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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
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   101. . Posted: October 22, 2020 at 10:06 AM (#5984506)
Why batters aid them by stepping out of the box after every pitch to adjust their batting gloves, I don’t know.


This one's been explained, but I'll repeat the explanation -- because it's part of their pre-pitch routine. I'm porting over a bit from golf, but I'd bet a zillion dollars the very same principle applies. Going through your routine essentially the same way every pitch triggers and readies the subconscious, and through it the body itself, to swing the bat effectively and the way the hitter wants to swing the bat. The pre-pitch routine and the actual swing are so analytically inseparable that they in fact aren't inseparable. Swinging the golf club is deemed to include all the things to do to get ready to swing the golf club. There's the equivalent of the batters box in golf, too. You can dick around all you want outside the box, but once you get inside the box it's all business and routine.

So then getting major league hitters to completely change that routine is then the essential equivalent of telling them to change their swing. (*) When viewed that way, which is the actual way, the enterprise of the pitch clock change takes on a fundamentally different dimension.

(And as a corollary, the pitchers aren't taking more time to catch their breath; they're taking more time for the same reason hitters are taking more time. Mental happy zone.)

(*) Or the same as, say, telling a golfer he's limited to one waggle.
   102. Rally Posted: October 22, 2020 at 10:20 AM (#5984508)
For those that claim deadening the ball is stupid, how lively should the ball be? Are you ok with the way MLB juiced the ball in (2017 I think*)? What about just playing with baseballs that perform the same way they did in 2016?

*And for AAA baseball, 2019. Before that season it was announced that AAA would use the same baseball as MLB. Not juicing the ball, no, they wouldn’t do that. Just trying to establish consistency in the manufacturing process. And then HR skyrocketed in both AAA leagues.
   103. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 10:27 AM (#5984511)
Changes that require broad support and buy in are hard. The clock requires players, umpires, coaches, TV and radio to all buy in.
Not really. It only really requires the commissioner to buy in enough to take on battles with the players and umpires.
   104. BDC Posted: October 22, 2020 at 10:29 AM (#5984512)
Essentially, baseball is a game of tag. It is exciting to watch games of tag. It is somewhat less exciting to watch home-run-derby as an athletic event. Javy Baez tag-application highlight videos are cooler than all but the longest of long-home-run replays. There is enough tag left in the game for it to be fun, but there should be more.
   105. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 10:31 AM (#5984515)
This one's been explained, but I'll repeat the explanation -- because it's part of their pre-pitch routine. I'm porting over a bit from golf, but I'd bet a zillion dollars the very same principle applies. Going through your routine essentially the same way every pitch triggers and readies the subconscious, and through it the body itself, to swing the bat effectively and the way the hitter wants to swing the bat. The pre-pitch routine and the actual swing are so analytically inseparable that they in fact aren't inseparable. Swinging the golf club is deemed to include all the things to do to get ready to swing the golf club. There's the equivalent of the batters box in golf, too. You can dick around all you want outside the box, but once you get inside the box it's all business and routine.

So then getting major league hitters to completely change that routine is then the essential equivalent of telling them to change their swing. (*) When viewed that way, which is the actual way, the enterprise of the pitch clock change takes on a fundamentally different dimension.
I have no doubt that this is correct, at least to the extent that that is what the "mental skills" coaches are telling players. That's their standard advice - "slowing things down" and having rituals that you have to execute completely, and exactly the same way every time, is their stock in trade.

But all it takes is for someone in a position of power to say three magic words: "Too damn bad." The hitters don't get to use quite as much of their ritual crutch, and the pitchers don't get quite as much of theirs, and everyone adjusts - probably finding out that the full ritual wasn't really all that important to begin with. Unfortunately the one person who could do this is entirely feckless.
   106. Baldrick Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5984529)
One change that would massively improve my experience of baseball is if people would STOP RESPONDING TO THE TROLL. The beauty of this proposal is that we here can actually achieve this ourselves!
   107. cookiedabookie Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5984530)
Get rid of defensive shifts, have circles each position must start in before the pitch is thrown. And limit pitchers to one pick off throw per baserunner.
   108. KronicFatigue Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:08 AM (#5984533)
Do any of the major sports every conduct any kind of surveys to see what people actually like? I don't think Judge's jersey sales or people remembering the Sosa/McGuire chase fondly is a good way to determine if people think home runs are the most entertaining way of scoring for baseball. I would love to see any studies on any sport regarding this, and it seems like it would be a good way for the powers-that-be to adjust rules to be more accommodating.

