Baseball Notes: Current Issues Roundup

baseball notes

Rather than my own attempt at fashioning a nugget of faux-wisdom, the purpose of this Baseball Notes post is to highlight a number of articles posted elsewhere addressing current issues in the sport.  

On MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s latest rule-change proposals:

In The Summer Game, Roger Angell described the relationship between baseball time and the out by saying, “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young.” Baseball time is largely unregulated and free from a clock, and even with recent interventions to put a bit of countdown heft behind existing rules, what dictates the pace of play is mostly those playing. What we see of it is determined by our interest. Outfield walls may be bedecked with corporate logos, and grand slams might now bear an odd connection to pizza, but the thing that has long distinguished baseball from other sports, its pacing, is still largely unruffled, for better or worse. We still have time.

Except that might be changing. On Thursday, Bob Nightengale reported Major League Baseball is considering several measures aimed at “breathing life into offenses, providing more action, while also quickening the pace of games.“ Among the measures generating the most conversation is a proposal to port over the 20-second pitch clocks found in the minors, curtail defensive shifts, and limit the number of reliever substitutions. Others have remarked on how the proposals offered don’t really hang together logically. Manfred seems to be asking the game to speed up (pitch clocks!), while slowing down (no shifts!), but scoring more (?). But what he really seems to be aiming at is something more predictable; something like the standardization of time.

We Still Have Time” – Baseball Prospectus.

The bottom line is this: no rule change that MLB makes is going to lower the time of game or pace of game to a significant enough degree that the game is ever fast paced enough to compete with today’s other product offerings. Products/services like Twitch and Snapchat, iPods and iPads, HBO Go and Netflix will remain at our fingertips, and using them will require less time and focus than a baseball game. The way to get more people to watch and pay attention to baseball is in its marketing. . . . [M]ost casual fans probably don’t even take notice of defensive shifts or times between pitches. These are “inside baseball” issues. The people MLB needs to be capturing are those outside of baseball.

We hear too much about what’s wrong with baseball. We need to hear more about what’s awesome about baseball. Mike Trout is possibly the best baseball player in the last 50, 60, 70 years. Market him! Giancarlo Stanton has some of the most ridiculous power the game has ever seen. Market him! Make sure these guys are on every TV screen in America every night of the week.

Rob Manfred and the Dangers of Unintended Consequences” – FanGraphs.

On the apparently still-clueless Arizona Diamondbacks leadership:

[S]aying that this front office shouldn’t be fired because of the team’s current record isn’t the same as endorsing the group to remain in place beyond this season. Holding the team’s failure this season against them isn’t fair, but the team’s processes over the last few years suggest that this group probably shouldn’t be trusted to get the team back on track.

The Shelby Miller deal is the one everyone talks about first, of course, because it was the single-worst transaction any team made last year, and maybe the worst in recent history. But this front office’s history of questionable decisions long predates the Miller trade.

How to Solve a Problem Like the Diamondbacks” – FanGraphs.

David Price, on joining other players, including former Detroit Tigers teammates Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, calling for heightened PED penalties:

I love Dee Gordon. I know him personally. He’s a great kid. Made a bad decision. But I think that kind of opens the eyes to not just looking at the guy that’s hitting 40 homers. You’re not just looking at the guy that’s 6-2, 250 and just shredded out of his mind. It’ll help anybody. When I heard that, I was like, “Wow, this completely changes the way that I looked at PEDs.” I guess I was stereotypical with it. I would’ve never thought Dee Gordon. He’s not the home run guy. He’s hitting the ball all over the field and running wild, stuff like that. I think that opened the eyes to a new realm of PEDs. …

See, I could never do it because I don’t want to disappoint my family. Period. I wouldn’t want that bad publicity. Not just for myself. If I get it, so what? That’s a part of it. That’s the nature of the game. But I don’t want that to leak to my mom and to my dad and to my nephew. That would crush me. I could never do anything like that. But there’s some guys that might not be very close with their family or they’re on the fringe of being a big leaguer or they’re tired of being an average or below-average guy and they say, “I can do this. Ball out for a year. If I get popped, serve my 50 games, continue to work the way I have when I’m on them. And I’m going to make these strides, and I’m not going to get weaker. I’m going to be stronger than I was, serve 50 games, make some money,” and they’re OK with that. I understand that. I get it. They have one chance. That’s what it is.

If you get popped, you can’t play baseball anymore. Period. I think that could be the only thing they would do that would scare guys away from it.

Union should poll players about having tougher PED penalties” – ESPN.


Baseball Notes: The In-Game Half Lives of Professional Pitchers
Baseball Notes: Rule Interpretation Unintentionally Shifts Power to Outfielders?
Baseball Notes: Lineup Protection
Baseball Notes: The Crux of the Statistical Biscuit
Baseball Notes: Looking Out for Number One
Baseball Notes: Preview


6 thoughts on “Baseball Notes: Current Issues Roundup

  1. And now we have a (proposed) remedy:

    The Dubuque Plan is very simple.

    At each baseball game, hire a man or woman, and seat them next to the official scorer. (They could even be the official scorer; I honestly have no idea how much time they have to spare.) Give them a laptop and a big red light that they hang near the window, visible for all the playing field to see, like the opposite of a metaphor in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

    This person’s sole job will be to track the win percentage of both teams, based on the game and run state, as the game goes on. When the game reaches a point when one team’s chance of winning crosses a certain threshold—say, 90 or 95 percent, whatever you as hypothetical commissioner prefer—the red light goes up and all of Manfred’s timesaving rules take effect. No more three-reliever innings down seven in the eighth. No multiple mound conferences to switch out signs for a batter who would only be the tying run if the team batted around. Throw on the pitch clock, give the reliever 40 seconds to get to the mound and throw his warmups, it doesn’t matter. Maybe trim a few seconds off the commercial breaks to compensate for all this inconvenience you swear is necessary, but you’re the commissioner. It’s your call.

    One time suck that Manfred conspicuously did not refer to in his checklist, replay, is equally adjusted under the Dubuque Plan. If the outcome of a play were to be worth under a certain amount of WPA, say 0.01, the red light goes on in the booth and the New York office is gently instructed that a review is not worth their time (nor the time of 40,000 people in attendance).

    This would solve in-game pacing, but could also be applied to playoff odds as well. If a contest were to take place between two teams either mathematically or spiritually eliminated from the playoff race, the red light goes on with the first pitch and the fans can be secure in knowing that they’ll be enjoying a nice, brisk baseball game. Similarly, the crew chief would be allowed the right to overrule the red light in any situation; this would be particularly useful for matters less about wins and losses but individual achievements, streaks, and milestones. We don’t want this to stop us from being as accurate as possible when we want to be, just save us from staring at the microscope on every single play.

    Much like the pitch clock portends to be, the Red Light would optimally be a piece of information, like the stadium radar gun reading, omnipresent but not a distraction. There’s potential for unintended consequences, as with any rule change: By rendering sportsmanship into a binary value, it could have an effect on the unwritten rules, though the odds of it being deleterious are probably fifty-fifty. And it might prove to be a sign to the shiftless fan that it’s time to beat the traffic, hurting potential concession sales. But if anything, the Dubuque Plan would be a physical reminder that sportsmanship actually exists, even on the professional level, and that at some point there are things more important than winning, or at least a fraction of a chance of winning.

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