks and HRs hit while comfortably ahead in the count become rare enough in a "strike rich environment" that attempting to accumulate them becomes sub-optimal.


I meant, TTO is the most effective way now, not that it always has to be that way.
   55. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:10 PM (#3290329)
In baseball, it's TTO. In football, it's the 'ball control, running game, defense' style. And in basketball, it's... well, the "Pistons and Spurs" style over the "Suns and Warriors" style. It's odd.


In hockey, it's the 'neutral zone trap', which makes for incredibly unwatchable games.
   56. ?Donde esta Dagoberto Campaneris? Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:13 PM (#3290336)
I got you SOSH, I'm just wondering at what point TTO becomes a bad idea. For me, I'd like it to be tomorrow.
   57. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:15 PM (#3290339)
In hockey, it's the 'neutral zone trap', which makes for incredibly unwatchable games.


Thank God they finally took steps to render it ineffective. This past Cup Finals was absolutely wall-to-wall awesome--people who abandoned hockey 15 years ago should consider coming back to it now. Though I still wish they'd enlarge the net and/or shrink the goalie equipment just a wee tad; 4-2 games are better than 2-0 games, but 5-3 games are even better IMO.
   58. Gaelan Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:18 PM (#3290343)
Thank God they finally took steps to render it ineffective. This past Cup Finals was absolutely wall-to-wall awesome--people who abandoned hockey 15 years ago should consider coming back to it now. Though I still wish they'd enlarge the net just a wee tad; 4-2 games are better than 2-0 games, but 5-3 games are even better IMO.


This is true. I stopped watching hockey for a decade even though it was my favourite as a kid. Nineties hockey was unwatchable but the playoffs this year were great. Now the problem is that the city I live in, the team of my youth, and my hometown, all have bad teams that are getting worse.
   59. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:18 PM (#3290346)
4-2 games are better than 2-0 games


And 2-0 games were better than the frequent 0-0 going into OT games that were seen during the peak use of the neutral zone trap.

I don't miss the trap at all (even though some teams still use some variant of it).
   60. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:19 PM (#3290349)
Now the problem is that the city I live in, the team of my youth, and my hometown, all have bad teams that are getting worse.


Toronto, Edmonton, and Ottawa? All are facing potentially ugly seasons.
   61. Gaelan Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:22 PM (#3290353)
Toronto, Edmonton, and Ottawa? All are facing potentially ugly seasons.


You've got the order wrong but yeah it's going to be ugly. You could combine those three teams and you still wouldn't have a team that was that great.
   62. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:24 PM (#3290355)
You've got the order wrong but yeah it's going to be ugly. You could combine those three teams and you still wouldn't have a team that was that great.


Ouch. Harsh, but true. How many guys from those three teams combined would even crack the Red Wings' lineup? Five, six, tops?
   63. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:25 PM (#3290356)
You could combine those three teams and you still wouldn't have a team that was that great.


You're not kidding. The best offensive forward on the Leafs is someone who would be a (respectable) third line winger on an offensively competent team.
   64. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:27 PM (#3290361)
Ouch. Harsh, but true. How many guys from those three teams combined would even crack the Red Wings' lineup? Five, six, tops?


On the Leafs, Kaberle, and maybe Kubina. On the Oilers, Hemsky, and for the Sens, Alfredson, Spezza, and Heatley.

So you're right - five, maybe six.
   65. Dan Szymborski Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:35 PM (#3290374)
I'm in complete agreement with Andy.

I don't like the idea of outlawing the armor, though. You can pretty much have the same effect by actually calling HBPs properly and enforcing KEEPING THE ####### BATTER IN THE BOX. If that was done, it wouldn't matter if the guy came up in a suit of plate armor - it's just not good for baseball to risk injury to a player when they don't need to have that risk.
   66. JMPH Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:36 PM (#3290376)
I'm not a big fan of any of these guys either, both because of their tendencies toward macho ########, and their general "Proud to be ignorant" attitudes.

