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15 Most Recent Questions

My understanding is that the commissioner instructed teams they were not to use information technology, including video, to steal signs or attempt to gain other advantage while a game was in progress. This is something players cannot do on their own - they have to have the support of management  to access video,
Asked by: MichaelPat

Answered: 10/24/2020
 That's simply incorrect.   The players have direct access to the video.  

 

This is from an SB Nation article by Grant Brisbee published a few years ago regarding the length of games:  
 
"On April 13, 1984, the Mets played the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The home team won, 11-2. Both teams combined to throw 270 pitches. Both teams combined to allow 27 baserunners, and 74 batters came to the plate. There was exactly one mid-inning pitching change.  
 
On April 17, 2014, the Brewers played the Pirates at PNC Park. The home team won, 11-2. Both teams combined to throw 268 pitches. Both teams combined to allow 27 baserunners, and 75 batters came to the plate. There was exactly one mid-inning pitching change.  
 
The game from 1984 lasted two hours and 31 minutes.  
 
The game from 2014 lasted three hours and six minutes."  
 
Brisbee's research showed that 71% of the difference in the length of those two games was a greater amount of time elapsed between pitches.  I've noticed this while watching games.  
 
Is there a solution to this issue?  How hard would it be to implement?  
 
 
Asked by: evanecurb

Answered: 10/24/2020
 On a certain level it is dead simple to implement.   The rules of baseball--current rules, the rules NOW--do not allow a player to call time.  Only the umpire can call time.   If the umpire simply refuses to call time out, the batter would step out of the box at his own risk.   You could save most of that time by simply not calling time out between pitches. 
 
As a practical matter, if the league simply ordered the umpires to stop calling time, it MIGHT lead to a protest from the Player's Union, which might succeed; the Union MIGHT have a right to protest such a policy, I don't know.   The irony is that I'm quite sure the players would ENJOY playing the games at a quicker pace, once they accepted the idea.  I don't think players really WANT to play four-hour games.   What it is, really, is a situation in which each player, pursuing his own personal interests, creates a situation which is worse for everybody.   Which is analogous to our political situation.   Everybody pursuing his own selfish interests has created a situation which doesn't work for anybody. 

 

I’m sorry, I’m going to break the rules and ask more than 1 question.  
The proliferation of hard-throwing relievers makes me wonder - Does throwing hard magnify the platoon advantage?  
If it does, and with teams carrying so many relievers making benches short, would you expect to see some teams try to acquire/build as many switch hitters as possible?
Asked by: clayyearsley

Answered: 10/24/2020
 I don't know whether throwing hard magnifies the platoon differential or not.   I would guess that it does not.   The changeup has always been used to limit the platoon differential, which would seem to suggest the opposite.   

 

The discussion of Garvey and Cey got me thinking about the Dodgers infields with them, Davey Lopes, and Bill Russell.  I'm fairly sure that their long run together was the longest any infield has stayed together.  Have you ever measured the best infields over a period of time, based on tenure and quality?   Would it be as simple as average yearly win shares times years together?
Asked by: Paulb

Answered: 10/24/2020
 My memory is that they not only played more games together than any other infield; I believe they played more than twice as many as any other outfield.  I''ve certainly written about the greatest infields ever, but. . .can't send you references to those articles.  I don't think I have looked at it in ten years or so.  

 

Re: interesting on Lombardi. Without doing a big study, although that might be very interesting, who are the players that have had a meaningful career but lead in some corner of 'negative' physical space: like who was the slowest, who had the weakest arm, who was the most over-weight, who made the worst decisions defensively on the field, worst infielder, worst outfielder, etc.
Asked by: FrankD

Answered: 10/24/2020
 Questions of that nature tend to be defined by where you set the cutoffs.   Probably for "worst defensive outfielder" you would get one answer if you used 1,000 games as the cutoff, a different answer at 1,500 games, a different answer at 1,800 games, etc.  Lombardi is pretty unique in that he dominates the category at any level.  

