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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

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 ESPN.com 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

play-by-play: http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BRO/BRO195210070.shtml

kinescope of the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqZnPQnxO9U

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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

1952 World Series game times: three hours maximum.

I replied to a comment on one of my recent posts about limiting games to two hours:

27 outs or 60 minutes, whichever comes first.  Sunday, August 24, 2014

I've been fiddling with an idea to mandate two hour games.

Finishing in two hours is the thing, not allocating 60 minutes per team.  That was a musing to make the point.

One thing I wrote in my reply was to look at old World Series films, suggesting 1952.  I decided to check the times of those games, realizing that there were fewer pitching changes and shorter breaks between innings for TV commercials.  However, they were World Series, not merely regular season.  I noticed in a youtube.com video that both starting pitchers warmed up beside home plate on  what appears to be flat ground.  So much for the current insistence that relief pitchers must warm up on the game mound at get acclimated when they enter.  Just change on the fly, no warm ups.

This youtube link has a kinescope all of game sevenhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqZnPQnxO9U

How many batters stepped out after a pitch?  I think the Ebbets Field announcer introduced the Yankee catcher as Larry Berra.

1952 World Series (Yankees 4, Dodgers 3) game times:
1. 2:21 Dodgers 4-2; 2 pitchers
2. 2:47 Yankees 7-1; 4 pitchers
3. 2:56 Dodgers 5-3; 3 pitchers
4. 2:33 Yankees 2-0; 3 pitchers
5. 3:00 Dodgers 6-5 11 innings; 3 pitchers
6. 2:56 Yankees 3-2; 4 pitchers
7. 2:54 Yankees 4-2; 7 pitchers

Starting Lineups

Bob Kuzava 1953 Bowman baseball card
via Wikimedia Commons
In his only appearance Bob Kuzava saved game seven, the only game using more than four pitchers.  Kuzava had three saves in the regular season.  The games were longer than I expected but only one as long as three hours.

Were fewer decisions being made?

Fewer tactical moves?

Less  action?

The basic point is that games can obviously be played more quickly than they are today and probably without any loss of action or whatever amount of "thinking" that you might want to attribute to matters.

You may conclude that these times prove that I am wrong, that games cannot be played within two hours. Game seven 1952 could have been completed within two hours easily.  There was a lot of dead time even without batters stepping out.  The first three innings took only 30 minutes but then the pitchers started jerking around, especially Allie Reynolds in relief.

One reason the 1952 game seemed boring was the lack of replays.  There was nothing to fill in the dead spots.  I noticed after a strike out the catchers moved out in front of the plate and initiated throwing the ball around the infield.  If they still do that, we'd miss it anyway because we would be shown replays of pitches.  Maybe I'll do a separate post on how replays mask dead time, which is that much worse if you're actually at the game.

A high school friend of mine wrote recently that he, too, records and fast forwards through baseball games.  He claims to finish in ONE hour.  Try it yourself.  See how long it takes to get through nine innings.  More pitches are thrown now because there are more strike outs and walks, and that alone makes baseball more boring.

In any case, TWO hours for a game is plenty and is a reasonable objective.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Alex Rodriguez, prodigal son, mentioned during a Yankee game. What does it mean?

Last week during the series between the Yankees and Houston Astros a multiple part question was displayed on the TV screen asking viewers to vote:

Who will replace Derek Jeter at shortstop next season:
1. Stephen Drew
2. Brendan Ryan
3. Alex Rodriguez
4. a player from another team.

Drew and Ryan are both with the Yankees now and both are good fielders.  But what shocked me was that A-Rod was mentioned.  The pariah!  The destroyer of worlds!  Consider that it's been 20 days since I asked this unanswered question:

When Derek Jeter passes Alex Rodriguez in Runs, will they stop the game and save the ball?  Tuesday, August 5, 2014

milestones that Bud Selig prevented Alex Rodriguez from reaching this season because Selig suspended Rodriguez for using performance enhancing drugs (PED):

Runs: 1,919 (2,000)
RBI: 1,969 (2,000)
Hits: 2,939 (3,000)

Alex Rodriguez 1994 Calgary Cannons
by John Traub via Wikimedia Commons
It's unanswered because Jeter still has not scored the half dozen runs needed to pass A-Rod.  Jeter hasn't scored any runs.  In TWENTY days.  Derek, come on.  Jeter also hasn't had a walk off hit since 2007.  I created that post because I thought Jeter's passing Rodriguez in runs was imminent.

