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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

How Mookie Betts changed the super-sabermetric World Series into the super-fun Series

Betts’ greatest coup remained. There is an art to baserunning—to rounding bases properly, to leading off a base, to understanding scenarios as they unfold. The secondary lead—a few extra hops and a step toward the next base as the pitch is delivered—is something Betts does as well as anyone. When Max Muncy chopped a one-hopper that Rays first baseman Yandy Diaz fielded and wheeled home, his throw was slightly up the line, in decent shape to get a mortal running. Instead, it was Betts.

He heaved his body toward home—batting glove sticking out of his right rear pocket, sliding glove on his left hand, gold chain flopping around like it hadn’t a care in the world. Catcher Mike Zunino swept the tag. Too late. The Dodgers led 3-1. That lead expanded to 6-1 by the end of the fifth. It was 8-1 an inning later, with the first of those runs coming on a Betts opposite-field home run around the same vicinity where in NLCS Games 6 and 7 he made spectacular catches against the wall.

All of these elements, they’re Betts’ array of talent dictating what baseball can be. The one-dimensionality of the game in 2020 does not translate in Betts’ world. He hits. He fields. He runs. He plays long ball. He plays small ball. He molds himself to a moment. And the Dodgers follow.

“Mookie,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “is gonna get the best of everybody.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 09:16 AM | 138 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mookie betts

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   1. KronicFatigue Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:03 AM (#5984226)
I watched zero regular season baseball this year. Theoretically I'm a Yankees fan, but I didn't watch much of their playoffs. I'd check their box score mid-game and see it was just a home run derby. No thanks.

Home runs, in excess, are boring. There's the instant excitement when the ball leaves the bat, but if it's deep enough the outfielder's jog to the wall is pointless.

Rallies are awesome. Balls in play are awesome. Line drive singles over the shortstop head are just prettier looking than homeruns. The Dodgers rally where they strung together a bunch of hits was amazing. They'd score a run and STILL have the excitement of anticipation.

There was a runner on 2nd and a hard hit grounder past a diving 3rd baseman (and a further away SS trying desperately to get in position). The LF was charging the ball and then threw home as we see the runner rounding third. The play at the plate wasn't close, but it was the culmination of many moving parts.

Baseball needs to be fixed. Strikeouts and homeruns are only exciting in moderation. We need to move away from the batter vs pitcher domination.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:28 AM (#5984231)
The game moved along relatively quickly for a 2020 game - 3:24, and that included a 36 minute half-inning.

Fun fact I learned from the broadcast last night - Mookie Betts apparently began his career with the Red Sox. Completely forgot about that!
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:32 AM (#5984235)
Could we please, please stop sh*tting on sabermetrics and analytics per se? If you think (as most of us do) that figuring out more about the game has led to a less aesthetically pleasing style of play, advocate for rule changes to bring it back in balance. It's so lazy just to ##### about sabermetrics nerds or whatever. The concept of trying to understand the game accurately is a good thing.

EDIT to clarify that this is directed at Passan and others in the media, not at (most of the) posters here.
   4. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:40 AM (#5984238)
I watched zero regular season baseball this year. Theoretically I'm a Yankees fan, but I didn't watch much of their playoffs. I'd check their box score mid-game and see it was just a home run derby. No thanks.

Home runs, in excess, are boring. There's the instant excitement when the ball leaves the bat, but if it's deep enough the outfielder's jog to the wall is pointless.

Rallies are awesome. Balls in play are awesome. Line drive singles over the shortstop head are just prettier looking than homeruns. The Dodgers rally where they strung together a bunch of hits was amazing. They'd score a run and STILL have the excitement of anticipation.

There was a runner on 2nd and a hard hit grounder past a diving 3rd baseman (and a further away SS trying desperately to get in position). The LF was charging the ball and then threw home as we see the runner rounding third. The play at the plate wasn't close, but it was the culmination of many moving parts.

Baseball needs to be fixed. Strikeouts and homeruns are only exciting in moderation. We need to move away from the batter vs pitcher domination.


All of this.

As I was watching that, I was reminded just how much more fun that sequence was than just watching solo bombs. That play at the plate was fantastic. Diaz made a hell of play but the throw was too far up the line. Mookie got a great jump. Wendle/Glasnow didn't hold him tight enough. It's just a much better game when more than two people are involved in the action.
   5. The Duke Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:49 AM (#5984243)
Sabrmetrics and unwatchable baseball have pretty much gone hand in hand. What is replay, if not another way to deep dive things. Goofy shifts, three true outcomes, spin rates to increase efficiency, exit velocity focus leading to more HRs, loss of the running game (why move a runner up if the only way he scores is on home runs), focus on ops vs batting average driving up counts and walks.

But, you are correct that baseball needs to fix things. A pitcher having to face three batters was a good fix.

Moving the walls back, limiting replay to a handful of plays, deaden the ball, limit shifting, make all foul balls strikes, make the strike zone bigger to cut down on swinging for the fences, make balk rules more stringent to encourage running, move the mound back a bit. There’s a lot they could do to bring back exciting baseball
   6. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 11:02 AM (#5984245)
The concept of trying to understand the game accurately is a good thing.

Until it makes the game a less interesting product. In the absence of a shot clock in basketball, analytics would tell underdog teams their win expectancy is higher when they play four corners and strive to limit possessions as much as possible. It would also tell teams to stop shooting as soon as they get a small lead, creating absurdities like Duke taking a 7-0 lead to the locker rooms at halftime over UNC.

Duke scored after gaining the tip, surging to a 2-0 lead. The Tar Heels held the ball for the next 11 minutes. The reason? Smith wanted Duke to come out of its 2-3 zone. The Dukies finally deflected a pass but after inbounding the ball, North Carolina held it for two more minutes, before turning it over. Mike Gminski hit a free throw to make it 3-0 with 5:43 remaining.

The Blue Devils added a pair of field goals before the buzzer and went into halftime leading 7-0. North Carolina took two shots in the first half, including a half-courter at the buzzer.

While MLB front offices congratulate themselves for finally distilling the game to its most optimized strategies, college basketball changed the rules to make them actually play the game of basketball.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 11:06 AM (#5984247)
Could we please, please stop sh*tting on sabermetrics and analytics per se? If you think (as most of us do) that figuring out more about the game has led to a less aesthetically pleasing style of play, advocate for rule changes to bring it back in balance. It's so lazy just to ##### about sabermetrics nerds or whatever. The concept of trying to understand the game accurately is a good thing.


How's this? We ask Jeff and co. to stop shitting on those things so much, if you agree to stop being so over-the-top defensive about sabermetrics' reputation.

The problem is, the problem is sabermetrics. When that field was limited to identifying the best baseball players to populate one's team, it didn't really have an effect on the product on the field. But now that it's moved into breaking the sport (and it's not just baseball, it's happening in other team sports), we see that teams and the leagues are at cross purposes. The teams want to win, above all else. Leagues want an entertaining product for fans. Those aren't the same things. And yes, the leagues can, and should, start to shift things to make the product more appealing. But teams are going to continue to try to break the sport, and that's typically going to result in a less interesting product.
   8. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: October 21, 2020 at 11:09 AM (#5984249)
But there's nothing wrong with front offices doing that! It's MLB's job to create conditions to maximize the watchability of the product - and for teams to maximize wins within that framework.
(This has a corollary with how I think our political and economic systems should work. Note: in sports and non-sports situations, you want to encourage ethical behavior + strong rule enforcement mechanisms as well.)
   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 11:15 AM (#5984250)
But teams are going to continue to try to break the sport, and that's typically going to result in a less interesting product.
Teams have always tried to break the sport, whatever sport, to the best of their ability at the time. Other sports have been far, far more nimble in addressing problems that arise.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 11:17 AM (#5984251)
But there's nothing wrong with front offices doing that! It's MLB's job to create conditions to maximize the watchability of the product - and for teams to maximize wins within that framework.


