Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Games Like This Will Kill the Game

Let's put the devastating injuries aside for a moment. There is a specter haunting baseball, and it was on full display last night, even in the Yankees' nice, tidy—for once, injury-free—win over a nearly anonymous and very bad Detroit team.

Over 32,000 fans came out to see last night's contest in 45-degree weather—so cold, some of the players were wearing partial ski masks.  It was mercifully short (for modern baseball) at two hours and forty-three minutes, and there were some nice plays and a couple home runs, and "only" eight different pitchers.

Nonetheless, the game featured 17 strikeouts and 11 walks, against only 7 hits.

Nor was this an anomaly. In their four games so far this miserable season, our pinstriped heartthrobs have managed only 33 hits, as opposed to 26 walks and 39 whiffs.

2019 is on schedule to become the second season in major-league history to finish with more strikeouts than hits. The first such season was in 2018.

Folks, this can't last. Combined with all the walks, the strikeouts have turned each game into a three-hour-plus game of catch, with a couple of homers thrown in.

What's more, this is not because we're getting to see men like Gibson and Koufax and Marichal—or Mathewson and Walter Johnson and Three-Finger Brown—throw their incredible stuff. Instead, it's an endless parade of 2-3-inning hurlers, many of whom are "unhittable" only because of the terrible approach every batter now seems to take to every at-bat.

I don't know about anyone else here, but this is not the game I signed up for.  The idea that big crowds will continue to show up and watch this crap, night after night, under these conditions and at these prices, is spectacularly misguided.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

My old editor used to say that if an editorial he wrote went so far as to identify a problem, but not propose an alternative or solution, then that was a bad editorial. So in his spirit I ask: Do you have a suggestion for how to fix the game?

I agree with this post 1000%. But I can't figure out how the game can change course. Is this just a phase--and era--like Steroid-ball defined the '90s or pitcher domination defined the Bob Gibson era? Will it just pass when some smart team figures out they can do better by building up a more balanced roster of hitters and stretching their pitchers longer? Should the MLB institute some rule changes to address this new approach that incentivize a different kind of hitting? Should a strikeout count worse than a batted out? What would you propose? (This question goes for anyone reading this post, not just the author.)

Publius said...

Start small. Allow a runner to break contact with the bag he is approaching Let him slide through the bag. This might allow for more aggressive steal attempts, and would eliminate entirely "he come off the bag" outs. This will improve the odds of a successful steal, taking an extra base, etc and increase the value of speed, athleticism, putting the ball in play, etc.

Tom Cassidy said...

Wow, that's a suggestion that doesn't suck! Seriously.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...


Questions that I ask myself:

A. Are today's pitchers so great that it's impossible for major league baseball players to take shorter, more-likely-to-make-contact swings ....when they have 2 strikes? I'm not facing the pitching, so I don't know. From what I see on TV, I'm leaning toward the answer NO.

If I am correct, then the simple expedient of hitting with your brain might work - no?

B. Is it now impossible to "hit 'em where they ain't"...??? After all, all of this brainless overshifting can be beaten -- and beaten consistently -- by (again, simply) going the other way.

Yes, I know Texeira didn't do it. Eff him!

Our former team hero, Jeter, was pretty good at going the other way. I think that, if you check the records, he played this game fairly recently.

Sure, the power hitters make the BIG money. But not everyone is going to make the big money; and some of the professional ballplayers know this.

And public examples like Ellsbury (and now Stanton?)....and maybe soon Bryce Harper and Manny Machado (when they break down early) -- may be teaching the owners how to NOT pay big money for anyone, anytime, anywhere.

C. I don't have a lot of faith in the new statistics, but I do believe that certain things have been "proven" by sabermetrics -- such as Sacrifice Bunts Don't Work and Stolen Bases Usually Aren't A Good Investment. I believe I read this stuff more than 20 years ago in books by Bill James.

I did, didn't I?

