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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What college football and the catcher have in common: they should be banned.

Malcolm Gladwell has been campaigning to get colleges to ban football.  You can do a Google search on "malcolm gladwell college football" and you'll get plenty of links.  Here is one to the Intelligence Squared debate.

Sunday I heard Malcolm interviewed by Fareed Zakaria on CNN.  Initially I was skeptical but Malcolm knows football and has been a fan.  Basically, he got to a point where he was appalled at his own involvement in an activity that is so dangerous to the players who are performing for our entertainment.

You know, like the baseball catcher, the dumbest position among the three American team sports.  Why does it still exist?  Because baseball fans refuse to behave responsibly and demand that it be banned.  We would rather continue with a basic mistake in the game's development over a hundred years ago and continue a barbaric practice, much like football.  Catchers being pounded in the head by foul balls over and over and over is unacceptable.  It's ridiculous, especially considering that the position is stupid.

Eliminating the catcher as I have long advocated allows for the low tech sure strike zone: a round or oblong target with rounded corners.  The catcher can be moved out of his box, given a glove and allowed to position himself anywhere in fair territory.  Beside the pitcher probably makes the most sense but it's not mandatory.

Of course, some of my other ideas would also need to be implemented, too.  Base runners are not allowed to leave the bag until the ball is hit.  Foul territory is extended 45 feet from home plate in a quarter circle.  The plate umpire is also removed from harm's way to behind the pitcher.

Added bonus: all this should speed up the game significantly by removing most of the dead time between pitches that sucks the life out of baseball.

The percent of fans who ever wanted to play catcher themselves is probably very low.

The percent of parents who would allow one of their children to play catcher is undoubtedly much lower.

So why is it OK for someone else to play catcher or for some other parent's child to play catcher?

Think about the football question.  Then think about the baseball catcher.  Think.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Six shutouts in one day. That's entertainment?

Saturday's games included six shutouts including Tampa over the Yankees at The Stadium 1-0.

Who the heck wants to see that?  Who actually thinks that a pitching duel is interesting much less entertaining.

The irony is that the only thing that kept the tenure of Major Baseball League (MBL) commissioner Allen Huber "Bud" Selig from being a 100% disaster was the high scoring and home run hitting fueled by steroid use.  Now Selig is denigrating his product trying to rid the MBL of steroids.  A byproduct: longer, more boring games with less action.

How is less better than more?

See post:
Sunday, July 28, 2013
Pitching duel or slugfest?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jeter as The Mick.

Mickey Mantle PH heroics following long absences: 1962 & 1963.  Sunday, June 26, 2011

Derek Jeter drove the first pitch he saw in the first inning into the first row in right center for a home run and a quick 1-0 Yankee lead off Tampa southpaw Matt Moore.  The Yankee captain had returned to shortstop on Hideki Matsui day and passed Phil Rizzuto as the oldest Yankee to play shortstop.

For that brief respite in an otherwise uninspiring season Jeter evoked the memory of Mickey Mantle to such an extent that as I watched the HDTV and Jeter rounded the bases I yelled:
 
"Like The Mick!"

"Like The Mick!"

"Like The Mick!"

I couldn't help it, shaking my fist in the air as I watched and yelling as I have not in a long time.

The parallels are more symbolic and emotional than exact but the feeling was certainly similar.  For an even older generation, it might have been the more general memory of Joltin' Joe DiMaggio emerging from his long absence from a heel injury in June 1949 to travel to Boston and personally pound the Red Sox into submission in all three games and help inspire that injury plagued Yankee team to the pennant and a World Series victory.

Jeter has certainly put the pressure on former best buddy and soon again to be teammate Alex Rodriguez and to a lesser extent Curtis Granderson.  How can A-Rod's return top Jeter's, unless he  homers with the bases loaded in the first inning or gets a walk off game winning hit as returned prodigal Alsonso Soriano, the Yankee traded to Texas for Rodriguez, did in actually winning yesterday's game with his fourth hit of the day in the bottom of the 9th?

Both Jeter and Rodriguez deserve more credit than they get.  They are 39 and 38 years old respectively.  Mantle in 1962 and DiMaggio in 1949 were 30 and 34.  That's a huge difference in baseball.  Jeter and Rodriguez work much harder at staying in shape and rehabilitating after injuries.  Despite already being paid unimaginable sums of money Jeter and Rodriguez struggle to play on, apparently without need of the many millions due on their contracts.

As far as we know Jeter and Rodriguez keep reasonable hours during the season, don't smoke (maybe an occasional cigar by A-Rod) and do not abuse their bodies with recreational drugs.  Mantle did not smoke but became an alcoholic.  DiMaggio smoked and drank.

There's still time for the Yankees to claim at least that second wild card spot in the Major Baseball League (MBL) tournament.  That's the one initially opposed by too long commissioner Allen Huber "Bud" Selig immediately following the naturally occurring play-in game in 2009 between Minnesota and Detroit.

A-Rod.  A-Rod.  Come back.  (Listen to the closing lines in the 1953 western movie Shane.)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Pitching duel or slugfest?

In order to show their baseball knowledge many baseball fans will say: pitching duel, pretending that a game with little action is preferable to a game with lots of action.  Let's consider game seven of two World Series each of which was decided by one run in the bottom of the ninth: 1960 and 2001.

