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Welcome to Hey Bill, where Bill answers questions from his subscribers almost every day. Visitors can read the most recent Hey Bill's on this page.  Subscribers can ask Bill a question directly and also view our archive of questions and answers.


The fifteen most recent questions are listed here and will change almost every day.

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15 Most Recent Questions

I believe that the seedings for the baseball playoffs should be based entirely on records, regardless of who wins the division.  Right now, either Tampa Bay or Baltimore, both of whom might win 100 games, will be seeded below Minnesota, whic won't even win 90 games.  It seems to me that the divisions are basically arbitrary and I don't see why a team should get an additional reward for being in a lousy division.  Do you agree with this and, if not,what are the downsides to this idea?
Asked by: Marc Schneider

Answered: 9/29/2023
 ALL the rules are arbitrary.  Four bases is arbitrary.  Three outs in an inning is arbitrary.   So No, I don't agree, and in fact I think it is crazy.   Why have a post season at all?   It's just arbitrary, having a World series.   Just play until the end of September and then whoever has the most wins is the World Champion.   Why should a team get an additional reward for winning games in October?   
Because THAT'S THE RULE.   If you play in the SEC, you play Alabama.   That's the rule.  
Trying to clarify.   Any sport, but BASEBALL MORE THAN ANY OTHER SPORT, is composed of arbitrary rules and abitrary choke points.  The funciton of those arbitrary choke points is to create form, and to create drama within the form.   The "Game" is an abitrary choke point.  Why count the runs separately by each game?  If team A scores 750 runs and allows 650, why does it matter if they only "won" 88 "games", while some team with fewer runs scored and more runs allowed has "won" 90 "games".   Why should that matter?  
Within the game, the inning is an arbitrary choke point.   Why should a team be able to win a game 5-4 when they are out-hit 11-6 and outhomered 2-1.  Why don't the things you did last inning count for you in this inning?   
Within the inning, the strikes and balls are arbitrary choke points.   Why doesn't it matter that THAT team had 12 balls and 16 strikes in the inning, while the other team had 15 balls and only 11 strikes.  Shouldn't ALL the balls and strikes be counted, rather than counting one batter as "out" because he individually got 3 strikes?
But the choke points matter, because what the choke points say is "Right now, Goddamnit."  It's too late to do this tommorrow; it is too late go get that runner home next inning.  There are two men out; you've got to deliver RIGHT NOW.  
And the same for the pennant race.  It is far better to say to the teams "you have got to do this RIGHT NOW", rather than just pouring all 162 games and all 30 teams into one big, bland stew, as if one game was no different than the others.  


Hey Bill!  
In an effort to get starting pitchers to stay in the game longer, what about making a rule that the designated hitter only hits for the starting pitcher? Once the starter comes out of the game, so does the DH ... the relievers have to bat for themselves, or the team has to use a pinch-hitter. Would that have a significant effect on how long starters stay in the game, or would teams just shrug it off and pinch-hit?
Asked by: mikeclaw

Answered: 9/29/2023
 I would think it would have an effect.   


Hey Bill,  
I read that David Crosby claimed he thought that Joni Mitchell was a better overall musician than Dylan...without getting into the comparison, do you also connect strongly with her music?
Asked by: waisanhart

Answered: 9/29/2023
 No.   Nothing against her, but no particular interest in her.   Did she write her own music?  Does writing your music make you an "overall" musician.  What is an "overall" musician?  Do you have to play multiple instruments?  Do you have to do a little opera on the side?  


Hey Bill, prompted by the true "World" series idea… Do we have a good sense by now of the strength of the Japanese leagues based on the performance of players moving between there and the Majors and vice versa? I recall Ichiro’s numbers barely changed when he transitioned at 27 — surprising, but I’m not sure how big an anomaly.
Asked by: PB

Answered: 9/29/2023
 Somebody has a good idea, I'm sure.   It's not me, but I'm sure somebody has a system.  


