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Hey Bill!  
 After watching a 4-1 World Series game take four hours to play, I thought (again) about how I wish the umpires would keep the hitters in the box and stop letting them "call time" after every pitch. Then the idea hit me ... if MLB wanted to implement this, they would not need the approval of the players' union - because the rule is already on the books. It's not a new rule. Of course, pissing off the union by doing this would have a lot of negative consequences, too, but I'm just trying to think of a way they could do this.
Asked by: mikeclaw

Answered: 11/5/2019
 There's an article in the new Handbook (The Bill James Handbook 2020) which addresses that exact issue, and makes the same point that you just made.   As I said in that article, unless you do that--do what you just said--unless you do that, you are NOT going to meaningfully improve the pace of play.  Until you do that, you're just PRETENDING that you are trying to solve the problem; you're not really trying to solve it.  

 

How are you? I am a high school baseball and softball coach from Arkansas. I really enjoy your work. I just had a question or two. I am wanting to incorporate sabermetrics into my program, and I am just not sure where to start. Obviously the data samples are a lot smaller in size compared to Major League Baseball. I was curious if you could help me get started or just give my some advice on the subject?  
Thank you
Asked by: Coachgrove

Answered: 11/5/2019
 Incorporating sabermetrics at that level is not a matter of data as much as it is a matter of principles.  It's not a matter of little data points; sabermetrics itself is not about little data points.  There are things that you learn from studying the game in the way that we study it which are useful to the manager--for example, the realization that what drives an offense is on base percentage, or the realization that some batters hit the ball predominantly to one side of the infield, or the realization that all pitchers are more effective in short stints than in long outings, or the realization that whether a hitter has been hot or cold doesn't have anything at all to do with what he will do in his next at bat, or the realization (which has not yet been accepted by MLB, but it will in time) that there is no such thing as a right-handed hitter who hits better against right-handed pitchers or a left-handed hitter who hits better against left-handed pitching.   These insights generally apply throughout baseball and thus can generally be applied anywhere in baseball even without the level of detail that we have in the majors.
 
 
But not universaly, probably.   Speed, for example.  Speed in the majors has a lot of value for defense in the outfield, but very marginal impact on the offense.  But in high school baseball that might not be true.  In high school baseball, dealing with pitchers who are not well-schooled in holding runners and catchers who may or may not be able to throw to second. . .
 
 
Let me try that again.   In preventing a stolen base, three fielders have to do their jobs, and two of those jobs are very difficult.  There really are not a large number of people who can pop out of a crouch and throw accurately to second base, and there also are not a lot of people who can catch a baseball traveling at 80+ miles per hour and slap a tag on a sliding baserunner.   Those are tough things to do, and those skills are in limited supply at the high school level, so it may well be that, in high school, base stealing is much more important than it is at the major league level.  
 
It might also be that the insight that everybody is more effective pitching 1 inning than pitching 7 innings is not as useful in high school as it is in the majors, because in high school you probably have one pitcher who is WAY better than everybody else and is still better than everybody else if he pitches 9 innings, and in high school the 12th man on your pitching staff probably couldn't throw a strike from 10 feet away, whereas in the majors the 12th man on your staff is probably not vastly less effective than your closer.  
 
But what I'm trying to get to is, it's a matter of applying sabermetric principles, rather than data mining.   Sabermetrics gets obsessed with data mining, and there is some value in that, but that's not essentially what it's about.  

 

Who is Bob Johnson and why is he not listed in your top 100 for left fielders?  I came across him by accident looking at other stats.  He has almost 60 WAR for his career, but didn't scratch your top 100 for left fielders.  He played for some awful Philadelphia Athletics teams in the 30's and 40's.  Is his legacy hurt by that?  Is it hurt by his also having played during WWII, which made average players look like good ones?  Is it hurt by playing in the 30's, which is a glory day for hitting?  He had a career .393 OBP and just over 2,000 hits.  He had over 100 RBI 8 times (over 90 in two others) and was a 7 time All Star.  To me he almost looks like a rich man's Nick Markakis.  I have thoroughly read your Almanac 3 times and never even remember coming across his name.  His stats and WAR make him like a boarder line HOF, but I never saw him even mentioned in your 2019 Handbook article about HOF candidacy.  Any feedback into my mystery would be appreciated.
Asked by: chrisk7789@live.com

Answered: 11/5/2019
 He was listed 26th.  