 

Many of the great average hitters were speedsters - Cobb, Ichiro, etc. I think there's an interesting argument that Lombardi had the greatest "hit tool" ever, in terms of consistent solid contact. Controlling for speed, do you think he was the most impressive hitter ever, for average?
Asked by: Drew

Answered: 10/24/2020
 Not sure how you would approach that as an analytical problem. 

 

Is the doubles career record still on track to be broken in 10 years?  Someone predicted it would be broke in 20 years, 10 years ago.  
 
Pugols, Cabrera and Cano are the only ones within spittin' distance.  And their mouth's seem pretty dry.  
 
Freddie Freeman's the closest 'young' guy.  But even if he doubled his current total, he'd be 100 short.  
 
 
Asked by: shthar

Answered: 10/24/2020
 I'd have to study it.   This season, in which everyone lost 102 career games, would pretty significantly reduce the chances of the record being broken.  I'll try to study it and give you a better answer once I get my data base organized.  

 

Hi Bill,  
 
The smaller the sample the "chancier" the outcome is something that I think everyone can agree on: it's easier to accept the outcome of a 162-game season than a seven-game series. In line with that principle it's somewhat known, I think, that tennis has had a problem with gambling over the past decade or more in part because the scoring structure, which divides up the scoring into games, sets, and matches, expands the role of chance against a cumulative scoring structure. If that is true, it may be that the baseball playoff structure, by increasing the "chanciness" of an outcome, gives people more of an incentive to cheat than otherwise, perhaps even contributing in some way to the Astros scandal. Is that something baseball should be concerned with when thinking about the playoff structure going forward?  
 
Thanks!
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 10/23/2020
 Players cheat to win.   They have always cheated to win; the greatest players in the game took unauthorized shortcuts to win (cheating).  It's not a scandal.   The Astros scandal is simply that the commissioner decided, in order to demonstrate what a big, powerful man he is, chose to make a huge deal out of common player misbehavior.  

 

I was rereading your Ernie Lombardi article in the old Historical Abstract. Have you ever tried to figure out just how many runs his infamous slowness cost his teams as compared to someone else with average running speed? All the double plays he hit into,  long groundouts others would have beat out, etc?  And was say Cecil Fielder any 'faster'?  
 
 
Asked by: Manushfan

Answered: 10/23/2020
 The question of how many runs are gained/lost by speed is a very interesting question, but the calculation is not easy.   The direct costs are fairly easy to measure--runs gained by stolen bases, runs gained by going to first to third on a single, runs lost by grounding into double plays, etc.  Those are not hard to estimate.   But the indirect costs are very difficult to measure.  First, speed limits the defensive position opportunities for a player, which imposes costs on his team.  If a player is very slow he can only play catcher (if he has other positive assets) or first base or DH or, in exceptional cases like Greg Luzinski and Frank Howard, left field.  This imposes a cost on the team,which is that, to keep the player in the lineup, they have to jettison one of the other guys who can hit but can't run.  
 
It's actually very clear that Ernie Lombardi was the slowest player ever to have a significant major league career.   His GIDP rates are the highest of all time, one GDP for every 22.4 at bats (almost twice the normal number.)  In part of his career a line drive double play was counted as HDP (hit into double play), so there's that, but still, no other player from his era grounded into double plays with anything like the same frequency.   His rate of runs scored as a percentage of times on base is, while not the lowest of all time, absurdly low, and easily the lowest of his era.   One assumes that this number is as low as it is in part because they probably pinch ran for him 30 times a year, but the cost of having a player on your roster that you have to pinch run for all the time might be pretty huge.   You've got a guy like that, it (to overstate the issue just a little).. .it costs you two roster spots, because you have to have a pinch runner for him and you have to keep a third catcher on the bench because the #2 catcher is in the game almost every day.  The opportunity costs of the roster space is significant.  If you have to pinch run for him with the utility infielder, he is not available to play infield.  If you have to replace him with the backup catcher and the backup catcher is a .220 hitter, you may have a .220 hitter at the plate in a crucial at bat late in the game.  
 