Yeah, my "fun with numbers" splatted faster than a 55 foot Sutter splitter :-).  
The numbers part were the years apart of having two OF assists in one inning for the Mets.....the first being tbeir first franchise game in 1962 by Gus Bell, that stud horse for MLB players (son and two grandsons). Then nothing until 34 years later.. then the third instance last week, 27 years after that. Are OF assists sort of a random stat, credit given for things like relays, for instance?  
Do you think that paucity of two in an inning for the franchise is extraordinary?  
Numbers: 2, 1962, 34, 1996, 27, 2023.  
Thanks, and thanks for the 12 years of education,  
OldBackstop (Greg)
Asked by: OldBackstop

Answered: 9/29/2023
 Well, it's not ORDINARY.   "Extraordinary" implies more than ordinary.  How about LESS than ordinary.   Maybe this is a less-than-ordinary occurence.  


Perhaps in the hope of triggering one last point-counterpoint between you and Mr. Tango, I ask your views of NL Cy Young.  Posnanski's blog post/email this morning highlighted last night's Logan Webb vs. Blake Snell battle in San Francisco, where Webb came out on top (in the win column and in IP) by posting a CG 2-1 victory.  Snell was limited to 6 innings that, while flawless, were just 6 innings.  Posnanski has been noting Webb's advantage in IP and musing about what the crossover point is between higher quality innings and more innings.  I looked up their WS and Baseball Reference WAR, and it comes out like this:  
Snell (WAR 6.1, WS 16.3, IP 180)  
Webb (WAR 5.7, WS 16.6, IP 216)  
You've educated us over the years that measures like WS (and presumably WAR) are not so refined such that a couple decimals make a real difference.  Would you consider Webb for Cy Young, if you were a voter?  As a GM, would you rather have a Webb or a Snell (assuming same age).  Thx for all the fun at BJO!
Asked by: tkoegel

Answered: 9/29/2023
 There are no decimal points in Win Shares.  Win Shares are decimals.  .1 of a Win Share would be one-thirtieth of a win, or about 1/3 of a run.    Less than the value of a walk, probably.  
I'd go with Snell.  


Hey Bill,  
I just noticed that in 1978 Dave Parker won the MVP award and got a Gold Glove.  Pretty good, but, he didn't make the all star team.  This seems odd.  Is it?  
Thanks for the years of good reading.  
Asked by: SteveN

Answered: 9/29/2023
I think there have been some others, but I don't actually know.   Anybody?   Post it as a response to my Big Jawn comment if you know. 


You often embrace different ideas so here's one. I think it would improve many sports, particularly kids and recreational. At lower levels, there is often a big disparity in skill levels.  It isn't unusual to hear of a 92-28 basketball game or 17-1 baseball game.  To make it more 'even' most sports segregate by gender.  Kids sports segregate by age.  High School and college segregate by school size.  And different sports have weird unwritten rules that say you aren't supposed to play as hard when you have a certain size lead.  But I'm a believer that everyone in every sport should play their hardest for every minute of every game.  I'd like to see rules that disadvantage a team that has a lead.  When a basketball team is leading by 20, all subsequent baskets are only worth 1 pt, until the lead drops to a certain point. Baseball has intentional walks - how about each team gets 3 intentional strikeouts, but they can only use them when behind. Or behind by 5 runs or whatever.  
Asked by: MattGoodrich

Answered: 9/29/2023
 I'm afraid I am not seeing the advantage of the intentional strikeout.  


Did you ever get the opportunity to meet Brooks Robinson?  He was always extremely nice and generous with his time.  In his prime, could he have played shortstop at a Hall of Fame level?  
God Bless Brooks.  
Asked by: ForeverRoyal

Answered: 9/29/2023
 I don't think I ever met him, no.   But as to the other. . . the Orioles signed Brooks and Wayne Causey at almost the same time, I think within a week or so of one another, and there was clearly a point very early in their careers in which the O's thought that Causey was ahead of Brooks.   Brooks pulled ahead and Causey went to KC, where he became their third baseman.   Then Dick Howser got hurt, and the A's moved Causey to shortstop, where Causey played for 2 or 3 years.   So I don't know about the term "Hall of Fame level", but certainly he could have covered the position.   


