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Thursday, October 21, 2021

MLB Just Tried a Bunch of Experimental Rules in the Minors. How Well Did They Work?

No experimental rule generated more trepidation this year than the Atlantic League’s MLB-driven decision to move the mound back by a foot from the strangely sacrosanct distance of 60 feet, 6 inches. There were real reasons to think this change would reduce strikeouts and that the decision was long overdue: It’s worked at various points in the past, in the majors and elsewhere, and pitchers are much bigger and harder-throwing than they were when the current pitching distance was set in 1893. There were also some suggestions that pitchers might benefit from increased pitch movement over a farther flight. Finally, there were fears that the change in distance would cause a spike in injuries, a concern that scuttled a plan to push the mound back by two feet in the Atlantic League in 2019, and nearly incited a revolt this season in the lead-up to the move on August 3.

“Initially, obviously, there was some negative reaction, just because it was a change and a change that some people viewed as kind of fundamental to the game,” Martinez says. “I would say the overall opinion after a little while with it was that it didn’t make a huge difference. You really didn’t hear a lot of grumbling, and most of the players and staff that we’ve been talking to have said that after a series or two, nobody even really talked about it anymore. I think it was a lot less disruptive than maybe people thought it was going to be. … Hitters said that timing was essentially the same.”

Stem backs up Martinez’s take, describing the mound move as “not a huge deal at all.” The veteran righty adds, “That’s the one that everybody was freaking out about, and once it was done, and after that first week when everybody quit talking about it, it was completely unnoticeable.” No pitch type’s usage rate shifted up or down by even 1.5 percentage points, and the average four-seamer release speed budged only slightly, increasing by about a quarter of a mile per hour.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 21, 2021 at 12:06 PM | 96 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: defensive shifts, mound distance, pitch clocks, robo ump

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   1. catomi01 Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:13 PM (#6048090)
Atlantic League R/G, BA, OPS:
2019 - 4.59, .260, .732

2021 - 6.34, .280, .829

ERA:
2019 - 4.23

2021 - 5.93

The league's best pitching team had an ERA of 4.96, the worst 7.19 this season.

This was the first year I didn't either work in the league or have season tickets, so I can't speak directly to what rosters looks like, but I will say that the chatter I heard from some coaches, ex-players and others involved was they expected some pitchers to avoid the league (at least when the idea of changing the mound was first brought up in 2018/2019.) Whatever the cause, the Atlantic League was very different this season than it has been in the past.
   2. winnipegwhip Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:27 PM (#6048095)
I wonder if instead of moving the mound a stricter enforcement of time between pitches may reduce part of the edge the pitchers hold today. It would certainly help the flow of the game. Sometimes while watching current games I count how long it is between pitches. I usually count between the low 20s to 35 normally. Last night I watched part of the 1977 All Star Game. In contrast a ball was fouled out of play. From that moment I saw a new ball delivered to Don Sutton. He rubbed it up and delivered the next pitch within 15 seconds from when the last pitch was fouled off.
   3. bunyon Posted: October 21, 2021 at 01:52 PM (#6048104)
It doesn't seem to me that scoring in MLB is too low. It's that BA and balls in play are too low. We don't need to better favor the batter per se. We need to induce them to swing more and make more contact.
   4. Karl from NY Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:18 PM (#6048131)
#3 is right. What matters here is the component stats, not simply R/G. Adding 20 points of BA but 100 of OPS sounds like we're just getting more boring walks and homers.
   5. SoSH U at work Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:27 PM (#6048135)

It doesn't seem to me that scoring in MLB is too low. It's that BA and balls in play are too low. We don't need to better favor the batter per se. We need to induce them to swing more and make more contact.


And none of these changes were designed to do that.
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:32 PM (#6048137)
From TFA, it seems the results from moving the mound back were inconclusive:

The encouraging news for mound-move proponents—including MLB consultant Theo Epstein—is that the percentage of swings that made contact was higher after the mound move than before (76.8 percent vs. 75.4 percent). The increase in K’s seemed to come from a corresponding increase in the percentage of taken pitches that were called strikes (28.3 percent vs. 27.5 percent). That could be because hitters and/or umpires needed time to adjust to slightly more movement.


On robo umps, the difference between the FSL and Low-A Southeast (essentially the same league):

The leaguewide slash line finished at .236/.344/.370, producing an OPS differential of almost 50 points relative to the 2019 FSL’s .242/.313/.353. The upticks in walks and strikeouts were also startling. Although those rates were up in all leagues compared to 2019, they increased more from the 2019 FSL to the 2021 LASE (especially prior to the zone redefinition) than they did anywhere else, which wasn’t the goal.


Also kinda interesting look at when batters were ahead or behind - the robots were much more likely to call walks and strikeouts than humans, I guess human umps don't like to feel like they decided the outcome of an at bat, where a robot doesn't care?

I think the most encouarging development:

After the pitch clock started ticking on June 8, the league’s average time of game fell by roughly 20 minutes, from 178.2 minutes to 158.4....

“I was not just surprised, but blown away by the pace, the quality of play, how crisp and fluid the game flowed, and not just the action that was involved in the game, but the frequency of action,” Ibañez says


Get it in the big leagues!
   7. Rally Posted: October 21, 2021 at 03:41 PM (#6048145)
#2, Jon Papelbon was a notoriously slow worker, but at least he was consistent. Right around 30 seconds. MLB has a 30 second advance forward button, so if I was watching a replay with him on the mound I could fast forward right to the time he made his next pitch.
   8. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 21, 2021 at 11:41 PM (#6048263)
Re#6

After the pitch clock started ticking on June 8, the league’s average time of game fell by roughly 20 minutes, from 178.2 minutes to 158.4....

“I was not just surprised, but blown away by the pace, the quality of play, how crisp and fluid the game flowed, and not just the action that was involved in the game, but the frequency of action,” Ibañez says



Get it in the big leagues!


Amen!
   9. DFA Posted: October 23, 2021 at 02:47 PM (#6048557)
I like pitch clocks in the minor leagues from a development of healthy habits perspective, but I don't like clocks in the majors. If they wanted to shorten game time, they could reduce the commercial breaks between innings, but we all know that won't happen since the point of the game is to make money for owners. I think robot umpires is on the horizon, but from listening to a BA podcast about it, it seems like it still needs more development...
   10. John DiFool2 Posted: October 23, 2021 at 03:12 PM (#6048562)
Also kinda interesting look at when batters were ahead or behind - the robots were much more likely to call walks and strikeouts than humans, I guess human umps don't like to feel like they decided the outcome of an at bat, where a robot doesn't care?


I may be a minority of one, but these ****ing "eveners" really make me stabby. Doing so would also speed up games and make batters less likely to keep taking pitches knowing the ump will "protect" them from borderline calls until it gets to 2-2, likewise pitchers less likely to nibble and fart around.
   11. Adam Starblind Posted: October 23, 2021 at 03:13 PM (#6048564)
The leaguewide slash line finished at .236/.344/.370, producing an OPS differential of almost 50 points relative to the 2019 FSL’s .242/.313/.353. The upticks in walks and strikeouts were also startling.


Seems like not swinging for the fences every time would help deal with a smaller strike zone. Would enhance the value of what was the classic #2 hitter "bat-control guy."
   12. Greg Pope Posted: October 23, 2021 at 04:09 PM (#6048573)
I like pitch clocks in the minor leagues from a development of healthy habits perspective, but I don't like clocks in the majors. If they wanted to shorten game time, they could reduce the commercial breaks between innings, but we all know that won't happen since the point of the game is to make money for owners. I think robot umpires is on the horizon, but from listening to a BA podcast about it, it seems like it still needs more development...

It bears repeating. The problem with game time isn't actually game time. It's pace. Commercial breaks don't affect the pace at all. They need to pick up the pace of the game. Which, of course, would result in shorter game times, but it's not the main goal.
   13. Nasty Nate Posted: October 23, 2021 at 06:26 PM (#6048595)
It bears repeating. The problem with game time isn't actually game time. It's pace. Commercial breaks don't affect the pace at all.
Yes, but...

If the commercial breaks were shorter, the pace wouldn't be as bothersome to me.
   14. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: October 23, 2021 at 06:27 PM (#6048596)
It bears repeating. The problem with game time isn't actually game time. It's pace. Commercial breaks don't affect the pace at all. They need to pick up the pace of the game. Which, of course, would result in shorter game times, but it's not the main goal.


This.
   15. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 23, 2021 at 06:41 PM (#6048600)
I agree with #12 and #14. The NFL has long breaks too, and way too often, but no one really complains because the action is held to a clock that keeps things going.
   16. McCoy Posted: October 23, 2021 at 06:59 PM (#6048604)
Well, people do complain which is why the NFL has implemented changes to the clock and game.
   17. BDC Posted: October 23, 2021 at 07:20 PM (#6048607)
As I've said before, here or elsewhere I forget: one thing that makes NFL interruptions bearable is that between plays, you expect to see the last play shown at least once, maybe 2-3 times, from different angles. It's mildly interesting. And this is true even in the stadium, where you basically see the same replay feed on the big screen that people are watching at home.

In baseball, get a guy taking 30+ seconds between pitches, there is nothing to show. The last outside pitch getting taken for a ball does not merit 3-4 replays in that interval. It doesn't merit one.
   18. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 23, 2021 at 10:34 PM (#6048645)
Also kinda interesting look at when batters were ahead or behind - the robots were much more likely to call walks and strikeouts than humans, I guess human umps don't like to feel like they decided the outcome of an at bat, where a robot doesn't care?

This matches one of the early results I remember from PitchFX data - the called zone adjusts based on the count.

I'm agnostic on robo-umps in general, but I'm curious whether the people who advocate for them are looking forward to the prospect of even more TTO-heavy baseball, because that's what we'd get.
   19. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 24, 2021 at 01:22 AM (#6048687)
Seems like not swinging for the fences every time would help deal with a smaller strike zone. Would enhance the value of what was the classic #2 hitter "bat-control guy."