Thursday, October 13, 1960, Forbes Field
Attendance: 36,683, Time of Game: 2:36 (156 minutes)
Pittsburgh 10, Yankees 9  Pirates led by 4 after 2, Yanks by 3 mid 8th, Pirates by 2 top 9th.

Sunday, November 4, 2001, Bank One Ballpark
Attendance: 49,589, Time of Game: 3:20 (200 minutes)
Arizona 3, Yankees 2.  Neither team led by more than one.

Right off the slugfest has an edge: time.  Forty-four fewer minutes to score four times as many runs:
1960 8.2 minutes per run
2001 40 minutes per run

Number of pitchers, pitches, batters faced:
1960 9, 254, 77
2001 6, 267, 71

Yikes.  More pitches in the pitching duel and almost as many batters faced.

Strike outs and walks:
1960 0, 5
2001 23, 1

Bobby Richardson 1960 WS MVP set RBI records
via Wikimedia Commons
OK, this is a bit loaded, given the 41 year gap between the games and devolution of baseball into a slow motion mess culminating with the regime of Allan Huber "Bud" Selig, commissioner of the Major Baseball League (MBL).  It's also a bit unfair to compare a game played by Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra and one played by ...

The 1960 game ended when Ralph Terry, who had gotten the last out in the 8th inning, gave up a home run to Bill Mazeroski leading off the bottom of the 9th breaking a 9-9 tie.  Left fielder Yogi Berra was the closest fielder to the ball as it landed in the stands.  It was the 24th hit of the game.

The 2001 game ended when Mariano Rivera was asked to pitch a second inning, having already pitched the 8th.  Rivera retired only one batter in the 9th and that was on an unsuccessful attempt at a sacrifice bunt.  In the 8th and 9th innings Rivera wound up throwing a whopping 28 pitches!  No wonder he got tired.  The winning hit was a bloop single by Luis Gonzalez (57 homers in 609 at bats that season) over the drawn in infield.  Shortstop Derek Jeter was the closest fielder as the ball floated into very short center field.  It was the 15th hit of the game.

Rivera blew both the save and the game in the same inning.  That may be the only time that ever happened in a World Series game seven.  It's certainly the biggest blown save in baseball history.  You live by the 9th inning, you die by the 9th inning.

So which game would you have preferred attending?  That should be a rhetorical question.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Steroid zealots and weasels.

Arbitrator Becomes a Baseball Power
By STEVE EDER
Published: July 26, 2013 in The New York Times

Major League Baseball’s investigators have been ... trying to prove that they (players) violated the league’s antidoping rules...  But the success of baseball’s efforts ...  Horowitz is baseball’s new arbitrator ...  Commissioner Bud Selig is expected to issue a number of suspensions ... lawyers for the accused can examine baseball’s evidence ...

It was a year ago that Horowitz was tapped to succeed Shyam Das as baseball’s arbitrator. Das was fired by baseball in the wake of his February 2012 decision to overturn a 50-game suspension of Braun that was based on a positive drug test.
_______________________________________

The writer mentioned  Major League Baseball only once but used the word baseball several times to refer to the corporate entity.  That would never happen with the National Football League (NFL) or the National Basketball Association (NBA), which is one reason why I refer to the baseball entity as the Major Baseball League (MBL).  The other reason is that the old American League and the old National League merged in 1999.

The other salient point quoted above is that the MBL fired the previous arbitrator because it did not like his decision.

Examples of steroid zealots and weasels:

Zealots: Milwaukee fans upset about Brewer Ryan Braun copping a plea and agreeing to be suspended for the remainder of this season for unspecified offenses but not caring or wondering about former Packer Brett Favre playing until the age of 40.  Any chance Favre used steroids?  Any chance he didn't?

Weasels: Ryan Braun for not indicating his offense.  There's precedent, primarily Jason Giambi, who last off season was interviewed for the job as Colorado manager.  Giambi's current manager in Cleveland, Terry Francona, has stated that Giambi would make a good manager.  Small time weaseling works.

Big time weaseling does not work.  See Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and the latest and greatest poster boy, Alex Rodriguez.  Alex-Rod will never cop and will always appeal, at least a suspension.

I've written many times about the silliness and hypocrisy displayed by the baseball steroid zealot fans, whipped up by the media zealots, but only about baseball, not football.  Thus the use the word baseball as a synonym for the MBL.  Baseball steroid zealots are only concerned about home runs, even though those are the events most impacted by the non-uniform playing areas, unique to the ancient game of baseball.   Baseball steroid zealots refuse to even consider making home run distances uniform in all directions in all parks.  That's a pretty odd combination of views.

My guess is that the current investigation will blow up in the face of MBL commissioner Allen Huber "Bud" Selig who characteristically is mismanaging in the extreme.  Selig is denigrating his product with his intended outcome very doubtful.  Paying witnesses undermines their credibility.  Selig might even make Alex-Rod a sympathetic figure.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Alex Rodriguez v. Derek Jeter rehab & quad treatment by the Yankees.

Before it hit the media fan in recent days, was I the only Yankee fan who wondered why Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter seemed to be getting different treatment from Yankee management?

For rehab games:
Rodriguez: AA Trenton, then AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Jeter: AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

Then Jeter was activated and injured his quadriceps in his only game.  He then stayed with the Yankees and did physical therapy with the team even on the road.  Jeter is on the disabled list (DL), due off Saturday.

