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Friday, March 29, 2019

Rob Manfred not too concerned with health of Atlantic League players

Rob Manfred was interviewed by Michael Kay at a public event yesterday and raised some eyebrows with several of his comments. Most of those were about labor and salaries and stuff and we may get to that later today. In the meantime, the most eyebrow-raising for me was his view on how cheaply he values the health of players in the independent leagues.

As you’re likely aware, Major League Baseball and the independent Atlantic League have entered into an agreement in which the Atlantic League will implement a number of rules changes which MLB is considering to see how they play out in real game situations. Basically, MLB is giving the Atlantic League some money in order to create a laboratory with the Atlantic League players as guinea pigs.

The most notable experiment will involve the pitchers’ mound. Specifically, the pitching rubber will be moved back two feet from 60’6″ to 62’6″. The idea: today’s high-velocity pitchers need a bit of a handicap, and perhaps doing this will cut down on strikeouts and increase offense. The concern, though, is that pitchers will try to compensate for this by trying to throw harder or by altering their pitching mechanics in order to change when and where balls break and slide and stuff. It may be an even bigger concern in the Atlantic League, where pitchers are already trying to work extra hard with, perhaps, lesser skills, in order to impress someone enough to get a contract in affiliated baseball.

Mind you, can we really be surprised by this news at all?

QLE Posted: March 29, 2019 at 08:52 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: atlantic league, manfred is thinking about it, rob manfred

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   1. JRVJ Posted: March 29, 2019 at 10:01 AM (#5826607)
I think that "Manfred is not too concerned with the health of Atlantic League players" is not the right question to ask. Ultimately, why SHOULD Manfred be worried about the health of Atlantic League players… (other than as predicated by a general sense of decency).

The real question should be whether it makes sense to move the pitching rubber from 60'6" to 62'6". Phrased differently, the whole point of this moving-the-rubber experiment is to see how it impacts offense, strikeouts, etc., but two feet may be too much (and insofar as it affects pitchers health, yes, Manfred should be a little concerned).

If the experiment had been to move it to 61' or 61'6", it would have made much more sense.
   2. . Posted: March 29, 2019 at 10:06 AM (#5826611)
Trollish clickbait. Is Manfred "not too concerned about the health of Major League pitchers" because a bunch of them will inevitably end up blowing out their arms?
   3. Jose Is Absurdly Chatty Posted: March 29, 2019 at 10:40 AM (#5826624)
Yeah, it's kind of a tone deaf thing for Manfred to say but really not a big deal.
   4. Rusty Priske Posted: March 29, 2019 at 11:13 AM (#5826644)
The headline should read fully "Manfred is not too concerned with the health of Atlantic League players, because #### those guys!"
   5. . Posted: March 29, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5826647)
There isn't an iota of actual evidence that moving the rubber back a couple feet will increase the injury risk to pitchers. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. It might, it might not (*) -- that's all that can really be said.

If distance to the plate is the only variable, then 60-6 is a bigger risk than 58-6, and the mound should be moved in to 58-6 immediately.

(*) It's actually safer for pitchers with respect to getting out of the way of line drives through the box.
   6. base ball chick Posted: March 29, 2019 at 01:43 PM (#5826702)

rob manfred doesn't give 2 shttts about anything whatsoever except

1 - making as much $$$ as possible for the owners/himself while screwing the players as much as possible and making them look as bad as possible to the public so the public hates them and thinks they should just be grateful they get to play and are earning more than mcdonalds workers

2 - no bad PR
   7. Rally Posted: March 29, 2019 at 01:53 PM (#5826706)
If I was a pitcher good enough to be on the edge of professional baseball I would avoid the Atlantic league unless it was my only option. I'd be afraid of the extra 2 feet being enough to throw off my mechanics and either lead to injury, or make it difficult to adjust back if I was signed by an affiliated team.
   8. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 29, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5826710)
As others have said, this is a lousy thing to say. But even beyond not caring about the health of these guys, I'm skeptical as to what one can really expect to learn from this experiment. First, they're trying a bunch of new things simultaneously in the Atlantic League. This is the biggest and I don't remember all of the others, but rule #1 of experimenting is to try to control for as many other factors as possible, so the changes you see can reasonably be attributed to what you're trying to understand. Moreover, to understand the impact of moving the mound on, say, run scoring, you have to have an idea of what the run scoring environment would have been had the mound not been moved. Is that really something we can know about the Atlantic League? How stable are the rosters in this league from year to year? If strikeouts go down 5%, how sure are we that this isn't because this year's Atlantic League pitchers are just lower-K pitchers or that this year's Atlantic League hitters are just lower-K hitters?