   109. Lassus Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5984538)
So then getting major league hitters to completely change that routine is then the essential equivalent of telling them to change their swing. (*)

This is, in fact, not correct.


(*) Or the same as, say, telling a golfer he's limited to one waggle.

However, this DOES actually makes sense, blind squirrel.

Of course, in golf, they actually enforce the rules against slow play, so. I mean, not with any kind of insane drop-dead strictness, but at lease SOMEWHAT, which is way way ahead of what baseball has ever even tried.
   110. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5984539)
Defensive shifts are the greatest actual on-field strategy to hit MLB in forever. Outlawing them is communist.
   111. Lassus Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:21 AM (#5984540)
Get rid of defensive shifts, have circles each position must start in before the pitch is thrown. And limit pitchers to one pick off throw per baserunner.

Vote of no confidence. Lame.
   112. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:22 AM (#5984541)
One thing that doesn’t really get discussed is that homers are by far the easiest thing to market to non- or barely-fans. Pretty much any other scoring play or series of plays requires some familiarity with the rules. Homers are just “hit ball far, get points.”
   113. Booey Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:23 AM (#5984543)
#93 re: Golden Age of baseball being age 10 -

Not for me, actually. I turned 10 in 1989, and I think offense was way too low during the mini deadball era of 1988-1992. McGriff led the league with 36 HR that year and with 35 in 1992. Batting titles were won with .313 (Gwynn) and .319 (Pendleton) averages in 1988 and 1991. Will Clark led the NL with 109 rbi in 1988 and a .536 SLG in 1991. There was exactly one 50 HR campaign in a 24 season
span from 1966-1989. IMO, no one should lead the league with less than 40 homers, 120 rbi, a .330 batting average (and really I'd prefer it be closer to .350), or a .600 SLG%.

My personal "Golden Age" of baseball was the heart of sillyball from 1996-2004, when I was 17-25.
   114. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:33 AM (#5984545)
Surely some players need to "slow it down" more than others. You'd think that there would be an advantage to a pitcher who doesn't need to slow it down as much as the batters do. But maybe the quick pitch rule would require him to stand there waiting while the batter fiddles with his gloves?

As for the pitch clock, even if Manfred's buy in would be sufficient, so would buy in from the umpires. Which, you'd think, would be easy. Who doesn't want a shorter workday?
   115. . Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:36 AM (#5984548)
#93 re: Golden Age of baseball being age 10 -


This bromide is tired and hoary. If you go 1975-80 for me:

1. NHL hockey -- a million billion times better in 2020 than then. Not even close. Players are WAY better and more skilled, player pool sourced from all over the world instead of almost entirely Canada and the US (Canada, really). I loved hockey then, I love hockey now, the game today is night and day better.

2. NFL football -- way better now; the so-called "Golden Age" had way too much running and a bunch of Neanderthal coaches, especially at the college level, who essentially thought running was for real men and passing was for sissies. Got better after the 1978 rule changes.

3. NBA basketball -- a little tougher. The idea that the NBA was a bunch of zombie druggies "saved" by Bird and Magic is laughably false. That time certainly wasn't its peak, but while I like the opening of the floor that we have now, I'm quickly getting sick of Harden ball where everything is a 3 or a drive and a flail to draw a foul. Lots of parallels there to TTO baseball. The talented 7 foot postman with a mid range game has been phased out and I preferred that to Brook Lopez's set shot from 3. My peak for basketball was probably 1989-93 or so, and then early LeBron/Wade until maybe 2015. The year they really opened up the floor, 2014-15, was pretty awesome, but I want more variety than the jump shooting version of 2020.

4. College basketball -- better then, but only because it was really a de facto U-21 league, with very rare exceptions, and it's not now.