I didn't say there was. My point was that even if MLB makes some changes to make the sport more watchable, the teams will continue in their efforts to shift things in their favor (which, as we've seen, tends to make the game less watchable).

The best that we can hope for is MLB recognizes that it needs to be constantly examining ways to improve the product, preferably with a commissioner who isn't a dolt.

   11. KronicFatigue Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:07 PM (#5984262)
Moving the walls back, limiting replay to a handful of plays, deaden the ball, limit shifting, make all foul balls strikes, make the strike zone bigger to cut down on swinging for the fences, make balk rules more stringent to encourage running, move the mound back a bit. There’s a lot they could do to bring back exciting baseball


I've been a "lower the mound + increase the strikezone" guy for awhile, but my newest wish-list includes a count-down clock for pitchers. Give them x time to get a batter out. Once the at bat starts, the hitter cannot step out of the box or ask for time (exception for something in his eye, etc). If the pitcher can't get the batter out in x time, the hitter is awarded a walk.

Not sure how I would handle 2-strike fouls. A) count them as strikes B) add y seconds back on the count-down clock or C) treat them as they currently are. I worry that C would create defensive at bats, but that might be cool.
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:18 PM (#5984266)
my newest wish-list includes a count-down clock for pitchers. Give them x time to get a batter out. Once the at bat starts, the hitter cannot step out of the box or ask for time (exception for something in his eye, etc). If the pitcher can't get the batter out in x time, the hitter is awarded a walk.
This is an interesting idea. Will need to think through the ramifications.
   13. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:18 PM (#5984267)
I wish the game had been closer for dramatic purposes, but there was some entertaining play last night. Mookie Betts is fantastic. There were some good rallies on both sides, with the Rays' cut short by a lineout double play.

There was still way too much time taken between pitches, and I feel like the commercial breaks have been extended by 30 seconds, but otherwise, it was a fun game. I haven't been able to say that about a lot of games recently.
   14. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:19 PM (#5984268)
Allowing pitchers to get Ks on foul balls would create a drastic increase in strikeouts. Just make the clock on a per pitch basis.
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:25 PM (#5984269)
The problem with the pitch clock is that, the union being the union and Manfred being Manfred, even if by some miracle we were able to get a clock, it would be something like "only with the bases empty, 23 seconds, and the pitcher can reset it just by stepping off the rubber."
   16. Tom Goes to the Ballpark Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:28 PM (#5984271)
Two of the most sabrmetric inclined teams play an extremely entertaining game on the biggest stage and everyone wants to ##### and moan about sabrmetrics ruining the game. Perhaps, we can dial back our inner John Smoltz/Joe Morgan/Tim McCarver and enjoy the game(s).
   17. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:38 PM (#5984272)

The problem is, the problem is sabermetrics. When that field was limited to identifying the best baseball players to populate one's team, it didn't really have an effect on the product on the field.


This is completely wrong. Baseball has had multiple episodes where the game changed so much as to affect the aesthetics and make it 'unwatchable'. Rowdyball made the 1890s unwatchable. Dead balls that were black with tar and dripping with spit made deadball unwatchable for many. In 1968 better conditioning, bigger gloves, bouncier turf led to a defensive dominance that made baseball aesthetically dull, leading to a shrinking of the strike zone and lowering of the mound. This has happened over and over, with or without sabermetrics.
   18. Booey Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:40 PM (#5984273)
#16 - Last night's game isn't an example of what people are b!tching about. We're b!tching that MORE games aren't fun like last night's. You know, how baseball USED to be.

Saying a postseason game was actually entertaining shouldn't be this much of a surprise/aberration.
   19. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:56 PM (#5984274)
Can someone please explain exactly what strategies are being emphasized by sabermetrics that are ####### up baseball?

Its not sabermetrics telling pitchers to wait 20 sec. and then Heave Ho!

Is it really sabermetrics telling batters to swing for fences? I thought that was Babe Ruth.

Shifts! Is that it? Is that whats killing baseball?
   20. SandyRiver Posted: October 21, 2020 at 12:56 PM (#5984275)
Allowing pitchers to get Ks on foul balls would create a drastic increase in strikeouts. Just make the clock on a per pitch basis.

Very true. And imagine if that "foul ball strike three" was a 400' clout that missed the pole by 6". Not sure that's the "entertainment" folks would want.
   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:00 PM (#5984276)

Can someone please explain exactly what strategies are being emphasized by sabermetrics that are ####### up baseball?


I think the big one is working the count. PAs concluding after just one pitch are down 17 percent over the last two decades. Full counts are up 11 percent. There are, on average, 11 more pitches in a game than 20 years ago.

But you're right, that wouldn't have that much of an effect if it didn't take five minutes between each pitch.
   22. Srul Itza Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:02 PM (#5984277)
Very true. And imagine if that "foul ball strike three" was a 400' clout that missed the pole by 6". Not sure that's the "entertainment" folks would want.


You want the pitcher to throw the ball and the batter to stay in the box. The rules could be changed to force this, and that would be a big step forward. There have been numerous discussions regarding things that would result in putting the ball in play more, and they should experiment with it.

But artificially cutting down the at bat so it ends on what would be a set number of pitches is dumb. I know we are talking about getting away from the pitcher-batter being the only show, but at bats which are long, not because nothing is happening, but because they go on for 10, 11, 12 pitches, until the pitcher or batter prevails, are one of the fun parts of a game. I do not want to legislate those out of existence
   23. KronicFatigue Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:08 PM (#5984278)
Allowing pitchers to get Ks on foul balls would create a drastic increase in strikeouts. Just make the clock on a per pitch basis.


Maybe hitters adapt strategically, by swinging earlier in the count and/or putting more emphasis on putting the ball in play. In terms of a per-pitch clock, a couple of things. If you give a pitcher 23 seconds per pitch, they'll use 22. In terms of getting the pitchers/union to comply, they're going to fight for every second. But I think even they'd agree that pitches earlier in the count should take less time than later in the count. Likewise, if the goal is to shorten the time of the at bat, we should be discouraging wasted pitches when it's 0-2 etc.

Having the clock be per-at-bat, there's an incentive for pitchers to be efficient early, for their own benefit later on.
   24. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:09 PM (#5984279)
Its not sabermetrics telling pitchers to wait 20 sec. and then Heave Ho!

Is it really sabermetrics telling batters to swing for fences? I thought that was Babe Ruth.


I don't think it's unreasonable to say that sabermetrics has had a major influence on teams emphasizing strikeouts and home runs.

Last night's game was awesome though. Let's focus on that. Bellinger, Mookie, that play by Turner at third, holy #### that was unreal.
   25. Howie Menckel Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:12 PM (#5984280)
Can someone please explain exactly what strategies are being emphasized by sabermetrics that are ####### up baseball?