Rodriguez has not played for the Yankees this season.  He indicated that he, too, had injured his quadriceps.  The Yankees wanted a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and you can read your favorite tabloid version of events associated with this.

I'm not into gossip, especially the sordid detailed stuff that's been floating around.  But as a Yankee fan I had thought it odd that Jeter was with the team and Rodriguez was not.

Rodriguez has played nine seasons with the Yankees, won two MVP awards as a Yankee and is the all time Yankee third baseman, as Jeter is the all time Yankee shortstop. Rodriguez plate appearances:
Yankees 5,476
Seattle 3,515
Texas 2,172 (one MVP)

Clearly, Rodriguez is a Yankee.  So what's the problem?  Primarily it is Rodriguez himself.  Tomorrow Rodriguez will be 38 years old, yet he is still unsure of himself and still awkward socially.  He seems to have become aware of twitter rather late and his advisers should advise him not to use it.  Rodriguez seems to get under the skin of some people.

Then there are the steroids.  Rodriguez appears to have used steroids, lied about that and now, maybe repeated that pattern.  Bad but ultimately a big fat so what except for the under the skin stuff already mentioned.

As a practical matter my non-lawyer's view is that the Major Baseball League (MBL) will have a very difficult time making a case for suspension and an even more difficult time justifying a suspension to an arbitrator after Rodriguez appeals.  Paying witnesses, as the MBL did, will not play well on appeal.

All of which makes the Yankees dealings with Rodriguez all the more puzzling until we consider the Steinbrenner factor.  It was the late George who paid a weasel named Howie Spira to dig up dirt on nine year Yankee Dave Winfield, since inducted into the Hall of Fame.  The Steinbrenner kids (actually four adults) now seem to have a similar situation, regretting a big contract paid to a player and ultimately being disappointed by that player's inability to deliver championships.  Rodriguez was instrumental in the Yankees winning in 2009 but has disappointed overall.

There is also the rift between the Steinbrenner kids, primarily Hal and the vanquished Hank, and general manager Brian Cashman who grows more arrogant by the day.  Cashman correctly thought that extending the already bloated Rodriguez contract inherited from Texas was ill advised but Yankee president Randy Levine, whose function and value are still unclear, gave Rodriguez the extra years and money that now so burden the Yankees.

Which brings us to an age old baseball oddity, that of denigrating the product.  Rodriguez will probably wind up playing for the Yankees this season.  The Yankees are three games out of the second wild card spot and Rodriguez could clearly be the difference.  So far Yankee players at third base have hit four home runs.  Rodriguez could probably do that playing only in September.

So unless the paranoia of Rodriguez has some further validity, like the Yankees don't want him to play so that an insurance company will pay him instead of the Yankees, then all parties should come to terms.

Yankee captain Derek Jeter could exert some influence but, as usual, shows no such inclination.  Oh captain, my captain!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

World Series pitch counts and (SO+BB) per batter faced.

In the final World Series game, both have trended up, which would make games take longer to play and be more boring.  Exacerbating this is the obvious increase in dead time between pitches.  Plus, more time between each of the minimum 17 half innings for more commercials.

Click link to view data and graphs.  Each season has two bars, one for each of the two teams.  Between 2011 and 1976 missing seasons: 1999, 1994.  1965 and 1960 are tacked onto the end because pitch counts were available in baseball-reference.com, the source.

Worst individual:
2007 4.32 BOS

Worst combined and also tied for worst individual:
2009 4.26 NYY
2009 4.26 PHI

Only teams under 3 pitches per batter faced:
1985 2.88 KCR
1976 2.82 CIN
1965 2.58 MIN
______________________________________________

19604.76%PIT
19608.57%NYY

Astonishingly low.

Only these indiviual teams had percentages of (SO+BB)/BF below 10:
1985 6.25% KCR
1982 9.09% STL
1979 9.76% BAL

Worst:
1997 44.19% FLA

Softball pitcher failed in PCL in 1955.

Bob Fesler was a softball pitcher who pitched 7.66 innings in the open class Pacific Coast League (PCL) in 1955 for the Seattle Rainiers who finished first at 95-77.  They played in Sick's Stadium.

A friend sent this to me: WAYBACK MACHINE: THE BOB FESLER EXPERIMENT

Be warned.  The writer may have set a non-Olympic year record for extraneous information.

The main point is that a guy who was great throwing a softball underhand from 45 feet failed with a baseball at 60 feet.  Part of it was the junk of holding runners, which he did not need to do in softball.

But Fesler was very wild throwing a baseball.  The article suggests that the increased distance was the reason.  Probably.  But another factor may have been the ball.  A softball is 12 inches in circumference, much larger than a baseball.

I have suggested that some sad sack Major Baseball League (MBL) teams try softball pitchers.  It was tried at least this one time and failed.

Some extraneous information: Major league players, past and future, on that 1955 Seattle team:
Ewell Blackwell
Ryne Duren
Larry Jansen
Lou Kretlow
Jerry Priddy
Vern Stephens

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Managers minds are constipated.

Geez, give these guys a brain laxative.  Their thinking is all clogged up.

Sunday, July 21, 2013
Mariano Rivera's use in Saturday's Yankee game shows the absurdity of the closer role.

Heading to the bottom of the 8th the Yankees led 4-2.  Boston had the top of its batting order coming up.  That's the situation in which a manager should use his team's best relief pitcher (Mariano Rivera)...