Since when does the nanny censor "head games"?
   67. phredbird Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:54 PM (#3290410)
agree that moving the fences would help, but i think as little as 10 ft. would make a big difference. lots of homers are just over the fence, or is that my imagination?

widening bat handles would help too, and would make the broken bat problem a lot less urgent.

don't have a problem witht the idea of raising the mound a little. hitters are so far ahead now. and wouldn't that help starting pitchers stay in longer? so relief pitchers wouldn't be so important? so maybe staffs would go down a spot or two?

wouldn't calling the strike zone help? it would make hitters swing more, wouldn't it? that would increase balls in play, wouldn't it?

and i agree with banning the DH.
   68. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 05:55 PM (#3290413)
Ryan, your belief that Kubina is still on the Leafs betrays how little you know about the team.

Who do you think is our best forward? Antropov? Leeman?

Beauchemin, Komisarek, and Schenn would also crack the Wings.

Gaelan, the Leafs may not make the playoffs this year, but they are pretty clearly getting better, not worse.
   69. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:01 PM (#3290423)
Ryan, your belief that Kubina is still on the Leafs betrays how little you know about the team.


Really, it just betrays how little I've been paying attention to them this offseason. I should have remembered that, with all the defensemen they've been adding, they had to move at least one contract out (and they've been trying to move the Kubina contract since about five minutes after they signed it).

Who do you think is our best forward? Antropov? Leeman?


I had a co-worker who hated Antropov so much that he actually did a little dance in the office when he found out Antropov had been traded.

Beauchemin, Komisarek, and Schenn would also crack the Wings.


Beauchemin would. I doubt that Komisarek and Schenn would crack the current roster if the Wings were already taking on Beauchemin and Kaberle.
   70. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:07 PM (#3290431)

Beauchemin would. I doubt that Komisarek and Schenn would crack the current roster if the Wings were already taking on Beauchemin and Kaberle.


Well, the standard was 'guys who are good enough to make the Wings', not 'guys who would be #2-3 on their depth chart.'

Also, while the Leafs certainly don't have a lot of guys you'd take high in a hockey pool, their pathetic offence somehow managed to place a respectable 10th in the league in goals scored. Factor in improvements from the young forwards (Grabovski and Kulemin especially, Tlusty and maybe Bozak could also help), a much better defence, a more abrasive team, you have to conclude the Leafs are going in the right direction.

With improved goaltending (can a healthy Toskala return to solid? Can Gustavsson be good and challenge for the #1 job?) it's certainly reasonable to expect they could make the playoffs.
   71. Gaelan Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:07 PM (#3290432)
Gaelan, the Leafs may not make the playoffs this year, but they are pretty clearly getting better, not worse.


I'm not interested in defensemen who can't score. Every signing this year was bad. Take a bad team and add a bunch of third and fourth line players and you still have a bad team. Unlike in baseball an average hockey player is basically a replacement player since the minors are full of guys just as good. There are only three things that matter: 1) Stars, 2) goaltending, 3) teamwork. In hockey teamwork is a function of coaching not players. With the right coach a minor league all-star team (the definition of replacement level) would handily beat the Leafs.
   72. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:08 PM (#3290435)
It occurred to me that every major sport has this exact same problem--the "best" way to win games is also the most boring.

In baseball, it's TTO. In football, it's the 'ball control, running game, defense' style.
I haven't read Billy Beane's book on football, so I might not be up on the latest research, but it was my understanding that ball control/running game was not the most effective approach. (Except, obviously, when running out the clock with a big lead.) Also, I think football defense is somewhat unique in that it in itself can be very aggressive and exciting, rather than just passive and reactive. I don't know much about basketball/hockey, but my casual impression, to oversimplify a little, is that the "best" defenses in those sports (or in baseball) generally keep things from happening, while the best defenses in football actually make things happen.
   73. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:11 PM (#3290442)
Take a bad team and add a bunch of third and fourth line players and you still have a bad team.

