MLB: July 2018

I guess that’s why the NL has led the AL in homers 17 times in the last 20 years?

No, that’s because effective pitchers are removed from games prematurely because they can’t hit and shitty relievers give up tons of homers.

Guys, it’s almost the 4th of July. America’s birthday. Can we let the argument rest for one day?

The Designated Hitter is a rule made up by Commies out to sap our precious bodily fluids!

(In before midnight Zulu!) :stuck_out_tongue:

As the current rules say:

“The grass lines and dimensions shown on the diagrams are those used in many fields, but they are not mandatory and each club shall determine the size and shape of the grassed and bare areas of its playing field.”

They’d have to define the dirt area explicitly before they could enforce the proposed rule. And I’ve often seen the shortstop in particular on the grass even when there is no shift.

Wouldn’t banning the shift just make games even longer? There’d be more hits, meaning more baserunners, meaning more dicking around by the pitcher.

Went to go set my fantasy lineup for today, and see the Bos-Was game is in the top of the first already (11:13EDT). My initial reaction: What the hell? My second reaction: Damn it, why are Xander Bogaerts and Juan Soto both benched today?!

So, why is there an 11am game today (thus forcing me to keep two benched players on my starting roster)?

Would Brett like some cheese with this whine?

Suggestion to all batters: if you need to continually step out of the box to adjust your batting gloves, maybe you should get a pair that fits. Or seek therapy for your obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I imagine it’s because of 4th of July crowds and festivities in DC, they’d like to get the baseball crowd out early.

Yeah, he’s got a valid complaint if he’s been singled out, but otherwise stop walking around and get in box. There are so many pitchers who should be fined. Why don’t they disclose this stuff?

Your link ends with:

Which rules?

I’m just happy that, after a very frustrating beginning to the season, the Dodgers are finding their groove again. 11 home runs in the last 3 games. Our decimated pitching staff slowly coming back one by one. Kemp playing in all-star form. Kenley being Kenley again. There might be hope after all.

Posting late because I was busy, but I finally made it to game at Wrigley on Saturday! Cubs/Twins and it was a fun game. Our seats were right behind home plate about 15 rows up and we had shade from the middle 1st on. Added bonus was that the coach of the new National Champion Women’s Collegiate Softball team* threw out one of the ‘first pitches’ (they did three for some odd reason).

Final was 14-9 for the Cubbies, but the interesting thing was that there was only 1 HR (2 run shot by a Twin) in the entire game. Cubs had 20 hits (17 1B, 3 2B). 4 players left the game due to heat exhaustion/dehydration. It was HOT.

All-in-all a great first ever live game for this Cubs fan. And I got to see the W fly over Wrigley!

Overall, the Cubs seems to be waking up. Bats are heating up and the pitching, while not great, is good enough. In a Wild Card spot, but only one back of the Brewers for the Division.

  • Go Noles!

Oh yeah, didn’t think about it being in DC.

Looks like you’ve got good tastes. I’m an FSU grad and live very near to Wrigley and yes, last Saturday was quite hot for Chicago and reminded me a bit of Tallahassee, although the humidity wasn’t quite as stifling as it there during summer. Hopefully you had time to stop into Murphys.

It is a weird stretch for the Cubs as they have one of the longest streaks of day games since they started pushing for more night games.

I think we should start thinking about how the shift affects the game. It seems to me that the game has degraded over the past few years. No longer is it “get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in”. It’s get a bloop and hope for a blast. Hitters for the large part refuse to use more of the field and stubbornly hit right into the shift with the hope that they drive one right over it. The share of runs scored via the home run seems way up to me, though I don’t have the data.

I wouldn’t do anything yet, my hope is that batters eventually start trying to hit the other way. It baffles me why a right hander can come up and see the third baseman playing near second base and not lay a bunt toward third and jog to first for an easy single. No, it’s a home run or nothing. No more “productive outs” moving runners over, it’s try to hit over the shift or nothing. If the players can’t learn to avoid the shift, then maybe just say that two infielders must play on each side of second base.

I personally think that teams carry too many pitchers and not enough position players. If I had my druthers, I’d have 30 man rosters so that you have a decent pinch hitter available a few times a game. Now, all you have a catcher and 2-3 other players on the bench. You generally won’t bring in the catcher so you only have a couple guys available to pinch hit/run.

Be careful what you wish for: a 30 man roster would mean even more pitching changes.

What if a new rule stated that the third baseman and shortstop must begin play to the left of second base, with a corresponding rule for the second and first baseman. Would it really be that terrible?

The team on the field also *pitches *into the shift, low and away stuff that isn’t easy to pull.

By which, of course, I mean dead-pull hitters get pitched *inside *with the shift on and have a hard time *not *pulling into it. Anybody got a coffee refill?

The traditional baseball answer would be “Hangovers”, but somehow I doubt that in this case.

I misspoke myself, it should have been a lefthander coming up and seeing that big hole at third.

I’m not sure I grasp where you are coming from. Are you saying the shift is what creates the home run strategy? 'Cause that’s pretty much putting the cart before the horse.

You are absolutely correct that the share of runs scored by home runs is way, way up, but that trend isn’t due to the shift. It’s due to guys hitting more home runs despite the fact that they aren’t doing anything else better than usual. They as many home runs in 2000, for instance, as they do now, but in 2000 everyone did everything better; batting averages were MUCH higher.

I guess I just don’t understand why that is a solution.