Hey, Bill,  
One of the delights of BJOL Reader Posts are the golden nuggets of baseball history one can find when doing research on or for a post.  
While researching the beginnings of the amateur draft, I discovered contemporary news reports that in Nov. 1964, with the blessings of owners Judge Roy Hofheinz and Bob Smith, Houston Colt .45s GM Paul Richards was willing to trade his entire 40-man roster and $5 million for the 40-man roster of the Milwaukee Braves. The Braves leadership, new chairman William Bartholomay and club president John McHale, turned the offer down. (Only two years earlier, Bartholomay's group bought the Braves for $6.2 million)  
The butterflies on baseball history would have been profound. Hank Aaron playing in the Astrodome for a decade? No way does he get to 714. Joe Morgan may never end up in Cincy. Jimmy Wynn and Rusty Staub may be in the HOF, etc.  
Are you aware of any other similar attempts in MLB history?  
As always, many thanks for all that you do for us.
Asked by: DefenseHawk

Answered: 9/29/2023
 Hell, let's put Larry Dierker in the Hall, too.   Some support for Sonny Jackson. . . .
Thanks.  It's a cool note.  


Was excluding postseason statistics from player career totals a debated decision by any MLB group? The World Series initially was considered sort of an exhibition between two separate leagues and it wouldn't have made sense to add those stats to seasonal totals, but postseason performance looms large in body of work, including Hall of Fame assessment.
Asked by: danjeffers

Answered: 9/29/2023
 Well, at the time of the first World Series, I don't believe that there was any such concept as "career statistics", or, certainly "Official career statistics."   Somebody was working on them in the background, because about 1905 or so there is a note that some minor league player. . . Emil Frick or Frisk, maybe. . . some PCL player had become only the second player to get 3,000 hits in professional baseball.   THe note, as I recall, is completely WRONG, but at least it shows that somebody is worrying about the subject.   To the best of my understanding there wasn't any such thing as official career statistics until at least the 1930s, and the "certifying official" would have been The Sporting News, not major league baseball.   And a lot of the things first declared to be official statistics later turned out to be not correct.   It was all figured out after the fact.  


If you make the World Series truly "World" (the way the Little League World Series is always USA v some other non-USA team), then your idea of crowning the best team based on the regular season becomes even more appealing (which as the other poster said is how Euro soccer works).  
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 9/22/2023
 Be a big deal,wouldn't it.   At this point only Japan would have a champion of similar stature, I would guess, but in 15 years that may change.   


Well.....maybe the last fun-with-numbers I will have the honor to share.  
Tonight Mets RFer Jeff McNeil tallied two OF assists in the fifth inning against the Marlins, gunning down Jazz Chisholm trying to stretch a double and Jorge Soler at home trying to score tagging up from third.  
Elias or whoever announced that the last time a Mets outfielder had two assists in one inning was 27 years before in 1996 by Bernard Gilkey. No surprise there, Gilkey led the league in OF assists three times.  
Before that, you have to go back 34 years to....the Mets very first game as a franchise on April 11, 1962 agaibst the Cards! In the fifth inning, Gus Bell threw out Bill White at home (relayed) and then Minnie Minoso trying to stretch a double. In the next inning Bell threw out Musial also trying to stretch a double.  
Any insights into OF assists? The fairly detailed SABR writeup for the 1962 game recounted two of the outs, but never even mentioned Bell's name.
Asked by: OldBackstop

Answered: 9/22/2023
 OK, but why is that fun with NUMBERS?   It's not really a "number" there, is it.   It's an event.  If you're in grade school and the teacher gives you an extra recess, it's not the number that is important; it's the extra recess.   Or an extra cupcake.  I don't know if kids get recess anymore OR cupcakes, but you get the point.   If your potential girlfriend gives you two goodnight kisses, it's not the NUMBER that counts, is it?   That's not about the number.   


Thanks for all your great work. I will continue to give copies of your historical abstracts to all my friends and family that are into baseball. I am a Giants fan, the '62 team is my favorite, always enjoyed your writing on that subject.  No real question there, how about this- Is it possible soccer was invented by the same people that invented Irish dancing? They don't use their hands either.  
Asked by: Blueron

Answered: 9/22/2023
 But in their defense, they have recently come up with a way to open the back door on your SUV.   