Charlie Morton being yanked after 66 pitches was pretty ###### up.

so much so that Cash was kidnapped after the game, and his imposter blew the crime by letting Glasnow throw 112 far inferior pitches in Game 1. authorities have recovered the real Cash, and charges are pending against the kidnappers.
   26. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:13 PM (#5984281)
make all foul balls strikes, make the strike zone bigger


That's probably the quickest way to kill the sport.

Instead of teams striking out 8-10 times a game, they'd be striking out 11-13 times a game now.

You'd cut down significantly the number of hits, the number of walks, and the number of base runners.
You'd essentially be telling pitchers to do nothing but throw at the (now expanded) corners, forcing batters to take more pitches because fouling off close pitches means more strike outs. It would simply be a better strategy to hope that the umpire simply calls it a ball than to "protect the plate" with two strikes, as that foul ball is now an out.


   27. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:16 PM (#5984283)
Pace of play is what is killing baseball. They know how to fix it. There is no will to do so. The owners love the crowd kept in seats for 4 hours, as opposed to 2. They sell more stuff.
   28. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:18 PM (#5984285)
authorities have recovered the real Cash, and charges are pending against the kidnappers.


It's good that Daniel Stern and Dan Ackroyd are getting some work.
   29. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:21 PM (#5984286)
The 3rd strike foul rule is a non starter. That's for slo pitch softball.

Moving the mound back would kill pitchers, unless you're ok with 3 inning starters.

Have there been any innovation(s) since 1968 that benefitted pitchers? Raise the ####### mound. Deaden the ball (somewhat...15%?). Give pitchers a break.

   30. Rally Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:26 PM (#5984287)
Is it really sabermetrics telling batters to swing for fences? I thought that was Babe Ruth.


No team is ever going to complain about putting Babe Ruth in the lineup, or great hitters who can successfully emulate his game (to a lessor extent, there's only one Babe).

The responsibility that sabermetrics bears is convincing teams that Al Oliver, 1983, wasn't actually better than Greg Brock 1983. Bill James makes the convincing case in the 1984 Abstract. At the time, it probably shocked people. Oliver hit .300, led the league in doubles with 38, and drove in 84 runs. But he only hit 8 homers and drew 44 walks (also only 44 strikeouts) to give him a .347 OBP and .410 SLG.

Greg Brock hit only .224, was probably looked at as a huge disappointment after hitting over .300 with 44 homers in the minors (in a crazy hitters park in the PCL). But Brock hit 20 homers and drew 83 walks, giving him a .343 OBP and .396 SLG. Actually a bit less than Oliver, but very close. Most people in or around baseball in 1983 would have though Oliver contributed far more.

Teams have internalized the analysis, and there are a lot more Greg Brock types in the game today than there are Oliver types. If the Oliver type is more entertaining to watch but not quite as good, a team is going to prefer the Brock type. Because whatever entertainment value you gain, if it costs you wins it's not worth it.

I can't blame a team for putting the players most likely to win games for you on the field. Responsibility falls on the league to make the game harder for the Brock types, and more rewarding for hitters like Al Oliver (for example, deeper fences). Teams will play the line drive contact hitters if they are better suited to win games.
   31. jmurph Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:28 PM (#5984288)
Can someone please explain exactly what strategies are being emphasized by sabermetrics that are ####### up baseball?

Its not sabermetrics telling pitchers to wait 20 sec. and then Heave Ho!

Is it really sabermetrics telling batters to swing for fences? I thought that was Babe Ruth.

This post is funny because the answers are clearly, objectively, yes to both these questions. Max velocity and maximize power, yes, those are clear outcomes of the large umbrella of sabermetric advances.
   32. Booey Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:30 PM (#5984291)
#19 -

Data showing that pitchers are less effective on their "x" time through the order and thus you're better off using an endless stream of anonymous fireballers for the last 3-4 innings has been bad for the aesthetics of the game. Data showing that strikeouts aren't really any worse than any other form of outs has been bad for the game. Data proving that you really are better off just swinging for the fences on every at bat rather than trying to put the ball in play and manufacture runs has been bad for the game. Numbers showing that entertaining stats like batting average and stolen bases are overrated and thus not something most players and managers worry about anymore has been bad for the game. Shifts that lower batting average even further and encourage TTO baseball have been bad for the game.

Overall, too much analytics have made the sport virtually unwatchable on the field, reduced the role of many of the biggest stars (starting pitchers) and replaced them with interchangeable randos in the last few innings of what should be the most exciting part of the game, and for us numbers guys, it's homogenized the stats so everyone's numbers look the same, since it's now been proven that there's only one best way to produce value. Gone are the days when speedsters like Lofton and Raines or high average, low power guys like Gwynn and Ichiro could produce as much value as the top TTO sluggers like McGwire and Thome, but in vastly different ways. There's so much less variety in player approaches than there used to be.
   33. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:31 PM (#5984292)
This is completely wrong. Baseball has had multiple episodes where the game changed so much as to affect the aesthetics and make it 'unwatchable'. Rowdyball made the 1890s unwatchable. Dead balls that were black with tar and dripping with spit made deadball unwatchable for many. In 1968 better conditioning, bigger gloves, bouncier turf led to a defensive dominance that made baseball aesthetically dull, leading to a shrinking of the strike zone and lowering of the mound. This has happened over and over, with or without sabermetrics.


That doesn't refute what I said.
   34. Rally Posted: October 21, 2020 at 01:44 PM (#5984295)
The key is that the league has to take the lead on making a change. Sit back and do nothing and we'll probably have another 0.2 more strikeouts per 9 innings in 2021.

And by change, I means something that results in more contact, fewer balls flying out of the park, and starters pitching longer into the game. Not universal DH and ghost runners.
   35. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:08 PM (#5984298)
Teams have always tried to break the sport, whatever sport, to the best of their ability at the time.


That's not true, as the pre-shot clock college basketball examples show. There were occasional abominations, as PRD noted, but that's just it -- they were rare and not a way of analytical life. And then when the NCAA and the conferences added a shot clock, there wasn't a mouthy sabery faction around crying, "But, but, but ... muh strategy."

Whatever norm was there that caused college basketball teams to refrain from making a routine farce of the game, even if there were dozens that would have been better off dramatically minimizing possessions virtually every game, has now gone away. (*) That's all, 100%, saber/analytics' doing.

(*) There are about 350 Division I college basketball teams; at least a third of them would have been better off going four-corners most or all of every game. But none did. Literally zero of the teams played the sport the hacked way.
   36. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:10 PM (#5984299)
Teams will play the line drive contact hitters if they are better suited to win games.


I'll run out my favorite potential rule change again, even though zero other people like it. Make any ball that leaves play foul. Legislate home runs out of existence. Line drive contact hitters become more valuable. Place hitters like Gwynn and Ichiro become more valuable. One run strategies, like stolen bases and squeeze bunts become more valuable. And it would also do away with the dramatic abomination that is the home run. The deus ex machina is the absolute worst from the spectator's perspective.
   37. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:15 PM (#5984302)
Its not sabermetrics telling pitchers to wait 20 sec. and then Heave Ho!


Ironically, the long waits are a mental thing -- the kind of thing sabermetrics denies exists. The players are doing all that #### so they can have a repeating routine and breathe and relax and get themselves into their mental happy zone, as all the sports psychologists advocate.(*) The philosophy, though, is pure sabery -- anything that "optimizes performance" is a/ok, no matter how shitty and ridiculous it makes the game itself.