Lombardi (almost uniquely) was so slow that the number of passed balls against him was huge.  If the ball bounced away from him 3 feet the runner would advance because it took Ernie so long to get out of a crouch.  Although this last part is anecdotal, it's not like a SINGLE anecdote. . . the infield against Ernie played 10 feet deeper than normal because the infielders could pick up the ground ball, run two or three steps before throwing and still get Ernie at first base.   There is no other player in history of whom that is true.  

 

Hi Bill,  
 
Although I think patzeram could have expressed his point better, what he’s saying isn’t that difficult to decipher. 
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 10/23/2020
 Again, you're trying to start a questoin by assuming that the reader has in his head the same thing that YOU have in YOUR head.   You can't do that.   I don't have any idea who "patzeram" is or what you are referring to, and 90% of the readers won't, either.   This isn't really a place to have a continuing discussion, to begin with, but if you're going to do that, you need to establish whatever it is you are talking about before you go on to add whatever it is you want to add.  

 

Hi Bill,  
 
Separately from my last question, patzeram raises an interesting point about tennis' scoring system: it DOES allow players to "coast," because the scoring is not cumulative. But that's also why tennis is both likely the most popular or second most popular betting sport in the world (second only to soccer), AND is so vulnerable to gambling problems (it's been beset by scandals for at least a decade now, leading to several blue-ribbon investigations). Hence, although this year we have MLB's one and two teams (Rays & Dodgers), do you think that baseball should revisit the playoff structure more seriously given the Astros' scandal?  
 
Thanks!
Asked by: djmedinah

Answered: 10/23/2020
 Players cheat to gain an advantage in the game; they've always cheated, the biggest stars in the history of the game cheated.   It's not a scandal in and of itself.  

 

Hey Bill, a few days ago you got a question about Ron Cey and Steve Garvey. You wrote that Garvey did everything that was used back then to consider a player great (200 hits seasons, 100 RBI seasons) while Cey never got 200 hits and only one 100 RBI season... I guess that because of those patterns, people thought back then that Bill Madlock was pretty good (he was winning batting titles) and Graig Nettles wasn't. Is it that right?
Asked by: jbdominicano

Answered: 10/23/2020
 Madlock was greatly overrated and Nettles greatly underrated, because batting average was the #1 stat in the pyramid of values.   

 

Bill,  
 
That was an interesting question by Manhattanhi on the odds that the best team may win in team sports. Being a mediocre tennis player I was wondering what you thought the odds of winning a championship in an individual sport like tennis or other individual sports. For example if I know I am a better than another player I can often coast until it's late in the set, then play at full strength and generally win a close match. On the ATP and WTA tour the top players tend to player about 50 to 80 matches a year. Rod Laver in 1969 played 122 matches (winning 106 according to Bud Collins' encyclopedia) in winning the Grand Slam that year.  
 
In majors I believe, at least for the male players that there is less chance of an upset because it's a best of five set format instead of best of three in most tournaments.  
 
I would define a championship in being number one for that year.
Asked by: patzeram

Answered: 10/21/2020
 I'm afraid I am not really following you.  
 

 

Have you ever fiddled with the application of win shares to post season play?  
Asked by: DavidH

Answered: 10/21/2020
 No.  It's an interesting question, because you would have to approach it so radically differently.   Over time, over enough games, a .300 hitter will always win you more games than a .250 hitter, other things being equal. . .walks, power, speed, defense.   But in a short series this isn't true; in a short series what matters is timing.   In a World Series you can go 4-for-25 and be the MVP if it's a two-run single, a walk-off single, a leadoff double and a three-run homer.  Or you can go 10-for-25 and have no impact on the series if you don't hit at the key moments.   You'd have to back off and run at it from a completely different angle.  

 

Re the "League of their Own" question: It has been awhile since I researched this stuff, but my memory is that the women's league started with what were essentially softballs, and that the size of the ball was reduced two or three times as the level of play improved-- but that they never actually got down to a regulation baseball, that it was always a little bigger and softer than a hardball, even though the women were not.
Asked by: taosjohn

Answered: 10/21/2020
 OK.  I don't know anything about it.  

 

 
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