Actually, a smaller strike zone encourages a TTO hitter - since the optimal strategy is to wait for a ball down the middle and swing as hard as you can. If the strike zone is small enough, the ONLY pitches you see are ones down the middle, and otherwise you probably want to leave the bat on your shoulders.

A "bat-control" guy strategy is optimal when the strike zone is large, because the batter has to then be able to "do something with" pitches which are not optimal for a "swing for the fences" approach.

However, if the strike zone is large and the batters are overmatched because the pitchers are throwing 100 mph, then the optimal strategy probably moves back more towards "close your eyes and swing as hard as you can", because the batter doesn't have a chance unless the pitcher makes a mistake down the middle anyhow.

What one wants is:

A) A large strike zone
B) pitchers who cannot easily overpower hitters, so have to rely on location, changing speeds, etc.
C) infield characteristics which make it hard to play deep (a slow infield helps, a crappy infield works too)
D) Large outfields that make line drives a danger but home runs difficult

Helping (C) would be rule change(s) which make it harder to shift, such as something that increases the probability of a bunt going for a hit, as it would make the shift less advantageous in a natural manner, and a change of this nature would also encourage hitters to swing and make contact earlier in the count, where the bunt is still a thread, which would decrease the frequency of high-pitch-count at-bats and perhaps further make a TTO-based strategy less advantageous.
   20. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 24, 2021 at 02:16 AM (#6048690)
...I'm curious whether the people who advocate for them are looking forward to the prospect of even more TTO-heavy baseball, because that's what we'd get.


Seriously, exactly how many walks/Ks do you think this would increase?

You're talking about balls not called on 3-0 and strikes not called on 0-2. How many mistakes do umps make per game? On the worse umps its like 94% and the best one are like what 98%. So you're talking maybe 4% calls would change.

But how many of those are on 3-0 and 0-2? Well presumably those calls are more likely to be blown, that much is known, but even if those are 20% of the blown calls then.

4% x 5% = .2%

Its really hard to understand how robo umps would suddenly make walks and Ks jump. Obviously the batters will also be adjusting to the new strike zone so you've got that too.
   21. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 24, 2021 at 09:21 AM (#6048693)
Seriously, exactly how many walks/Ks do you think this would increase?

First, it's not just 3-0 and 0-2 counts; it's 3-1 and 1-2 counts as well, which are much more common. It also makes 2-0 counts more likely to become 3-0 counts, and 0-1 counts more likely to become 0-2, etc.

Second, see the quote from TFA in comment 6:

The leaguewide slash line finished at .236/.344/.370, producing an OPS differential of almost 50 points relative to the 2019 FSL’s .242/.313/.353. The upticks in walks and strikeouts were also startling. Although those rates were up in all leagues compared to 2019, they increased more from the 2019 FSL to the 2021 LASE (especially prior to the zone redefinition) than they did anywhere else, which wasn’t the goal.


The actual article has graphs and everything, and shows a number of ways of looking at the effects of the robo-umps. In particular, BB/PA increased by .03 or .04 in leagues that had the robo-umps this season, compared to roughly .01 for the minors as a whole (measured by change from the 2019 seasons in the same leagues). If league-wide walk rates jump from the 8.7% they were in 2021 to, say, 11% (which would be an increase of .023, consistent with the minor league data), that's roughly one extra walk per team per game - which is to say, a difference of something like 4000 walks over the course of the season.
   22. Adam Starblind Posted: October 24, 2021 at 10:09 AM (#6048696)
19) Thank you, Doug. Very interesting post, and it makes sense. On the other hand, I think I was reacting to the fact that ISO went down in the FSL with robo umps, but that could just be noise.
   23. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 24, 2021 at 10:29 AM (#6048698)
What one wants is:

A) A large strike zone
B) pitchers who cannot easily overpower hitters, so have to rely on location, changing speeds, etc.
C) infield characteristics which make it hard to play deep (a slow infield helps, a crappy infield works too)
D) Large outfields that make line drives a danger but home runs difficult


The problem is that there's no way to implement (B) short of making it illegal to throw over 92 MPH, and without it (A) will only cause more strikeouts, because larger strike zones cause more batters to "chase".

What you need is a rigidly fixed and predictable strike zone that doesn't allow for the sort of low and outside "gift strikes" that you see over and over again, allowing the pitcher to expand the strike zone and forcing the batter into doing likewise. If umpires (translation: robo-umps) stopped giving pitchers those extra few inches, pitchers would be forced to throw more pitches within the strike zone, and pitches within the strike zone are put in play far more than those outside.

(C) and (D) are just a matter of aesthetics. When it comes to outfield dimensions, my only preference is that they vary from park to park, which forces teams to adjust when they travel.

And in fact you could say the same about (C). There's nothing wrong with a bit of creative groundskeeping that favors the home team.
   24. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 24, 2021 at 10:41 AM (#6048699)
Helping (C) would be rule change(s) which make it harder to shift, such as something that increases the probability of a bunt going for a hit, as it would make the shift less advantageous in a natural manner, and a change of this nature would also encourage hitters to swing and make contact earlier in the count, where the bunt is still a thread, which would decrease the frequency of high-pitch-count at-bats and perhaps further make a TTO-based strategy less advantageous

In fact the shift practically guarantees a bunt hit for any batter who can take the trouble to master the art of bunting. And for hitters who can master the more difficult art of the inside-out swing, the shift can be neutralized without the need for a ban.

The only way to reduce the TTO fixation is to get hitters who produce 10 or 15 home runs a year while striking out at 130-150/162 rates to start adjusting their approach to hitting. I love home runs, but I love them much more when only true sluggers are trying to hit them, while the others in the lineup are doing their job by setting the table for them, and not constantly striking out in a vain attempt to do what they're not really capable of doing more than 10 or 15 times a year.
   25. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 24, 2021 at 11:02 AM (#6048705)
The problem is that there's no way to implement (B) short of making it illegal to throw over 92 MPH, and without it (A) will only cause more strikeouts, because larger strike zones cause more batters to "chase".

Anything that reduces time between pitches and therefore gives pitchers less rest while on the mound should (in theory) reduce the amount of effort they are able to exert per pitch.
   26. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 24, 2021 at 11:41 AM (#6048709)
I'd be all in favor of that, but it doesn't address the larger issue that pitchers today are bigger and faster than ever, and that every team has an entire stable of 98+ pitchers who can be trotted out almost interchangeably, and by being constantly fresh don't give batters any relief. We've gotten to the point where when a pitcher like Framber Valdez throws 8 innings in a postseason game, it almost seems like the resurrection of Iron Man McGinnity.
   27. . Posted: October 24, 2021 at 11:58 AM (#6048711)
Anything that reduces time between pitches and therefore gives pitchers less rest while on the mound should (in theory) reduce the amount of effort they are able to exert per pitch.


That's a sensible theory, but it won't pan out. It only really takes something like 5-10 seconds from throwing a single pitch to "recover," and even that's probably on the high end. And pitchers aren't being taken out of games because they're tired. That virtually never happens now.

Fundamentally, the gap between starting pitchers and relief pitchers has closed to virtually zero -- and that's a function of talent expansion (*) and usage both. The only real way out of this, therefore, would be a massive expansion to the point where the bottom pitchers on teams' ladders again become dregs and nowhere near as good as starters. Short of that, it's pretty much hopeless, absent some kind of massive change in rules or park sizes, none of which seems remotely in the offing. Scoring levels in hockey fundamentally changed when the fifth and sixth defensemen on a bunch of teams were no longer pylons and we're seeing essentially the same thing in baseball.

(*) Which in turn is a function of the growth of money in the game as well as data and video and better training methods.
   28. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 24, 2021 at 12:00 PM (#6048712)
If the commercial breaks were shorter, the pace wouldn't be as bothersome to me.


To each their own, of course, but I don't find this true. I can get things done during a commercial break (use the restroom, grab food, do some reading). That works as a break in the action. But the time between pitches has gotten so ridiculous that I'm tempted to try doing those same things between every damn pitch. And it completely ruins the flow of the game. Not to mention having to listen to color analysts desperately try to fill time, some of whom are more successful than others.

A 3.5 hour game with a good pace would be much more enjoyable to me than a 3.25 hour game with 30 seconds between each pitch.
   29. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 24, 2021 at 12:23 PM (#6048713)
In fact the shift practically guarantees a bunt hit for any batter who can take the trouble to master the art of bunting. And for hitters who can master the more difficult art of the inside-out swing, the shift can be neutralized without the need for a ban.


One of the problems is that against the high-velocity relief pitching it's pretty hard to get down a bunt. One of the defenses as a pitcher against a bunt has always been to throw it hard and high, especially hard, high, and inside. It's pretty hard to bunt a 100 mph 4-seamer above the belt, very easy to pop up.

Anything that reduces time between pitches and therefore gives pitchers less rest while on the mound should (in theory) reduce the amount of effort they are able to exert per pitch.


Exactly. And anything which makes it less favorable to use 1-inning pitchers would also help, in fact it's probably more important.

For example, make pitchers who only pitch less than 3 innings ineligible to pitch for the next 3 games. There was a reason Nolan Ryan was so incredible, he could throw 100 mph, but he could do it for 9 innings - and it should be noted he didn't throw 100 mph every pitch, or even every game. Hunter Strickland and his ilk (now, Mr. Strickland I understand has improved his game somewhat since his unfortunate time with the S.F. Giants, so I shouldn't pick on him, but frozen in time from back then he remains an archetype) could barely manage 1 inning. Suddenly the Hunter Strickland's of the world don't even get called up from the minors, because for the manager they are nearly useless. BUT, if the pitcher implodes, well then the manager has the freedom to take him out, the pitcher just has to stew on the bench for the next 3 games and contemplate his/her ineffectiveness.