(*) And that's why they're so insistent on it staying the way it is. Changing means an entirely new routine, with all of the potential impacts on the psyche and perceived "readiness."
   38. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:20 PM (#5984305)
PAs concluding after just one pitch are down 17 percent over the last two decades. Full counts are up 11 percent. There are, on average, 11 more pitches in a game than 20 years ago.


That one's fixable once you get robo-umps. Make a small part of the dead center strike zone a must-swing area. If the batter takes a pitch there, he's automatically out. It's ridiculous to watch major league hitters take pitches like that just to get "deep in the count." Indeed, getting "deep in the count" is just a way of gaming the game. But for the knock-off effect on pitch counts, it makes no inherent sense. The things that make sense only in the secondary or tertiary impacts they have should just be eliminated from the sport.
   39. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:26 PM (#5984306)
Two of the most sabrmetric inclined teams play an extremely entertaining game on the biggest stage and everyone wants to ##### and moan about sabrmetrics ruining the game.
Not sure if it’s groupthink or fear of being thought insufficiently sagacious if one can’t ‘improve’ the game, but most of the proposed changes won’t do that. Fans like HRs just fine - look at the fan reaction & interest, evidenced by enthusiasm for Statcast HR data & the HR Derby, a player like Aaron Judge, or if you want to go back a bit 1998 McGwire-Sosa, or even 1961 Mantle-Maris. If shifts bother you, let the game play out, and more hitters will learn to hit against the shift, which is much better than legislating that players on defense must position themselves in a suboptimal manner.

A lot of the pace of play issues arise from the stakes being so high. Wash out of MLB in the 1950s and you might have to start your post-playing car salesman career a little earlier than planned. Wash out now, and you’re missing out on becoming a multi-millionaire, perhaps even amassing generational wealth. That’s going to give most a bit of pause, and no the answer isn’t to pay the players less. Try going the other way, pay the players a bonus for regular season 9-inning games taking less than 3 hours. Maybe $50K per game that teams could divvy up similar to playoff shares? That would be a potential $121.5M pool, but probably only ~ half that would likely be in play. Or try another number to start, the idea is to reward behavior you want to encourage rather than take punitive action to discourage players from acting in their own interest.
   40. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:30 PM (#5984307)
Make any ball that leaves play foul.


That's kind of what slo-pitch softball does: They cap the amount of HRs that a team can hit. Any HR over the cap is an out.

For baseball? Yuck. Deadening the ball would have a better effect.
   41. Rally Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:31 PM (#5984308)
I like it.

And Maddux strikes out the side on 3 pitches!
   42. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:38 PM (#5984310)
Once teams started routinely selecting the Greg Brocks over the Al Olivers, action should have been taken to stop it. This isn't remotely the only reason I think this, but as a kid I saw from one of the better seats in the house, Al Oliver go 6 for 8 in a doubleheader, with 4 HR, a triple, and 7 RBI.(*) After the second game, he was slashing 310/353/461. That's a major league hitter. I don't care what sabermetrics or analysis tells me, I have no interest in seeing that replaced by a never-ending cycle of Mark Reynolds or John Jaha or Greg Brock-esque flailing clods. No one else should either, but there's no accounting for tastes, one supposes.

Nor is there any real indication that Bill James really, deep down, thought that the things he was purportedly demonstrating and "disproving" should become a fanatical way of baseball life. Indeed, given all the advocating of modernizing rule changes he's done, it's likely the exact opposite. It's one thing to be one of the firsts to say, "Wait a minute" to some things; it's quite another to want to rip up and get rid of everything you're saying "Wait a minute" to.

(*) After the fourth HR, the entire remaining crowd -- which was capacity to see a cooked Mark Fidrych get shelled in the first game, but was no more -- gave him a standing ovation as he rounded the bases. Great scene, even if Oliver didn't bother to do a bat flip. (Or maybe he did; one of the silly things about the whole bat flip fetish is that it's a TV-only gesture. People at the game typically have their eyes somewhere other than on the hitter when the hitter hits a ball hard.)
   43. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:39 PM (#5984311)
Whatever norm was there that caused college basketball teams to refrain from making a routine farce of the game, even if there were dozens that would have been better off dramatically minimizing possessions virtually every game, has now gone away. (*) That's all, 100%, saber/analytics' doing.
No, it's not sabermetrics' fault. It's part of a much broader social dynamic - norms have completely lost power as constraints. I won't get political on this thread, but let's just say the examples are obvious and numerous.
   44. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:41 PM (#5984313)
That’s going to give most a bit of pause
Too damn much pause, that's the problem.
   45. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:42 PM (#5984314)
Please resist the temptation to blame baseball's myriad problems on the John Jaha of presidents; they long predate his cloddish arrival on the scene. The collapse of norms in sport is entirely the fault of sabermetrics. Is there something to be said about how the rise of sabermetrics parallels the rise of norm-busting elements in other areas of society? There probably is. I've noted numerous times here that the sabermetric faction's beefs about baseball have their underlying animating source entirely outside of baseball, which would totally lend support to the parallel-ing theory. But it's a bit beyond the current scope.
   46. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:44 PM (#5984315)
as a kid I saw from one of the better seats in the house, Al Oliver go 6 for 8 in a doubleheader, with 4 HR, a triple, and 7 RBI.(*) After the second game, he was slashing 310/353/461. That's a major league hitter.
Eh, maybe not the best example there, given that Oliver got to those numbers by hitting four home runs that day.
   47. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:50 PM (#5984317)
There were occasional abominations, as PRD noted, but that's just it -- they were rare and not a way of analytical life. And then when the NCAA and the conferences added a shot clock, there wasn't a mouthy sabery faction around crying, "But, but, but ... muh strategy." ... Literally zero of the teams played the sport the hacked way.

I wouldn't necessarily say that. That UNC/Duke game may have been among the most extreme examples, but the link I posted also cites a 1982 SI article that is "pleading for a shot clock, citing games such as 'Missouri beating Kansas 41-35 and 42-41; Virginia beating North Carolina State 39-36 and 45-40; Notre Dame making 213 passes before shooting in one possession against Kentucky; and North Carolina making 15 foul shots and no field goals in the last 12 minutes of its game at Clemson'." It was Dean Smith's trademark at UNC until the NCAA instituted a shot clock, so much so that when Smith died UNC ran a Four Corners offense on their first possession of their next game as a tribute to him.
   48. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 02:55 PM (#5984319)
I wouldn't necessarily say that. That UNC/Duke game may have been among the most extreme examples, but the link I posted also cites a 1982 SI article that is "pleading for a shot clock, citing games such as 'Missouri beating Kansas 41-35 and 42-41; Virginia beating North Carolina State 39-36 and 45-40; Notre Dame making 213 passes before shooting in one possession against Kentucky; and North Carolina making 15 foul shots and no field goals in the last 12 minutes of its game at Clemson'." It was Dean Smith's trademark at UNC until the NCAA instituted a shot clock, so much so that when Smith died UNC ran a Four Corners offense on their first possession of their next game as a tribute to him.


All that's entirely true, but the counterfactual history wouldn't just have had occasional 42-40 games; it would have had routine 10-8 games. (And Dean Smith had better talent on the floor than the other team in probably 80%-plus of the games he coached in the 80s, which made his four corners idea sabermetrically absurd. As the quip went, the only person who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points in a game was Dean Smith.)
   49. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 03:02 PM (#5984320)
And to be further fair, more teams than not then would go Four Corners for long periods under like five minutes with like a six point lead. Which wasn't much fun, but that would typically come after 35-odd minutes of relatively normal basketball. It's not like the strategy wasn't used a lot -- it was (*) -- it just didn't fanatically permeate the entire enterprise as now.

