Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How about a time limit?

MLB is so unimaginative that it has no plan to streamline the game and pack more action into less time. Here's something simple enough for MLB to implement. Limit the length of the games. Two scenarios: 1. Make the length three hours. Trailing teams will speed up ... a lot. Leading teams will need to be prevented by umps from needless delay. Yeah, I guess that should happen anyway. 2. End a game at a certain time. For a 7PM start, end it at 10PM. That would also eliminate the type of travesty that happens often such as in Thursday's Yankee-Oakland game. It was scheduled to start at 7PM. Because of rain, it started about 9:40PM. This makes a lot of sense for a four hour event that has at most 30 minutes of action.

What counts in pitch count?

MLB teams count the pitches thrown during a game for each individual pitcher so that the pitcher does not throw too many. This is to avoid injury. But what about other throws that day including: - pregame warm ups - between inning warm ups - throws to first to hold runners - fielding throws? Eight warm up pitches are allowed between innings. If a starting pitcher begins the sixth inning that is 5 * 8 = 40. Forty would be a lot relative to the normal pitch count, let's say 80 through five innings. If a pitcher takes fewer warm ups, shouldn't that be a factor in when he is removed? Pregame warm ups may vary a lot from pitcher to pitcher and even for an individual from start to start. Shouldn't that be a factor in when he is removed?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why the strike zone is a different shape but not smaller.

From my previous post: Note: The diagram also shows that the top of the strike zone is NOT the "midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants". The top horizontal line is clearly lower than the "midpoint", which helps explain the fattened but not smaller strike zone of recent seasons. Rule 2.00 (b): "if any part of the ball passes through any part of the strike zone" See the diagram of the batter's boxes: 

This diagram shows that the two batter's boxes are six inches from the 17 inch wide home base. The ball diameter is about 2.75 inches. If the edge of the ball forms a tangent with the edge of the strike zone then twice the ball diameter must be added to home base width to determine the true width of the strike zone: 17 + 2.75 + 2.75 = 22.5 inches. Note: Also deceptive about the geometry of baseball is that the 60 feet six inches from the pitcher's rubber to home is measured to the back of home base. Most people would judge the distance to the front, which is 60 feet six inches minus 17 inches = 59 feet one inch. I often see pitches called strikes that are tangent with the line of the batter's box, which makes them six inches outside the strike zone. I think this lower wider strike zone of recent seasons is what causes batters to "dive out over the plate". One solution is to bring back the old American League chest protectors for the umpire behind home so that the ump could stay directly behind home. This also provides more protection so that the ump does not need to hide behind the catcher, drifting back and forth at the catcher's whim, and not get a good view of pitches away.

Ah, the elusive strike zone

MLB website:

 The STRIKE ZONE is that area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants, and the lower level is a line at the hollow beneath the kneecap. The Strike Zone shall be determined from the batter’s stance as the batter is prepared to swing at a pitched ball. (For diagram of STRIKE ZONE see page 25.)

See my basic take on the absurdity of the strike zone:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 8, 2009 Imaginary strike zone.

However, even the basic definition is ambiguous. Which knee? Try to get an answer to that. It's like asking a basketball person what part of the rim is used as the target, the front or the back. All you get is a blank stare. Two general concepts that I think are backward:

1. Some pitches curve around home base. In the history of baseball I do not think any pitch has curved around home base. Yet, you hear this often.
2. That people in the dugout can judge whether a pitch is high or low. How can they if they do not know which knee is used?

The overhead TV camera shot proves my point number one, that pitches do not curve around home base. The side angle shot appears to show that some pitches pass the batter's front knee high enough to be strikes but that they drop below his back knee. So which knee is used to judge? The rule implies singular, not both knees. My common sense suggests the front knee, the knee facing the center field camera, which provides most TV images of pitched balls. However, the poor umpire behind home has the opposite view and sees the back knee, not the front knee. The diagram of the STRIKE ZONE on page 25 of the MLB document shows a horizontal line running through the bottom of both knees. If both knees are used then the back knee controls as pitches are almost always lower the further they are from the pitcher. Note: The diagram also shows that the top of the strike zone is NOT the "midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants". The top horizontal line is clearly lower than the "midpoint", which helps explain the fattened but not smaller strike zone of recent seasons.

Is the catcher optional?

Maybe it's in the MLB rules but I did not notice that a player is required to play catcher. Let's say there are two outs, no runners, two strikes on the batter. May the catcher move into fair territory to add a fielder? The pitch may hit the umpire behind home base but even if it does not, the third baseman can probably retrieve it before the batter can run to first if the batter intentionally swings and misses for strike three. Just asking.

Uniform A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organization while participating in that organization's activity. No player whose uniform does not conform to that of his teammates shall be permitted to participate in a game. Seems pretty simple to me but with MLB it must be a joke. Here are just a few common deviations on players on the same team: 1. pants: - worn to the knee - worn to the ankle - worn below the shoe 2. socks: - none - traditional baseball knickers with little of any white sanitary hose showing - traditional baseball knickers with lots of white sanitary hose showing - traditional baseball knickers worn mid calf - traditional baseball knickers worn from the knee 3. caps: - straight brim - curved brim - worn to the side - filthy/clean 4. random stuff written on the uniform by individuals 5. shoes: random in the extreme. And shouldn't teams with names that define part of the uniform be required to adhere to that? Shouldn't the Red Sox wear red socks? Shouldn't the White Sox wear white socks? Shouldn't the Reds wear red?