If you really think Komisarek and Beauchemin are 3-4 line level D you don't watch nearly enough hockey.

In arguments, credibility is a function of evidence, not bluster.
   74. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:12 PM (#3290444)
I haven't read Billy Beane's book on football, so I might not be up on the latest research, but it was my understanding that ball control/running game was not the most effective approach.


I've never seen any research but I've long thought that the pass-pass-pass style is the way to score an ungodly amount of points and win games. I'm thinking the Kurt Warner Rams and the 2007-8, 18-0 Patriots (first half only, as for whatever reason they stopped passing like crazy in the second half).
   75. Randy Jones Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:14 PM (#3290448)
I've never seen any research but I've long thought that the pass-pass-pass style is the way to score an ungodly amount of points and win games. I'm thinking the Kurt Warner Rams and the 2007-8, <strike>18-0</strike> 18-1 Patriots (first half only, as for whatever reason they stopped passing like crazy in the second half).


fixed
   76. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:17 PM (#3290451)
Well, the standard was 'guys who are good enough to make the Wings', not 'guys who would be #2-3 on their depth chart.'


I interpreted it as "If the Wings could grab any of these guys to play on this year's team, who would they grab." with the understanding that each one selected would displace someone else on the current roster. While the Wings would undoubtedly want a guy like Schenn for the future, he would be well behind Kaberle and Beauchemin for the current season, and behind quite a few guys already on the Detroit roster.
   77. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:20 PM (#3290454)
I've never seen any research but I've long thought that the pass-pass-pass style is the way to score an ungodly amount of points and win games. I'm thinking the Kurt Warner Rams and the 2007-8, 18-0 Patriots (first half only, as for whatever reason they stopped passing like crazy in the second half).

I don't know much about football, but I think the problem with this is that you need to have a lot of good talent (offensive line, quarterback, receivers) to carry this out, and most teams don't have that.
   78. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:25 PM (#3290460)
I've never seen any research but I've long thought that the pass-pass-pass style is the way to score an ungodly amount of points and win games.


Two of the best indications for a winning team in football are first half passing yards, and second half rushing yards. Basically, you run up the score in the first half, and run out the clock in the second half. It's a great way to win but, as Dewey notes, it does require a ton of talent (at high priced positions) so it's hard to put together and even harder to keep together, because of the cap restrictions. In most cases, a team who can put together an offense like that also suffers from a bad defense (Rams, Vikings) again due to cap restrictions.
   79. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:26 PM (#3290461)
Just watch the Steelers play if you want to know proper football strategy. Throw to get a lead, then run to grind the clock and play strong defense. The Steelers probably take it a tad too far, actually--they tend to like to play run-run-run-punt offense to grind the clock with any lead, even 7-3 in the first quarter*--but it's pretty clearly the best way to win football games. You throw to score, then once you have a decent lead you run to keep the clock moving.

* One reason Ben Roethlisberger racks up so many late-game comebacks is because the Steelers don't like to open up and throw the ball until they're trailing. They're really good at throwing the ball, though.

But the notion that 'you win championships by running the ball' is bunk. Even the Steelers have won their recent championships with offenses that were actually, in terms of actual efficiency, excellent at passing and bad at running. You protect leads by running the ball. If you can't throw, you won't often have a lead to protect.
   80. bads85 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:33 PM (#3290475)
I don't know much about basketball/hockey, but my casual impression, to oversimplify a little, is that the "best" defenses in those sports (or in baseball) generally keep things from happening, while the best defenses in football actually make things happen
.

Defense generally sets up the fastbreak in basketball, which is arguably the most exciting part of basketball.
   81. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:37 PM (#3290482)
I don't know much about football, but I think the problem with this is that you need to have a lot of good talent (offensive line, quarterback, receivers) to carry this out, and most teams don't have that.


Good talent helps, of course, but I think the bigger problem is that coaches get married to the "ball control, running, defense" strategy to the detriment of their teams.