(*) ####### Villanova in the 1985 tournament slowed things down routinely, including against my not-quite-yet alma mater in the second round. In the Sweet 16, they beat Maryland 46-43, and their first Final Four game was a 52-45 win over favored Memphis State. The 66 points they put up against Georgetown in the famous final was far and away the most points they scored in any of their tournament games. In retrospect, yeah, that was some bullshit, but it wasn't like Sam Hinkie or Khris Davis or anything.
   50. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 03:03 PM (#5984321)
Please resist the temptation to blame baseball's myriad problems on the John Jaha of presidents;
I'm not. I'm saying they're both symptoms of a bigger issue.
   51. Tom Goes to the Ballpark Posted: October 21, 2020 at 03:39 PM (#5984330)
#16 - Last night's game isn't an example of what people are b!tching about. We're b!tching that MORE games aren't fun like last night's. You know, how baseball USED to be.

Saying a postseason game was actually entertaining shouldn't be this much of a surprise/aberration.
There are quite a few entertaining teams in MLB that play exciting games like last night’s all the time. There is no need to completely rewrite the rules to the sport because the Yankees and Astros are super boring.

This postseason has been filled with exciting games and, for the most part, exciting teams beat boring teams. Since teams want to win the World Series perhaps we can wait to see if boring teams begin to emulate exciting teams instead of advocating for foul balls to become strike outs (a sure way to increase excitement!).
   52. Gary Truth Serum Posted: October 21, 2020 at 03:53 PM (#5984335)

All that's entirely true, but the counterfactual history wouldn't just have had occasional 42-40 games; it would have had routine 10-8 games. (And Dean Smith had better talent on the floor than the other team in probably 80%-plus of the games he coached in the 80s, which made his four corners idea sabermetrically absurd. As the quip went, the only person who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points in a game was Dean Smith.)

While stallball was increasing in popularity in the early 1980s, I agree that it was still mostly a favored strategy of individual coaches like Dean Smith. And yes, it wasn't globally used. It would be invoked when UNC had a lead and wanted to force the opposition into either shortening the game or not playing a zone defense, both of which were favorable to Dean instead of simply playing basketball. The biggest example occurred in the 1982 ACC final when Virginia coach Terry Holland refused to stop playing zone and turned an epic Virginia-UNC tilt into a 47-45 snoozefest. But again, it wasn't a global strategy like the shift or working the count, it was much more of a late game tactic.

(*) ####### Villanova in the 1985 tournament slowed things down routinely, including against my not-quite-yet alma mater in the second round. In the Sweet 16, they beat Maryland 46-43, and their first Final Four game was a 52-45 win over favored Memphis State. The 66 points they put up against Georgetown in the famous final was far and away the most points they scored in any of their tournament games. In retrospect, yeah, that was some bullshit, but it wasn't like Sam Hinkie or Khris Davis or anything.

This strategy got a lot of attention since the NCAA in 1985 used a 45 second shot clock in the regular season but not in the tournament. People then speculated that the only way to beat Georgetown would be to try stallball. But someone checked and found out that Nova never held the ball for more than 45 seconds in the final. Maybe the lack of a shot clock helped, but Nova didn't exploit it.
   53. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:02 PM (#5984339)
This strategy got a lot of attention since the NCAA in 1985 used a 45 second shot clock in the regular season but not in the tournament. People then speculated that the only way to beat Georgetown would be to try stallball. But someone checked and found out that Nova never held the ball for more than 45 seconds in the final. Maybe the lack of a shot clock helped, but Nova didn't exploit it.


They executed that other stathead-favored strategy - don't miss.
   54. Der-K's emotional investment is way up Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:03 PM (#5984340)
10/SoSH - wasn't addressing you; that's totally my position as well
   55. Booey Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:14 PM (#5984343)
#51 - None of instituting a pitch clock, limiting the number of pitchers allowed on a roster, deadening the ball, or placing restrictions on shifts would "completely rewrite the rules of the sport." They're just adding balance and trying to get the sport back to where it used to be by getting rid of the shenanigans that have bogged it down.

Now, some of the extreme ideas other posters have suggested are indeed completely rewriting the rules of the game and are thus crazy and counterproductive IMO (counting all fouls as strikes, eliminating HR's entirely by making them fouls, making taking a pitch down the middle an automatic out, etc). I think we can get a much more aesthetically pleasing product without completely going nuts like these "solutions".
   56. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:16 PM (#5984344)
There are quite a few entertaining teams in MLB that play exciting games like last night’s all the time. There is no need to completely rewrite the rules to the sport because the Yankees and Astros are super boring.

This postseason has been filled with exciting games and, for the most part, exciting teams beat boring teams. Since teams want to win the World Series perhaps we can wait to see if boring teams begin to emulate exciting teams instead of advocating for foul balls to become strike outs (a sure way to increase excitement!).


To each their own, of course, but it's objectively true that three true outcome baseball is on the rise. There was one team that struck out less than 20% of the time last season. There were NO teams that struck out MORE than 20% of the time in the year 2000. The league average of HR/FB last season was 10.5. That was higher than the best team in the year 2000. I, and many others, do not find the current brand of baseball as exciting as baseball where more things happen on the field of play.

Personally, I think changing the foul ball rule would be a bad idea, but I do think that rules need to be changed or implemented in order to increase activity. Sabrmetrics has done what it was supposed to do; now we need to fix the collateral damage. I don't think any idea should be dismissed out of hand, although some can probably be dismissed fairly quickly. I would start by limiting a pitching staff to 10 or 11 (two-way players excluded), and deadening the ball. I'd probably lower the mound a bit as well. Force pitchers to throw at less than max effort every pitch and decrease the value of swinging for the fences.
   57. Traderdave Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:22 PM (#5984345)
Sabermetrics is to blame only indirectly, but it certainly had a role in making TTO the style of the era. TTO ball is B*O*R*I*N*G. Post #1q in this thread is spot on.
   58. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:31 PM (#5984348)
The sabermetric feature which parallels politics the most is the propensity and ability to enforce orthodoxy, e.g., FIRE JOE MORGAN!! It's not just that a team or two has gone all-in-saber; it's that all the teams and all the games have. (Yawn.)

That's a function of both attitude and communications tools, though I'd argue that the communications tools themselves and alone drive attitudes, medium-is-the-message style. People literally have attitudes and thoughts they wouldn't have but for the communications tools they have at their hands to express them. (And there's probably also an attitude-driving nature inherent to seeing what other people say on those tools.)

It's still ultra-odd that the Fire Joe Morgan crowd really and truly envisioned themselves engaged in some kind of generational struggle in their obsession, as if kind of liking the way Al Oliver hit and occasionally liking to see a hit-and-run is of a piece with the fathers of the 60s kids blabbering on about no sex before marriage and it's a-ok to napalm kids in Vietnam stop ######## about the draft. That whole "struggle" narrative/perception is pure Twitter, the internet, social media at work -- little more.
   59. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:34 PM (#5984349)
Now, some of the extreme ideas other posters have suggested are indeed completely rewriting the rules of the game and are thus crazy and counterproductive IMO (counting all fouls as strikes, eliminating HR's entirely by making them fouls, making taking a pitch down the middle an automatic out, etc). I think we can get a much more aesthetically pleasing product without completely going nuts like these "solutions".


