Sunday, May 31, 2009

Coffee breaks, Water Coolers, Cubicles, ... you know, like an office.

Next time you see a foul ball, see if it doesn't remind you of a coffee break in an office: a lot of people at work, not working.

Water cooler talk: why not just put a water cooler on the mound, the place of endless mindless meetings?

Most of the players on the field are not invited to the mound meetings. So, provide them with cubicles at their defensive positions so that they can use that idle time productively: make phone calls, e-mail, tweet, ...

All that empty time sucking the life out of a MLB game reminds me of a typical office, wasting the resources of the people employed there. Both are boring.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Babe Ruth never batted against Satchel Paige. Neither did Jackie Robinson.

Babe Ruth never batted against Satchel Paige. That is often mentioned by people who want to emphasize that blacks had been excluded from wide participation in MLB before April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the modern color line by playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League.

Paige (born 1906) was eleven years younger than Ruth (born 1895). The Babe never batted against Satchel in a MLB game. But neither did Jackie Robinson. Paige finally pitched in MLB from 1948 through 1953, plus a one game three inning stunt in Kansas City in 1965.

All MLB games for Paige were in the American League. Robinson played all his regular season games in the National League. More to the point, what top notch pitchers did Robinson face who would have been banned during MLB racial segregation? The best during Robinson's years (1947-1956) was Jackie's Dodger teammate Don Newcombe, winner of the first Cy Young award in 1956.

Even if Paige had been allowed to pitch in MLB the chances were less than 50% that he would have pitched to Ruth. Paige could have pitched in the other league. Had Paige pitched in the same league as Ruth chances were one in eight that he and Ruth would have been teammates. That's less than 50%, not even dealing with the eleven year age difference. Paige would have been 20 in 1926 about the middle of Ruth's career. In 1920 when Ruth hit 50 homers for the first time, Paige was 14 years old.

There is no reason to think that Satchel Paige would have changed Babe Ruth's stats to a significant degree, even assuming that Ruth would have had difficulty hitting Paige.

Paige was probably a great pitcher but what other banned pitchers would have impacted Ruth?

Evidence is anecdotal. It may be uncomfortable for some to address this but great black players were and still are mostly non-pitchers. Why? I don't know.

Since integration in 1947 only three pitchers who would have been banned because of the color of their skin have pitched well enough in MLB to be inducted into the Hall of Fame: Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal and Ferguson Jenkins. Only Gibson is an American born black. Marichal was born Dominican and Jenkins Canadian. There are no American born black pitchers yet to be considered who would be elected to the Hall of Fame. One dark skinned Hispanic pitcher who would have been banned is a probable Hall of Famer: Pedro Martinez (Dominican Republic). That would make a total of four since 1947, 62 years ago.

What great black non-pitchers did Jackie Robinson play against? In Jackie's early years, none. Roy Campanella won three NL MVP awards (1951, 1953, 1955) but he, like Newcombe, was Jackie's teammate on the Dodgers. Larry Doby broke the AL color line July 5, 1947 with Cleveland, less than three months after Jackie Robinson. Luke Easter joined Doby on the Indians August 11, 1949.

Start dates of Hall of Fame NL blacks during Jackie's years:
Ernie Banks - September 17, 1953, full time 1954
Willie Mays - May 25, 1951, military service 1952-1953 except for 34 games in 1952
Hank Aaron - April 13, 1954
Frank Robinson - April 17, 1956
Roberto Clemente - April 17, 1955.

The National League integrated earlier and more thoroughly than the American League. However, especially during the first half of Jackie's career (1947-1951), he played against no star players (Mays was not yet a star in 1951) who would have been banned because of their color, none of whom were pitchers who could have directly impacted Jackie's batting.

Sliding and tagging are silly.

How about letting base runners over run bases two and three?  They are allowed to over run first base and home plate.  For some odd reason some runners slide into first and home even though that is not necessary.  Very odd.  Sliding into second and third is an unnatural act, which is  dangerous.
It seems to me that as long as the ball gets to the base before the runner, the runner should be out.  That's how it works on a force play.  Why must a fielder tag the runner?  I can understand tagging a runner between bases to expedite but it should not be necessary.
Turning toward the next base should not put the runner in jeapardy.  Fielders should not be allowed to block a base, including home.
Hey, with no sliding maybe the players could wear shorts as the White Sox did in a game in August 1976.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Special: interview with Sean Forman CEO of baseball-reference.com

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/radicalbaseball Special: interview with Sean Forman CEO of baseball-reference.com Date / Time: 6/5/2009 1:00 PM Call-in Number: (646) 595-2649 Sean runs this incredibly comprehensive web site and also sports-reference.com. He will be interviewed for the entire 30 minutes.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Home Runs must be inside the park!