I mean, I guess if the goal here is just to make sure that moving the mound two feet doesn't break the game (and/or break an excessive number of pitchers), maybe you can see something: well, runs per game didn't go from 4.5 to 13 per team, so I guess we're good, and only 15% of pitchers suffered arm injuries, which isn't THAT many more than the 10% last year. But beyond that, I think the range of "potential changes that would be too subtle to be able to clearly link to the mound move" and the range of "potential changes that would be noticeable and undesirable at the major-league level" could have significant overlap here.
   9. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: March 29, 2019 at 02:02 PM (#5826714)
The notion that a bunch of fringe prospect (at best) pitchers trying to work their way up the ladder and make the show, are not already throwing at max effort is kinda insane.

We all know how obsessed these guys are with pitch velocity (and now spin rate). Nobody was going, 'well I could be throwing 93, but 90 is fine... WAIT! 2 MORE FEET! OH GAWD GOTTA LET IT RIP!'

It's sort of like a corollary to the old clutch argument... So you do better in clutch situations? What, were you not trying earlier then?
   10. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: March 29, 2019 at 02:43 PM (#5826738)
The big unknown about moving the mound back is the extent to which it will mess up pitchers' ability to throw breaking pitches. How long will it take pitchers to adjust such that every breaking ball isn't bouncing in the dirt six feet short of the plate and every other cutter isn't boring in and hitting the batter?

Using (presumably paying off) an independent league to experiment towards an answer to that question seems to me an excellent idea. Because if it can be done, moving the mound back is a great way to reduce strikeouts (preferably in tandem with a slight enlargement of the zone, or else you'll just be trading strikeouts for walks). I've just always been skeptical because of the breaking pitch issue.
   11. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: March 29, 2019 at 03:48 PM (#5826775)
8 - the mound is being moved midseason, to create a before and after. sort of.
   12. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 29, 2019 at 04:25 PM (#5826789)
the mound is being moved midseason, to create a before and after. sort of.

Thanks! I hadn't heard that. On the one hand, that seems like an excellent idea in terms of being able to quantify the impact. On the other hand, that seems like a terrible idea to have pitchers suddenly change their throwing distance mid-season. But I guess we'll see what happens.
   13. . Posted: March 29, 2019 at 04:39 PM (#5826795)
I'd need more facts before I can make a fair conclusion about moving the mound 2 feet back. We should first note that a pitched ball from 60-6 would actually go 62-6 and farther if its path wasn't interrupted by the catcher. So it's not as if a pitcher is now made to throw the ball further. The difference, though, is obviously that the angles would change because the target is different at 62-6 than at 60-6. So two questions:

1. What is the 60-6 equivalent of a 62-6 pitch at the knees? Would it cross 60-6 way over the batter's head, at the top of his head, at his shoulders, where?

2. Are the angles and the physics and other relevancies more or less pronounced that when the mound was moved down in 1969?
   14. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: March 29, 2019 at 05:21 PM (#5826805)
There isn't an iota of actual evidence that moving the rubber back a couple feet will increase the injury risk to pitchers. None, zero, zip, zilch, nada. It might, it might not (*) -- that's all that can really be said.

There could never possibly be any such evidence. Stop getting mad on the basis that this sort of lack of evidence means anything.
   15. . Posted: March 29, 2019 at 05:28 PM (#5826809)
There could never possibly be any such evidence.

Then why would "increased injury risk" be a factor in decision making if no evidence could ever confirm the increase? There's really no reason to even suggest that the risk could be increased. There's reason to suggest that pitchers wouldn't be as accurate from two feet further back -- lack of reps at the new distance -- but no reason to think they'd be more likely to be hurt. They very well might be less likely to be hurt.

So basically Manfred was interviewed by a talk radio loudmouth who said all barstool like that more pitchers would get hurt, Manfred made a dumb joke, and the clickbait ensued. Not exactly a good look.

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