Yankee manager Joe Girardi, no risk taker, used David Robertson in the 8th.  (Rivera in the 9th)
________________________________

In last night's Yankee game in Texas, Rangers manager Ron Washington did the same thing that Girardi had done: he held his "closer" Joe Nathan until the 9th.  Nathan blew both the save and the game but that's beside the point.

Washington brought in lefty Neal Cotts to face Yankee batters 1, 2, 3 in the 8th, which is when one would reasonably expect the Yankees would have their best opportunity to overcome a 4-3 deficit.  OK, there was the mitigating factor that the first four Yankee batters are lefty but the first three can hit lefty pitchers: Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki, Robinson Cano.

That seems to be be universally true.  If you're trailing late, hope that your best hitters happen to come up before the 9th.  They will definitely face someone other your opponent's best relief pitcher.

A little icing on this cake.  When the Yankees rallied in the 9th against Nathan, Girardi got his bullpen up.  BOTH his 8th inning setup guy David Roberson AND 9th inning closer Mariano Rivera.  BOTH at the same time.  As soon as the Yankees took the lead, Robertson sat down.  Had the game remained tied, I'm sure Rivera would have sat down.  Rivera pitched the 9th and "saved" the game.

You can't make up stuff like this.  These managers can't think for themselves.  They just follow the formula.  They're not needed during the game.  They're robots.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What's killing baseball: steroids or dead time?

See the recent posts about all the dead time between pitches.

The inept commissioner and all the owners are at fault. 

The media is also to blame.  It is currently chasing the most recent steroid story, that of former MVP Ryan Braun copping a plea and letting himself be suspended for the remainder of the season.

The media people should be pounding away at the big story of the moment, that near five hour monstrosity on ESPN Sunday night.  Instead they are blathering about stupid steroids.

Which makes baseball more boring:
- steroid use
- dead time between pitches?

Obviously, it's a rhetorical question.  What fan avoids baseball because of steroids?  What fan avoids it because it has devolved into a boring mess?

Has any industry berated its own product for as long as baseball?  The rulers of the Major Baseball League (MBL) are now after Alex Rodriguez as the other big fish to fry along with Braun.  At least they're not continuing to disproportionately target players from the Dominican Republic.  Braun is a star and Rodriguez an all time great.

Today The New York Times quoted Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte as supporting Rodriguez because he is a teammate.  Conspicuous by his absence in specifically supporting Rodriguez was Derek Jeter, who many years ago before they were teammates was best buddies with Rodriguez.

Football and basketball do not denigrate their players as baseball has traditionally done for decades, through different eras.  Baseball owners, as a group, are more primitive, more primal in their view of their charges.

And what about those of us who are baseball fans?  Maybe we are the most to blame.  Most of us follow all three team sports.  Who doesn't think that just about all non-kickers in football use steroids or equivalent?  Were we concerned about steroid use when backs ran for 2,000 yards or quarterbacks threw for 4,000 yards?  No, we were only concerned when baseball players hit 50 homers too often.

Are we really that stupid, that gullible that we blindly follow the media obsession with the steroid story in baseball, almost to the exclusion of football and basketball?  Sure, media people periodically dive into steroids, etc. in cycling and (track and field).  Big deal.  Americans don't care about cycling and only about a few events in (track and field) and even then only in passing.

Baseball is more ingrained in our American culture and for a longer time than football and basketball.  Without realizing it we treat baseball differently even as we let it die a slow death, with players mostly standing around, preening, scratching, spitting, obsessing, ... anything but actually playing.  All this while we fans sit and wait.  Or look for other things to do.

We do other things while we watch and wait.  Then instead of waiting.  Maybe we fans are the ones who need the steroids, just to stay alert enough to follow 17 minutes of action spread over four hours.

Two hours, 36 minutes for the greatest game of all time: Pirates 10, Yankees 9.

Let's throw game seven of the 1960 World Series into the mix from yesterday's post.

Monday, July 22, 2013
Four hours, 46 minutes for eleven innings. That's entertainment?

Pitches thrown:
Yankees 459
Red Sox 452
total  911

In 1967 and 1968 I attended twi-night (game one started about 5:00PM) doubleheaders in which game two went into extra extra innings...

Let's examine the three extra innings games mentioned above.

1967 20 innings: 6 hours, 9 minutes (369 minutes) 369/20=18.5 minutes per inning
1968 19 innings: 5 hours, 4 minutes (304 minutes) 304/19=16 minutes per inning
2013 11 innings: 4 hours, 46 minutes (286 minutes) 286/11=26 minutes per inning
____________________________________________

The 1967 and 1968 games were low scoring while the Sunday night near five hour assault on baseball played in Fenway Park was Red Sox 8, Yankees 7 in 11 innings.

Attendance: 36,683, Time of Game: 2:36
Pirates 10, Yankees 9

That's 156 minutes divided by 9 innings = 17 minutes per inning

That is in line with the two extra long games a few years later.  For more context, that 1960 WS game had only five walks and no strike outs.  NO STRIKE OUTS!  That's one of the reasons I consider it the greatest game of all time.  Walks and strike outs increase the number of pitches, which, of course, increases the time.

Another time factor is that Bill Mazeroski homered off Ralph Terry on the second pitch in the ninth to win the game, so the inning is abbreviated.  If we add another ten minutes we have about 18 minutes per inning.