For my enjoyment of the game, the old way of using starters was better. Teams had five starters, and they went as deep in the game as they could, and in a sense they battled heard to head. I knew those guys. Now teams use more starters, bring guys up and down from minors, and give tons of innings to a battalion of anonymous relievers. As a fan it’s less engaging.  
Is there a reasonable rule change that moves us back toward known entities pitching  most of the innings?  
I worry about rule changes being too restrictive. For example, this year the Dodgers have lost almost their entire starting rotation. They only have Kershaw, who has a bad shoulder, will probably be limited in how long he can go, and may not be effective. I actually think it will interesting to see how they handle their pitching in the playoffs. All the things I don’t like will actually be done out of need, in high leverage situations, and I kind like them in that context.
Asked by: raincheck

Answered: 9/22/2023
 Well, point 1, these changes that you deplore have not resulted from rules changes, but from the ABSENCE of rules changes that would have and could have prevented these changes in the game from occuring.  
While not wishing to be dogmatic about it, I would agree with you that the game is more enjoyable with identifiable talent than with anonymous talent.   If each team has 5 starting pitchers and those pitchers pitch regularly into the late innings, that makes the talent more identifiable.  If a team uses 15 starting pitchers and none of them pitch 180 innings a year, the talent is more anonymous.   So I think you're right about that.   
As to how to make that happen, there are 1,000 ways you can do that, 1,000 rules changes that could push in that direction.   Suppose, for example, that the league were to make a rule that for every game in which the team pulls his pitcher out before the pitcher has pitched 6 innings, the team owes $100,000 to a league fund.  ($100,000 is not an overwhelming amount of money in a league in which the best players are paid about $200,000 a game.)   Suppose you have that fund, and that fund is then distributed at the end of the season based on how many games the starting pitchers have pitched at least 7 innings, plus the number of games in which the starting pitcher has pitched at least 9 innings.    So. .you want to take your starting pitcher out in the 5th inning, OK, but it costs $100,000. 
Without looking up the data, we might guess that an average team now pulls its starting pitcher in the first 6 innings about 50 times a year, which would cause a fund, at the end of the year, of $150,000,000 (150 million).   Realistically, a team which pushed its starting pitchers a little bit deeper into the game could probably make a profit on the season of $12 to $15 million, I would guess, while a team that liked to jack around with its starting pitchers could lost a similar but smaller amount (smaller, because these rules in the short run would put most teams on the short side of the ledger.)   
A $12 to $15 million profit in a season is meaningful to a small city team on a budget.   The question then would be what happens next.   If that team feels that the policy of staying with the starters has hurt them otherwise, then they'll abandon that policy.   But if they find that it doesn't hurt them, then they will stick with it, and other teams will say "Hey, it doesn't seem to work against you to do that; let's try it."   
There are many other rules you could make.   For example:
1)  When a team makes  a pitching change in the first 7 innings of a game, the next pitch is recorded as a ball.   In other words, make a fifth-inning pitching change, the next hitter starts out 1-0.  
2)  Make the number of innings pitched by starting pitchers a tie-breaker for post-season position.   In other words, if Texas and Seattle wind up the season in a tie, both teams 93-69 or whatever, then the position goes to whichever team has had more innings pitched from their starting pitchers.   
3)  Each team has a budget for 5 starting pitchers in a season.   For each game started by a pitcher who is not among the top 5 on his team in starts, the team pays a penalty of $400,000, with the money going to charity.   
In other words, if you have a team lilke the 2006 White Sox, who got something like 159 starts out of their top 5 starters, then they would owe only $1.2 million into the Greg Maddux Charity Fund.   But if you have a team like the Royals, who puts out there a new starting pitcher every day, then they might owe $24 million, maybe.   You'd need a codicile in the rules that a game in which the pitcher  "starts" but pitches only 2 innings is not credited as a start for purposes of the Greg Maddux charity fund.  
4)  Create league and team awards for the pitchers who pitch the most innings.   Give the Steve Carlton Award to the pitcher who leads the league in innings pitched.   


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