I have a theory in NFL football that the game plan matters as much as talent does. In-game strategy permeates the game in a way that it just doesn't in a sport like baseball.
   82. Ray (CTL) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:38 PM (#3290485)
By the way, can we make a rule that Ryan Jones and Randy Jones are not allowed to post back to back?
   83. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:38 PM (#3290486)
Defense generally sets up the fastbreak in basketball, which is arguably the most exciting part of basketball.
That's like the best season of Neifi Perez's career -- I suppose you can pick out some part to describe that way, but ultimately, who cares?
   84. Moe Greene Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:48 PM (#3290503)
I don't know much about football, but I think the problem with this is that you need to have a lot of good talent (offensive line, quarterback, receivers) to carry this out, and most teams don't have that.

When the run-and-shoot was in vogue, there were some decently successful offenses led by guys like Erik Kramer, Scott Mitchell, and bunches of mostly forgettable receivers.

In football, my sense is that the most successful offenses are often the ones doing something completely different from anyone else, because presumably defenses have to prepare completely differently for such an offense. For example, the run-and-shoot forced teams to play their nickle and dime backs all the time and leave 1-2 linebackers on the sidelines. Paul Johnson's been extremely successful at the college level while being almost alone in running in an offense which, as far as I can tell, resembles the veer/wishbone option offenses that stopped being in vogue 20 years ago. But nobody runs it now, and so it's apparently really difficult to prepare for.
   85. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:56 PM (#3290528)
When the run-and-shoot was in vogue


<3 the chuck-and-duck. Actually, the chuck-and-duck is making a slow comeback... the '07 Patriots more or less ran the shotgun chuck-and-duck (4 WR) as their base offense, and many teams now use a 3-WR base offense (even the Steelers now use a 3 WR base and don't employ a fullback).
   86. BDC Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:57 PM (#3290531)
Seems kinda obvious, too, but the rules in other sports change pretty dramatically over the decades. Baseball doesn't. Since Babe Ruth the home run has been the best way to win a ballgame. Obviously there have been occasional times and places (Washington in the 1930s-50s, the Houston Astrodome, Dodger Stadium in the 1960s, Busch in the 1980s) where teams either didn't hit many HR or didn't score many runs at all and some form of one-run / aggressive baserunning strategy was a good idea. But for most of the last 90 years, it has been a very good idea to get a couple of guys on base and bring up somebody who can hit one out. And even the '80s Cardinals had Jack Clark. You also have to play on the road ...
   87. Swedish Chef Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:57 PM (#3290532)
In no sport are defensive strategies as boring as in soccer. Watching a well drilled team with little offensive intention going about their business is depressing, and ordinary fans can't like Roman fire his manager when they get fed up with it.
   88. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 12, 2009 at 06:58 PM (#3290535)
I've never seen any research but I've long thought that the pass-pass-pass style is the way to score an ungodly amount of points and win games. I'm thinking the Kurt Warner Rams and the 2007-8, 18-0 Patriots (first half only, as for whatever reason they stopped passing like crazy in the second half).


I don't know much about football, but I think the problem with this is that you need to have a lot of good talent (offensive line, quarterback, receivers) to carry this out, and most teams don't have that.

What always impresses me about the truly great football teams is their ability to adapt to their talent. The Lombardi era Packers are thought of as the embodiment of the four yards and a cloud of dust style of offense, but in fact that was only true when they had Taylor and Hornung in their primes. By the end of their dynasty they were leaning much more heavily on the pass. And through it all the one constant was Bart Starr, the most underrated quarterback in history, whose yards per pass attempt was always among the league leaders.
   89. tjm1 Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:07 PM (#3290554)
And even the '80s Cardinals had Jack Clark.