So what happened in the last 50 years or so to increase the length of games and reduce their entertainment value?  Does it matter?  It happened.  I could excoriate the inept commissioner yet another time but all the owners are at fault.  They have let their product, entertainment, call it what you will become less interesting.  What kind of people do that?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Four hours, 46 minutes for eleven innings. That's entertainment?

Last night Red Sox 8, Yankees 7 in 11 innings.  Mike Napoli hit his second homer of the game with two out to win it.

Sunday, July 21, 2013, 8:05pm, Fenway Park
Attendance: 38,138, Time of Game: 4:46

It took almost five hours.

I recorded the game and set my DVR for four hours.  The recording didn't even include all of the ninth inning.

Pitches thrown:
Yankees 459
Red Sox 452
total  911

Brett Gardner walked in the 7th; it took 15 pitches and about ten minutes.  That's about three pitches every two minutes.

For most of baseball history a doubleheader meant that one crowd or group of fans watched two games.  In 1967 and 1968 I attended twi-night (game one started about 5:00PM) doubleheaders in which game two went into extra extra innings.

Tuesday, August 29, 1967 Yankee Stadium, Attendance: 40,314.  It was also the night of the final episode of the TV series "The Fugitive".

Game one Time of Game: 2:10
Red Sox 2, Yankees 1
Tom Tresh homered off Jim Lonborg in the 7th for the only Yankee run.  Mel Stottlemyre lost.  Both pitchers threw all 9 innings.

Game two: Time of Game: 6:09
Yankees 4, Red Sox 3 in 20 innings
Boston scored in the 11th but Steve Whitaker homered off Sparky Lyle, then pitching for Boston, in the bottom of the 11th to continue the game, much to the chagrin if my cousin Richie who knew I wouldn't leave until the end, which came at about 2:30AM.  Jim Bouton pitched five scoreless innings in relief for his first win of 1967.  Carl Yastrzemski was 0 for 6.

Boston won the pennant.
__________________________________

The American League realized that it had a problem and instituted a curfew: no inning could start after 1:00 AM.

Friday, August 23, 1968, Yankee Stadium, Attendance: 33,880

Game one: 5:06PM, Time of Game: 2:23
Yankees 2, Detroit 1
Stan Bahnsen beat Earl Wilson.  Wilson homered in the 5th.  Bahnsen pitched a complete game.  Mickey Mantle went 0 for 3 playing first base.

Game two: 8:03PM, Time of Game: 5:04
Yankees 3, Tigers 3  tie game, 19 innings
Roy White homered in the 8th off Fred Lasher to tie it.  Lindy McDaniel pitched seven perfect innings (9 through 15) in relief for the Yankees.  Mickey Mantle PH for Gene Michael with one out in the 9th and singled to left off John Hiller.  That was the last time I saw Mantle play in person.

The game was made up two days later by playing an entirely new game as part of a Sunday doubleheader, which the Yankees swept.  Pressed for pitchers, the Yankees used Rocky Colavito in game one to relieve starter Steve Barber in the 4th; Colavito pitched 2.66 innings and was the winning pitcher.  McDaniel pitched two shutout innings for the save.  The Yankees also won the Saturday game for a four game sweep.

Detroit won the pennant, the last before divisions were formed and the start of a playoff system.
________________________________

Let's examine the three extra innings games mentioned above.

1967 20 innings: 6 hours, 9 minutes (369 minutes) 369/20=18.5 minutes per inning
1968 19 innings: 5 hours, 4 minutes (304 minutes) 304/19=16 minutes per inning
2013 11 innings: 4 hours, 46 minutes (286 minutes) 286/11=26 minutes per inning

What the heck?  Outside of Boston and New York, who the heck would watch that entire eleven inning mess last night?  In fact inside Boston and New York, who under the age of 75 would watch it all?

Read the previous post about Bud Selig's legacy: dead time between pitches.

Bud Selig's legacy: dead time between pitches.

Allan Huber "Bud" Selig, commissioner of  "baseball" as the main stream media would call him, has done more harm to baseball than any commissioner back to and including Kenesaw Mountain Landis who started commissioning in 1920.

Selig has allowed the time between pitches to increase ... a lot.  I cannot prove this, nor document the extent of the increase, but I believe it to be true.  That has been the single biggest detriment to baseball of all time.

This dead time, which cannot even generate revenue, slows the pace of the game.  Even if players benefited from this extra time, which I do not believe they do, it reduces the entertainment value of a baseball game.

Friday I tried watching the Yankee game in Boston on live TV.  I couldn't take it.  Pretty much every batter walks around between pitches.  Pitchers also take plenty of time to throw the next pitch.  After watching this for a while I kept asking: what is he doing?  Why?  Batters step out even with no runners on base.  They do not even look to the third base coach for a sign.  It's completely pointless, a nonsensical technique promoted by coaches as a demonstration that they are earning their coaching salaries.

I recorded the rest of the game and watched it the next day, fast forwarding between pitches, a tedious  but essential task, that at least makes the game somewhat watchable, though not enjoyable.

People much younger than I will not bother.  They will do other things.  Pretty much any other things.

Bud Selig is presiding over the slow death of what was once the great national pastime of the United States of America.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Mariano Rivera's use in Saturday's Yankee game shows the absurdity of the closer role.