I would be surprised if we can get to that game without some kind of radical solution. And, FWIW, I think mine is considerably less radical than those.
   60. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:37 PM (#5984351)
Other than on 3-0, there's no reason to take a fastball right down Broadway or Peachtree. It slows the game down and deprives it of major league hitters swinging at hittable pitches and putting balls in play. It's bullshit. So penalize it.
   61. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:38 PM (#5984353)
Other than on 3-0, there's no reason to take a fastball right down Broadway or Peachtree.


Peachtree? That pitch could be anywhere.
   62. Zach Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:43 PM (#5984355)
There are two ways to score in baseball -- go for lots of power at the expense of strikeouts, or go for high average and manufacture runs. The comparative value of the two depends on how easy it is to get the extra home runs.

Deadening the ball a little and raising the laces would go a long way toward reviving small ball. Messing around with foul balls counting as strikes would hurt both power and average, and might hurt the contact hitters more.

A two way rule change to impose a pitch clock and also force batters to stay inside the batter's box for the entire at bat would be the best of both worlds. You could have the occasional exception if the batter has something in his eye or something like that, but the basic rule should be that the pitcher and batter are both focused on completing the at bat.

Having a ten second rule for pitchers would also have the advantage of giving baserunners an advantage -- if the pitchers' at nine seconds, you know he has to go to the plate and can take a bigger lead.

   63. Zach Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:44 PM (#5984356)
I think most of the pitches right down the middle that get taken are taken because the batter is sitting on a different kind of pitch.
   64. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:47 PM (#5984358)
It's still ultra-odd that the Fire Joe Morgan crowd really and truly envisioned themselves engaged in some kind of generational struggle in their obsession, as if kind of liking the way Al Oliver hit and occasionally liking to see a hit-and-run is of a piece with the fathers of the 60s kids blabbering on about no sex before marriage and it's a-ok to napalm kids in Vietnam stop ######## about the draft.
No. Just no. FJM was not debating about aesthetic preferences. FJM was objecting to the passing off of demonstrable BS as fact, which is pretty much always a good thing to object to. They were attacking "small ball is a better way to win games," not "I think small ball is more fun to watch."
   65. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:51 PM (#5984361)
Posnanski nailed it over at The Athletic. There's competition vs. entertainment. Sometimes the two overlap (more forward passes in football) and sometimes they go in opposite directions (TTO). When they do the latter, that's when action is needed.

I'm with Bivens: deaden the ball (no rules impact), and enforce the pitch clock (rule is already on the books).
   66. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:52 PM (#5984363)
No. Just no. FJM was not debating about aesthetic preferences. FJM was objecting to the passing off of demonstrable BS as fact, which is pretty much always a good thing to object to. They were attacking "small ball is a better way to win games," not "I think small ball is more fun to watch."


Their attack went far beyond that very small niche, and they routinely misheard things. They were so deluded and obsessed that if Joe Morgan had thanked the local pizza parlor for comping the booth a double cheese and sausage in the bottom of the third, they'd have thought he was saying small ball is a better way to win games.

It's often the case that obsessives see and hear and perceive things emanating from the object of their obsessions that aren't really there. That's kind of what obsession ... you know ... is.

FJM dude gave away the game when he mentioned the generational thing. That was the definitive tell. Beyond tangentially, FJM wasn't really even about baseball. Baseball is fuddy-duddy and does have its share of myth-preferences, which made it an easy target for those with a propensity to not like those things. The FJM types saw their entry point, an easy target, and made their move, spurred on entirely by the internet and social media, without which they'd have had no chance and, more importantly, no desire. Writ large, that's the sabermetric story.



   67. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:52 PM (#5984364)
A two way rule change to impose a pitch clock and also force batters to stay inside the batter's box for the entire at bat would be the best of both worlds. You could have the occasional exception if the batter has something in his eye or something like that, but the basic rule should be that the pitcher and batter are both focused on completing the at bat.


For me this is it. Forget about EVERYTHING else in this thread, if this got enforced I think we'd see a massive change for the better.
   68. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:53 PM (#5984365)
Their attack went far beyond that very small niche, and they routinely misheard things. They were so deluded and obsessed that if Joe Morgan had thanked the local pizza parlor for comping the booth a double cheese and sausage in the bottom of the third, they'd have thought he was saying small ball is a better way to win games.
Evidence please?
   69. Captain Joe Bivens, Elderly Northeastern Jew Posted: October 21, 2020 at 04:58 PM (#5984367)
For me this is it.


Yeah. If you're gonna enforce the pitch clock, the batter can't step out of the box. The pitcher can't "quick pitch", either. It worked this way in the 70s and 80s, when games took 2 hours to complete (maybe 2:15 to 2:30 on occasion).
   70. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 05:01 PM (#5984368)
Evidence please?


The "generational struggle" quote from FJM dude on the Joe Morgan RIP appreciation thread. That's the thing of obsessives.

You've cleverly coined the term "That Guy" to describe the RBI-loving baseball traditionalist, but That Guy exists in society at large. It's "civilian That Guy" that was ultimately the target of the FJM crowd, and much of the sabermetrics/analytics crowd.(*) Baseball was essentially collateral damage.

No one could seriously care that much about the RBI unless the ultimate object of their "concern" extended far beyond the RBI. It's not possible.

(*) Not all, certainly.
   71. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: October 21, 2020 at 05:23 PM (#5984373)
Another refreshing thing about last night's game was that Glasnow and especially Kershaw were both working quickly by today's standards. A low bar, but it did make a difference.

Also, a thing that I noticed: John Smoltz used the phrase "three true outcomes" on the broadcast last night. Either John Smoltz is a nerd, or else nerd baseball talk has infiltrated the highest rungs of baseball-world.
   72. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: October 21, 2020 at 05:34 PM (#5984375)
Strange to have such a beef with a fringe sports blog that stopped over a decade ago. They were satirists making fun of absurd sports writing. They were stats friendly but not steeped in sabermetrics, and had absolutely no effect on the transformation in MLB front offices. Let it go.
   73. KronicFatigue Posted: October 21, 2020 at 05:54 PM (#5984380)
“I think walks are overrated unless you can run. If you get a walk and put the pitcher in a stretch, that helps. But the guy who walks and can’t run, most of the time they’re clogging up the bases for somebody who can run.”–former Cubs manager Dusty Baker


That's what FJM was fighting against. It absolutely WAS an era where people were saying small ball was better at winning. Productive outs was a stat. There was a playoff game where an announcer insisted a double was better than a homer b/c it kept the pitcher rattled.

That Dusty quote always shook me to my core. Imagine the slowest MLB runner getting a walk and the fastest runner batting after him. In Dusty's mind, that runner on first was turning the fast guy's triples into singles!
   74. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 06:06 PM (#5984384)
There was a playoff game where an announcer insisted a double was better than a homer b/c it kept the pitcher rattled.
That was John Smoltz, last week.
   75. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 06:10 PM (#5984385)
That's what FJM was fighting against. It absolutely WAS an era where people were saying small ball was better at winning.
Absolutely. As I remember it, there was no argument purely over aesthetics, because the analytics revolution was just barely starting to work its way into positions of influence. And as someone upthread noted, it was more about roster construction at that point (well, and not bunting all the damn time). It hadn't changed the overall aesthetic of the game yet.
   76. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: October 21, 2020 at 06:11 PM (#5984386)
In which case, I guess John Smoltz is not a nerd.
   77. Snowboy Posted: October 21, 2020 at 06:17 PM (#5984388)
Also, a thing that I noticed: John Smoltz used the phrase "three true outcomes" on the broadcast last night. Either John Smoltz is a nerd, or else nerd baseball talk has infiltrated the highest rungs of baseball-world.