 

You've spoken your last, but I'd like to question the need for a lane in the first place. Seems to me if a batter can lay down a fair bunt so close to the 1B line that the catcher (or whoever) has a difficult throw to 1B, and needs to coordinate with his 1Bman (or whoever) that he'll be throwing  a long stretch's worth to the 2B-side of the bag or a long stretch's worth in foul territory to avoid hitting the runner, then the batter deserves a infield single. That would eliminate the need for judgment calls, special lanes, special rules, and all this mishuggaas. Pardon my French.
Asked by: Steven Goldleaf

Answered: 11/5/2019
 Well, I think that's actually why the rule was put in place:  to say that the batter CAN'T do that.  The rules in general are designed to say that the needs of the fielder take precedence over the needs of the baserunner.  If two guys have to be in the same place at the same time, then the baserunner has to get out of the way to allow the fielder to make the play.  The rules say that, essentially, in 25 different ways and in 25 different places; that's the overarching theme.  
 
But the limitation is that, while the rights of the fielder are dominant over the rights of the baserunner, this is not absolute.   The baserunner still has the right to touch the base.   The fielder has the right to make the play; the baserunner only has the right to do what he absolutely HAS to do.  The problem with the Trea Turner call is that it denied the baserunner the right to do what he ABSOLUTELY has to do, which is touch the base.   The rights of the fielder don't take precedence over the rights of the baserunner in that situation.  
 
 
 

 

Hey Bill, I'm old and confused so help a fellow old guy out. I see SDI using Runs Effectively Defended (RED) but don't find that anywhere. Is that the same thing as Run Saved on the TZ page. If not where's it hiding?  
 
I'm also searching for defense regression analysis numbers and all I find are references to the initial studies and folks talking about it.  
 
Clearly I'm blind as well as helpless.  
 
Fred  
 
 
Asked by: Fireboss

Answered: 11/5/2019
 I'm behind you; I don't know what SDI is.   I don't speak acronyms.  

 

Coworkers and I also talked about the dearth of truly excellent players who went on to become successful managers... obviously, Yogi Berra was a huge exception. Can you, off the top of your head, think of any other great players who were also successful managers? (We could define "successful" as "managing in MLB for 10+ years" or as "winning a World Series," I figure either is sufficient to eliminate most candidates, oui?)
Asked by: JohnPontoon

Answered: 11/5/2019
 Joe Torre was a great player.  I thought it was odd that Torre didn't make the Hall of Fame just as a player, although he never did, but he was a hell of a player.  Frank Robinson was a good manager.  Dusty Baker was a very good player and a very good manager.  Alvin Dark was a marginally great player and a marginally great player.  
 
Prior to 1950, when the job manager was different, there were many great players who were long-term managers, and many who were highly successful in both roles.  John McGraw was a fantastic player, although his career as a player was relatively short.  

 

Now with Beltran another team has hired a person who has never managed a game in his life before taking the job. Are managers being devaluing over time, and is it a problem?
Asked by: wovenstrap

Answered: 11/5/2019
 I'm puzzled by the question.   Why would anyone think that managers are being devalued over time?  

 

HeyBill … really liked the series on Quality of Competition. My question is could these methods be applied to say, the PCL back in the day. I believe that there is a consensus that the PCL was not as good as the Major Leagues. If the data is available then this lesser quality of the PCL should show in these calculations. This method has the advantage of removing any time  changes like equipment, health, etc., since we can compare year to year.  If we don't see any difference in the statistical analysis of the PCL vs MLB then either the PCL is better than we assumed or the method does not work to allow Quality comparisons....  
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 11/5/2019
 My belief is that an analytical system could be developed that compares the strength of any two leagues--not merely the PCL to the majors, but the majors to the team that you played on in high school.  It is an immense amount of work and no one is working on it, but it could be done.  
 