Maybe this will satisfy the steroid police.  How about declaring any ball batted into the stands out of play?  No, not just fouls, fair balls, too.  Yes, home runs or what we now consider home runs.  They are balls that fielders cannot play.

This would negate much of the problem of non uniform playing areas.  It would force batters to NOT jack up flies trying for home runs.  Fielders would not try to prevent fair batted balls from going into the stands.  Why bother?

This would eliminate home runs as we now know them.  It would encourage teams to push the fences BACK, not in.  More home runs would be hit with fences far from from home plate.

Cool.  Now let's see how many heads explode when they read this.
__________________________

David Ortiz May 14, 2008 by Keith Allison via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Radical basketball!

My friend Cliff sent me this:
Radical basketball!
See my posts:
THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2008
Clock, time-outs, … you know, like the other sports.

Once, just once, I’d like to see a meeting on the mound followed by the pitcher not looking in for a sign. He just talked to the catcher! Decide on the pitch in the discussion and just throw it!

A team could get a competitive advantage by changing the pace of the game. Only baseball teams do not attempt this. Twenty years ago the San Francisco 49’ers started games with their first 20 plays scripted; no huddle between plays. Baseball cannot do that for even one batter! How difficult can it be? Just start pitching without waiting for a sign!

MONDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2008

Defense as a Competetive Advantage

Monday, May 18, 2009

MLB: switch to aluminum bats before someone gets killed.

It is obvious that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has neither the imagination nor the inclination to actually do something about the alarming tendency for wood bats to splinter into javelins and fly at people, both players and fans.  Before one of these lethal projectiles embeds itself into the neck or chest of someone, outlaw the ancient wooden bats and replace them with bats made of alloys such as aluminum.

I know, I know, aluminum bats are supposed to be even more dangerous because the ball flies off them at faster speeds.  However, the properties of aluminum that cause this can be managed to produce bats that are comparable to those made of wood.

Make the switch before someone is killed.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blog Talk Radio: next program May 18, 6:30PM

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/radicalbaseball
Four leagues, no divisions. Also, Super League!
Kenneth Matinale
Date / Time: 5/18/2009 6:30 PM
Call-in Number: (646) 595-2649

Hold the runner on third.

Recently two players stole home in bold fashion: bases loaded, two outs, their teams leading.  I have long wondered about this.  Why don't teams have the third baseman hold the runner on third as they have first baseman hold the runner on first?  If they don't hold the runner on first, the runner can steal second.  If they don't hold the runner on third, the runner can steal home.  If you were deciding which of these two defenses makes the most sense, it would probably be to hold the runner on third.

In Boston's Fenway Park on April 26 2009 Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury stole home with the bases loaded, two outs and left-handed-hitting outfielder J.D. Drew at the plate.  Yankee third baseman Angel Berroa was playing very wide of the bag.  Ellsbury broke as Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte went into his full windup.  Red Sox were already leading 3-1 and won 4-1.

You would think teams would be more alert after that.

In Philadelphia on May 12 2009 Phillie Jayson Werth stole second, third and home in one inning, the 49th MLB player to do it.  The Dodgers pitcher Ronald Belisario was not alert even after the first two steals.  Worse, was the lack of awareness by his catcher, Russell Martin, who carelessly tossed a pitch back to the pitcher, prompting Werth to take off and beat a quick return throw from Belisario.  Phillies were already leading 5-1 and won 5-3.

Here are the details of Werth's steals:
Werth singled with one out in 7th.
Ryan Howard struck out swinging.  Two out.
Jimmy Rollins bats and Werth steals second.
Pitcher Will Ohman intentionally walks Rollins.
Raul Ibanez bats.  Werth and Rollins both steal.
Ibanez walks loading the bases.
Ronald Belisario replaces Ohman pitching.
Pedro Felix, a righty batter, bats and Werth steals home.
Dodger  coach visits pitcher.
Feliz walks re-loading the bases.
Carlos Ruiz grounds to Dodger third baseman Casey Blake who forces out Ibanez at third.  Three out.

Neither of these humiliating steals of home would have occurred if the defense had been holding the runner on third base as they do almost mindlessly with a runner on first.  Perhaps even more bizarre are times when the defense is concerned about a squeeze play, i.e., the batter bunting with a runner on third, especially if the defense suspects a suicide squeeze in which the runner bolts for home even before the batter bunts.  Sometimes the defense pitches out to determine what the offense intends or to trap the runner off third.  Never, have I seen a defense hold the runner on third by placing a fielder at third.  Leaving third base without a fielder precludes the pitcher from throwing to third to pick off the runner or to at least keep the runner close.