5. MLB baseball -- way better then, for reasons covered at length.
   116. Booey Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:36 AM (#5984549)
#97 - Yes, different fans enjoy different things, but do you actually PREFER the current iteration of MLB compared to previous ones with more action and less dead time between pitches? "Fine" should never get in the way of "better".

From what I've seen, most fans appear to fall into 2 camps when it comes to pace of play:

A) "I think the game is too slow and I'd enjoy it more if they sped up the pace, making it more like it used to be."

B) "The pace of the game is fine...but it was fine back when it was faster, too. IOW, pace of play doesn't affect my enjoyment either way."

Since there seems to be very few in camp C - "I actually PREFER really long, slow games with very little action, and I'd be LESS of a fan if they ever sped it up!" - improving the pace would appease group A without alienating group B. Feels like a no brainer to me.
   117. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:43 AM (#5984554)
As for the pitch clock, even if Manfred's buy in would be sufficient, so would buy in from the umpires. Which, you'd think, would be easy. Who doesn't want a shorter workday?
The umps pretty clearly value the path of least resistance with the players over most other things. Remember when they tried to have them enforce the "stay in the box" rules?
   118. bunyon Posted: October 22, 2020 at 11:51 AM (#5984558)
Exactly. I know a lot of you have management experience. You can hammer one or two bad actors. You can't fire everyone in the office. If the majority of the players and umpires don't want to go faster, the game won't go faster. They have to buy in. I'm good (great, even) with a clock and a stick, but there would need to be a carrot, too. The players have clearly developed habits that make them go slow (and they seem to perform better - throw harder, hit better) doing so. Without some pretty good reason, they're not going to speed up. Even getting all the umpires in on it won't work. Leadoff batter doesn't get in box, pitcher won't throw. Balls and strikes are called. They're both ejected. Next pitcher won't throw, he's ejected. Next batter won't stay in box, strikeout awarded.

No one is watching that.

And that assumes the umpires would do this. MLB has "tried" speeding the game up this way for years now. "Try harder" isn't a plan.
   119. Lassus Posted: October 22, 2020 at 12:02 PM (#5984563)
While I normally agree with 99% of what you say, Bunyon, I'm not on board there. I really don't think what they've done counts as trying.

In my view, I would replace your "try harder" with what I'd consider a more accurate "Do."
   120. SoSH U at work Posted: October 22, 2020 at 12:04 PM (#5984564)
The players have clearly developed habits that make them go slow (and they seem to perform better - throw harder, hit better) doing so.


The first thing is to teach them is that if they think they hit better AND pitchers think they pitch better, then changing won't necessarily hurt them more than the other guy.

   121. . Posted: October 22, 2020 at 12:13 PM (#5984568)
The first thing is to teach them is that if they think they hit better AND pitchers think they pitch better, then changing won't necessarily hurt them more than the other guy.


Yeah, but even that won't work because its human nature, especially with talented athletes, to want to perform at their best absolutely, not just relatively. Most of your elite hitters would prefer hitting .280 against super elite pitching than .280 against pitching that's limited by a pitch clock.
   122. SoSH U at work Posted: October 22, 2020 at 12:46 PM (#5984573)
Most of your elite hitters would prefer hitting .280 against super elite pitching than .280 against pitching that's limited by a pitch clock.


That's why you have to couple the argument. You let them know they can continue to hit .280 against pitchers limited by a pitch clock, and get out of the ballpark a half earlier to go chase tail.

   123. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 01:37 PM (#5984577)
Even getting all the umpires in on it won't work. Leadoff batter doesn't get in box, pitcher won't throw. Balls and strikes are called. They're both ejected. Next pitcher won't throw, he's ejected. Next batter won't stay in box, strikeout awarded.

No one is watching that.
That would maybe last a couple of days in spring training, and then everyone would get on with it. Of course they'd ##### and moan, but who cares?
   124. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 22, 2020 at 02:15 PM (#5984579)

Do they still enforce a pitch clock at the minor league level? How are all these young guys developing a long drawn-out routine if that's the case?
   125. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 22, 2020 at 02:16 PM (#5984580)

That would maybe last a couple of days in spring training, and then everyone would get on with it. Of course they'd ##### and moan, but who cares?