Mariano Rivera pitched his one and only inning, the 9th, in Saturday's 5-2 Yankee victory in Boston.  The maximum lead that a pitcher may protect and get credit for a save is three.

Heading to the bottom of the 8th the Yankees led 4-2.  Boston had the top of its batting order coming up.  That's the situation in which a manager should use his team's best relief pitcher.  Supposedly the Yankees have the best relief pitcher of all time.  You may want to differentiate and classify Rivera as the best closer of all time, the closer being the relief pitcher who starts the 9th inning with a lead of 1, 2 or 3 runs.

So what to do?  The dilemma is to decide between these two alternatives:
- do the logical thing and pitch Rivera in the 8th in a "hold" situation
- do the illogical and pitch your second best relief pitcher in the 8th.

The obvious advantage of retaining Rivera until the 9th is that the manager avoids the media slings and arrows in case something goes wrong.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi, no risk taker, used David Robertson in the 8th.  Robertson retired the side in order.  In the top of the 9th the Yanks scored a run so that Rivera was pitching to batters 4-5-6 with a three run lead.  Shouldn't just about any pitcher in the Yankee bullpen be able to hold that lead and get credit for a save?  Rivera "saved" the game allowing one single while throwing 16 pitches.  Robertson had thrown only SEVEN pitches and could easily have pitched the 9th.

But suppose that Robertson allowed a couple of base runners but held Boston scoreless.  Then Rivera would have been facing batters 6-7-8, a task even easier than the one he actually encountered.

Girardi also ran a risk similar to the one Jim Leyland ran while managing the All Star game: that Rivera's entrance into the game could have been rendered meaningless.  Maybe the Red Sox would blow open the game against Robertson in the 8th.  Or maybe the Yankees blow open the game in the 9th.

Thursday, July 18, 2013
Mariano Rivera's use in the All Star game shows the absurdity of the closer role.

In that post I exposed the silliness of Leyland's reason for using Rivera in the 8th inning.  However, during Friday's Yankee - Red Sox game Yankee announcer Michael Kay specifically agreed with Leyland and color man David Cone, a former Cy Young award winner, agreed.

All of this can be classified into constipated thinking that relegates baseball into an increasingly shallow place.  Nothing new.  Nothing imaginative.  Nothing creative.  Nothing inventive.

 Just orthodoxy, no matter how tired and boring.  Casey Stengel must be turning over in his grave.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mariano Rivera's use in the All Star game shows the absurdity of the closer role.

Mariano Rivera was brought into the All Star game in the 8th inning with his American Conference team leading 3-0.  Rivera usually pitches one and only one inning, the 9th, which he starts.  Thank you Tony LaRussa for establishing this junk with Dennis Eckersley in Oakland and St. Louis.

So why did Rivera pitch an inning early.  According to The New York Times writer David Waldstein:

It was A.L. Manager Jim Leyland who arranged to have Rivera enter in the eighth rather than risk saving him for his usual role in the bottom of the ninth. Leyland’s fear was that if the N.L. rallied in the bottom of the eighth, took the lead and closed out the game in the top of the ninth, Rivera would never get in.
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What?  Jim Leyland was the Pittsburgh manager of Barry Bonds through 1993 who often batted Bonds fifth.  Leyland could have used Joe Nathan in the 8th.  Even if Nathan put the first three batters on base, there is no way he could have let the National Conference take the lead without Leyland replacing him with Rivera.

Apparently Leyland is so unimaginative and/or locked into the LaRussa closer orthodoxy that the idea of using the man who supposedly is the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the galaxy with runners on base never even occurred to Leyland.

Rivera, like Eckersley, will ride that horse into the Hall of Fame with barely more innings pitched than Babe Ruth (1,221).  Rivera has 1,254 including 34 this season and he probably won't pitch more than another 30.    Rivera last pitched 70 innings in 2008; fewer since.

2009 66
2010 60
2011 61
2012 8 (Injured)

This closer thing is a joke.  In Rivera's last full season CC Sabathia was the only Yankee pitcher with over 200 innings: 237.  Rivera's 61 amounts to 26% of Sabathia's.

162 games multiplied by 9 innings equals 1,458 innings.  61 divided by 1,458 = 4.2%.  That's what Rivera impacts, 4.2% of the innings pitched by his team.  And he doesn't even enter with runners on base.

What a joke.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Age of a player may vary depending on date v. season.

Ted Williams had the most home runs for a player over 40: 28 in his final season of 1960.  That was something a friend had seen in a newspaper and mentioned a couple of days ago.  Today I ran a query to check, except I couldn't remember it accurately and looked for batters (40 and over), not over 40.  Here is what I found.

Rk Player HR Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Darrell Evans 34 1987 40 DET AL 150 609 499 90 128 20 0 99 100 8 84 2 2 6 2 6 5 .257 .379 .501 .880 *3D/5
2 Ted Williams 29 1960 41 BOS AL 113 390 310 56 98 15 0 72 75 7 41 3 0 2 7 1 1 .316 .451 .645 1.096 *7
3 Barry Bonds 28 2007 42 SFG NL 126 477 340 75 94 14 0 66 132 43 54 3 0 2 13 5 0 .276 .480 .565 1.045 *7/D
Generated 7/16/2013.

Then I decided to check their birthdays because I had always thought that Williams retired at 42, not 41.

