Monday, September 1, 2014

Babe Ruth: if the Babe played today, would he be a relief pitcher?

During Saturday's Yankee game in Toronto the announcers mentioned that the Blue Jays relief pitcher was also a good hitting shortstop in high school.  That led me to something I've wondered about for years: what would they do with Babe Ruth today?

The Babe began his major league career as a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and set a World Series record of 29.66 consecutive scoreless innings.  Whitey Ford broke that record in 1961, the same season that Yankee teammate Roger Maris broke Ruth's record of 60 home runs, prompting Ford to crack that the Babe had a bad season.

Ruth pitching records with Boston:


1916 23-12; led AL in ERA, GS, SHO, ERA+, H9, HR9.
1918 tied Tillie Walker for AL lead in HR with 11 in 317 AB.
1919 set record with 29 HR in 432 AB.

Gradually Boston had Ruth play every day because he could hit.

The American League adopted the designated hitter rule (DH) in 1973 and today it applies to half the teams in the Major Baseball League (MBL).  The rule has these weaknesses:
- it's restricted to the pitcher, which I never understood; Ruth always came to mind
- it should have been a designated fielder: eight batters with one fielding specialist designated by each team each game, probably the pitcher.

If Ruth played today in the American Conference, he could not both pitch and bat in the same game without his team losing the optional DH.  The problem with letting Ruth start and bat is that if he left the game his relief pitchers would also be required to bat.  Just another reason to embrace my designated fielder rule.

In the early years of the DH there were four games in which the DH was not used:
Ferguson Jenkins (1 for 2) October 2, 1974
Ken Holtzman (0 for 2) September 27, 1975
Ken Brett (0 for 3) twice July 6, 1976 and September 23, 1976

1. Would his team require Ruth to specialize?  Probably, either a pitcher or outfielder.
2. If Ruth became a pitcher, would he start or relieve?

Strikeouts s c a p y 
1916 AL  170 (3rd) 
1917 AL  128 (5th)

Strikeouts per 9 IP s c a p y 
1915 AL  4.631 (8th) 
1916 AL  4.727 (8th)

Not exactly Aroldis Chapman throwing 100 mph but a current team might want to make Ruth a lefty specialist coming out of the bullpen.  What a waste!  Consider:

Would Nolan Ryan be a relief pitcher today?  Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tournament brackets should be selected now.

Baseball Classic Series (BSC) for the Major baseball League (MBL) should have its tournament brackets filled out now, well before the end of the regular season.  Here are just six great ideas:

Radical playoffs: a few ideas.  Saturday, February 2, 2013

Before you dismiss all this, remember these things about the finals under the current system:
- home field advantage in a possible seventh game includes home rule advantage: designated hitter (DH) or not
- fields are not uniform
- home field advantage is determined by the winner of an exhibition game: the All Star game
- the players on the All Star teams are selected by the fans who are officially allowed to vote 25 times each.

College football has started, even before classes.  The NFL starts Thursday and has a full schedule next Sunday.  Baseball has ... its tournament.  Might as well have people pick brackets and win prizes.

Ties might expose Selig's tournament folly.

When Detroit and Minnesota tied for their division lead in 2009, Major Baseball League (MBL) commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig opposed the idea of having an extra wild card team added with a play-in game every year.  This is the third year that the MBL has that extra wild card team and Selig's fans include it in listing his accomplishments.

In 2009 Minnesota defeated Detroit and then was swept in three games by the Yankees in round one of the tournament.  But that extra game was extra exciting and generated interest.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 4:08PM Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Attendance: 54,088, Time of Game: 4:37

Twins 6, Tigers 5
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 R H E
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tigers 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 5 12 1

Twins 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 0 1 6 12 0

MLB commissioner Bud Selig is a moron! Wednesday, October 7, 2009

... Minnesota's home park was occupied for Monday Night Football on ESPN: Vikings with Brett Favre hosting Favre's former team Green Bay. 21 million people watched that Monday NFL game. MLB decided to have Minnesota play Detroit on Tuesday at 5PM ... on TBS. Not Fox. Not even ESPN. TBS, which is carrying MLB division playoff series. Not in prime time, after 8PM. 5PM on nothing cable channel TBS. Minnesota beat Detroit in 12 innings in case you missed it.

This morning I happened to see Selig interviewed on TV. No, not NBC's Today show. Not even ESPN. On a simulcast of ESPN radio.

Way to go Bud, getting your sport covered!

Then this moron has the nerve to praise himself for what a great idea he had in creating the stupid MLB wild card playoff system...

