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The New York Times runs an insanely in-depth analysis of the 1.7 million pitches thrown in the major leagues since 2017 by three of its baseball-crazed staffers to measure the effects of umpires starting to crack down on June 3 of the increased use of super-sticky glue by pitchers to increase the spin rates of their pitches.

The Pitchers Whose Spin Rates Fell Most After a Crackdown on Sticky Substances

By Josh Katz, Kevin Quealy and Tyler Kepner, July 19, 2021

In the comments, an NYT reader asks why the newspaper doesn’t devote this much brilliant attention to more substantive matters like gun violence and public school test scores.

To be fair, sometimes it does, such as its 2016 article that investigated all 358 mass shootings in 2015 and found that in almost three-fourths, the victims and perps were black. But few subscribers were much interested in hearing that back then, and such a finding would probably get you canceled in 2021.

So, for Bill James-like analysis of important social issues you need to come to iSteve and similar obscure sites, while baseball statistics remain the Safe Space for smart white guys at the New York Times to exercise their natural curiosity and pattern recognition skills.

To summarize the article, yes, umpires finally broadening enforcement of the rule against applying foreign substances to the baseball from just slippery stuff (the spitball) to also include sticky stuff has lowered the spin rates of 102 of the top 131 pitchers, a four percent overall drop in spin rates, and boosted batting. A four percent decline in spin rate translates into one inch less movement, which is the difference on a fastball between, say, a lazy fly ball and a hit. Since June 3, strikeouts have dropped from 24.2% of plate appearances to 23.0%, which is a step in the right direction of getting more action back into baseball.

All in all, a good thing since in April and May pitchers were getting the upper hand, throwing a record pace of no-hitters, and turning baseball into a boring game of strikeouts and occasional homers.

Of the top 10 pitchers whose spin rates have fallen the most since June 3, 9 are white, probably ten if you count the white guy with a Spanish surname from Florida. Pitching is dominated by tall whites these days, typically guys who are good with their hands and like thinking about tiny adjustments in their craft.

The three biggest names are Dodgers Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler and Yankee Gerrit Cole.

Bauer, a nerd, and Cole, a jock, were arch-rival teammates at UCLA, and have long been conducting a feud over spin rates (that I wrote about in 2019) that’s strikingly similar to the feud between nerd golfer Bryson DeChambeau and jock golfer Brooks Koepka.

This spin rate scandal (if it’s really a scandal) goes back to 2015 when big league baseball started measuring with radar and publishing online the revolutions per minute of every pitch thrown. The smarter, nastier franchises like the Houston Astros started having their MBAs look at the data, which confirmed that higher spin rates help breaking balls break more and four-seam fastball stay up.

Now everybody sort of knew this already — generating huge amounts of spin with his big hands is how Sandy Koufax dominated in the 1960s with a sailing fastball and a dive-bombing curve. But once you could measure every pitch, teams got to work on doing something about it –a general rule: outside of astronomy, if you can measure something, you can likely figure out a way to manipulate it — which usually involved using ever stickier substances, such as Spider Tack, to get a better grip on the ball.

It appears that Houston identified Cole, then with Pittsburgh, as a major talent who wasn’t maxing out his spin rate, acquired him and persuaded him to do whatever it takes to boost spin, turning Cole into maybe the #2 pitcher in the game behind Jacob DeGrom.

A few years ago, Bauer staged a one-inning science experiment to expose what Houston was doing with Cole, coming out and throwing the first inning of a game with Cole-like spin rates, then, presumably, going back to his normal spin rates in the second inning after, presumably, washing his hands. The nerds who follow Bauer’s Twitter feed figured out instantly what he was signaling, but the MLB didn’t do anything at the time about the stickum trend. So Bauer boosted his spin rates too and won a Cy Young award last year, got a huge contract from the Dodgers, and now, as perhaps tends to happen to athletes with giant contracts is suspended and being sued for sexual assault by a young lady.

This year, apparently, a sizable majority of pitchers were using stickum, which was making games even more boring. So, the MLB finally did something about it.

Hopefully, the next rule change will be to ban extreme defensive shifts stationing more than two infielders on one side of a line from home plate to second base. Nowadays, left-handed pull hitters (a glamor category in baseball history featuring fan-pleasing names like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, and Barry Bonds) routinely hit rocket line drives into right field but get thrown out at first by second basemen playing as extra outfielders because the shortstop is playing where the second baseman normally would be. So, why even try to get a basehit, just swing for the fences and hit a homer or strike out?