During NYYs games, I see some ballplayers taking really awful swings when the count is in their favor (i.e., 2-and-0, 2-and-1, 3-and-1). This hurts them. This puts the pitcher in a better spot (better when under pressure to throw a 2-and-2 pitch than a 3-and-1 pitch).

I have always believed (because this is how I was schooled) that you don't swing the bat when the count is in your favor unless the pitch you are seeing is PERFECT -- what you expect, at the speed you expect, in the place you expect. Yeah, yeah, I was a crappy ballplayer and getting 2 strikes on me could provoke panic. But: No one every paid me for my athletic ability.

It's possible that what I was taught, all of those decades ago, is no longer relevant. I admit to being old. I also admit that I don't understand how swinging like an idiot at a 2-and-0 pitch is a good thing (for anyone).

I understand that the NYY guy with the bat in his hands is making this decision, NOT Lorna Boone or any of the coaches. Evidently, Boone and the coaches are not communicating this simple -- and I do mean simple -- idea.....swing at YOUR PITCH, not the pitcher's pitch, when the count is in your favor.

----

My overall point: If you agree with my 3 items above, rule changes are not needed.

----

YES: Something HAS changed. It might well be the ability of the current generation of ballplayers (ages 20 to 40) to understand WTF they are doing! If so, it might be a parallel to all of the stuff you can find and read about how business managers are currently having trouble getting younger people to achieve a basic understanding of how business works, what's expected of people who work for a living, etc.

The difference is, we watch this baseball stuff live and in color (with replays). No one closely watches the daily screw-ups at airplane makers, police forces, and in restaurant kitchens.

Carl Weitz said...

I have a proposition that will change the nature of the game or at least the talent that play it and thereby reducing the need for openers and obscure and talentless AA players on major-league rosters. Very simple concept. It's called a " Minimum Salary Floor" that fits synergistically with what MLB calls the Luxury Tax System but should be called a Salary Cap. Make every team spend at least 150 million in salary or get a percentage of all MLB shared monies reduced and then shared with the teams that go over the tax threshold. Then, at least every team would have at least 4 bona fide starters, a decent starting lineup and some semblance of a professional bullpen.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Carl Weitz, I love the idea of a salary floor, and have been advocating it for years. If you force everybody to compete, there will be no strategic tanking—or, worse, seasons-long slacking off.

Love the small idea, Publius.

Joe FOB, I think Sabermetrics has taught us a lot, but I agree it is not the whole sum of human knowledge. And I think you raise an interesting point.

Yes, 2-0 and 3-1 pitches are classic hitters' pitches. You have to be swinging at many of those. BUT I think you're right in that you don't have to swing like an idiot. You don't have to be trying to knock the ball out of the park to dead centerfield, when the pitcher has just fed you a 74-mph change-up a little to the outside.

Hit that ball to the opposite field for a single or double. Repeat 7 or 8 times. Your team will win.

Jeter is a great example—but in good part because he played on a team that believed in grinding it out and passing it down the line. That first 4-5 Yankees constantly scraped for what they could get. If it wasn't a homer, it might be 4-5 straight hits and walks.

That sort of hitting also gets you what you want. It leads frustrated hurlers—particularly bad one, like the bunch we saw last weekend—to groove pitches eventually. Then everybody dances.

HoraceClarke66 said...

Finally, Anon, I think the answer HAS to come from the teams and the players. I don't know if there is a rule change that can or should force it.

Of course, this would require baseball owners, first of all, to think in the long-term interest of the business they are in, something all Americans now seem constitutionally incapable of doing. But they should try.

I haven't studied the algorithms at any length, but I get that they supposedly prove that that trying for a home run all the time, every time, produces more runs than things like hitting to the opposite field, etc.

What I don't get is how they can possibly know this, since there has not been a team full of canny, opposite field hitters for years now. When there were still teams like that—such as the old, Yankee Grinders I mentioned—they mopped up the floor with the juiced-up gorillas.