I have really thought hard about this and half-measures such as the 3-batter rule just don't cut it. Every pitcher out there has to be pitching like he/she is going to go the distance. And no pitcher out there should be able to take 25 or 30 seconds between pitches regularly. In games from the 1970's on Youtube w/o men on base sometimes the time between pitches is SIX SECONDS. That's FIVE TIMES shorter than the average time between pitches these days. Of course that wasn't particularly the norm, but it wasn't uncommon from what I've been able to gather. What other industry would tolerate a reduction in "quality", at least by that particular metric?

IF one can control the time between pitches and increase the # of innings/pitcher, and therefore get rid of the 1-inning/100mph relievers (and the 4-inning/100mph starters) then the batters will probably have an advantage in the current context, since with the advances in approach that have been developed the home-run-rate might skyrocket.

But that's easy to fix I think - deader balls, expand the strike zone high/low, let the pitcher throw the ball if the batter isn't in the box, enforce the batter's box so the batter cannot crowd the plate or stand on the back line, maybe even enforce a minimum bat weight and/or handle thickness, something to reduce bat speed, which is the primary contributor to exit velocity as far as I understand it.

(C) and (D) are just a matter of aesthetics. When it comes to outfield dimensions, my only preference is that they vary from park to park, which forces teams to adjust when they travel.


It may be that other measures such as enforcing the batter's box, deader balls, etc. might do the same thing. But if you are trying to encourage folks to hit line drives and not home runs, with advanced positioning so many hard-hit line drives are getting caught by infielders playing deep. They can do that because they don't fear the slow roller, partly because infields are by and large fast and well-maintained so bad hops are incredibly infrequent and the ball doesn't slow down. Make the infields slower and the infielders won't be able to play that way.
   30. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 24, 2021 at 12:29 PM (#6048715)
The problem is that there's no way to implement (B) short of making it illegal to throw over 92 MPH, and without it (A) will only cause more strikeouts, because larger strike zones cause more batters to "chase".

Anything that reduces time between pitches and therefore gives pitchers less rest while on the mound should (in theory) reduce the amount of effort they are able to exert per pitch.


Reducing the allowable pitching staff would also help. If each team were limited to carrying no more than 10 pitchers, their pitchers would be forced to last longer in games, which means throwing slower. That by itself would probably just increase offense (notably homeruns), but if you combine it with an expanded strike zone, perhaps you get more balls in play.

This idea is usually met with the argument that there's no way the players' union would allow such a change since you'd be taking away jobs from some of its members (even though you're adding them to others). They could go back to 25-man rosters, limit the pitching staff to 10, but allow a taxi squad of two additional pitchers that are technically on the major league roster (and paid a major league salary). These two pitchers could be inserted onto the playing roster in case of injury or before the first game of the week. A pitcher removed for injury would go on the IL automatically.
   31. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 24, 2021 at 12:44 PM (#6048720)
One of the problems is that against the high-velocity relief pitching it's pretty hard to get down a bunt. One of the defenses as a pitcher against a bunt has always been to throw it hard and high, especially hard, high, and inside. It's pretty hard to bunt a 100 mph 4-seamer above the belt, very easy to pop up.

That's a fair point, but the bigger problem is that bunting isn't being routinely taught as a valuable skill.** And a good bunter can lay off a high pitch to work the count in his favor.

** Here I'm not talking about the justly derided sacrifice bunt, but bunts that are high percentage attempts to get on base when the infield is playing way back.
   32. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 24, 2021 at 02:58 PM (#6048727)
In games from the 1970's on Youtube w/o men on base sometimes the time between pitches is SIX SECONDS.

In games from the 1970's it was common for teams to run out lineups where fully half the batting order posed little threat of reaching the fences. Picking 1978 because it's the year I first started buying baseball cards and comparing it to 2021 by looking at each team on b-r and totaling the HR hit by their starting C-2B-SS-CF, those defense-first up-the-middle positions, there's a world of difference between then and now. In lieu of posting dry tables of numbers, I'll present the details in factoid form:

The 1978 Expos led MLB with 53 up the middle HR. The 2021 Blue Jays hit 97 (and that's with getting one from their catcher).
The 1978 median value was 24.5. The 2021 median was 55.5. That's right, the best team in MLB in 1978 would be below average today.

The worst team in 2021, by far, was the Angels with 25 up the middle HR. The next worst team was Washington with 35.
In 1978, the 2021 Angels would be league average. They're right on the median, tied with the World Champion 1978 Yankees. The Nats, 2nd worst in 2021, would be in a tie for 7th place in 1978.

20 teams in 2021 hit as many up-the-middle HR as the 1978 Expos. 13 teams in 1978 hit fewer up-the-middle HR than the 2021 Angels. Seven teams in 1978 had fewer than 20. One had fewer than 10. That would be San Diego checking in with a total of 7.

Minus Dave Kingman, the 1978 Cubs got a total of 26 HR from the other 7 spots in their b-r starting lineup..... playing half their games in Wrigley Field.

The 1978 Indians had 6 of their starting lineup spots combine for 17 HR.

The 1978 Padres had 6 of their starting lineup spots combine for 11 HR: C Rick Sweet hit 1 in 259 PA (#2 C Dave Roberts -- not included -- hit 1 in 112 PA). 2B Fernando Gonzalez hit 2 in 350 PA. SS Ozzie Smith hit 1 in 668 PA. 3B Bill Almon hit 0 in 442 PA. LF Gene Richards hit 4 in 629 PA. CF Derrel Thomas hit 3 in 401 PA. It's amazing that Dave Winfield saw enough pitches to hit 24 HR, although not surprising he finished 2nd in the NL with 20 IBB.

OK, one table of numbers, I'll group the teams by 10's:

COUNT 1978 2021
90
+      0    1
80
-89    0    2
70
-79    0    2
60
-69    0    6
50
-59    1   11
40
-49    5    3
30
-39    3    4
20
-29   10    1
10
-19    6    0
0
-9      1    0 
   33. . Posted: October 24, 2021 at 03:21 PM (#6048729)
The problem with all those numbers from the late 70s, though, is that they're path-dependent. We have no idea how many HRs the middle IFs would have hit, or anyone would have hit, if the norm against Ks wasn't around then. Even the sorting mechanism is based on that norm, because you can "select for defense" more if the offensive disadvantage is less -- and the disadvantage may have been more if all the teams were playing oafball.

There was a norm disfavoring strikeouts and a norm favoring contact (and favored stolen bases and basepath spped) that turns out not to have been analytically-optimal, but it drove everything and made cross-era comparison very difficult. (*) It's apples and kiwis.

The game was clearly better BITD, but it was for the most part being played in a "sub-optimal" way. There's really no plausible "fix" to that, other than very significant rule changes or park expansion. I'm throwing in the towel on the possibility. We've all tried for like eight years now and all the trendlines are getting worse, not better. And I also firmly believe the medium and long term future for "efficient" baseball under current rules is bleak.

(*) There was also a norm that held that starting pitchers should try to finish what they started and given the opportunity to do so if they were progressing satisfactorily toward the goal. That one's gone too.
   34. . Posted: October 24, 2021 at 03:48 PM (#6048732)
Mike Hargrove was famously known as the "Human Rain Delay," and when you get that kind of nickname, it tells us you're playing *way* slower than your peers. Here's a YouTube clip of his routine from 1982, and it now seems like nothing. The Brewers catcher throws the ball back to the pitcher at 6 seconds and the pitcher is into his windup at 19 seconds. IOW, the slowest player from BITD -- a guy seemingly so slow that he became known by his slow-play nickname, and prompted national TV announcers to riff to the audience that might not know the player very well about just how slow he was -- would today be considered a fast player. His "slow" routine was compatible with a pitch in-between of a mere 13 seconds.

Link
   35. Adam Starblind Posted: October 24, 2021 at 03:52 PM (#6048733)
. The problem with all those numbers from the late 70s, though, is that they're path-dependent. We have no idea how many HRs the middle IFs would have hit, or anyone would have hit, if the norm against Ks wasn't around then. Even the sorting mechanism is based on that norm, because you can "select for defense" more if the offensive disadvantage is less -- and the disadvantage may have been more if all the teams were playing oafball.

There was a norm disfavoring strikeouts and a norm favoring contact (and favored stolen bases and basepath spped) that turns out not to have been analytically-optimal, but it drove everything and made cross-era comparison very difficult. (*) It's apples and kiwis.


Come on, guys. We can agree without being disagreeable..
   36. McCoy Posted: October 24, 2021 at 04:09 PM (#6048737)
Of course in that clip Bob Costas describes a Hargrove at bat that lasted over 7 minutes long.
   37. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: October 24, 2021 at 04:58 PM (#6048739)
The problem with all those numbers from the late 70s, though, is that they're path-dependent. We have no idea how many HRs the middle IFs would have hit, or anyone would have hit, if the norm against Ks wasn't around then. ...

I don't disagree with any of that. IJS that pitchers could pace themselves because even on the best teams there were entire stretches of the lineup -- sometimes even the entire line up -- where no one was much of a threat to even show warning track power, much less actually hit the ball out. They weren't throwing max effort on each pitch because they didn't need to.

Back to 1978, just over 1/4 of the batters with 150 PA (86/325) hit 0-2 HR and almost half (155/325) hit 0-5. Among batting title qualifiers, it's 11% 0-2 (15/140) and 24% 0-5 (34/140). 62% (87/140) hit 10+. 29% (41/140) 20+.
In 2019 (don't have 2021 in my database yet), it's 6% 0-2 HR (26/411) and 16% 0-5 HR for batters with 150 PA. Among batting title qualifiers, it's 0.7% 0-2 (1/135) and 1.5% 0-5 (2/135). 96% (130/135) hit 10+. 71% (96/135) 20+.