Evans: Born: May 26, 1947; Final Game: October 1, 1989 (Age 42)
Williams: Born: August 30, 1918; Final Game: September 28, 1960 (Age 42)
Bonds: Born: July 24, 1964; Final Game: September 26, 2007 (Age 43)

baseball-reference.com uses June 30 as the cutoff for assigning an age to a player's season.  If the player's birthday is June 30 or earlier, he seems a year older.  If his birthday is after June 30, he seems a year younger.  See Derek Jeter (June 26, 1974: 39) and Alex Rodriguez (July 27, 1975: 37), only 13 months apart.

Fair enough.  Database work is difficult enough and baseball-reference.com needs to handle this and it's a reasonable way to assign an age to a particular season for a player since June 30 is both half way through the year and the season.  However, baseball-reference.com handles retirement age exactly, using the player's actual age on the day he retired.

Since both Williams and Bonds retired after their birthdays, and because their birthdays are after June 30, their age at retirement is one year older than their age in their final season.

The same seems to apply to a play's age in his first game, his debut.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Catcher: do you want him to be one of your best hitters?

Joe Mauer and Buster Posey are compared in this post:

Sunday, February 10, 2013
Maximize lefty batter advantage: get a lefty batting catcher.

catchers:

1. get injured more
2. need more rest so that they do not get injured or wear down...

Mauer was age 26 in 2009 when he was AC MVP and led the AC in BA for the third and final time as well as achieving his personal high in home runs (HR) with 28.  Mauer hit 13 HR in 2005 and 10 in 2012 his only other seasons in double figures.

Posey was 25 in 2012 and he was credited by some with having the highest NC BA.  Posey hit 24 HR.  In his only other season with at least 100 games played (108) Posey hit 18 HR in 2010 in 406 at bats (AB).

So, two modern MVP catchers who led in BA, and had a personal best in HR...

Best bet is get a good hitting lefty catcher but not one who is among your best batters because you'll be tempted and/or coerced into over paying him as Minnesota did with Mauer whose best value is as a really good hitting catcher who unfortunately gets injured and/or needs rest.
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Hall of Famers Yankee Yogi Berra and Dodger Roy Campanella each won the MVP award three times in five years, 1951-1955 when their teams won seven pennants and four World Series.  That was the height of catcher dominance and influence.  However, with players being paid so much money does it make sense to put too much money into the catcher?  I say no.  It's too risky.  That risk outweighs the reward of having a good to great hitter in the most demanding fielding position.

Monday, July 15, 2013

No-hitter: individual or team accomplishment?

How Big A Deal Is A No-Hitter?  Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pitchers only retire batters they strike out.  The other players retire the batters who put the ball in play except for those rare occasions when a pitcher actually makes a fielding play...

a massive number of strike outs seems to me to be much more of an accomplishment for the pitcher who actually retired those batters without any help.
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With a No-Hitter on the Line, Balancing Between Health and History
By ANDREW KEH and JAY SCHREIBER
Published: July 14, 2013 The New York Times

Managers probably cringed a bit when Tim Lincecum threw 148 pitches during the first no-hitter of his career Saturday night..

Mets Manager Terry ... Collins .. confronted a similar quandary last year, when Johan Santana threw 134 pitches — a total that, like Lincecum’s, was the most in his career — to record the first no-hitter in Mets history, and the first of his career

The last pitcher to throw more pitches than Lincecum did Saturday was Edwin Jackson, who, as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, threw 149 in June 2010 in his eight-walk no hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays...

But according to Baseball-Reference.com, Lincecum barely creeps into the bottom of the list of the 300 pitchers who have thrown the most pitches in a game since 1916...

Sandy Koufax ... threw 205 pitches (third highest on the list) against the Chicago Cubs in a 13-inning, 3-2 victory against them in September 1961 ...

Warren Spahn, another Hall of Fame left-hander, had games in which he threw 184, 183, 174 and 169 pitches, all between 1948 and 1953.
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First an aside.  There'a a list!?  Say what?  Does everyone know about this list but me?  Where the heck is it and how the heck could it have been created?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Marichal v. Spahn July 2, 1963: pitch counts.

Tom Tango developed a pitch count estimator...

I played with it ...

For this legendary 16 inning game:

Pitches per batter faced:
Marichal 3.61
Spahn 3.07

xPCE:
Marichal 217
Spahn 172
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Do actual pitch counts exist for this game?

I just ran an ad hoc query at baseball-reference.com and found 215 games that matched this criteria: From 1916 to 2013, (requiring H=0), sorted by most recent date.

Games as short as five innings are included.

No pitchers are mentioned, just team stats including: Pit, which when I put the cursor over it reveals:

"Number of pitches in the PA.
Click to see the pitch-by-pitch sequence."

There are pitch counts for every no-hitter going back to Reds over Dodgers 9/16/1988.  Then none until no-hitter 133 (going backwards in time): Dodgers over Cubs 9/9/1965; I'm guessing Koufax.  Remember, no pitchers are listed.

Then more sporadic data with the final no-hitter with a pitch count: game 169 of the 215, Brooklyn Dodgers over New York Giants 9/9/1948, 116 pitches.  I looked up that one because it was my birth year: Rex Barney no-hit the Giants in the Polo Grounds.  No pitch counts for no-hitters 170-215.