I guess somewhere during the long history of MLB an orthodoxy developed that the odds did not justify holding the runner on third.  Maybe that should be re-examined.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mantle Myth

New York Post writer Phil Mushnick slandered Yankee great Mickey Mantle on April 12, 2009 by describing Mickey's legendary base running play in game seven of the 1960 World Series.  Mickey evaded a tag, which allowed his teammate Gil McDougald to score the tieing run in the ninth inning.  Imagine the pressure.  A wrong move and the Yanks lose the WS.  Mickey made a creative split second decision.

Mickey's play gave Pirate second baseman Bill Mazeroski the chance to hit his WS winning homer in the bottom of the ninth and that got Maz into the Hall of Fame.

Here is my comment to Mushnick:

Matinale wrote:
Mantle Myth: You're an idiot. The audio on that blip of video on youtube says that Berra hit a shot. If you had done some research you would have learned that Berra did not hit a conventional grounder. Yogi hit a low line drive that might have been caught on a fly and Mantle might have been doubled off. Mickey was alert to that possibility because during Stengel's years as manager Mick must have been in that position hundreds of times. He had already started back when Nelson caught the ball and stepped on first. The rule is don't get doubled off. Make sure the line drives go through. Every coach tells that to the runner on first. Mantle made a great play. You embarrassed yourself.
5/12/2009 9:51 PM EDT

Perfect Pair: Roger Clemens and Brett Favre

Roger Clemens and Brett Favre should play catch with each other.

Each of these two insufferables is playing catch at high schools in their respective rural home areas pondering the meaning of life and whether they should remain retired or continue to come back until absolutely no one can stand the sight or sound of either of them.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Let starting pitchers throw until they reach their pitch count limit.

MLB managers remove pitchers when they are pitching well.  It happens all the time for various reasons.  Generally, I think that's a bad idea.  But what about removing a pitcher when he is pitching poorly?
In last night's Yankee game starter Phil Hughes was pitching poorly.  He could not get that third out in the second inning and Baltimore continued to score leading 6-0 with runners on base.   I thought that if I were managing I'd make Hughes throw until he reached his pitch count limit, partly to punish and toughen him, partly to save the weak bullpen for anther day.  Hughes had thrown only 53 pitches, probably little more than half his allotted total.  This had barely crossed my mind when unimaginative Yankee manager Joe Girardi popped out of the dugout and replaced Hughes with Edwar Ramirez.  Flash back to an earlier post here:
SATURDAY, JUNE 28, 2008
Girardi brought in Edwar Ramirez, who immediately allowed all three inherited runners to score.
Girardi and Ramirez can be a deadly combination.  Girardi and many relief pitchers can be a deadly combination.  Joey has an uncanny knack for bringing in the guy most likely to allow a hit to the first batter faced.  Or maybe all managers have that knack.
Sure enough, first batter whacks a double off Ramirez: 8-0 after two innings.  Ramirez threw three more innings (including three runs of his own) and 46 pitches, almost as many as Hughes.  Then came Albaladejo for two innings and 25 pitches followed by Tomko for one inning and 14 pitches.  Tomko had just joined the team as ... get this ... the long man.  I'll let that go for now.
MLB managers are constantly complaining that their starters do not go long enough and that their bullpens are weak.  There is no rule that says that a manager must remove a starting pitcher before he reaches his pitch count limit for that game.  If the cleanup batter strikes out with the bases loaded in the first inning the manager does not remove him for a pinch hitter the next time he is due to bat.  So why remove the starting pitcher so early?
Let starting pitchers throw until they reach their pitch count limit.  They will probably do no worse than their early inning replacements no matter how poorly the starter is pitching.  That keeps the bullpen fresh for its intended role.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

MLB should allow performance enhancing stuff.

A few days ago Major League Baseball (MLB), not baseball, suspended LA Dodger Manny Ramirez for 50 games because he tested positive for use of something that is banned because it might enhance a player's performance.

Manny being Manny is not nearly as bad as the propagation of non uniform playing areas.  See my original post and others on non uniform playing areas and why they undermine the integrity of MLB much more than steroids and other banned stuff.