Now practically everyone is a HR threat and pitchers have responded accordingly.
   38. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 24, 2021 at 07:51 PM (#6048749)
There was a norm disfavoring strikeouts and a norm favoring contact (and favored stolen bases and basepath spped) that turns out not to have been analytically-optimal, but it drove everything and made cross-era comparison very difficult. (*) It's apples and kiwis.


See, that's the thing. Analytics (and one cannot "blame" analytics, it's just "truth") and advanced training technics have done a couple of things: 1) They made the average hitter a lot better than the previous average hitter - a lot smarter and a lot more powerful. Pitchers have responded by pitching max-effort, and not pitching very many innings. And each of the two, the batter and the pitcher, have both responded by taking a lot of time between pitches.

So the thing is that one has to do three things at once:

1) Get rid of the time between pitches
2) Make rule changes to make taking pitchers out, or having pitchers that throw only an inning or two, highly disfavorable. Get rid of the 100mph pitchers. Get rid of the two-pitch one-inning pitchers. Get rid of "bullpen games".l
3) Deaden the ball, increase the minimum bat weight, or something else that limits home runs. Making the strike zone bigger would help, too.

It only really takes something like 5-10 seconds from throwing a single pitch to "recover," and even that's probably on the high end.


I disagree, there is a cumulative effect - one can recover in 5-10 seconds for the next pitch, but by the 5th or 6th pitch, one is going to start to feel it. Just watch, you can see the pitchers recovering, breathing hard, etc.

And pitchers aren't being taken out of games because they're tired. That virtually never happens now.


Right. So you have to do something - a roster penalty, limiting staffs to just 10 (9?) pitchers, something. Otherwise the "3-times-through-the-order", or really "twice-through-the-order" analytics dictates that you should take the pitcher out. And you should, unless there is some kind of penalty to be paid.

In 1906 it took Teddy Roosevelt to save football from itself - what might be called "analytics" had recognized that mass formations, the flying wedge, etc., were the most efficient way to win a football game, even though they led to a high rate of injuries and even death, and also from what I can gather made football games rather unwatchable, kind of like an extraordinarily bloody form of rugby. The rules of football were changed and a much better game resulted.

It took more than 100 years for a similar strategic evolution to affect baseball in similarly negative fashion, and the only that is going to save it is some rule changes - it's not going to itself - it will not naturally evolve back to a more spectator-friendly sport.

   39. Space Force fan Posted: October 24, 2021 at 08:39 PM (#6048760)
If they wanted to shorten game time, they could reduce the commercial breaks between innings, but we all know that won't happen since the point of the game is to make money for owners.


They reduced the time between innings by 20 seconds in 2019.

A pitcher removed for injury would go on the IL automatically.


So a pitcher that tweaks his ankle coving first or takes a two hopper off his shin can only be removed if he is lost for 10 days? Do you really want pitchers with minor injuries that won't keep them from the next game to pitch through the injury so they won't have to go on the IL? This is a easy way to morph minor injures into major injures.

I'm agnostic on robo-umps in general, but I'm curious whether the people who advocate for them are looking forward to the prospect of even more TTO-heavy baseball, because that's what we'd get.


If roboumps show that a different strike zone is needed, then change the strike zone though the rules. Having umpires badly call the current strike zone to (half-ass) achieve the same goal seems inefficient and very frustrating to both viewers and players.
   40. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 24, 2021 at 10:13 PM (#6048775)
I'm agnostic on robo-umps in general, but I'm curious whether the people who advocate for them are looking forward to the prospect of even more TTO-heavy baseball, because that's what we'd get.

No, what we'd likely get is more contact and fewer strikeouts caused by gift strikes on the low outside corner, and by batters chasing pitches even further out than that. When the pitchers learn they're not getting that expanded zone, they'll adjust and more balls will be reachable. In the interim you might get more walks, but even that's preferable to strikeouts, because walks "keep the line moving".
   41. Howie Menckel Posted: October 24, 2021 at 10:43 PM (#6048777)
I have noted before that it amazes me how few strikes dominant relievers throw.

and that's not a case of "gift strikes" from the umpires. I'm talking about swinging strikes on balls a foot low and/or outside.

we used to have two cats who were siblings, and as kittens they enjoyed chasing the rays from a flashlight.

the female figured out pretty quickly that for whatever reason, there was never going to be anything to catch - so she "retired" from the game.

15 years later, we could still get the male to chase the light enthusiastically. I can't really say that the look on the female's face was utter disdain - but it did seem like it.

batters are like that male cat - they never learn.
   42. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 24, 2021 at 11:00 PM (#6048779)
If roboumps show that a different strike zone is needed, then change the strike zone though the rules. Having umpires badly call the current strike zone to (half-ass) achieve the same goal seems inefficient and very frustrating to both viewers and players.

Per TFA, they adjusted the zone that the robo-umps were calling midway through the season. It reduced walks from the first half of the season, but they were still elevated by comparison to other leagues.

And in terms of frustration to viewers and players, TFA also says that the robo-umps were twice as likely as human umps to call a ball on a pitch straight down the middle. That is hopefully fixable, but I feel like robo-umps are often looked at as some kind of panacea, and that's unrealistic. They will have benefits and drawbacks, just like any other rule change.

No, what we'd likely get is more contact and fewer strikeouts caused by gift strikes on the low outside corner, and by batters chasing pitches even further out than that. When the pitchers learn they're not getting that expanded zone, they'll adjust and more balls will be reachable.

That's not what the data shows in leagues that have implemented them so far. Maybe MLB will be different, but I'm not going to assume it will.

The way the strike zone is called by human umpires, expanding in hitter-friendly counts and contracting in pitcher-friendly counts, by definition makes it more likely that a plate appearance will end with the bat on the ball. Maybe player adjustments will counterbalance the loss of that effect, but I wouldn't make that the null hypothesis. We've talked a lot in the past about player adjustments to leaguewide changes; has hitting to the opposite field against the shift become popular in recent years? (Genuine question, I've watched very little baseball lately now that starting pitching is all but extinct.)
   43. . Posted: October 25, 2021 at 08:18 AM (#6048798)
(Genuine question, I've watched very little baseball lately now that starting pitching is all but extinct.)


I find it fascinating that this is the straw that broke your baseball back. Not that I remotely disagree; I just find it fascinating in a people-watching sense.
   44. Russ Posted: October 25, 2021 at 10:58 AM (#6048833)
It bears repeating. The problem with game time isn't actually game time. It's pace. Commercial breaks don't affect the pace at all. They need to pick up the pace of the game. Which, of course, would result in shorter game times, but it's not the main goal.


Agreed. I said this in another thread, but hockey made a few small decisions regarding icings, face-offs, and line changes which resulted in a slight decrease in game time, but a very large increase in the pace. The game moves very fast in pace relative to the 90's. Anytime you can make even a small adjustment to something that happens many times in a game, it can create a noticeable difference in pace.
   45. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 25, 2021 at 11:07 AM (#6048836)
The way the strike zone is called by human umpires, expanding in hitter-friendly counts and contracting in pitcher-friendly counts, by definition makes it more likely that a plate appearance will end with the bat on the ball.

So now batters don't only need to adjust to 76 "personalized" strike zones, they also have to re-caliber their sense of the strike zone when the count changes. Yeah, that's a great argument against robo-umps.
   46. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 25, 2021 at 11:11 AM (#6048839)
So now batters don't only need to adjust to 76 "personalized" strike zones, they also have to re-caliber their sense of the strike zone when the count changes. Yeah, that's a great argument against robo-umps.

Your pursuit of a perfectly "fair" strike zone is going to result in a TTO apocalypse, where the game becomes unwatchable. Is that worth it?

Complex systems can be badly de-stabilized. We have no idea what a "perfect" zone would do to the game.
   47. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: October 25, 2021 at 11:24 AM (#6048847)
I find it fascinating that this is the straw that broke your baseball back. Not that I remotely disagree; I just find it fascinating in a people-watching sense.

My comment was an oversimplification of the game's overall issues, but it's a big part of why my watching has significantly decreased. I would combine it with the slow death of rally-based run-scoring; the two issues of course go hand-in-hand.
   48. . Posted: October 25, 2021 at 11:41 AM (#6048857)
My comment was an oversimplification of the game's overall issues, but it's a big part of why my watching has significantly decreased. I would combine it with the slow death of rally-based run-scoring; the two issues of course go hand-in-hand.


They do, indeed, and both are big interest sappers.

The game's ultimate destiny is as some kind of modified home run derby, IMO, where you don't score runs but instead score points. Some points will likely be based on what we now call "runs," but that won't be the only way to score points. The exact form that takes is TBD, and it will likely unfold in phases. The only way current baseball works is with much bigger parks (*), which unfortunately badly dampens the possibility of startups with which which the current MLB could ultimately adopt rules from and merge with.

(*) The ultimate cause of all of baseball's many ills is that with current park dimensions and rules, it's relatively too easy to hit homeruns. Everything flows from that.
   49. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 25, 2021 at 11:49 AM (#6048859)
Your pursuit of a perfectly "fair" strike zone is going to result in a TTO apocalypse, where the game becomes unwatchable. Is that worth it?

Yes, and Covid vaccines cause cancer. Any more nightmare scenarios you want to conjure up?

Complex systems can be badly de-stabilized. We have no idea what a "perfect" zone would do to the game.

Well, in the real world of 2021, we can certainly see how personalized strike zones have affected the outcome of games. And the meaningless cliche that "It all evens out in the long run" is scant consolation to teams that get screwed in close games, close series, or close division / wild card races.
   50. bunyon Posted: October 25, 2021 at 12:25 PM (#6048874)
SBB is correct about this: Pace and game time have been discussed by fans for decades now. MLB hears it and does PR but they don't actually do anything about it and, in fact, the problem has grown worse.

