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In tennis, the officials do put "points on the board" for unsportsmanlike conduct, but that's after a few warnings.  In hockey, they would award an automatic goal for a very egregious play (defender tackles a player shooting at an unguarded net).  But this is extremely rare, maybe once every few years.  So, I concur with the reader that we seem to be ok with an official giving a "near automatic" point, but it still requires the player to actually score, except in rare cases.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 1/15/2022
 But that's a very short-term issue.  People would stop complaining about it a third of the way through the first season.  

 

Hey Bill,  
 
Obviously baseball is a individual sport when you can often figure out how good a player is by looking at his stats. However in the NFL how good a player is depends on his teammates.  A quarterback can't be great if he doesn't have a good offensive line, good receivers and perhaps good running backs.  
 
So my question is this, Tom Brady's stats how it all over John Elway's stats but do you feel Elway is the superior quarterback if they both had the same team or is Brady just plain better no matter what? Both were great but over the years I would  think Brady's personnel was superior in most years.  
 
The other thing is that passing is much easier now than in the past with the relaxed passing rules that protect the quarterback and receivers  
 
What do you think?
Asked by: patzeram

Answered: 1/15/2022
 I try not to answer open-ended quetions.  

 

Hey Bill, why I agree it’s more spectacle than sports once you start handicapping, I have long supported opening up the Kentucky Derby to tortoises, who need travel only a yard or so.
Asked by: PB

Answered: 1/15/2022
 That's a good idea, but I think they should have to carry jockeys weighing more than 200 pounds.  

 

Hey Bill, regarding basketball with height limits: How about  a league with an aggregate height limit? I think it might have more value in rec-leagues than pro leagues. A team can have a combined ... say 30 feet of height on the court at one time. The opposing coach is in charge of enforcement, calling it out if he finds a violation from lists made in advance of the respective player heights. That way, the officials don't need to measure anyone.  
 
And no slouching.
Asked by: ventboys

Answered: 1/14/2022
 Yeah. . .I think there was some semi-serious talk about doing that about 1960.  Wilt dominated everything to such an extent that it was perceived as unfair; there were people who wanted to do this as an anti-Chamberlain action.  
 
In general, any form of "handicapping" hurts the sport.   Golf uses handicaps at low levels, of course, and bowling I think.   It kind of makes it not really a sport.

 

I thought the article on vagabonds vs. homebodies regarding Hall of Fame was excellent.  
Too bad there is not a similar way you could use data mining to pinpoint the leading causes -- and the hidden ones -- of the creeping length of MLB games and the pace of play.  
 
 
Asked by: wbinaz

Answered: 1/14/2022
 Why would we need to do that?  The causes are obvious.  We ALL know what the causes are.   The only problem is getting to the solution.  

 

Hey Bill, about awarding a point for a foul rather than free throws.  
 
It seems to me that the on court / field / ice officials are very much against directly awarding points for any reason. They certainly accept that their calls affect outcomes, but that's just a consequence of observing and reporting on the action. To actually put points on the board, that's just a bridge to far for them and, I suspect, it's the same for fans, too.  
 
Logically I can certainly get past that. But I suspect the resistance to awarding points will be so strong that the suggestion will never gain any traction.  
 
Not a basketball guy, but a question: Would you be in favour of two minute penalties in basketball - putting the offender off the floor and his team short handed? Or how about not short handed, but putting the offender out of the game for 2 (or 5 or ?) minutes?
Asked by: Gfletch

Answered: 1/13/2022
Regarding the question at the end, definitely not.  

 

HeyBill!  
 
The Mets are, it is said, putting their utilityman Jeff McNeil on the block. Back in 2016, I recall you speaking to the challenge of valuing utilitymen. You pointed out the important role they can play in terms of roster flexibility, and, perhaps jokingly, said when analytics were developed, Brock Holt might be found to be the MVP of the Red Sox championship team.  
 
Any thoughts on valuing utitymen now? Seems they are popping up on every successful team.....
Asked by: OBS2.0

Answered: 1/13/2022
 I wrote a long article about it in this year's Bill James Handbook.  

 

I like your ideas on basketball. Simple and elegant. I have nurtured a couple of ideas that are less radical and less elegant, but that could make a difference.  
 
Having players take two or three free throws is a waste of time. Why not just take one, and depending on the situation it is worth 1, 2 , or 3 points? It would save a bunch of time.  
 
Also, fouls are used to 1) put bad foul shooters on the line, and to 2) lengthen the game by making the other team’s possessions only use a couple of seconds of clock.  
 
Both of these strategies could be negated by allowing the team that gets fouled to reject the foul shots and just retain possession.
Asked by: raincheck

Answered: 1/13/2022
 All true, I think.  