So now Minnesota flops into the playoffs with 87 wins to play the Yanks who won 103. Hey, Texas won 87, why isn't Texas in the playoffs? Oops, Texas finished second in AL West. Nice system, Buddy. Making it even worse is stupid inter-league play. Yanks play Mets six times. Yanks have been good each of those seasons. How is that fair to the Mets? Most teams play teams in the other league only three times. And why should the Yanks with 16 more regular season wins than Minnesota risk its season in a five game series with only one more home game as reward for the far better regular season record?

Selig cannot imagine changes to playoff system. Thursday, October 8, 2009

During yesterday's ill fated interview on ESPN radio MLB commissioner Bud Selig was asked about adding another wild card team. He's stuck in old thinking. Buddy said

- no team wanted to shorten the regular season
- players did not want a single play-in game
- adding another round of playoff games would push the World Series well into November.

November baseball: hey, more rain and cold. MLB does not seem to care about the comfort of fans attending games now so why not?


This season could have this:

In the American Conference Oakland and the Angels tie for the best record and the West division, necessitating another extra game to determine the division winner as happened in 2009.  The loser then must host the wild card game against say the Yankees who rested while the West division was being settled.

To make it even more ridiculous let's have Detroit and Kansas City also tie for the Central division and need to play an extra game.  Would Selig schedule both those division championship games on the same day?  If not, then the Yankees get an extra day of rest and, more importantly, the Yankees can line up their starting pitchers while the other four teams are burning theirs.   Unless, of course, Oakland and/or the Angels think it's better to dump the division game and save their pitchers for the wild card game and five game division series in round one.

Of course, the Yankees might not get any rest if they tie Seattle for the second wild card, which might require the Yankees to fly from Boston, where they finish the regular season, to Seattle and if they win wait to learn their next destination.  There was an extra game played in 2013 between Texas and Tampa for the second wild card.  Tampa won and then went to Cleveland and won.  Tampa then lost to one seed Boston 3 games to 1.  Remember?  Anybody?

Bud, did you think this through at all?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Numb to the dumb? The shift, that is.

Not quite.  I'm less outraged but still really annoyed when I see Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira ignore recent situations where the Yankees needed base runners and they eschewed (a Howard Cossell word) a gift bunt single into the ocean of open area near third base and instead continue to try to hit a home run over the shift.  Argh!

Ted Williams: Sarasota, Florida 1949
By Florida Memory [Public domain]
via Wikimedia Commons
I wrote about this a lot in the spring so I won't beat a dead horse.  But it is even more incredible that a team managed by a smart guy like Joe Girardi still deals with an idea from only one side of the ball.  I think all teams now employ the shift against opposing batters.  I think also the no team makes any concerted effort to combat the shift when it is used against them.

1. Mickey Mantle had a career batting average (BA) of .527 when he bunted in the regular season and that was against a conventional alignment of fielders.  Mantle was 7 for 8 bunting in the World Series.  He hit 50 HR twice, led the league four times and was third in career HR (536) when he retired.  Bunting added ten points to his BA in 1956 when he had a triple crown: 52 HR, 130 RBI, .353 BA (Ted Williams second .345; Mantle got his triple crown by bunting.  Ironically, Williams was famous for not hitting the other way or bunting against the shift that was first deployed against him by Lou Boudreau who also tried it briefly against Mantle in 1956.

Shift on Mickey Mantle.  Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lou Boudreau deployed his shift on both Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle.  The shift on Williams is fairly well known but its use against Mantle was brief and so mostly forgotten.  Mantle was a switch hitter with great speed who often bunted in his early seasons...

By bunching his fielders up the middle, Boudreau gave Mantle the outfield corners and the left side of the infield, invited him to push a bunt to third base, then pitched him high and tight. The shift worked. Mantle whiffed his first two times up, failing to bunt twice ...

... in June, at Kansas City, Mantle went 4-for-8 against the shift, but all four hits were singles, including a bunt on a 3-2 pitch ...

2. Against an extreme shift with third base effectively abandoned a batter should be able to square around and bunt for a single at least half the time.

3. Home Run rate (AB/HR lower is better):
Mantle 8102/536=15.1
Teixeira 6071/361=16.8
McCann 4270/191=22.4

It's especially dumb for McCann to be so stubborn but Teixeira is not being a team player either.  Neither of them is Ted Williams.

So, where's the leadership?  None from Girardi.  Apparently, he is too afraid to simply order his batters to bunt against the shift.  None from captain Derek Jeter.  Nothing up the chain of command.