It will keep getting worse until and unless it becomes clear that it's a financial drain. That hasn't happened yet and, despite a bunch of us old fogeys watch and buy less than we used to, they keep making money. Yes, I know, there are all sorts of predictions about how financial collapse is just around the corner but that's also been around for decades. Any one of us could improve the situation were we made Lord God Commissioner but our proposed changes aren't coming anytime soon.
   51. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 25, 2021 at 12:38 PM (#6048881)
The only way current baseball works is with much bigger parks (*)


I don't believe this is true. We know that they can deaden the ball. We also know that changing the seams and the ball surface affects carry. No one has tried increasing the minimum bat weight. I have tried looking up the median (not the average) distance for home runs in 2021, but since the average is around 366', the median is probably quite a bit lower:

Previewing the 2021 Home Run Derby

My conjecture is that one only has to decrease the median distance by around 10 or 20' to significantly decrease the quantity of home runs, that's < 6%, something minor tweaks could accomplish.

Another conjecture is that if one brings the typical fastball velocity down from 95+ to around 90 as it had been in the past, the home run distance will decrease, simply because there is less energy in the system.

There are means for baseball to adjust. It isn't hopeless. Analytics and related cultural shifts (the simple fact that the sun isn't an issue anymore has a lot to do with it) brought baseball here, but the tools are at hand to rectify the situation.
   52. Space Force fan Posted: October 25, 2021 at 02:24 PM (#6048917)
Your pursuit of a perfectly "fair" strike zone is going to result in a TTO apocalypse, where the game becomes unwatchable. Is that worth it?

Complex systems can be badly de-stabilized. We have no idea what a "perfect" zone would do to the game.


So which of these consecutive sentences is correct? We don't know the effects of a perfect strike zone or a perfect strike zone will unleash a TTO apocalypse.
   53. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 25, 2021 at 03:06 PM (#6048926)
So a pitcher that tweaks his ankle coving first or takes a two hopper off his shin can only be removed if he is lost for 10 days? Do you really want pitchers with minor injuries that won't keep them from the next game to pitch through the injury so they won't have to go on the IL? This is a easy way to morph minor injures into major injures.


You were quoting me and maybe I wasn't clear.

Pitching staffs would be 10 guys per week. A team can only use 10 individuals to pitch in a given week. There are two additional pitchers who would be considered part of the major league roster but who would be excluded from the pitching staff each week. On Sunday night or Monday morning, these two pitchers could be switched with two other pitchers so that they are on the next week's pitching staff. If a pitcher on the 10-man staff gets injured (regardless of when or how the injury occurred) and needs to be removed from the pitching staff and replaced midweek, the injured pitcher must go on the IL. If the injury isn't bad enough to want to put him on the IL, then the team just has to live with a short pitching staff for as long as the pitcher is out of commission.

I don't see any problem with this. If it's a short-term injury, then a team will have to survive with a nine-man staff for a few days. If it's longer than a few days, then the team is better off moving the pitcher to the 10-day IL. That's the way it goes.
   54. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 25, 2021 at 04:16 PM (#6048946)
Pitching staffs would be 10 guys per week. A team can only use 10 individuals to pitch in a given week.


The main problem I see with this is it changes the dynamics of weekend games, because the manager could go "bullpen-wild" knowing they'd have two fresh guys coming up on Monday.

The second problem with this (and I believe it needs more study), is I wonder if it would really get rid of one-inning relievers, which is the goal (at least it's my goal). Granted, if one went down to a staff of 5, then perhaps you'd go back to the 4-man-rotation + a fireman. So the math does make sense in the limit. But I don't know if the 10-man-pitching-staff is the point at which usage patterns cross over. It could be the ideal game-theoretic approach would just be to go "all-bullpen-games-all-the-time", knowing that one or two pitchers might be burnt out by the end of the week and you could just replace them with two more fungible-flame-throwers (FFT's, for all you signal processors out there) on Monday morning.

I still think the simplest and most direct approach is simply to make a pitcher who throws less than 3(?)* innings and doesn't finish the game ineligible to pitch for the next 3(?) games. It's simple and it still allows the manager to replace a pitcher if he wants to, still allows the team to have as many pitcher roster spots - or even have position players pitch - it's just that the value of a pitcher who cannot throw at least 3(?) innings is greatly reduced - but I invite others to weigh in on what the possible downsides of this approach are.

*Exact number TBD
   55. SoSH U at work Posted: October 25, 2021 at 05:14 PM (#6048970)
Well, in the real world of 2021, we can certainly see how personalized strike zones have affected the outcome of games. And the meaningless cliche that "It all evens out in the long run" is scant consolation to teams that get screwed in close games, close series, or close division / wild card races.


For the eleventy millionth time, personalized strike zones are the strike zones. They're the only kind we have ever had, regardless how much you want to pretend otherwise. Despite your certainty, we don't really know what the effect of the robo-ump will have on the balance of outcomes. My suspicion is it will further reward those players with great strike zone discipline, which will make TTO ball even more effective. But that's just a guess.

   56. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 25, 2021 at 06:02 PM (#6048979)
But that's just a guess.


That's why the experiments the Atlantic League are valuable - because they can provide confirmation on conjectures such as these. My conjecture is that Robot Umps which on average enforce a smaller strike zone will benefit TTO-hitters, but that Robot Umps which lead to an on-average expanded zone up high or down low would lead to TTO-ball being less effective, because batters may find it more advantageous to swing and make contact at the first good pitch they see.

What I think is true is that one-rule-change-at-a-time is not going to cut it. Most single rule changes that have been proposed would lead to imbalance - either the offense or the defense would benefit. In order to maintain balance, rule changes will have to come in sets, the effects of which counteract each other in respect to total offense. FFT's (fungible flame-throwers) arose partly because advances in analytics and training resulted in batters which were, on average, a lot better than before, with the response being higher-average-effort pitching over a shorter number of innings, with more time between pitches for recovery.
   57. Biscuit_pants Posted: October 25, 2021 at 06:15 PM (#6048981)
our pursuit of a perfectly "fair" strike zone is going to result in a TTO apocalypse, where the game becomes unwatchable. Is that worth it?

Yes, and Covid vaccines cause cancer. Any more nightmare scenarios you want to conjure up?


Instead of being glib what do you have to say about the data that came out from the leagues that used the robo-umps that showed that the walks and strikeouts were increased a lot compared to other leagues?

If the data shows that it increases a lot even after adjusting the robo-ump to make it not increase then Snappers "Nightmare scenario" might be what we get, I did not think he was being unfair in his question at all.
   58. . Posted: October 25, 2021 at 06:16 PM (#6048982)
I wonder if there's a way that you could penalize taking the best of the best hittable pitches with more than a single called strike. Or reduce the penalty for strikes, but borderline strikes, to something less than a full called strike.
   59. Adam Starblind Posted: October 25, 2021 at 08:50 PM (#6049008)
. I wonder if there's a way that you could penalize taking the best of the best hittable pitches with more than a single called strike. Or reduce the penalty for strikes, but borderline strikes, to something less than a full called strike.


In Major League Baseball or, like, stickball against the side of the school?
   60. Mayor Blomberg Posted: October 25, 2021 at 09:06 PM (#6049013)
The main problem I see with this is it changes the dynamics of weekend games, because the manager could go "bullpen-wild" knowing they'd have two fresh guys coming up on Monday.

But they already have those two guys on the active roster at this point, so I don't see that it changes anything/
   61. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 25, 2021 at 09:20 PM (#6049018)
But they already have those two guys on the active roster at this point, so I don't see that it changes anything/


I am saying that it won't change it much in aggregate, but what it might do is make weekend games "different" than middle-of-the-week games - and perhaps less watchable, because the managers know they can "burn" their bullpen. I am arguing against the idea because it might not make much of a difference, and the difference it might make would be less apparent for weekend games, which is where you have the highest attendance and hence want to make the most "watchable" product, so that you engender repeat customers.

Whether my conjecture about the effect on weekend games is found to be true or not, giving the managers that option might not make enough difference to create desired effect - which is fewer one-inning-relievers.
   62. Space Force fan Posted: October 25, 2021 at 09:27 PM (#6049020)
Instead of being glib what do you have to say about the data that came out from the leagues that used the robo-umps that showed that the walks and strikeouts were increased a lot compared to other leagues?


I ignored it, just like you should have. The quality of players is very different and its the first few months of the rule being instituted. To think that its results tell us much about the effect on MLB players after they have time to adjust to a consistent rulebook strike zone is an overreaction. The MLB players are better hitters with better strike zone management skills while the pitchers have better stuff and better control. Also, its unclear if the TTO style of offense is as prevalent in the league since the players have much less power. Certainly the experiment tells us something about how well the system works and how the players react to the robo-umps, but assuming the early results translate as well as the process is not intuitively obvious.

You were quoting me and maybe I wasn't clear.


OK, I can see what you meant in the original post. Still a bad idea though. Any hard and fast rule like this is likely to lead to pitchers trying to pitch though minor injuries with the possibility of aggravating the injury. A simpler way to achieve the same results is to increase the time on the IL and the time required to stay in the minors if sent down while doing away with the ability to recall a pitcher early due to injury. If teams are forced to use really inferior pitchers due to the disqualification of the better pitchers, they might stop treating the roster as a revolving door. There has to be a happy medium where you limit team's flexibility, but not so much that you introduce additional health risks to the players.
   63. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 25, 2021 at 10:02 PM (#6049032)
For the eleventy millionth time, personalized strike zones are the strike zones. They're the only kind we have ever had, regardless how much you want to pretend otherwise.

I'm well aware of that. Our difference is apparently that you find personalized strike zones to be a feature, whereas I find them to be a bug, especially when they affect the outcome of a game.

Despite your certainty, we don't really know what the effect of the robo-ump will have on the balance of outcomes.