If I were a GM now, I would build such a team, and if I could I would probably win about 10-12 pennants before the rest of baseball wised up. I would also set attendance records, as my fans enjoyed coming back to watch our guys run the lead-footed dinosaurs of every other club off the field.

That's essentially what we saw this weekend. The Yankees played that sort of ball on Opening Day, had great success—then stopped it. The Orioles did it all series long, because they were desperate—and won the series. If they had better players doing it, they would win a pennant.

Joe Formerlyof Brooklyn said...


Just checked MLB.com for tonight's Yankees' lineup. The 5-thru-9 hitters are:

Curtis Lemay

Mike Touchmehere

Red Thunder

Tyler Nowayyyde

Austin Romaine

I guess they expect Tanaka to throw a no-hitter . . . ?

Alphonso said...

There is nothing more fun than to watch a batter force a 17 pitch at bat, only to strike out.

In that time, I can eat three hot dogs and a beer. I can't pay for it, but I can eat it.

ranger_lp said...

All this weight training these players are doing are literally ripping them apart. It's no wonder that we see a rash of injuries that can only be fixed by corrective surgery.

TheWinWarblist said...

Let's just go with, "Fuckers."

HoraceClarke66 said...

"Heaven! I'm in Heaven!"

Tauchman with a long double! Wilding with a long fly ball to get in a run!

Oh, be still my black heart!

Of course, Tyler Too, the Last Angry Man, then struck out on three pitches.

But still. Hey!

"Heaven! I'm in Heaven!
And my hearts beats so that I can barely speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek..."

TheWinWarblist said...

Love you, Hoss! You know what excites the minuscule cinder where my heart should be? That Boston is giving up 8.2 runs per game. I know it's early in the season, but 8.2 runs per game is almost enough to get the cinder to release a tiny spark of warmth and light.

TheWinWarblist said...

Tyler Wade stole a base??

HoraceClarke66 said...

I know! It's wild out there. They were flashing all kinds of leather, too, at least until Voit got that bad bounce.

Bummer, but Tanaka did give us six innings, which I think now should count as a complete game.

JM said...

They were talking about the modern plastic bases and how they're fastened to the field, which may be causing more injuries from slides. Perhaps Miggy?

Then they discussed that MLB was considering 2-foot square bases, which would make it easier for batters to make it to first, along with the other bases. It basically shortens the distance to the bag

They also mentioned that moving the mound back two feet was actually being considered.

Here's my solution. Overturn every rule change, except those concerning safety, since 1960. Return to the bases as they were then. Raise the mound to where it was before 1967.

MLB should also phase out all teams that came with expansion for, say, 40 years or so. This one is tough to imagine as realistic, but the quality of players would go up astronomically.

Also, all teams must alter their dimensions to 1970 measures. This would entail sending the outfield walls back a long way in some cases. Swinging for the seats will dramatically drop.

The result will be a sport played as it was meant to be. The best players, franchises that can make money without handouts, hitting for average and run production that's more exciting, more strategic, and returns the game to what made it America's pasttime. Oh and limit commercials to the short time it takes for the teams to switch in the field. Use partial-screen advertising, logo bugs in the corner of the screen, whatever. Do what soccer does. Speed up the game 30%, easy.

Will it happen? Of course not. The greed and stupidity of the owners knows no bounds. But if they did what I'm saying, I think be they'd be surprised by the increase in viewership, the increase in youth interest, and the rise of baseball as a national semi-obssession.

Everything they do instead is counterproductive and further screws up the game, and that is not good for long-term fandom.

Joe of AZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe of AZ said...

God...I think this lineup is even worst than the all star caliber lineup that featured Vernon Pronk and Overbay...

WTF I think Trenton could score more runs than these guy


Formerly Joe F

JM said...

P.S. No more DH. End it. If you can't field a position, you either don't play or your team sacrifices defensively for your amazing bat. Like teams used to.

TheWinWarblist said...

I think we should just let Aroldis stay out there. Let him work it out on his own. Don't take the ball from him. It will only crush his psyche. And his ability to throw quality strikes. Or something.