Why is home base such an odd shape? 1.05 Home base shall be marked by a five-sided slab of whitened rubber. It shall be a 17-inch square with two of the corners removed so that one edge is 17 inches long, two adjacent sides are 8½ inches and the remaining two sides are 12 inches and set at an angle to make a point. It shall be set in the ground with the point at the intersection of the lines extending from home base to first base and to third base; with the 17-inch edge facing the pitcher’s plate, and the two 12-inch edges coinciding with the first and third base lines. The top edges of home base shall be beveled and the base shall be fixed in the ground level with the ground surface. 1. Notice that it is defined as home base, not home plate. 2. Why not simply make it a square? The other bases are 15 inch squares. Home base could be a 17 inch inch square positioned like second base. Or 15 inch. Why is it a different size than the other bases as well as a different shape?

Friday, May 14, 2010

Home run as victory lap.

The over the fence home run is a team sport oddity. It is the only example in which a play is essentially over but the player is required to perform what can only be described as a victory lap. Why? The most cherished event in baseball is devoid of action once it has been defined. As I have written previously, all home runs should be inside the park.

Home Runs must be inside the park!  Sunday, May 24, 2009

Arena Baseball

Occasionally there is a derogatory comment about some of my ideas: arena baseball. It is intended as a play on words for arena football, a hybrid version of the NFL played with hockey style side boards. Using this pejorative is especially odd in that arena baseball was created the first time a barrier was used to limit and define the playing area, something that only hockey does. In basketball and football, when the ball goes out of bounds the play is over. In baseball it varies. Baseballs banging off fences in fair territory are in play. Isn't that arena baseball? Baseballs bouncing around in foul territory are usually in play. Isn't that arena baseball? Fair fly balls that carry over the outfield fences, which vary in distance from home plate and height, are home runs. Isn't that arena baseball?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

One month seasons!

That's it. Six 30 game, one month seasons! Why not? It makes as much sense as a playoff system. It makes a lot more sense than the silly MLB playoff system. A lot more sense. Each one month season could have separate MVP, home run leader, BA leader, etc. Cool.

Why are there playoffs in the other pro team sports?

 The National Hockey League has always used a playoff tournament to determine its champion, generally opening up its playoff games to a much larger number of teams, including those with a losing regular season record in some years. From the NHL's inception to 1920, when ownership of the Stanley Cup was shared between the NHL and the Pacific Coast Hockey Association the regular season was divided into two halves, with the top team from each half moving on to the league finals, which was a two-game total goals series in 1918 and a best-of-seven series in 1919. With the merger of the PCHA and WCHL in 1925 and its collapse in 1926, the NHL took sole control of the Stanley Cup, and from this point the NHL playoffs and the Stanley Cup playoffs are considered synonymous.

The newer NBA has had playoffs since 1950.

I could find no indication of why playoff systems were used. Hockey had the Stanley Cup between rival leagues. The NBA may have simply copied the hockey model. The NFL had a single championship game from 1933 through 1964 between the eastern and western conferences, similar to baseball's World Series structure.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Why are there playoffs?

Yesterday I heard Met announcer Keith Hernandez talking about Phillie Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts who had just died at 83. Almost as amazing as my listening to Met announcers was what Hernandez, the 1979 co-MVP in the NL said: that Roberts pitched in big games down the stretch in 1950 to get the Phillies into the playoffs.

The PLAYOFFS! And none of the other Met announcers corrected Hernandez. We're talking playoffs!? It was the late, great WORLD SERIES, Keith! The WORLD SERIES! The World Series has morphed into the MLB finals. Once upon a time there were two distinct leagues: National and American. They each had eight teams who played a 154 game schedule at the end of which the team with the most wins was awarded a symbolic flag or pennant. That was it. Then they decided to settle which league pennant winner was better. They played a best of seven games series (four seasons it was best of nine). That series became known as the World Series.

Then came franchise movement followed by expansion in 1961 and 1962. More expansion in 1969 to twelve teams in each league and the creation of the first divisions, east and west. Six teams in each division. Not bad. Initially, they played unbalanced schedules. In English that meant the common sense idea of playing more games against teams in their division than against the teams in the other division in the same league. Later came more expansion, then more and the creation in 1994 of the perversion that currently exists in MLB, Inc.: three mini divisions of four to six teams, a wild card and unbalanced inter-league play. It's difficult to imagine a more convoluted, unfair system. The NFL followed a similar path.

It is unclear why the NBA and NHL originally pioneered playoffs after the regular season. Here is the basic question. Other than the obvious greed factor, why are there playoffs? Determining the best team is best done over the most games. The fewer games played, the more likely that an inferior team will get lucky and win. Over a regular season of 162 games it becomes pretty clear which team is best. In 2009 it was the Yankees who co-incidentally also won the MLB finals. Here were the 2009 AL leaders in wins after 162 games and their division:

Yankees 103 East
Angels 97 West
Boston 95 East wildcard
Texas 87 West did not qualify for playoff
Minnesota 86 Central
Detroit 86 Central

Since Minnesota and Detroit were in the same division, they had a one game play-in to determine the Central division winner. Minnesota won and played the Yankees in a best of five first round series. Say what? The Yankees won 17 more of the 162 scheduled games and yet the Yankees had to risk their entire season on a best of five crap shoot in which the Yankees only reward was that game five, if necessary, would be played in Yankee Stadium. In the 2009 NL the Dodgers lead with 95 wins but lost to the 93 win Phillies in round two. Again, I ask: why have playoffs? Other than making more money for MLB, Inc., what purpose is served? Either:

1. Limit a playoff to the old World Series and match the NL win leader against the AL win leader.


2. Follow my previous suggestion and put all teams into the playoff with HEAVY weighting to favor teams the higher they are seeded.