What about the fans?  Where are the boos?  I do not approve of fans booing their own players ... except for unsportsmanlike behavior and dumb actions repeated many times.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Replays mask dead time. Announcers talk through it. Boredom is mitigated.

Let's consider two things while watching sports on TV: lack of announcers and lack of replay.

In this NFL game, silence was golden
Why the Jets-Dolphins game was broadcast 30 years ago without announcers
By Greg Garber December 12, 2010

"We are just moments away from the kickoff of today's Jets-Dolphins game and a telecast that figures to be different. The fact that we try something different and dare to has been greeted with almost every kind of reaction, from good-natured humor to applause to some surprising anger." -- Bryant Gumbel's first on-camera words on Dec. 20, 1980

It was a meaningless, season-ending game for two mediocre NFL teams ...


1952 World Series game times: three hours maximum. Tuesday, August 26, 2014

a separate post on how replays mask dead time, which is that much worse if you're actually at the game

1952 World Series game seven kinescope: some observations. Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Watched in its entirety with no replays or other distractions from the natural dead time of a baseball game, it's boring, just in a different way from today's longer games.

Tuesday, October 7, 1952 Ebbets Field
Attendance: 33,195, Time of Game: 2:54


That 1980 NFL game had replays and "graphics", plus some interruptions of people speaking.  However, the game was meaningless, which is why the experiment was tried.

Red Barber 1955 at the WPIX TV mic after switching to the Yankees in 1954 by Al Ravenna, World-Telegram staff photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The 1952 baseball game was for the championship. It meant everything.  It had two announcers who worked alone, each for 4.5 innings: Yankee Mel Allen and Dodger Red Barber.  However, there were no replays, which started a decade later.  Replay technology has improved immensely over time and even ultra slow motion replay is now crystal clear ... and in High Definition (HD).

During a baseball game replays sometimes fill in the ever increasing dead time between pitches.  That was never so obvious to me than this week when, for the first time, I spent a couple of hours watching the entire game seven of the 1952 World Series.  The commercial breaks between innings had been removed, which accounts for the run time being less than the official game time of almost three hours.

Over the years I had viewed excerpts but never anything very long.  Now I have seen this classic game in its entirety.  After a few innings the novelty wears off and I became accustomed to seeing one Hall of Fame player after another.  The batters took a lot of time getting into the batter's box but once there, they stayed about 99% of the time.  The pitchers were slow throughout, maybe getting slower as the game progressed.

By the last three innings it was definitely BORING.  Before you attack me, try it yourself.  Watch it.  With no distractions.  No tablet, music, anything.  Just sit there and watch.

Then you'll probably be as bored as the 33,195 fans in Ebbets Field that day, which was up from the previous day when only 30,037 showed up to see the Dodgers try to win in six games.  Look at them.  And remember, there were about 3,000 empty seats.  Attendance for both games 4 and 5 of the 1953 WS in Ebbets Field: 36,775.  That must have been capacity.

We need distraction and other entertainment to entertain us during the sporting events we pretend are so interesting.  We just don't notice or admit it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How might a tournament have worked 50 years ago? Was it better then or now? And combining the best of both.

In 1961 the American League expanded from 8 teams to 10 adding the Angels and a new team of Senators in Washington as the original Senators moved to Minneapolis and morphed into the Minnesota Twins.

Bob Aspromonte, Houston Colt .45s
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In 1962 the National League added the Mets and Houston Colt 45s, later the Astros with the domed stadium and space program moved to Texas.  But it wasn't until 1969 with the expansion from 10 to 12 teams that divisions were first introduced into the modern major leagues and the start of a playoff system, which really became a tournament when the two leagues merged in the 1990s.  Yeah, they merged.

Today there are 30 teams, 50% more than in 1964.  One third of teams now can qualify for the tournament.  In 1964 it was straight competition: the two pennant winners played in the old World Series.  In the regular season all teams in a league played all others the same number of games: 18.  It was actually fair back then.  It actually made sense.  To make a 1964 playoff system somewhat like today, let's have three of the ten qualify.  The one seed waits while 2 hosts 3 in a do or die elimination game to play one in a 5 or 7 game series to reach the finals.  That seems to be a reasonable approximation of what we have today, doesn't it?  Now let's compare teams within five games of qualifying.