The 1982 Cardinals were last in the league in homers with 62. Hendrick hit 19, Porter hit 12, and no one else hit double digits for them. And that was a World Champion team.
   90. nick swisher hygiene Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:34 PM (#3290614)
the thing with football, as opposed to the other major American sports, is that if all the players were replaced by a reasonably complex and various set of robots, the enjoyability of watching and of generally being a fan would be reduced by what, 5%? at most? hell, it might go up! it's the coaches/geeks game par excellence.....
   91. 185/456(GGC) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:35 PM (#3290617)
Most NFL offenses seem to be based on Bill Walsh's West Coast offense. There are exceptions. The Jints seem to like to mix interior running with long passes
   92. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:42 PM (#3290626)
Most NFL offenses seem to be based on Bill Walsh's West Coast offense.


That's because it works, and also because a huge number of coaches can trace their coaching careers back to Walsh, or someone who apprenticed under Walsh.
   93. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:44 PM (#3290632)
Two of the best indications for a winning team in football are first half passing yards, and second half rushing yards. Basically, you run up the score in the first half, and run out the clock in the second half. It's a great way to win but, as Dewey notes, it does require a ton of talent (at high priced positions) so it's hard to put together and even harder to keep together, because of the cap restrictions. In most cases, a team who can put together an offense like that also suffers from a bad defense (Rams, Vikings) again due to cap restrictions.


Just an aside, but the Rams' defense was not bad in 2 out of the 3 years they were lighting up the league. It was pretty damn good in fact.
   94. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:46 PM (#3290635)
That's because it works, and also because a huge number of coaches can trace their coaching careers back to Walsh, or someone who apprenticed under Walsh.

I think Michael Lewis said that almost every current NFL coach can be traced back to either Walsh or Parcells.
   95. 185/456(GGC) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:49 PM (#3290642)
Yeah, RandyRyan. But you lose some diversity when everyone tries the same style. BTW, here's an article from my favorite football blog.
   96. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:50 PM (#3290645)
I think Michael Lewis said that almost every current NFL coach can be traced back to either Walsh or Parcells.


It wouldn't be that surprising. The NFL (like most leagues) likes to imitate success, and both of those guys had a ton of success. I'm sure you could find less extreme examples of the same thing in the other major sports.
   97. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 07:53 PM (#3290650)
Yeah, RandyRyan. But you lose some diversity when everyone tries the same style.


Trust me. I know. The NHL suffered from a collapse in diversity, when the coaches all realized that the best way to give their team a chance to win was to play the previously mentioned clutch-and-grab neutral zone trap. Now that the league has acted to stomp out that style, there's been a lot more diversity in style of play again (and types of players).
   98. puck Posted: August 12, 2009 at 08:03 PM (#3290660)
This thread's gone in a different direction, but in case Tom comes back, I wanted to comment on the Colorado HR park factor:

It increases most facets of offense except that it's neutral for homers, which has led to a more exciting version of the game.


I don't think the park is neutral for HR, unless another big change was made this year (which I've not heard about):

Home runs in Rockies home/road games
(2009 totals pro-rated to 81 home/road games)

2009:

home: 159
road: 163

2008:

home: 174
road: 134

2007:

home: 185
road: 144

2006:

home: 168
road: 144


The big outfield does seem like it should push them towards speedier OF's, like the Fowler/Carlos Gonzalez/Spilborghs types they have now, rather than the Bichette (and Hawpe) type. The 2003 UZR article gave the Coors OF park factors of .93/.91/.91 left to right, I believe.
   99. 185/456(GGC) Posted: August 12, 2009 at 08:20 PM (#3290693)
The NHL suffered from a collapse in diversity, when the coaches all realized that the best way to give their team a chance to win was to play the previously mentioned clutch-and-grab neutral zone trap. Now that the league has acted to stomp out that style, there's been a lot more diversity in style of play again (and types of players).


Interestingly, I think the Walsh style was a response to rules that opened up offense.
   100. RJ in TO Posted: August 12, 2009 at 08:25 PM (#3290704)
Interestingly, I think the Walsh style was a response to rules that opened up offense.


That would make sense. Given that the system uses a lot of short timing based passes, I'm guessing those were changes to just how badly the defensive backs were allowed to manhandle the assorted receivers.
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