I do not like Manny Ramirez.  I also dislike Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  Not because they used banned stuff but because they are obnoxious human beings.  Bonds and Clemens are also lieing weasels.  If they simply came clean and confessed, most Americans could move on and accept them more readily.  For me personally, it's the lieing that I cannot accept.  That was my problem with Pete Rose.  I would apply the same standard for these newer weasels: they must wait for consideration for the Hall of Fame for as long as they lied AFTER they stopped lieing.  Rose lied for 14 years.  Rose should wait 14 more years from the day that he finally admitted that he gambled as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.  For every day you lie, you wait a day.

These seem to be the reasons for opposing performance enhancing stuff:
1. some, such as steroids, are illegal;
2. they are against MLB rules ... because they are illegal;
3. they are unhealthy for the players;
4. they send the wrong message to kids;
5. it's cheating; 
6. we need a level playing field;
7. it's unfair to the clean players.

I'll address each of those.

1. In general, people should be allowed to ingest, inject, etc. anything they want.  Products should be subject to FDA regulations and taxed.  Legal does not necessarily mean over the counter.  It would be much safer to take things like steroids under the care of a doctor.  That would greatly reduce the chances that someone would drive to Mexico and buy a steroid of unknown quality.  The doctor could instruct the patient on dosage, use, side effects and long term risks.  These things are now left to rumor and worse.  Also, counselling by a doctor might even result in individuals deciding not to use.
Alcoholic beverages were prohibited by constitutional amendment from 1919 to 1933.  Babe Ruth and many, if not most, MLB players drank those prohibited beverages during those years.  It's too late to suspend them but why not ban them from the Hall of Fame?  The prohibited beverages were not performance enhancing but they were illegal.  If illegality is a key objection then it should apply in all cases including income tax evasion, spousal abuse, murder, etc.

2. Since I do not think that they should be illegal, I do not think that they should be against MLB rules.  The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLB players association makes the use of some performance enhancing stuff a violation of MLB rules with penalties for proven violations.  The banned stuff should not be banned even if it is illegal in the USA.  If players return home to Dominican Republic, Japan, China, etc. and they use stuff banned in the USA, that is not a violation of U.S. law and it should not be a violation of MLB rules.  My understanding of the MLB CBA is that players may not use banned stuff anywhere.

3. Steroids, etc. may be unhealthy for athletes.   Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are definitely unhealthy.  Athletes using banned stuff may increase health care costs for all.  Eating potato chips (fill in your favorite legal food)  increases health care costs far more because the fat and salt is consumed by far more people.  Did I mention tobacco and alcohol?

Being a world class athlete is unhealthy.  The players are not supermen.  Do we think that diving and crashing are healthy activities?  What about swinging a bat a million times.  What about pitching: throwing a ball 95 mph, throwing curves, etc.?  In the long run the players are punishing their bodies for our entertainment.  If we really cared about the health of the players we would want MLB to ban tobacco use, both smoking and chewing.  Some companies do ban smoking at any time, not just in the work place, figuring it increases health care costs for the company.

4. Samuel Johnson stated in 1775: "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."  Today he could include playing the kid card.  Parents should be role models for kids, not athletes or entertainers.  One problem is that many parents are using various forms of performance enhancing stuff.  Let's just leave the kids out of this discussion.

5. A violation of MLB rules could be called cheating.  It could simply be called a violation, which is somewhat less a pejorative.  I am against violating the rules.  However, this particular rule seems to strike a peculiar cord with some people making them irrational.  What about rules on the field?

Gaylord Perry pitched his way into the Hall of Fame from 1962 to 1983.  In 1974 he wrote a book indicating that he had thrown illegal pitches (spitballs) but that he would stop.  The sports writers elected Perry to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Some people can make themselves sick with revulsion over steroids.  They only consider something like Perry's violations when confronted.  They then state that spitballs are different.  In fact spitballs are considered gamesmanship, a cute entertaining part of baseball's charm.  Baloney.  It's cheating.  So is using an illegal bat as Sammy Sosa did.

6. The level playing field metaphor really bugs me.  If you want a level playing field, get rid of the mound.  After all the revelations about use of steroids, etc. does anyone think that fewer than 50% of players were using?  Most of us would put the percentage much higher.  If most players are using, the playing field is level.

7. If it's unfair to the clean players, then it's their own fault and I am not sympathetic.  While this argument is valid the reality is that clean players did nothing to change things.  From non-union guy Derek Jeter to union leader Tom Glavine, both Hall of Fame calibre players, the clean players never raised their voices, either publicly or privately.  Their reasons for remaining silent are irrelevant.
___________________________________

What to do?  Nothing.  Leave the records alone.  99% of those who get apoplectic about steroid use do it because of the home run record, which as I have indicated multiple times is undermined far more because of the non uniform playing areas.