2014, through August 26:

American Conference division leads:
Baltimore 7
Kansas City Royals 1.5
Angels 1  one seed

National Conference division leads:
Washington Nationals 7.5  one seed
Milwaukee Brewers 1.5
Dodgers 5

American Conference wild card:
Oakland As +5
Detroit -.5
Yankees -3.5
Cleveland -4.5

National Conference wild card:
St. Louis +2
San Francisco
Atlanta Braves -1.5
Pittsburgh -1.5
Miami -4

In each conference there are three division leaders, plus wild card one and then teams on the bubble for the second wild card.  Each conference happens to have four bubble teams.  So that's 8 of 15 teams in contention.  About half.


American League wins:
Yankees 99
White Sox 98
Baltimore 97
Detroit 85

National League wins:
St. Louis 93
Philadelphia 92
Cincinnati 92
San Francisco 90
Milwaukee Braves 88
Pittsburgh 80
Dodgers 80

Three of ten were in contention in the American League.  But half of the ten National League teams contended and the final week was frantic and exciting with three teams seeming to have the upper hand at various points.

Ultimately, St. Louis defeated the Yankees in seven games in the World Series.  Three American League teams won more games than St. Louis.  Eight of 20 teams contended in 1964, 40%.

So it's 50% contending in 2014 v. 40% in 1964.  But the schedule (18 games against the 9 opponents) in 1964 was obviously fair and the schedule in 2014 is unfair and somewhat random.  I'd like something like the 1964 format.  Here's a suggestion.

Contract two teams and reduce from 30 to 28 teams.  The obvious candidates are the two teams in Florida.  How the heck did that state ever get one much less two teams?  Eliminate them.

Then form four divisions of seven teams each that play the same number of games against the same opponents.  If they play 18 games against each of the six opponents, that's 108 games.  Then another 42 against the seven teams (six games each) in the other division in the conference.  No inter-conference play.  That makes for a better final series.  That's 150 regular season games, which is plenty.  We could have the format suggested for 1964: have the one seed play the winner of a do or die game between two and three.  That means that 12 of 28 teams qualify: 43%.  Higher percentage of teams in competition but in a completely fair way.  And it puts a premium on attaining the one seed, which makes the long regular season more meaningful.

Oh, and realign them geographically.  That's long overdue.  Right now the Yankees are competing for that worthless second wild card against two teams 3,000 miles away.  That makes no sense.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

1952 World Series game seven kinescope: some observations.

Watched in its entirety with no replays or other distractions from the natural dead time of a baseball game, it's boring, just in a different way from today's longer games.

Tuesday, October 7, 1952 Ebbets Field
Attendance: 33,195, Time of Game: 2:54

Yankee 4, Dodgers 2


kinescope of the game:

Kinescope: "recording of a television program made by filming the picture from a video monitor"

You can hear the sound of the film projector recorded when the film was run to create the digital video on youtube.

Starting Lineups

1. Ebbets Field outfield walls look so close.

2. Starting pitchers simultaneously warm up on either side of home plate on flat ground before the game.

3. No batting helmets.

4. Batters stay in the box about 99% of the time.

5. Pitchers waste a lot of time.

6. Hodges and McDougald when making the third putout flip their mitt/glove on the ground near first and third.

7. Seven Hall of Famers among the eight players in four positions up the middle: Dodger 2B, both C, SS, CF.  One in the four corner positions: Yankee 1B.  No pitchers.

8. McDougald, Cox, Woodling make basket catches.

9. Not much crowd noise; no rallying noise to encourage home team to score.

10. Announcers Mel Allen and Red Barber work alone, each 4.5 innings.  No chatter, just play-by-play.

11. Even with batters staying in the box the pace is slow.  If the 12 second rule was in effect then, it was ignored as it is now.

12. Surprisingly good historical facts shared by the announcers: home run and strike out records.

13. Pitchers very loosey goosey.  Just tossing strikes, with easily recognizable curves mixed in.  Mel Allen mentioned that Preacher Row threw a screwball and change up but mostly it seems to be not very fast fastballs and slow curves, which fool batters.

14. Batters are also loosey goosey with many bats held closer to horizontal than today.  More open stances.  Many batters, including Mickey Mantle, choking up.

15. No brushbacks.  Pitchers are generally better behaved in World Series games because everyone is watching but this game seems especially calm.

16. No players dressed very differently from others; no Micheal Pineda with his hat to the side and shirt unbuttoned.  No unsportsmanlike conduct.

17. No closers.

18. 6 of the 7 pitchers in this game started games in this WS; the only non-starter made his only appearance in this WS and saved the game: Bob Kuzava.