What I'm pretty certain of is that the low outside breaking ball won't get as many called strikes as it does today, and that as a result we'll see fewer pitches like that being chased. AFAIC that's an unalloyed good. We can't prevent "chasing" the low outside breaking ball, but we can reduce its frequency by not punishing batters who don't do it.

My suspicion is it will further reward those players with great strike zone discipline, which will make TTO ball even more effective. But that's just a guess.

Your assumption seems to be that Major League pitchers are incapable of adjusting to rulebook strike zones, and that more walks will result. My assumption is that more pitches inside the rulebook strike zone will result in more contact. If may or may not lead to more RPG, but my main wish is to reduce strikeouts, whose frequency in many games is becoming almost mindnumbing.

20 years ago the H/9 to K/9 ratio was 9.03 to 6.67. This year it was 8.13 to 8.68. IMO that's the heart of the problem.

And what do you have against players with greater strike zone discipline? To me that's a skill worth encouraging.
   64. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 25, 2021 at 10:06 PM (#6049034)
20 years ago the H/9 to K/9 ratio was 9.03 to 6.67. This year it was 8.13 to 8.68. IMO that's the heart of the problem.

And what do you have against players with greater strike zone discipline? To me that's a skill worth encouraging.


And the changes you want will lead to more K's, more BB and fewer swings. Why is that good?
   65. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 25, 2021 at 10:19 PM (#6049040)
#63 and #64

Besides the fact that I think what should have been a nice discussion has unfortunately become something other than that, I think you folks are both missing the forest for the trees here.

I watched quite a bit of playoff baseball, and it was amazing both how good the umpires were, and how often the pitchers were hitting the corners. This is judging using the "box" that TBS, etc. would put up on the screen during replays and the like. It was quite amazing - the umpires were getting it right 95% or more of the time, even when the pitch was up and in or down on the corner.

My conjecture is that the umpires have been studying the available data and adjusting, becoming more consistent. Hence, at least at the highest level, there is less and less of a difference between the Robo-Umps and the Real Umps. The issues that came up during the playoffs this year (and I mostly watched Giants and Dodgers) had to do with other things (checked swings, for example) that the Robo-Umps wouldn't "solve".

In summary - at the highest level, the consistency at the Major League level of Real-Umps is getting better and better, to the point that the difference, in terms of the effect on the game, between Real- Robo- Umps is rapidly disappearing. At the minor league level that difference may still be large, which may have something to do with the rather large effect Robo-Umps had on the low minor leagues this past year.

The opportunity exists, whether with Real- or Robo-Umps, to modify the strike zone high- or low-, to make it larger or smaller, but the effect of Robo-Umps themselves at the Major League level is probably not large enough to really argue about (It should be noted that there are still some umpires around like Angel Hernandez who are well-known for having extra-large or extra-small strike zones, but fewer and fewer as they retire).
   66. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: October 25, 2021 at 10:25 PM (#6049042)
FFT's (fungible flame-throwers)
I’m going to try to get “Bullpen Droids” to stick.
   67. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 26, 2021 at 01:03 AM (#6049055)
I’m going to try to get “Bullpen Droids” to stick.


Bullpen Droids is good too. BD's = FFT's = Bad for Ball
   68. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2021 at 09:04 AM (#6049072)
And the changes you want will lead to more K's, more BB and fewer swings. Why is that good?

Right, as if forcing pitchers to throw actual strikes will lead to more strikeouts and more walks, and will cause batters to swing less. Any more grand theories of baseball you've got?

------------

I watched quite a bit of playoff baseball, and it was amazing both how good the umpires were, and how often the pitchers were hitting the corners. This is judging using the "box" that TBS, etc. would put up on the screen during replays and the like. It was quite amazing - the umpires were getting it right 95% or more of the time, even when the pitch was up and in or down on the corner.

I'll admit that some of the HP umpires have been well above average during the postseason, which is great. Jim Wolf in game 6 of the ALCS was particularly good about not awarding gift strikes. But what doesn't seem to sink in is that even a single bad call on a critical pitch can affect a game's outcome just as surely as an uncorrected call on the bases.
   69. Biscuit_pants Posted: October 26, 2021 at 09:59 AM (#6049082)
Certainly the experiment tells us something about how well the system works and how the players react to the robo-umps, but assuming the early results translate as well as the process is not intuitively obvious.


I was responding to someone that equated the belief that a robo-ump causing more TTO is the equivalent of Covid vaccine causing cancer. I didn't say the study was definitive but it is not to be dismissed as a conspiracy theory.
   70. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:55 AM (#6049098)
I was responding to someone that equated the belief that a robo-ump causing more TTO is the equivalent of Covid vaccine causing cancer. I didn't say the study was definitive but it is not to be dismissed as a conspiracy theory.

FTR I made that comparison tongue-in-cheek, more in reaction to snapper's commenting history than anything about the study. The more substantive criticism of the study was raised by Space Force Fan in #62.
   71. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:03 AM (#6049102)
But what doesn't seem to sink in is that even a single bad call on a critical pitch can affect a game's outcome just as surely as an uncorrected call on the bases


I think the results of a bad call are well understood by everyone in this forum - a strikeout, or a walk, that was granted in error, which can be critical in a tight game, or by an avalanche effect turn a tight game into a blowout.

The original argument between you two was what the effects of robot-umpires would have on how the game is played - whether it would result in more TTO-baseball or less, e.g. whether it would change the approach of hitters and pitchers. What I am saying is that at the highest levels (Major League and perhaps high minors as well), the macro effect - the effect on hitter/pitcher approach, the average outcome, would be small at best and is getting smaller, such that the argument itself is irrelevant. Robot umps will not change the hitters approach at the major league level because the difference between a robot ump and a major league ump currently is too small for it to effect the hitters' and pitchers' strategic choices.

The more interesting discussion in general is the effect of larger or smaller strike zones on the style of baseball played.
   72. Biscuit_pants Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:37 AM (#6049115)
FTR I made that comparison tongue-in-cheek

If done tongue-in-cheek then I missed it entirely. sorry about that
   73. bunyon Posted: October 26, 2021 at 12:07 PM (#6049123)
The more interesting discussion in general is the effect of larger or smaller strike zones on the style of baseball played.

As long as the view is that a K is just the same as an out on a BIP, the style shouldn't change much. Swing for the fences. I don't think the strike zone changes that much.

I mean, defenses have been gifting basehits for a couple of years and no one has changed their approach. A few more called strikes isn't likely to do it.
   74. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 26, 2021 at 02:31 PM (#6049161)
As long as the view is that a K is just the same as an out on a BIP, the style shouldn't change much. Swing for the fences. I don't think the strike zone changes that much.

I mean, defenses have been gifting basehits for a couple of years and no one has changed their approach. A few more called strikes isn't likely to do it.


I detect a note of cynicism here, which is understandable given Baseball's fits and starts in dealing with the evident problems.

From my understanding, a smaller strike zone encourages TTO-hitting, because, at the limit, one is at the level of a home-run-derby, where only pitches right down the middle are strikes, so best to wait for one of those. At the other extreme, a batter would need a very flexible swing, not likely to be amenable to a maximum power stroke, to be able to make something out of his/her at-bat. A small strike zone encourages Adam Dunn/Joey Gallo, since "your pitch" is likely coming, or else you will walk, so it makes sense to wait for it. A large strike zone encourages Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew or Vlad Guerrero, or even Wade Boggs, since "your pitch" is likely never to come, it would not make sense to wait for it.

Of course, if one expands the zone but doesn't do something to reduce the velocity advantage pitchers currently have, the end result would be quite detrimental to offense, as well it might also be necessary to deaden the ball or something of that sort, to further penalize a "swing for the fences" approach.
   75. bunyon Posted: October 26, 2021 at 03:05 PM (#6049169)
I wasn't really trying to be cynical, though, yeah, I am, in regard to going away from TTO.

The current rationale is that a TTO approach to hitting is optimal. I think that is a correct assessment. It's not entertaining, but it's the best way to be optimize offense. Unless you make the strike zone really big, so that a pitcher never has to throw a mashable pitch, hitters will accept the increase in Ks that come with continuing to swing for the fences.

How big do you need to make the strike zone so that a TTO approach isn't optimal? If you do, will hitters actually adjust?

A game where we exchange HR and BB for called Ks isn't any better and in many ways is worse.
   76. Space Force fan Posted: October 26, 2021 at 03:15 PM (#6049171)
What I am saying is that at the highest levels (Major League and perhaps high minors as well), the macro effect - the effect on hitter/pitcher approach, the average outcome, would be small at best and is getting smaller, such that the argument itself is irrelevant.


You might be right.

I am curious about the non-strike zone effects of robo-umps. I think that it will lead to fewer ejections as people stop arguing balls and strikes and this is worthwhile on its own.

Another interesting (read as speculative) concept is that it might allow better umpiring through changing the physical location of the home plate umpire. If he doesn't have to call balls and strikes, can he move out from behind the catcher in order to get a better look at things (caught foul tips, HBP, check swings) he is still responsible for? Imagine the umpire moving a few feet down the line (e.g., first base side for a right handed hitter) to get an unobstructed view of check swings etc. Besides the better view, it is likely to improve safety since the catcher can move back (if no one is on base), while the umpire can be put behind a safety screen. Less chance for the catcher to get hit by a foul ball and the umpire is protected entirely. Either position can lead to interference with the catcher trying to catch a foul ball or get in the way of loose WP/PB. The downside is that the umpire has a worse view of fair/foul calls down one of the lines and may have a worse view on HBP behind the batter (although in his current location, the ump doesn't have a good view of that play since the player blocks him). Would the trade-off of safety and better views of some plays outweigh the downsides of a worse view on other plays?
   77. djordan Posted: October 26, 2021 at 03:58 PM (#6049174)
Back to 1978, just over 1/4 of the batters with 150 PA (86/325) hit 0-2 HR and almost half (155/325) hit 0-5. Among batting title qualifiers, it's 11% 0-2 (15/140) and 24% 0-5 (34/140). 62% (87/140) hit 10+. 29% (41/140) 20+.
In 2019 (don't have 2021 in my database yet), it's 6% 0-2 HR (26/411) and 16% 0-5 HR for batters with 150 PA. Among batting title qualifiers, it's 0.7% 0-2 (1/135) and 1.5% 0-5 (2/135). 96% (130/135) hit 10+. 71% (96/135) 20+.