 

Hey Bill, as a person who enjoys basketball but has never really been able to get deeply into it because of the way every close game devolves into a glacially paced free throw contest at the end, I've been bringing up the "no free throws, no foulouts, all defensive fouls are one point and the ball" idea to basketball fans I know and every last one of them--hundreds, by now--without exception have reacted with horror. I don't get it.  
 
Do you imagine a reasonably well funded pro basketball league could at least modestly succeed if built on three pillars: (1) A max player height of, say, 6'6", allowing elite athletes who aren't quite tall enough to shine in the NBA to shine here; (2) defensive fouls are one point and the ball, no free throws; and (3) no clock, the game ends when one team reaches 80 points? Would fans who are perhaps too chained to tradition find a lot to like an an up-tempo game with almost no stoppages, if they were only exposed to it?
Asked by: Zeth

Answered: 1/10/2022
 1)  Any new league faces an uphill battle. 
 
2)  Those innovations would engender some new resistance. 
 
3)  But i would never say that the league COULDN'T succeed, if it did enough things right. 

 

Hey Bill.....one other thought on the 5 great seasons with 5 different teams question.  This probably doesn't quite stack up to Sheffield's seasons (and we are talking about a pitcher rather than a hitter now, which the original questioner may not have been interested in), but perhaps worthy of note that Lee Smith did have 29 or more saves with 5 different teams (Cubs, Cardinals, Angels, Orioles, and Red Sox).
Asked by: DMBBHF

Answered: 1/10/2022
 See the source image

 

I have been enjoying the discussion about basketball, fouls, and clocks and I love the idea of getting rid of the clock.  Instead of playing to 100 (or some other number), I would propose the following framework, which is intended to mirror baseball’s framework of using outs instead of a clock.    
 
1.  Instead of alternating possessions, the offense keeps the ball until the defense regains possession in the course of play.  After a basket, the offense inbounds the ball.  
2.  Each change of possession counts as a "stop."  
3.   Each game consists of a predetermined number of stops.    
 
Let’s say that, in a 20 stop game, KU is trailing Duke by eight points in the bottom of the 20th.  In order to win, Duke has to stop KU one last time before the Jayhawks score eight points.    
 
Do you think such a setup would be more exciting to fans than the current convention of alternate possessions in timed games?
Asked by: evanecurb

Answered: 1/10/2022
 Definitely not.  I think it would be an immense step backward.  

 

If you watched the recent A & E documentary on the BTK Killer, was any information revealed that was new or surprising to you?
Asked by: hermitfool

Answered: 1/10/2022
 I may have missed it, depending on terms included there. . ."new" and "A & E".   I did watch a documentary about the BTK murderer sometime within the last four or five months, maybe longer, I don't know, but whether that's the same one you were referring to, I don't know.   It didn't especially strike me that there was a lot of news there, but it seems like I almost always pick up something I didn't know.  
 
But sort of on the subject, perhaps two-three months ago I watched the Amazon Original Documentary (Amazon Prime)  "Ted Bundy:  Falling for a Killer".  There is a LOT of new stuff in there, just a ton of it.  I almost didn't watch it because I figured it was just re-hashing stuff that I have known for 30-40 years, and there are now 8 documentaries or dramatizations of the Bundy story on Amazon, the majority of which are not helpful.  But that one was amazing.  
 
Also vaguely related. . .there now appear to be EIGHTEEN (18) shows on Amazon Prime about JonBenet Ramsey, but there is a little bit that is new in "JonBenet Ramsey:  what Really Happened".   A little bit; not a lot.  

 

Regarding the need for the Elam Ending: I would think in the typical competition (and that includes top team Warriors v bottom team Rockets), you are correct and we can do away with the clock altogether.  Just make it a "first to 100" (or 108 or whatever the league wants).  
 
For college and high school, I suppose that they could figure out the right target score at the start of each season (or even change it mid-stream, or even change it game to game if they wanted).  An expected lopsided match could be set to "first to 50", while two very close teams that people want to see play could be "first to 80".  
 
Ok, I think I'm sold that it can be determined at the start, not the end.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 1/9/2022
 Oh; you can't AGREE with me, Tom; it ruins the sport of the thing.  =)

 

Bill, I agree you are totally on to something with basketball and fouls.  When we play pick up ball, fouls are called, but no free throws are ever shot, you just get the ball.  There is somewhat of a gentleman's agreement that you don't foul someone just to prevent them from scoring that generally holds, so there isn't even a point awarded or deducted for a foul.    
 