Plus, pitchers have been shown to be as inclined to use banned stuff as batters.  No one seems concerned about strike out records. Roger  Clemens (4,672) and Randy Johnson (4,819) have been implicated.  Their career strike out records are exceeded only by Nolan Ryan's unreachable total of 5,714.  How come no one challenges Nolan Ryan?  He played long enough to have used steroids.  His longevity is suspicious.  Jose Canseco has admitted using steriods during his MVP season of 1988.  Ryan played from 1966 through 1993 (age 46).  Ryan and Canseco were even teammates in Texas for 22 games in 1992 and for 60 games in 1993.  Ryan's final seasons leading the league in strike outs were at the ages of 40, 41, 42, 43.  His previous age as league strike out leader was 32.  Ryan went seven years without being strike out king until he recovered the touch in 1987 at age 40.  Ryan pitched a record seven no hitters at these ages: 26, 26, 27, 28, 34, 43, 44.  This anecdotal evidence is completely ignored.  Did Nolan Ryan use banned and/or illegal stuff to enhance his performance?  I have no idea but I find it odd that the steroid zealots have such narrow vision.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

How to stop head hunting by pitchers.

Pitchers are lucky they have not already been replaced by t-ball. To discourage pitchers from hitting batters in the head, punish them. Pretty simple. So far MLB has not seriously considered that. Here is my plan for each occurrence in the pitcher's career: the pitcher is ejected from the game and suspended:
1. a week;
2. a year;
3. forever.
Intent should not be considered.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thinking Man's Guide to Managing a Pitching Staff - blogtalkradio

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/radicalbaseball/2009/05/04/1-Thinking-Mans-Guide-to-Managing-a-Pitching-Staff
See if you can download this to your iPod.  I do not have an iPod.  You don't have to listen but I'm curious about how this works.  Not sure if I will do more programs but it was interesting to do even one.
After I was done I was annoyed at myself for not also reading this post:
SATURDAY, JUNE 28, 2008 - Best relief pitcher in fifth inning.
I could have used it as reading my other four posts on the subject still left me short of the allotted 30 minutes and I had to ad lib.  It was tricky to perform all the functions alone, especially without a guest and with no callers.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Yanks provide more evidence that my pitching theory is correct.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi is sparking interest in my first talk radio program (see previous post) based on my blog entry here in February 2008: Thinking Man's Guide to Managing a Pitching Staff.
The basic idea is to get the optimum number of pitches from the best pitchers available in a particular game.  The simplest and most conventional way of doing this to use your best relief pitcher first, not last.  Girardi continues to show that he is no more innovative than his predecessor, Joe Torre, but without Torre's World Series championships.
Last night was May 1, 2009.  It rained during the entire game, which could have ended early because of the rain.  Even that did not inspire Girardi to use his relief pitchers in a different order.  Yanks won 10-9 with four runs in the eighth and two runs in the bottom of the ninth, so Girardi lucked out.  Here is the offending episode.
Top sixth, Yanks lead Angels 4-0.
Angels score 2.
Bases loaded, two out.
Starter Andy Pettitte is replaced by rookie Mark Melancon.
Gary Mathews hits first pitch for three run triple.
Abreu walks.
Melancon throws wild pitch allowing Mathews to score.
Hunter lines out to right.
Veras started the seventh and allowed three runs, retiring only one batter.  9-4 Angels after seven.
___________________________________________
Prior to last night's game Melancon had pitched three innings in his career: two innings April 26 and one inning April 28.
Melancon allowed all three inherited runners to score, plus one of his own.  Four runs.  One batter retired.  Girardi's move was a disaster.
Girardi never considered using Mariano Rivera in the sixth inning with the game on the line.  Who is more likely to get out of that bases loaded jam: Rivera or Melancon?  Who is more likely to benefit by starting an inning: Rivera or Melancon?
Rivera might have retired that final batter and prevented those three inherited runners from scoring.  He then could have pitched the seventh inning, maybe part of the eighth.  Maybe the rest of the game would have been rained out.
Girardi never got to use Rivera because Girardi followed the rigid formula that all MLB managers follow: the best the relief pitcher, known as the closer, almost always pitches only the ninth inning, only with a lead.  MLB managers maximize the number of pitches thrown by the team's worst pitchers, the middle inning relievers.  MLB managers should bring in their best relief pitcher first, then the next best and so on.  The idea is to not use the worst pitchers at all.  Instead MLB managers start with the worst hoping to get an opportunity to use the best.  MLB managers also put the worst pitchers into the most challenging situations.  MLB managers should put the best pitchers into the most challenging situations.  Starting the ninth inning is usually not the most challenging situation in most games.