Pushing infielders back onto a certain half of the field will not change the trend towards homers-and-walks. It will exacerbate it. The shift hurts pure pull home run hitters by penalizing them for only pulling the ball; whenever they fail to hit the ball in the air they’re hitting into three infielders instead of two. By banning shifts, you take that disadvantage away and so encourage more Bryce Harpers.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, because I’ve babbled about this before, the primary reason there are so many more home runs today is simply that young men are taught to try to hit more home runs, and are selected for promotion in professional baseball based on their ability to do this. It is perhaps the perfect sign of the times that the Dodgers have a utility infielder who’s hitting like Mike Schmidt and he’s barely a story outside LA; 30 years ago he’d be THE baseball story.

When I was growing up watching baseball in the 1980s, MLB had a much wider variety of ballplayers. You had your Mike Schmidts and Jim Rices who were huge, muscular beasts and could hit the ball a zillion miles, but teams also had guys like Dave Collins, Vince Coleman and Duane Kuiper who couldn’t hit a baseball out of a squash court. Willie Wilson hit .300 a bunch of times just slapping at the ball and running like hell. The entire 1982 Cardinals hit 67 home runs and they won the World Series. They had Ozzie Smith (2 homers) Tom Herr (no homers) and Ken Oberkfell (2 homers) and their first baseman hit 7 homers (Keith Hernandez) but they won the damn World Series, and it wasn’t all pitching; they had a pretty good offense, by hitting for a high average and drawing a lot of walks, and running the bases well. That was an accepted strategy then, and the men they had were suited for that strategy.

Now, you don’t have teams like that for the simple reason that they do not have very many players like that. If there’s a young Tom Herr in the minors today, they are teaching him to work out and try to hit more home runs. So when he gets to the big leagues, he won’t go a whole season hitting no homers, he’ll hit 12-15 dingers. He won’t be able to slap the ball the other way though, because he’s not being taught to do that, and the big leagues where guys are burning 96-MPH fastballs in the precise spot you can’t hit it is NOT a great place to try to learn that skill.

So why is this happening?

  1. Because it works. Home runs and walks beat slap hitting and average, provided you aren’t playing in a ballpark where it is very hard to hit home runs. Homers and walks pushed basestealing almost entirely out of the game from the 1920s to 1950s. It was inevitable it would happen again.

The reason the stolen base came back is partially because ballparks in the 1960s started getting bigger and less suited for an all-homer approach. (It’s not just that but it’s a part of it; it also had to do with the influx of Negro League players in the 1950s, as baserunning was more valued in Negro League ball, and just trendsetting.) Today ballparks are more homer-friendly, in general.

  1. Players are bigger and stronger, and stronger men hit more homers.

I mentioned before that Mike Schmidt and Jim Rice were big strong guys who could hit the ball really hard, and in fact in their time Rice and Schmidt were FAMOUS for being very strong - but if they were playing today you’d hardly notice them. Their level of fitness and strength would be middle of the road today.

This isn’t just, or even mostly, steroids. As I am sure you know, back in the day ballplayers were discouraged from lifting weights. It was thought it would make them injury prone. What we know about athletic and strength training today is a zillion times more than what we knew just 30 years ago. The vastly higher amount of money in baseball motivates players more than ever to find every edge and train harder.

  1. Sabermetrics.

The fact is that sabermetrics has helped teams make smarter decisions. There is just no disputing that. Teams are much better at identifying the players who will help them win.

Now there’s a lot of moving parts here, so I am just theorizing, but this has to do with more than just hitters. The sabermetric recognition of the value of home runs and walks is one thing, but the other (somewhat more recent) realization of how to value pitchers has a lot to do with it too, and what they have learned about pitching in the last few decades is really simple:

Pitchers who strike men out last. Pitchers who do not strike men out do not.

The emphasis over the last few decades has been on getting pitchers who can strike guys out without walking them all. That was NOT the emphasis 30 or 40 years ago. Back then teams would gladly snap up guys who “pitched to contact” and sometimes they’d get lucky and have a good year, like Jeff Ballard in 1989, and then suddenly they couldn’t pitch anymore and everyone wondered why. Now MLB teams know Ballard was just lucky and never really was a very good pitcher, and they don’t even bother to give guys like that a chance.

The consequence of this is simple; Strikeouts soar, and it causes a vicious cycle. You now have a situation where the average pitcher strikes out more men per inning than Steve Carlton. That’s literally true, look it up. If you’re facing Steve Goddamn Carlton every at bat, trying to string together hits is a fool’s errand. But Steve pitched high in the zone and would walk guys so you are incentivized to try to draw walks and hit home runs. That in turn incentivizes teams to find pitchers who will strike out even more men because if all the hitters can hit home runs why on earth would you pitch to contact?

Banning the shift will just make this immediately worse. Now as a GM I have even less motivation to find guys who can spray the ball around, because you’re playing into the hands of big donkeys who pull the ball.

Now, I don’t like this, myself. A game of walks, homers and strikeouts is boring, but what to do? They could:

  1. Do nothing and hope for evolution to take care of it. I believe in time spray hitters will come back, but it can’t happen quickly. These guys need to develop, MLB executive are NOT stupid. Coaches are not stupid. They know tapping the ball the other way will beat the shift, but it’s really super hard to do that when you have never practised it, and your muscle memory is trained to pull the ball, and you’re facing Dellin Betances and have .3 seconds to decide if you should swing or duck. Eventually you’ll see a new wave of Dave Collinses, but it will take time.

  2. Ballparks. Like it or not, baseball is primarily ballparks that are good for home run hitters. There aren’t too many vast parks anymore - there’s Petco, and San Francisco is a tough park for home runs. There used to be more. I don’t know if this is changeable.

  3. Some more radical rule. I don’t like radical rule changes like lowering the mound, though. So I dunno.