#37, Hey Pat, is there a function on B-Ref that aggregates data like this? Is that the source here?

I'd love to see more data like this.

Thanks.

   78. . Posted: October 26, 2021 at 04:32 PM (#6049183)
All of these things are of the philosophical school that would retain the existing relative value of events. There's another way that's probably better, which is to simply tinker with the value of the events themselves.

For example, you could say that the run of a runner who got on base via (unintentional) walk counts only half a run. Then from there, there are all sorts of other possibilities, which would include awarding points for each base obtained by a hit -- i.e., 0 points for getting to first via walk; 1 point for getting there via single. Etc., etc. Honestly, if you told me tomorrow that I'd seen my last walk in the major leagues it wouldn't faze me a bit, from which it follows that I have no problem with reducing the relative value of a walk dramatically.

I'd also think about a strikeout of a hitter who had previously taken a pitch in a defined "dead red" zone -- think of the middle of Ted Williams's hot and cold matrix -- counting as two outs.

The idea behind all of this is to greatly deincentivize the walk and the strikeout, certainly the oafish flailing full count strikeout. Get up to the plate and put the ball in play.

Lots of possibilities once you eschew the idea that the relative values of the events have to stay as is. And there's obviously precedent for all of this in basketball, which one day decided that a made shot from a certain distance away should all of a sudden count for 50% more than it had theretofore.
   79. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 26, 2021 at 04:55 PM (#6049188)
All of these things are of the philosophical school that would retain the existing relative value of events. There's another way that's probably better, which is to simply tinker with the value of the events themselves.


Imagine a world, John Lennon might say, where a runner on base by a walk counts for just 1/2 a run, and a batter struck out counts for just 1/2 an out.

I know in the field near my house the rules for softball are that a ball hit over the fence (which is unavoidably close) is an out. There are leagues that play such that a walk is 9 pitches and strikeouts are something like 4, so very rare (strikeouts being rare in softball anyhow). All of that is to prevent the equivalent of TTO-ball, which is no fun for anyone playing recreational softball.
   80. SoSH U at work Posted: October 26, 2021 at 10:31 PM (#6049270)
Our difference is apparently that you find personalized strike zones to be a feature, whereas I find them to be a bug, especially when they affect the outcome of a game.


They're just the strike zone. It's the sport as it's been played from the beginning. If anything, Questec has probably reduced the variance.

Separately, I do like the fact players have to adjust to how the zone is being called that day (again, as the game has been played since the beginning), as it rewards players who pay attention and can adapt.

Your assumption seems to be that Major League pitchers are incapable of adjusting to rulebook strike zones, and that more walks will result.


That's not my assumption at all. My assumption is that creating a strike zone that is uniform every game will further reward those players with the best knowledge of the strike zone. Those players tend to be TTO hitters, so more TTO is what we'll get. But I realize that's just a guess, and we won't know until it's implemented.

You don't like the fact the strike zone is not called exactly the way the little box on the screen appears, so you've convinced yourself that employing a new zone will absolutely produce outcomes you like.


And what do you have against players with greater strike zone discipline?


It's already rewarded to a tremendous degree, and it's produced a shitty version of the sport. I'd much rather figure out how to reward people who can put the ####### bat on the ball.
   81. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 26, 2021 at 11:46 PM (#6049297)
But those batters with greater strike zone discipline swing at pitches in the strike zone. If pitchers are forced to pitch in the strike zone more than they are with today's expanded zones, you'll see those TTO hitters---and any hitters, for that matter---put more balls in play, since contact rates are greater within the strike zone than they are outside the strike zone.

Unless, of course, you think that taking away those gift called strikes will result in a permanent increase in walks by fearful pitchers. I doubt it, and in any case I'm willing to take the risk, since my main goal above everything else is to reduce strikeouts.
   82. SoSH U at work Posted: October 27, 2021 at 12:00 AM (#6049306)
But those batters with greater strike zone discipline swing at pitches in the strike zone. If pitchers are forced to pitch in the strike zone more than they are with today's expanded zones, you'll see those TTO hitters---and any hitters, for that matter---put more balls in play, since contact rates are greater within the strike zone than they are outside the strike zone.


That's possible, but that's not where I'd place my bet. The rise in strikeouts isn't the result of an expanded zone, largely because I doubt the zone is any more expanded now than it ever was. The K explosion is the result of hitting approach (trading contact for power by everyone in the lineup) and limited pitcher outings allowing hurlers to throw at max effort, neither of which is affected by the size and shape of the current zone.

   83. bunyon Posted: October 27, 2021 at 12:13 AM (#6049312)
Right. My sense is that command of the strike zone has never been better. In addition to prioritizing HR, hitters value BB. Ks are up because when those hitters do swing, they swing for the fences. A smaller zone brings more BB and more HR.

I think. When/if they make such a change, it'll be chaotic.
   84. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 27, 2021 at 12:47 AM (#6049323)
they are with today's expanded zones


The point I was trying to make is that the zones AREN'T significantly expanded. Yes, Angel Hernandez is still around, but he is the exception, not the rule. The umpires actually are doing a pretty good job, and they are getting better as they get access to more data, and as the older umps who are more used to having a "personal zone" retire. The argument as it stands - will a stricter enforcement of the current strike zone create more TTO hitters - is moot.

The K explosion is the result of hitting approach (trading contact for power by everyone in the lineup) and limited pitcher outings allowing hurlers to throw at max effort, neither of which is affected by the size and shape of the current zone.


Right. To make TTO-hitting less advantageous, one has to adjust a few things simultaneously. One thing might be to adjust the strike zone, making it larger high/low - that (I conjecture) would disadvantage TTO hitters because they cannot create a max effort swing with wide plate coverage, and they cannot "wait for their pitch" because it will never arrive. However that would advantage pitchers too much, something else must be done as well to effectively limit the ability of pitchers to pitch consistently at max effort.
   85. . Posted: October 27, 2021 at 07:22 AM (#6049330)
Hitters with better plate discipline swing at strikes in the zone, but they wait until they've taken a bunch of pitches before they do it. That's the exact thing that must be discouraged, if not eliminated.

You can solve both the game time problem and the TTO problem if you encourage putting the ball in play earlier in the count. And the only way to do that is by changing the value of the various events to explicitly encourage it. There's no way to implicitly encourage it. Taking a pitch right down Broadway/Peachtree for the sole purpose of running up pitch counts has to be eradicated from the game. Soooooo many ABs start with taking a pitch right down B/P, fouling some pitches off, working to 2-2 or 3-2, and then oafishly flailing at a pitch a foot outside. They have to end. I wouldn't care if they said the first three pitches have to be made with Charlie Finley's yellow baseballs and they're called the "moneyball" and everything good that happens on the moneyball is worth double.

Get in the box and put the ball in play as early as possible. That's what needs to be encouraged. Everything else is noise.
   86. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 27, 2021 at 09:03 AM (#6049342)
Right. My sense is that command of the strike zone has never been better. In addition to prioritizing HR, hitters value BB. Ks are up because when those hitters do swing, they swing for the fences. A smaller zone brings more BB and more HR.

The walk rate today (3.25/9) is exactly the same as it was 20 years ago, while the strikeout rate has gone up 30%. If the strike zone has been trending towards the rulebook version as much as Doug claims that the numbers show, you'd think they'd be rising.

Of course it might depend on what numbers Doug is referring to. Without any editorial comment, here's the Umpire Analysis for 2021, not 2000 or 2010. In high leverage situations, the worst umpire (Doug Eddings) blew 15.8% of ball / strike calls, while the best umpire (Alex Tosi) still missed on 5.7% of them.

If anyone thinks rates like these are simply "allowable human error", then we're just talking past each other.

Batters have been forced to adjust to 76 different strike zones since time immemorial. Maybe it's time to force pitchers to adjust to a uniform rulebook version.

-----------

The K explosion is the result of hitting approach (trading contact for power by everyone in the lineup) and limited pitcher outings allowing hurlers to throw at max effort, neither of which is affected by the size and shape of the current zone.

I'm NOT saying that robo-umps are any kind of a Magic Pill that will bring the game back to the sort of balance we had in the 1970's or 80's, because it's true that analytics and Kinerism** have incentivized swinging for the fences at all times, no matter what the circumstances. Robo-umps can't reverse that, but at least they'll force pitchers to throw more hittable pitches, not to mention that they'll reduce the number of games whose outcome was overly influenced by bad calls. That last factor alone justifies their introduction.

** "Singles hitters drive Fords and home run hitters drive Cadillacs."
--- Ralph Kiner

   87. bunyon Posted: October 27, 2021 at 09:32 AM (#6049350)
I should add, I'm all in favor of quality robo-umps for ball/strike calls. I would just set the zone to be fairly large. I'd also deaden the ball some. There are a lot of hitters who would not be HR threats under those conditions. You often hear that the pitch at the knees on the outside corner isn't "hittable". That's wrong. It's hittable. It isn't drivable. But you can dump into the opposite field just fine and hitters did that for a long time. But you can't dump it into the opposite field if you're trying to drive it over the wall. The only way to get them to stop trying to drive it over the wall is to make it impossible for them to do so.
   88. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 27, 2021 at 01:18 PM (#6049379)
Depend on what numbers Doug is referring to.