One difference between the PCL and the majors is that there were not as many long-term players in the PCL, which limits one's ability to compare seasons separated by multiple years.  In other words, in comparing let us say the American League in 1983 and in 1986, you would have hundreds of players who played in both leagues to help in your comparison.  In the PCL in the 1920s and 1930s you would have probably more than in any other minor league, but still not as many as in the majors.  

 

Bill, speaking of Schmidt, have you ever had much to do with him? I briefly knew a guy who was a reporter covering Schmidt during his playing days and described him as "a piece of work," but I interpreted that as merely meaning Schmidt was perhaps uncomfortably intense, as successful people sometimes are. I grew up a Phillies fan, and the first game I ever went to, Schmidt hit a three-run homer to beat the Cubs 9-7, and I've rooted for him ever since.
Asked by: matt_okeefe

Answered: 11/5/2019
 No, I don't know him.  Met him a couple of times is all.  

 

Re: Game 7 Starters. Besides 2019, the only World Series Game 7 started by two Cy Young  award winners was 1960, when the Yankees Bob Turley ('58) faced the Pirates Vern Law, that year's winner. In 1967, Red Sox Jim Longburg, that years AL Cy Young faced future Cy Young winner, the Cardinals Bob Gibson
Asked by: villageelliott

Answered: 11/5/2019
 Thanks.  Gibson by 1967 was not yet a Cy Young Award winner, but he was a huge star.  He was arguably the best pitcher in the National League in 1962, although he finished just 15-13, but there are lines of analysis that would conclude that he was the best pitcher in the league.  Then he was great every year 1963-1966 and was the MVP of the 1964 World Series, then was great in 1967 but was injured in mid-season for the only time in his career.  

 

Game 7: Scherzer vs Greinke - when was the last game 7 with two pitchers with so much black ink, or plus .600 winning percentages - 1968?  
Asked by: blairadamache

Answered: 11/4/2019
 Even '68 wouldn't have been there; Lolich in '68 was still a young pitcher.  His great years were later.   I don't know.  .. there may be one somewhere.   

 

Just a gentle reminder that we still need the best right fielders of all time. I'm not sure whether it's Ruth or Jesse Barfield. Just making sure it didn't get lost in all the kerfuffle.
Asked by: rtallia

Answered: 11/4/2019
 Still trying to reach Jesse Barfield's mother for comment.  . .

 

So, I had an odd thought about our Trey Turner controversy from Game 6.  Clearly, the way the rule about not running inside the baseline is written and enforced is discriminatory to right handed batters, who if they were to follow the letter of the law, would have to not run in a direct line to first base after they hit the ball, whereas left handed batters would be able to do so.   Can you think of any other rules that inherently discriminate against right handed batters (or throwers) or vice versa?
Asked by: bhalbleib

Answered: 11/4/2019
 I think that's a misunderstanding.  The rule doesn't say a hitter can't run inside the base line; it says that he can't run inside the base line (Until the last stride) in such a manner as to interfere with the first baseman catching the throw.   It don't think the right-handed/left-handed issue is relevant to the play.  

 

HeyBill:  very interesting paper on model-land vs real-world …..  
 
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 11/4/2019
 OK. 

 

Here's a collection of first base collisions video:  
 
 
Notice that on virtually every single one of these, the runner is in fair territory. About a third of them are left handed hitters, and they are also... running in fair territory.  
 
It's simple, really. The rule says you have to run that last 45 feet with both feet landing in the 3 ft wide lane. In case there's any confusion about where that is, they mark the lane.  
 
If it's somehow unfair that a judgment call was made that it interfered with the throw, the simplest solution would be to enforce the rule at all times, or any time there is a throw to first base.  
 
Batters are routinely violating this rule, because it gives them an advantage going into first... I've seen people argue it's because the line from the right-handed batter's box to first base travels through fair territory, but as seen in the video, left-handers routinely do the exact same thing, and it can lead to injury.
Asked by: Christopher

Answered: 11/4/2019
 I've spoken my last word on this. 

 

 
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