I didn't have to suffer <snore?> through Smoltz up here, they suddenly resurrected the "International Broadcast" so I got MLB Network with Matt Vasgersian and Buck Martinez. (Which carries a lot of irony, because I (we?) can't normally get MLB Network up here among the 500 channels in my guide.)

Anyway in the pre-game they showed the announcers in their studio, and in front of Buck was a bound stack of papers that looked about as thick as a microbiology textbook or Bartlett's Familiar Quotations. It didn't look like Buck had cracked it (there weren't Post-It notes hanging out the sides, or even a pen/pencil/highlighter near him. And hey, Buck is a career baseball guy, he made the majors at 20 and is now almost 72yo, I don't expect he knows the formula for VORP.) But you can be sure that somewhere early in that doorstop tome is an essay on TTO. Smoltz is keen and young enough to have noticed the trend, and picked up the term somewhere. Some have even joked in chatter that he lurks here. Lastly, Vasgersian looked like he'd torn the binding off his prep book, he had four or five smaller piles compared to Bucky's book.
   78. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 21, 2020 at 06:26 PM (#5984389)
In which case, I guess John Smoltz is not a nerd.
Correct. Smoltz only mentions the nerd-type stuff in the context of insisting that "strikeout are bad, mmkay?" or "walks are worse for a pitcher than home runs," that kind of thing.
   79. . Posted: October 21, 2020 at 07:01 PM (#5984392)
Is the suggestion here that Dusty Baker was saying he prefers an out to a walk? Or that given a choice between one of his hitters making out, or walking, he would prefer the out?
   80. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 21, 2020 at 08:41 PM (#5984402)
Other than on 3-0, there's no reason to take a fastball right down Broadway or Peachtree. It slows the game down and deprives it of major league hitters swinging at hittable pitches and putting balls in play. It's bullshit. So penalize it.


So a pitcher has walked the previous batter, and then goes 2-0 on the next batter. Six straight balls in a row. You are saying the current batter has to swing at whatever is thrown because on the outside chance the pitcher's 12-6 curveball lands in the "super-fun-zone" (instead of at eye-level like the last two pitches), he'll be called out?

You're half-way to Calvinball at this point.


(Which carries a lot of irony, because I (we?) can't normally get MLB Network up here among the 500 channels in my guide.)


It's on the Rogers network, just after the TSN block of channels, right next to the NBA channel and the golf channel. I throw on Quick Pitch in the morning to catch highlights of the previous night's west coast games.
   81. Booey Posted: October 21, 2020 at 09:15 PM (#5984409)
Yeah, the Calvinball-esque proposals are odd. I thought most of us just wanted baseball to return to what it used to be, not morph into an entirely different sport altogether. Honestly, I'm a bit surprised that a couple of posters here ever became baseball fans in the first place with how drastically different they'd prefer the game to be.
   82. Walt Davis Posted: October 21, 2020 at 09:45 PM (#5984421)
Thread too long to go through right now so apologies if some of this has already been addressed

Runner on 2nd when a single hit, score, %

2019 4844 2903 59.9% (about one opp per team-game; scoring then about .6 per team-game)
1989 4825 3144 65.2% (1.15 opps per team-game; scoring .75 per team-game) ... so an average one extra occurrence per 6-7 team-games; 3-3.5 games
1979 5319 3507 65.9% (1.50 opps per team-game; scoring 1 per team-game) ... so an average one extra occurrence per 2.5 team-games; 1.25 games

I assume you guys were complaining more heavily about the change from 1979 to 1989 than you were the one over the last 30 years.

Now ... the sillyball era

1999 5896 3687 62.5% (1.21; .76)
2009 5678 3294 58.0% (1.17; .68)
2014 5233 3112 59.4% (1.08; .64) -- the one-year deadball era saw a big drop in HR (and a big jump in K) and a continued drop in the play you want.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess you folks were thinking this sort of play happened "all the time" back in the day. And in the 70s, you'd have a guy score from second on a single twice per game but of course a large proportion of those would have not drawn a throw and even that was less than one extra occurrence per game. Somebody else can look every year but 1979 was a long time ago and I'm guessing that's about as high as it's been since. So every 2-3 games you'd see one more runner score from second on a single, only occasionally resulting in a play ... and that was a MUCH more exciting game? You're sure that, like pretty much every other nostalgic person, you're not remembering the good old days as being a lot better than they actually were?

I know we're an old bunch but how many of you were watching baseball in 1979? How many of you were adults in 1979?
   83. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 09:58 PM (#5984431)
It's ridiculous to watch major league hitters take pitches like that just to get "deep in the count." Indeed, getting "deep in the count" is just a way of gaming the game. But for the knock-off effect on pitch counts, it makes no inherent sense. The things that make sense only in the secondary or tertiary impacts they have should just be eliminated from the sport.


I realize that you're a lawyer and most of a lawyer's stock in trade arguments are "schlock" arguments, that would never work in a peer review type of environment but work everyday in a court room because they are basically tricks. The idiot defendant, or the pro se litigant or the guy fighting a traffic citation who has never seen some bull sheet motion to admit for some purpose or the other, etc etc. It works because the person has never seen that argument before, but if you had to use that same argument in front of the same people day after day they would laugh you out of court. It would never work.

So to be intellectually honest it helps to be consistent. YOu've been railing for years about "oafball."

THen last week you went on a tear about fouling off pitches. As if this was some horrible trend.

Now today you upset about "working the count" and taking pitches.

Which is it? Which of these are problems? THey cant all be problems can they? Or you just dont care?

Does it really bother you that you're not consistent? Or Its just whatever is convenient argument today and forget how inconsistent we sound like.
   84. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:06 PM (#5984438)
OK help me out here. I asked about how horrible sabermetrics has made baseball. Among others we have two things:

1. Greg Roberts types replacing Al Oliver types;

2. Swinging for the fences.

These strategies are diametrically opposed to one another are they not? Well OK not really, but they are going in different directions like small ball vs HRs.

If the use of metrics is actually driving strategies in two vectors (both: OBP types and swinging for HRs) how is that a bad thing? I mean aesthetically. If you are encouraging two divergent strategies that sounds like you are making the game more richer more diversified.

I'm not sure the game is more diversified, but that's the two arguments you are coming up with and they seem to contradict one another.

Is that really a sabermetric fault?
   85. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:36 PM (#5984454)
Who is Greg Roberts?
   86. Howie Menckel Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:44 PM (#5984457)
Greg Brock.
   87. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:55 PM (#5984463)
OK.

Other than Mrs. Brock, I don't know that anyone ever specifically sought out a Greg Brock type, who has about the most non-descript profile imaginable. Was Sugar thinking of someone else?

   88. Booey Posted: October 21, 2020 at 10:59 PM (#5984464)
#84 - The LACK of diversity is one of my biggest problems with the current game. What happened to players with the skillsets of Gwynn, Boggs, Ichiro, Rickey, Raines, Lofton, Rose, Morgan, Carew, Jeter, Molitor, Alomar, etc? Those guys were not only more fun to watch than the Chris/Khris Davis's , but they were all still able to amass HOF worthy careers despite a combined zero 30 homer seasons between them. Nowadays they'd all be encouraged to stop stealing bases and work on increasing their launch angle so they could hit 30 homers at the expense of 20-30 pts of batting average and an extra 50 strikeouts.