But the question was answered, in part, by the fact that A-Rod's name was included in something at all and, especially, in a question to which A-Rod would seem a very unlikely choice.

The most recent Yankee third baseman Chase Headley has OPS+ 99 with the Yankees.  Maybe Yankee management is actually considering:

1. Alex Rodriguez, even after missing all of 2013 and most of 2012 and at age 39, may still be better than an average player in 2015, especially at bat.

2. The Yankees must pay Rodriguez:
2015 $21,000,000
2016 $20,000,000
2017 $20,000,000

Also, "$30m in marketing bonuses for HR milestones from 660 HR to 763 HR".

Rodriguez cannot be traded without his permission and without the Yankees paying most of his salary to play for another team.

3. Maybe, just maybe, Yankee management is not so dumb as to pay Rodriguez to set three major milestones for another team, like Seattle, where Rodriguez started and where it makes perfect sense for the prodigal to return, if he does leave the Yankees.

Maybe, too, Yankee fans and baseball fans in general will be more open minded considering what has happened since Rodriguez was first suspended 211 games by Major Baseball League (MBL) commissioner Allan Huber "Bud" Selig in August 2013:

1. Selig announced that he would leave in January 2015, just in time to miss the return of Rodriguez.

2. We learned that the MBL doctor had given Rodriguez permission to use performance enhancing drugs (PED):

Bud Selig's doctor allowed Alex Rodriguez to use steroids. Is that enough mitigation to commute A-Rod's sentence?  Friday, July 4, 2014

3. There is now a commissioner-elect: Rob Manfred.  Unfortunately, he's the guy who did sleazy stuff for Selig to nail Rodriguez and beat the expensive lawyers hired by Rodriguez in his appeal.

4. Maybe the one season penalty will legitimize career milestones by Rodriguez: without PED he would have reached them anyway.  That seems reasonable, rather than the blathering we heard from some, especially so many in the self-righteous media, who wanted to ban all records set by PED users.  Oh wait, just batters.  No, just home run hitters.  The steroid zealots may finally be fading away.

5. Scoring and home run hitting are down.  Strike outs are up.  Boring!

6. Jeter will be gone in 2015.  Enter the anti-Jeter.  At least for the entertainment value.

Use common stats to judge both batters and pitchers.

A couple of times during the Yankee-White Sox series just completed Yankee announcer Micheal Kay stated that Adam Dunn had the worst ratio of strike outs (SO) to at bats (AB) in baseball history.  He indicated that his teams were willing to tolerate his SO because he also hit a lot of home runs (HR).  Unmentioned was the real reason for that tolerance: Dunn drew a lot of Bases on Balls (BB).  That gives Dunn OPS+ 124 for his career, with a season best of 147.  OPS+ is On Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage adjusted to years and parks.


There's a list of the best career batter ratios for AB per SO:

Adam Dunn's AB/SO is 2.9 and the Major Baseball League (MBL) average during his career has been 5.0, so even in his own era, Dunn is extremely bad.  However, missing among the leaders is SO/BB for batters.  It's there for pitchers:

1,000 Innings Pitched:

Now under Dunn's "more stats" it is listed:


1.79 for Dunn, 2.13 for all batters.  So, Dunn has fewer SO per BB than the average for all players, a plus for Dunn that was not mentioned by the Yankee announcer.

But why isn't a stat that is often mentioned for pitchers, seldom, if ever, mentioned for batters?  Most batting stats can be applied to pitchers.  Some pitching stats cannot be applied to batters, most obviously, Earned Run Average (ERA).  But why not use common stats?

Batters are measured by SO/AB, pitchers by SO per 9 innings (SO9).  SO9 includes outs made by batters on the bases, so it's less accurate.  Maybe that difference doesn't change it much, but it might, especially for the relief pitchers.

These pitching stats are per 9 innings:
- BB + Hits (a.k.a WHIP: walks plus hits per innings pitched)
- BB
- SO
- HR.

What the heck?

WHIP is for Wimps  March 8, 2013

The variables are the same as those for on base percentage (OBP) for batters, which is something that is familiar. Why not use OBP? Why dream up something else and put it into a pitcher’s context that requires translation to have meaning? ...

For me WHIP has become one of those annoying items that people toss around to show off how much they know.  If someone wakes you up in the middle of the night do you really know what a good WHIP is?  I’m wide awake and I can’t tell you.  Even when groggy I’m likely to know a good BA or OBP.  What’s the deal with WHIP?


Less accurate, less meaningful. That's the pitching specific stats that correlate directly to familiar batting stats. Give me OPS+ for pitchers!