Agreed. The NBA has made more significant changes to how the game has played in recent years, and the players adapted.
   126. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 02:30 PM (#5984583)
Exactly. Players don't comply with anything now because they know enforcement is a joke. Masks in the dugouts, for example. MLB: "We're serious about Covid protocols after major breakouts on two teams. Masks in dugouts are mandatory for all players." Players: "Nah." MLB: "OK!"

Of course, the real issue is whether the players would start, or exacerbate, a labor war over a pitch clock or other pace-of-play measures. That's where the commissioner has made the tragic mistake of giving in to the players' position (and sadly now the generally accepted take) that these changes are subject to bargaining to begin with. What he should have done was enact a pitch clock and stay-in-the-box rules unilaterally, let the players file a grievance and agree to hold off on enacting the new rules until the arbitrator rules (provided the players agree not to strike over the issue), and see if they can get those types of changes removed from having to be bargained. The "which significantly affect terms and conditions of employment" clause has to mean something, and I bet it would be better than 50/50 that the arbitrator would rule in MLB's favor.



   127. Rally Posted: October 22, 2020 at 02:35 PM (#5984585)
NBA basketball -- a little tougher. The idea that the NBA was a bunch of zombie druggies "saved" by Bird and Magic is laughably false.


Bird and Magic definitely made the league more exciting. The two NBA finals right before their rookie seasons involved the Seattle Supersonics and Washington Bullets. I don't thing many fans outside of Washington the state or Washington the city remember much about either team. Mention the Showtime Lakers, the Celtic's frontcourt, the Sixers of Dr. J and Moses and if you were there you can still see the highlights in your head. The images are still fresh of the great teams right after them, the bad boy Pistons and then Jordan. Anybody have any images of those Sonics or Bullets? They were not great teams, but there were no great teams at the time but somebody still has to win the last game.

There were indeed a lot of druggies in the league at the time, though if you were to try and prove it false, I suppose you could make the case that peak druggie NBA was not immediately before Magic/Bird, but happening in their early years.

1986 was the draft with top 7 picks including Len Bias, Chris Washburn, William Bedford, and Roy Tarpley. If there was ever a big waste of talent I'm not aware of it. The following season Mitchell Wiggins and Lewis Lloyd, key guards on the Rockets 1986 NBA finals team, were suspended. I'm sure I've only scratched the surface.
   128. . Posted: October 22, 2020 at 02:58 PM (#5984591)
I thought the 1977 and 1978 finals were both awesome. The 1979 final not so much, although the conference finals (Sonics/Suns and Bullets/Spurs) both went to the final buzzer of Game 7. The 1979 All-Star game, which I went to, was awesome too. I routinely watched 11:30 Eastern time start playoff games in this era, which is kind of insane in retrospect, but then again I was like 14 years old. There were times I actually set alarms for 11:30 in case I fell asleep. Virtually certain Bulls-Warriors WCF 1975 Game 7, Lakers-Warriors WCSF 1977, and Suns-Sonics Game 7 WCF 1979 were 11:30 pm EST weekday starts.

You're right -- Peak Sports Drugs was 85-86ish.
   129. bunyon Posted: October 22, 2020 at 03:25 PM (#5984595)
While I normally agree with 99% of what you say, Bunyon, I'm not on board there. I really don't think what they've done counts as trying.

In my view, I would replace your "try harder" with what I'd consider a more accurate "Do."


I suppose that's really unknowable, what and how they tried beyond what we read in the press.

Agreed. The NBA has made more significant changes to how the game has played in recent years, and the players adapted.