Thank you for the reference. That was very helpful. I didn't really know where to get any numbers, this was just from my eyes watching playoff games. It may be in the playoffs the umpires are better.

I am agnostic about robot umpires. I don't think it would change the game very much, from a strategic standpoint. 11% is higher than I thought, but 5% is more like it what I had been seeing in the playoffs. There are many practical issues with robot umpires that I don't think have been worked all the way through, and I think the game does kinda lose something, maybe that something has been lost already with the "box" being shown on TV all the time.

From a game-theoretic standpoint, a more consistent strike-zone is MORE likely to lead to TTO-ball, because otherwise the batter has an incentive to swing even at pitches he/she judges out of the zone, not being able to trust the umpire completely. In an environment with an inconsistent strike zone, batters who can hit balls wherever they are pitched, and swing at the first pitch they can hit, would be more likely to succeed. We don't see that, more and more the batters are "trusting the umpires" and laying off pitches just a tad outside or high or whatever, which means the batters find the zone consistent enough for them to adopt a strategy which assumes a consistent zone. To me, that means that the effect on the game from instituting robo-umpires would be imperceptible, from a strategic standpoint. That is why I say the argument is moot.
   89. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 27, 2021 at 04:29 PM (#6049409)
From a game-theoretic standpoint, a more consistent strike-zone is MORE likely to lead to TTO-ball, because otherwise the batter has an incentive to swing even at pitches he/she judges out of the zone, not being able to trust the umpire completely. In an environment with an inconsistent strike zone, batters who can hit balls wherever they are pitched, and swing at the first pitch they can hit, would be more likely to succeed.

The problem with that theory is that hitters who consistently chase pitches are much more likely to miss them than put them in play. A more consistent strike zone may lead to more home runs, and it may or may not lead to more walks, but the more pitchers are forced to pitch into the rule book strike zone, the more likely batters will be able to avoid strikeouts via the gift strike route.
   90. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 27, 2021 at 10:09 PM (#6049485)
the more likely batters will be able to avoid strikeouts via the gift strike route


I want to emphasize that we are arguing about different things. You're argument, if I understand it, is that a more consistent strike zone will lead to more offense. I am not sure about that, because there are also "gift balls" (also seen in the data referenced a few posts back), and the pitcher just as much as the batter cannot "plan" on the strike zone. What I might argue is that an inconsistent strike zone generates more randomness in outcomes, and in certain situations may help the batter. For example, if the bases are loaded and the count is full and the pitcher's team is ahead by 1 run, what does the pitcher want to throw? If the strike zone is consistent, he might try a back-door slider, or a sinker on the outside corner, because if he has some confidence in himself and the umpire he will feel good that this pitch will be called a strike if the batter doesn't swing. If the strike zone is inconsistent, well then the pitcher may feel his best choice is to just challenge the hitter with the hardest stuff he can throw. If the batter and the pitcher both know the strike zone is erratic, then the batter will also know that the pitcher has little choice but to throw heat down the middle in that instance, and thereby has an advantage. In other situations the pitcher will have the advantage, especially early in the count and in pitchers' counts. Probably, taken in aggregate, the number of situations where this advantages the pitcher is higher, but I don't think, without really running the simulations, one can really be sure. If I misunderstand you're argument, I'm sorry I would appreciate further clarification.

What I am trying to argue, and I have yet to really see a good argument against it, is that the current major league umpiring crew, taken as a whole, is good enough and consistent enough that replacing them with robot umpires will not change the strategies now employed by either pitchers or hitters. Hitters, by and large, are already acting as if the strike zone is consistent, because they are choosing to take pitches they judge out of the zone, trusting they will be called balls. Again, I am talking strategies, not outcomes, the outcomes will be different because there will be less randomness. I'm just saying that there is little enough randomness in the outcomes currently that the batters act practically as if there is none, so creating a system where there actually is none won't change their strategy.

Now lets consider what happens if one has a consistent zone, either enforced by (super)human umpires or robot umpires. If the zone is large, then TTO-hitters have a disadvantage, because there are a lot of strikes that a pure power stroke won't be able to do anything with. If the zone is small, then TTO-hitters have an advantage because they can just sit back and take their Dave Kingman uppercut when their choice pitch arrives, because only those pitches will be called strikes anyhow. That's the real tinkering that can occur. And because no one is going to change the size of home plate, the tinkering that can be done is in the definition of "below the knees" or "at the letters". If there is any real advantage to robot umpires, it's that this definition can be programmed in and changed at will, so experiments such as they are could be more easily run.
   91. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2021 at 07:57 AM (#6049527)
I want to emphasize that we are arguing about different things. You're argument, if I understand it, is that a more consistent strike zone will lead to more offense.

Doug, the numerical background for my stance on robo-umps are these two findings, the first taken from the link I posted above in #86:
In total, between 2021-01-01 and today, there were 709,851 pitched balls available in the pybaseball source for 2371 regular season matches.

Nine pitches were lost as they did not contain either strike zone or ball at plate data.

A total of 682,834 records, 340,309 of these were ‘ball,’ or ‘called_strike’ were analyzed.

Of these, 97,614 are classified as high-leverage situations.

Of these high-leverage pitches, 11,185 (11.5%) were bad calls.

The second set of numbers is from an earlier study, but while things have improved overall, the clear majority of bad calls in 2-strike counts favor the pitcher, not the batter:
Research results demonstrate that umpires in certain circumstances overwhelmingly favored the pitcher over the batter. For a batter with a two-strike count, umpires were twice as likely to call a true ball a strike (29 percent of the time) than when the count was lower (15 percent). These error rates have declined since 2008 (35.20 percent), but still are too high. During the 2018 season, this two-strike count error rate was 21.50 percent and repeated 2,107 times. The impact of constant miscalls include overinflated pitcher strikeout percentages and suppressed batting averages. Last season, umpires were three times more likely to incorrectly send a batter back to the dugout than to miss a ball-4 walk call (7 percent). Based on the 11 regular seasons worth of data analyzed, almost one-third of batters called out looking at third strikes had good reason to be angry.

Emphasis added.

Taking these together, I don't see how the introduction of robo-umps can do anything but reduce strikeouts and increase contact. To the extent that "we're arguing about different things", I think it's that I'm a lot more concerned about the current rate of strikeouts than I am about walks or home runs, whereas you seem to be more or less equally bothered by all of the TTOs.

And again, I'm not saying that robo-umps are any kind of a Magic Pill, but I do think they'll have a positive effect on converting gift strikeouts into more opportunities to put balls in play. More walks and home runs may (or may not) be another effect, but those two possibilities don't bother me all that much. I just want to reduce strikeouts.
   92. . Posted: October 28, 2021 at 08:05 AM (#6049530)
Of these high-leverage pitches, 11,185 (11.5%) were bad calls.


That's simply orders of magnitude too high, and renders the sport a farce.
   93. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 28, 2021 at 11:01 AM (#6049575)
That's simply orders of magnitude too high, and renders the sport a farce.


I think you may have exceedingly high expectations for the human race. How about holding calls in the NFL, or fouls in the NBA?

I just want to reduce strikeouts.


Thank you for the interesting data, I wasn't aware of it. I think we are both right.

You are right from this standpoint: Robot umpires will reduce strikeouts. It might be noted that

things have improved overall


My point I think is still true as well - Robot umpires will not change the strategies currently employed by either batters or pitchers. Batters currently favor a TTO-strategy which results in deep counts and a swing-for-the-fences mindset, and a more consistent strike zone will not change that strategy.

The one thing that is perhaps not clear to me is - will a more consistent strike zone (that does not favor the pitcher as much in pitcher-friendly-counts) results in more pitch-to-contact, e.g. will it cause a change in pitching strategy? My conjecture is no - pitchers will still be hunting the strikeout.

If anything, the strategic impact of a a more consistent strike zone is more usage of FFT's (Fungible Flame Throwers), as the typical recourse if one cannot count on the "corner strike" is to employ high velocity. In a weird way, however, it might also favor the Doug Jones' of the world, since the other recourse if one cannot count on the "corner strike" is to change speeds dramatically.
   94. John DiFool2 Posted: October 28, 2021 at 11:18 AM (#6049583)
The second set of numbers is from an earlier study, but while things have improved overall, the clear majority of bad calls in 2-strike counts favor the pitcher, not the batter:


I've often wondered if umps get a kick [dopamine hit or such] out of ringing up a batter, with some doing (historically and now) some rather dramatic gesticulations. But with a walk they will just sit there and disinterestedly intone "Ball 4, batter take your base"...
   95. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2021 at 11:30 AM (#6049592)
The one thing that is perhaps not clear to me is - will a more consistent strike zone (that does not favor the pitcher as much in pitcher-friendly-counts) results in more pitch-to-contact, e.g. will it cause a change in pitching strategy? My conjecture is no - pitchers will still be hunting the strikeout.

I'm sure they will, but they'll have to work harder to get them without those gift strikeouts.

If anything, the strategic impact of a a more consistent strike zone is more usage of FFT's (Fungible Flame Throwers), as the typical recourse if one cannot count on the "corner strike" is to employ high velocity. In a weird way, however, it might also favor the Doug Jones' of the world, since the other recourse if one cannot count on the "corner strike" is to change speeds dramatically.

Funny, that comment just made me realize / reminded me of why you chose The Sultan of Slow as your handle. I'm hoping that Nestor Cortes will become the new Eddie Lopat and be one of the anchors of a revived Yankees rotation.
   96. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 28, 2021 at 11:32 AM (#6049596)
I've often wondered if umps get a kick [dopamine hit or such] out of ringing up a batter, with some doing (historically and now) some rather dramatic gesticulations. But with a walk they will just sit there and disinterestedly intone "Ball 4, batter take your base"...

It is true that not that many highlight reels feature a pitcher's 10-walk game.

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