Don't get me wrong; the best TTO sluggers are exciting too. Stanton and Judge are fun to watch. McGwire, Sosa, and Thome were fun to watch. I'm sure that Reggie, Schmidt, Killebrew, and McCovey were fun too. But too many players nowadays TRY to be the next McGwire or Thome without having the actual ability to do it, so instead we end up with a bunch of Dave Kingman's, Rob Deer's, Steve Balboni's, and Pete Incaviglia's, guys who can hit 30 homers but with a .240 avg and 180 k's. Those types are NOT exciting.
   89. Ron J Posted: October 22, 2020 at 12:14 AM (#5984480)
#88 There's nothing preventing teams from employing a Boggs or a Raines -- regardless on league trends these were excellent players.

Indeed I expect the next great "efficiency" to be the teams that don't try to coach the next Paul Molitor (say) out of his play style.

The late 40s/early 50s saw a lot of high walk/HR players (and very little speed being used offensively) and the game evolved to make space for more diverse talents.
   90. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: October 22, 2020 at 12:52 AM (#5984482)
I'm with Bivens: deaden the ball (no rules impact), and enforce the pitch clock (rule is already on the books).


I'd like to see just the pitch clock first because I think game pace/engagement are most important for keeping/gaining viewers. As I've said before, pick a desired time between pitches, and work down to it one or two seconds at a time over a few years.

But I also suspect the reduced time to strategize by both offense and defense will lower the amount of TTO. Whether that's correct or incorrect, further adjustments can be made as necessary, like deadening the ball. In most any field, I've found one-step iterations are better for making significant changes as they better demonstrate the effects of each adjustment.
   91. Hank Gillette Posted: October 22, 2020 at 07:29 AM (#5984484)
Moving the walls back, limiting replay to a handful of plays, deaden the ball, limit shifting, make all foul balls strikes, make the strike zone bigger to cut down on swinging for the fences, make balk rules more stringent to encourage running, move the mound back a bit.


I hate all of those ideas. Enlarging the strike zone is only going to lead to even more strikeouts, you know. Personally, I would get rid of the balk rule entirely.

Why not bring back the rule that a bunt that lands in fair territory is a fair ball, even if it rolls foul? That would bring back bunting with a vengeance.
   92. Hank Gillette Posted: October 22, 2020 at 08:01 AM (#5984485)
When pitchers are throwing at near maximum effort on every pitch, it is only natural that they would try to take as long between pitches as possible.

Why batters aid them by stepping out of the box after every pitch to adjust their batting gloves, I don’t know.

How about we ban batting gloves? Baseball existed for over 100 years without batting gloves; they are an affectation. That would cut down on nearly half of the delays between pitches.

Second, enforce a pitch clock from the point that the batter is in the box ready to bat. If the pitcher overruns the pitch clock by throwing to a base, it is a ball, unless the runner is picked off.
   93. Hank Gillette Posted: October 22, 2020 at 08:04 AM (#5984486)
You know, how baseball USED to be.
They say the golden age of baseball is age 10.

I admit I would like to see it take a batting average of over .350 to win the batting title, but I could do without the Yankees in the World Series every damn year.
   94. KronicFatigue Posted: October 22, 2020 at 08:34 AM (#5984490)
Is the suggestion here that Dusty Baker was saying he prefers an out to a walk? Or that given a choice between one of his hitters making out, or walking, he would prefer the out?


I always read it as Dusty thinking he's more likely to score a run if Juan Pierre was leading off an inning as opposed to coming up with a slow runner already on first. That given a chance he'd "decline" the walk to the first guy and have him return to the bench to let Pierre start the inning over.
   95. bunyon Posted: October 22, 2020 at 08:49 AM (#5984492)
I like the idea of a clock first but that takes but in from the most people and is, thus, the hardest to do. Deafening the ball could be done simply by fiat. If the boss wasn’t distracted by Calvinball rules.
   96. Lassus Posted: October 22, 2020 at 09:22 AM (#5984496)
Other than on 3-0, there's no reason to take a fastball right down Broadway or Peachtree. It slows the game down and deprives it of major league hitters swinging at hittable pitches and putting balls in play. It's bullshit. So penalize it.

a.) As noted, because you were thinking it was going to be another type of pitch, or you rocked off the balls of your feet, or you thought you saw a tip, or you thought you cause a curveball grip, or you studied the sequence of pitches earlier, or whateverelsethefuck. Jesus.

b.) You were penalized. It's a strike.
   97. HGM Posted: October 22, 2020 at 09:23 AM (#5984497)
What if..... different fans enjoy different things and there isn't a set-in-stone "best" version of the game on the field? I happen to very much enjoy current baseball. Personally, I enjoy baseball regardless of the aesthetics of how the runs are scored. Seems everyone in this thread thinks there's a definitive answer as to what constitutes enjoyable baseball.

Ironically, the long waits are a mental thing -- the kind of thing sabermetrics denies exists.

Can't believe it's 2020 and people still say absolute nonsense like this.

Not sure if it’s groupthink or fear of being thought insufficiently sagacious if one can’t ‘improve’ the game, but most of the proposed changes won’t do that. Fans like HRs just fine - look at the fan reaction & interest, evidenced by enthusiasm for Statcast HR data & the HR Derby, a player like Aaron Judge, or if you want to go back a bit 1998 McGwire-Sosa, or even 1961 Mantle-Maris. If shifts bother you, let the game play out, and more hitters will learn to hit against the shift, which is much better than legislating that players on defense must position themselves in a suboptimal manner.

Finally a reasonable person.

maybe not the best example there, given that Oliver got to those numbers by hitting four home runs that day.

Lmaooooooooooooooooooooo

It's not just that a team or two has gone all-in-saber; it's that all the teams and all the games have.

Wow! Really weird that every baseball team has decided that trying to win more baseball games is better than not!
   98. Lassus Posted: October 22, 2020 at 09:24 AM (#5984498)
Deadening the ball is stupid. Strictly enforced pitch clock would work just fine, and people would adjust. It's baffling why it isn't done.
   99. bunyon Posted: October 22, 2020 at 09:51 AM (#5984503)
Changes that require broad support and buy in are hard. The clock requires players, umpires, coaches, TV and radio to all buy in. Deadening the ball requires one guy to make a decision. In principle, I agree a clock would be better than all the other changes. But if all the people that have to buy in to a clock would, we wouldn't need a clock. I mean, there already are rules about pace but the players ignore them and umpires allow it. A clock wouldn't, necessarily, be any different.

Given the leadership we have, practically, I expect any long term changes to be bad ones at this point.


Speaking of hard changes, I'd prefer to see no "artificial" walls. The OF walls should be whatever barrier is directly in front of the first seats. More OF space and higher walls means fewer HR, more balls in play and increases the importance of OF defense. All good things. But it's probably impossible.


EDIT: I agree with you Lassus. Pace of play is 95% of my problem with today's baseball. A clock that was enforced would fix most of it.
   100. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 22, 2020 at 09:52 AM (#5984504)
Deadening the ball is stupid. Strictly enforced pitch clock would work just fine, and people would adjust. It's baffling why it isn't done.

Amen. The rule already exists. 12 seconds with no one on base. Enforce it.
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