I've read a lot recently about how this has been done. A lot of it comes down to the commissioner getting the players to buy into it. That is, it hasn't been done by any sort of top down executive order but by the executive approaching the players, explaining there is a problem and listening to ideas how to fix it. My general sense is that no one involved in playing MLB thinks the pace of play is much of a problem. I know my simply restating my position won't convince anyone that unless you get the players to go along, the pace ain't improving.
   130. bunyon Posted: October 22, 2020 at 03:30 PM (#5984597)
Tying the Calvinball rules with pace of plays, I have an idea:


In the event of a 9 inning tie, the winning team will be the team that has the lowest average time between pitches.
   131. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 04:01 PM (#5984599)
That is, it hasn't been done by any sort of top down executive order but by the executive approaching the players, explaining there is a problem and listening to ideas how to fix it. My general sense is that no one involved in playing MLB thinks the pace of play is much of a problem.
Exactly. They already tried doing that, and they got two types of responses from the players and managers: (1) "There's no problem," or (2) "Yeah, there's a problem, and other people should definitely change their behavior to solve it."
   132. bunyon Posted: October 22, 2020 at 04:03 PM (#5984600)
@131: Then it won't get fixed. When every employee is set that nothing needs to change, nothing will change.

   133. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 22, 2020 at 05:07 PM (#5984608)
Then implement the change in a way where you don’t need the players to buy into it. Implement it at the minor league level now, across the board, and tell the players you will introduce the change at the MLB level in 10 years or some period long enough that current MLB players should really have no reason to oppose it. Otherwise we’re just going to be having this same debate every year.
   134. bunyon Posted: October 22, 2020 at 05:20 PM (#5984615)
What minor leagues? ;)

They are doing this and it seems fine.
   135. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 22, 2020 at 05:25 PM (#5984618)
Implement it at the minor league level now, across the board, and tell the players you will introduce the change at the MLB level in 10 years or some period long enough that current MLB players should really have no reason to oppose it.
I’m not sure “Our product will be much better in 10 years, we promise!” is that great a sales pitch to fans.
   136. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: October 22, 2020 at 06:44 PM (#5984636)
I’m not sure “Our product will be much better in 10 years, we promise!” is that great a sales pitch to fans.

It’s better than “Our product will never get any better and will probably keep getting worse!” If they had taken this approach when they first created the pace of play commission in 2014, we’d only be 3 years away from the change being realized.

Plus once you plant the seed of an idea then maybe you will get the opportunity to accelerate it. Like what they did with a number of the changes this year.
   137. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 22, 2020 at 10:17 PM (#5984670)
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.


LeMahieu won the 2020 AL batting title with a .364 average.

Of course, it was a much smaller sample size (50 games, 216 PA), and he was miles ahead everyone else in the league:

1. LeMahieu NYY .364
2. Anderson CHW .322
3. Fletcher LAA .319
4. Abreu CHW .317
5. Verdugo BOS .308
6. Gurriel TOR .308
7. Cruz MIN .303
8. Bogaerts BOS .300
9. Brantley HOU .300
10. Iglesias BAL .373 **
   138. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: October 23, 2020 at 01:21 AM (#5984683)
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.


Actually, a pitch clock only requires one guy, too. Still Manfred. Verducci, in January 2019:

This [2019] is the third season MLB officials have tried to add a pitch clock. The players association has resisted its adoption for a variety of reasons; some players “don’t want to be told what to do” when it comes to preparing for each pitch while others are concerned about penalties for violating pitch clock rules. In the minor leagues, a ball is added to the count when the pitcher is in violation of the clock. Nothing drives leverage in the batter-pitcher dynamic quite like the count.

Last year MLB officials proposed an 18-second pitch clock that would be used only with the bases empty, with a 20-second clock with runners on to be added in 2019. When the players balked at the suggestion, commissioner Rob Manfred had the authority to unilaterally implement pitch clock rules for 2018. But he backed off implementation over concerns that labor relations were souring because of a slow free agent market.

Manfred has the same three options regarding a pitch clock in these next five weeks leading to the start of spring training games:

1. Negotiate a pitch clock agreement with the players.

2. In the face of opposition from the players, unilaterally implement its use.

3. Kick the can down the road for another year, against the backdrop of another slow free agent market.

MLB officials have proposed a “soft rollout” to a pitch clock rule. Warnings would be issued instead of penalties for the first month or two and graduated tiers to the amount of time on the bases-empty clock—such as 20 seconds, then 18, then 15—would be implemented to allow players to adjust.
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