Also, we should also consider getting rid of the max fouls for every player per game.  They don't have that in Soccer or Water Polo or Team Handball.  Now a more serious foul gets a player in trouble in those sports and enough of them gets you kicked out of the game (which in soccer is a MAJOR disadvantage for your team because you cannot replace the player and you have to play a man down), but common fouls, you can accumulate 15 or 20 over the course of the game and nothing happens to you.  
 
If a regular foul occurs, they don't even stop play in soccer unless you lose your advantage  from the foul.  
Asked by: bhalbleib

Answered: 1/9/2022
 Right.  The whole business of counting fouls is silly.   
 
Naismith was a miracle worker in terms of inventing a game, basketball, which had IMMEDIATE impact around the country and around the world.  But Naismith (and the other early authorities in the game, who made changes in the rules before 1920), designed a foul-containment system that did not stand the test of time.  Not wanting players to foul, wanting to discourage the practice of committing fouls, they created a compromise system which tried to contain fouling in two different ways:  1, by counting the fouls against each player and eliminating the player from the game when he committed too many fouls, and 2, by giving the other team a FREE shot--an unguarded shot--when a foul was committed.  
 
But the compromise eroded constantly going forward in time.  First, they stopped shooting a lot of fouls because it was just a nuisance, and ever since then we have been locked in an evolutionary guessing game about which fouls to shoot and which ones not to shoot and which ones were 1 shot and which were 1-and-1 and which were 2 shot fouls and which were 2 chances to make 3 and which were 3 shots period.   More significantly than that, when the game started the PPP (points per possession) were low enough that giving a player a FREE (unguarded) shot at the basket was giving them significant compensaiton for the foul committed against them.  But as the points scored per possession without a foul increased, the unguarded shot replacing a possession became a questionable benefit, so that giving a team one free throw rather than allowing the possession to continue uninterrupted was a questionable benefit, and sometimes a clear negative.  This became one of the things necessitating a re-adjustment of when you shoot a foul and when you don't.   But my essential point here is that a point was reached by 1950 when an unguarded free shot was no longer preferable for the offense to simply allowing the possession to continue, hence was not a meaningful cost imposed on the team committing the foul. 
 
And the other half of the penalty--5 fouls and you are out of the game--that also diminished somewhat in force, as the rotation of players used in a game gradually increased from 5--the 5 starters basically play the whole game--increased from 5 to 7 or 8, effectively increasing the allowable ratio of fouls per minute played. 
 
As the deterrence to fouls decreased, certain defensive practices which would have been called fouls became so common that they were no longer called fouls.  There are LOTS of things that defenders do now that would have been called fouls in the 1950s, essentially beccause the penalties for doing these things were ineffective.  
 
My suggestion:  there should NEVER be an incentive for fouling--and the way to get rid of them is obvious.   If you commit a foul, the other team gets a point (if the foul was committed by the defense) or loses the possession (if it was committed by the offense.)  And that's all.  You don't cancel the rest of the offensive possession because the defense commits a foul; that makes NO sense.  That way, there is never a benefit to the team committing the foul, therefore never an incentive to foul, and therefore there is no reason to count the number of fouls committed by each player.   Since fouling always hurts the team committing the foul, it is simply up to the coach as to weigh the negative costs of the foul.  It solves completely the problem that the game has been TRYING unsuccessfully to solve by jiggling the foul shots between zero, one, one-and-one, two, two chances to make 3, and 3.  

 

I think the point of the clock in Elam Ending is that it can be used in any competition level.  In the NBA, a "first to 100" (or first to 108 or whatever the league wants) makes sense as a general rule, because the game will be over in ~2 to 2.5 hours.  But in high school or college, you could have games ending in 1 hour or 4 hours, if the target score is set at the start of the game, rather than at the end of the game.  That's the general idea.  The All-Star game in question for example had a target score of 157 points.  Naturally, all-star games are unusual, but using the clock+target keeps it a bit more organic.
Asked by: tangotiger

Answered: 1/9/2022
Well, assuming that you are right, that is very easily dealt with by setting an appropriate target.  It's hard to see why that creates a justification for using a Clock which is simply a nuisance to the game in every other respect.   And I don't assume that you're right.  The point I think you are missing is that it is the Clock which, to a large extent, CREATES the variations in pace which you think would cause problems.   With the clock, the better team is usually trying to force the action and the weaker team is trying to slow down the action, because coachess know that the weaker team has a better chance of winning a low-scoring game.   With the clock, then for the last ten minutes the team with the lead is trying to work the clock and the team which is behind is trying to work against the clock.  If you take the clock away, the problem you are concerned about usually goes away. 
 

 

 
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