FUCKERS.

Joe of AZ said...

FULL PANIC!!! If we can't beat Twinkies( no nkt eat them ICS)...than how in the hell are we "championship quality" to borrow a quote from Happy Hal Cheapstakes.

Fuckers indeed!

(Formerly Joe F)...needed to distinguish myself from JoeFOB

Oasisdave said...

How many out there basides me have absolutely no confidence in Chapman? I swear I get a feeling of dread everytime they give him the ball

HoraceClarke66 said...

Why would you not have confidence in Chapman—the guy who actually had to signal his dugout last year to tell them he could not continue.

What, you think he could be injured or something? Nah, he's probably just tipping his pitches!

Oy. This, ladies and germs, is our...SEASON FROM HELL!

And it's only just begun.

HoraceClarke66 said...

The weird thing tonight was: 5 of our 6 hits, our only ribbie, and our only stolen base of the season...came fro the bottom five guys in the lineup, i.e., the scrubeenies.

And yes, it's true: The Greatest Bullpen What Ever Was coughed up another one.

First off, I realize Gardy has to play with the manpower shortage. But he's simply killing us in the No. 1 hole. He needs to move to No. 9.

Voit is obviously not the answer. At this rate, he is going to set a record for LOB.

And without more protection, Judge is going to set major-league records for walks and strikeouts—and hit 10 home runs.

This is a badly constructed team, now coming apart just as many of us predicted. And there is no back-up plan.

13bit said...

Cashman’s team.

Fuck you, Brian.

Anonymous said...

BROTHERS....

WE ARE IN A BAD SPOT HERE.

THE REAL PROBLEM NOW, IS NONE OF THESE INJURED PLAYERS ARE COMING BACK ANYTIME SOON.

WE HAVE TO MAKE IT WORK WITH TAUCHMAN, LEMAHIUE, WADE, AND FRAZIER.

I WILL SAY THIS.

TONIGHT WHEN WE HAD A MAN ON THIRD AND 1 OUT AND CLINT FRAZIER AT THE PLATE, I HAD AN INNER CONFIDENCE THAT HE WOULD ABSOLUTELY GET THAT RUN IN.

HE DID.

.....AND THAT IS SOMETHING STANTON HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO DO ONCE SO FAR THIS SEASON.

WE GOTTA STEM THE TIDE HERE.

ROOT FOR BOSTON TO LOSE.

FIGHT FOR THE METS TO GO DOWN TOO.

BATTEN DOWN THE HATCHES.

THE FLOODWATERS ARE RISING.

HoraceClarke66 said...

You're right, ALL-CAPS. These are desperate times, and the injuries will likely just insure that we're not going anywhere.

But somehow, I rather like playing with this hustling, striving team more than I did with that collection of those clueless, unmotivated stars we had out there before.

JM said...

I agree, Hoss. Much better.

TheWinWarblist said...

"BROTHERS?"

[shakes head]

Anonymous said...

PROBLEM WARBLIST?

13bit said...

Winnie, I'm sure he meant "brothers and sisters."

And Hoss, don't delude yourself. This "hustling, striving team" will get axed for the "seasoned veterans" as soon as the catheters and splints come off and they return from the broken list. Cash has too much invested in propping up his own ego to let them go fallow, even if this bunch of replacements were to, improbably, surge ahead. There is no "playing your way onto the team" here. Let's not forget that Judge barely made it originally. This is a front office that values broken down name recognition over real potential. They don't like to take any risks. "Hey, let's take the Taurus out. It's got 220,000 miles, but at least we're familiar with it."

As soon as the broken ones return, the young guys go back to the gulag.

HoraceClarke66 said...

My wife's grandmother used to call her son's Taurus, "the Tsuris."

I'm sure you're right, 13bit. After all, this is the guy who probably cost us at least one more ring from 2010-2012 by insisting on brining BACK Javier Vazquez and Nick Johnson, just to prove he had been right in the first place.

And Warbler, yeah: "Sisters are doin' it!"