Of the 81 no-hitters for which we have pitch counts, at least this number of pitches in this many games:
130: 14
120: 30
110: 51
100: 66

Of the 15 games below 100, two were 5 innings, one was 6 innings.
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OK, back to the subject of this post.  Why all the anguish?  If a possible no-hitter were treated like any other game, the starting pitcher would leave pretty much when he usually would and relief pitchers would try to complete the no-hitter.  Would the suspense and excitement be that much less?  OK, aside from draining the life out of the game during the pitcher change ritual?

Wednesday, June 11, 2003, 7:05PM, Yankee Stadium II
Attendance: 29,905, Time of Game: 2:52

This one is not shown on the YES network.  The Houston Astros no-hit the Yankees 8-0.  Winning pitcher: Brad Lidge, the fourth of six Astro pitchers.  The other five pitchers?  Who cares?  The ASTROS no-hit the Yankees, not an individual pitcher.  They threw 151 pitches, most for any no-hitter.

So what if Giants manager Bruce Bochy had removed Tim Lincecum after 114 pitches, the most Lincecum had thrown previously in 2013, and turned it over to the bullpen?  Would Bochy be excoriated?  Would he be praised?  Would he set a modern precedent that relieves all the copy-cat managers and allows them to do the same thing?

I can understand leaving a staring pitcher in the game because you don't trust the relief pitchers and you want to win the game.  In the late 1960s I became convinced that a tired Mel Stottlemyre was better than a fresh Dooley Womack.

In his World Series perfect game Don Larsen threw 97 pitches.  Yankee manager Casey Stengel needed to win that game as the series was tied 2-2.  Stengel was not concerned with the pitch count or whether Larsen got credit for a perfect game, a term with which Larsen was not even familiar after the game.  Larsen benefited from a great catch by Mickey Mantle in left center against Gil Hodges and a ricochet off third baseman Andy Carey to shortstop Gil McDougald who threw out Jackie Robinson. Also, Duke Snider hit a long foul home run.  So was this an individual or team accomplishment?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Baseball Bubble.

There's a general sports bubble and one specific to baseball.

The bundling of television programs, particularly sports, for transmission by service providers like cable, phone and satellite companies will eventually break down, probably due to technological innovation rather than government regulation.  However it happens, sports networks will receive less money relative to total amount than currently resulting in less money to be paid to sports leagues.

As time marches on, older fans will fade away.  Will they be replaced by young fans or will young people spend their time doing things other than watching sports?  Even for those young people who become fans, their relationship to the three primary team games in America will be very very different, primarily because they will not play the games, especially baseball.

If baseball is merely an entertainment form rather than a shared experience, how entertaining will the 150 year old sport be with its slow pace and nonsensical structure and rules?  Young people will be less interested not only in attending baseball games but in even watching baseball games on television.  Ratings will fall and so will money from sponsors for commercials.

The current model of the Major Baseball League (MBL) lacks the self evaluation to even realize that the old American League and old National League merged into one league in 1999.  The MBL is about to play its annual All Star game to determine which conference champion gets home field and home rule (DH) advantage in a possible game seven in the tournament finals.  Silly, right?

Further eroding the recent model is a secondary market for tickets, which allows fans to wait until game day to purchase and thus pay much less than face value.

So MBL teams are faced with:
- fewer Americans playing baseball
- fewer fans at games
- paying less
- fewer viewers at home.

In addition big market v. small market rules that piled up over the decades lock teams into unsustainable business models, each self defeating in its own way.

Big market teams do not get good draft picks and can only acquire young talent by signing high priced free agents.  Small market teams cannot pay the young talent acquired through good draft picks and lack the imagination to try something different rather than fight an unwinnable battle using the same basic techniques as the big market teams.

When some of these sports bubbles burst, baseball as embodied in the MBL will encounter major problems.  When the baseball specific bubble bursts, the MBL will suffer irrevocable damage.  And few will care.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Google Earth

After a long rain delay in Yankee Stadium I recorded the rest of last night's game against the Twins and I'm watching it this morning, fast forwarding between each pitch, of course, to introduce some desperately needed pace.  Leading 2-0 in the bottom of the sixth Vernon Wells led off with a drive to right center that bounced to the wall and then bounced away from Twins center fielder 23 year old Aaron Hicks.

Hicks retrieved the ball about two steps closer to home plate than the front edge of the warning track and launched a high throw to third base.  Wells was running hard all the way but was clearly tagged out when he slid.  Yankee announcers Michael Kay and former Cy Young award winner David Cone were appropriately amazed, with Cone invoking the memories of super athlete Bo Jackson.  They speculated that the throw went about 300 feet in the air.

They were right on.  I simply used Google Earth for Windows to get an approximate measurement.  I wondered why they didn't do the same thing.

I've used Google Earth before to measure ball park distances.  For instance that's how I know that right center in Fenway park is closer to home than straight away right: about 375 to 380.  And that the 457 distance in original Yankee Stadium to left center would be well across the street over that spot on the green monster in Fenway.  Advantage Ted Williams over Joe DiMaggio.

By the way the radius of the circular dirt cutout around home plate is about 15 feet.  How about declaring a batter like Travis Hafner out if he wanders beyond that during a plate appearance?  Or maybe have one of those electric fences that keep dogs enclosed.  How about an electric fence around the batter's box.  Anything to keep the batters in the box and move the game along.