An interesting ethical question is whether in baseball violating a rule that was not being enforced by the umpires is cheating or not?

In contrast to ballplayers, pro golfers are expected to enforce all written rules on themselves while out on the course. I once saw on TV Arnold Palmer call a penalty on himself for an utterly invisible fraction that pretty much ruined his chance of winning the Senior US Open. Golfers’ relationship with rules officials are cooperative, rather like the French legal system where the magistrate and attorneys are supposed to work together to arrive at justice.

The relationship between baseball players and umpires is adversarial, rather like the American legal system. It’s the umpires’ job to catch the players if they are cheating. Players are not held to an on-field honor code. For example, if an outfielder traps a line drive a millisecond after it hits the ground for a single, he is supposed, by the traditions of the game, to pretend he caught it on the fly and celebrate his great catch so that the umpire gives him a break.

Which system is better: cooperative or adversarial?

The no foreign substances rule was enforced only on slippery substances, i.e., against the spitball. Sticky substances to get a better grip were considered by hitters and umpires as a way to cut down on beanballs caused by pitches slipping out of the pitcher’s hand. Since hitters compete for salary and playing time against other hitters, there’s no active hitter’s lobby for higher batting average, while hitters do lobby against getting hit in the face by a fastball gone awry. (There’s no mention in this article over whether hit batsman has increased since the ban on stickum.)

But fans tend to like hitting more than pitching. (I’d guess that 5-4 is the ideal score in ballgame).

But all good things come to an end, and teams like the Astros dedicated to advanced data analytics pushed this way to advantage pitchers to scientific new extremes, which made the game duller.

Have advanced data analytics ever made baseball a better spectator sport? Baseball is now a great game to think about statistically. But to watch?

I’m guessing that improvements in batting order construction have helped score more runs, which fans generally like. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, it was self-defeatingly standard to use your speedy Latin free-swinging base-stealer as your leadoff hitter even though he almost never got on base with a walk. He just looked right, even if he only scored 75 runs per year as your leadoff man.

But I’m not coming up with too many other improvements in the game for spectators wrought by the sabermetrics revolution.

 
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  1. Well obviously they don’t cover “gun violence” because guns aren’t violent.

    Not like blacks.

    I wonder why they don’t cover that?

  2. Have advanced data analytics ever made baseball a better spectator sport? Baseball is now a great game to think about statistically. But to watch?

    Very well put.

    • Agree: Cortes
  3. The things I hate the most about analytics are:

    1. three outcome at-bats and the disappearance of defensive wizards because what is the point
    2. shifts on every guy who pulls 70% of his at-bats or whatever the optimum number is this week

    But with the bad we get a bunch of good. Sports journalism is almost the last place on planet earth where we get accurate honest reporting. Yesterday Mike Florio reported:

    a. the nfl players’ association will prevail on preserving the players’ prerogative on the vax
    b. the league plans to enforce identification of the vaxxed by a reverse star of david badge system (the vaxxed players are required to wear it) on the property at least to the sidelines
    c. sideline cameras will pick it up and everybody will know which players passed on the vax
    d. he expects Tom Brady is not taking the vax and everybody in the television audience is going to see this

    Also everybody could take twenty minutes and watch Jason Whitlock’s takedown of Richard Sherman which is pretty hilarious. (Jason is a negro sports reporter who hates Black Lives Matter activism.)

  4. UNIT472 says:

    When did Baseball allow pitchers to have a rosin bag on the mound? Cheating seems to have been around in baseball forever. Sandpaper in the brim of your hat or a sharpened belt buckle to rough up the baseball. Sharpened cleats raised high to break up a double play. Jose Canseco injecting Mark McGuire with steroids. Pine tar on bats. Gloves growing ever larger.

    Its professional athletics where if you can get an edge you are going to use it.

  5. anonymous[394] • Disclaimer says:

    This is a little off the topic Steve, but I think you will like it.

    https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/hoisting-critical-race-theory-with-its-own-petard/

    Hoisting Critical Race Theory With its Own Petard

    By Robert Weissberg 4 min
    How can we drive a stake through the heart of Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Ultimately, this will require a long march to restore sanity to thousands of elected school boards, and the firing of countless misguided ideologues. But what about the short run? How can we prevent this poison from damaging an entire generation? Forget about discussing the opportunity costs of teaching CRT; ideologues are hardly deterred by terrible outcomes, in education or otherwise.

    Let’s instead challenge a core premise of CRT, namely that it “merely” offers an honest account of American history. What educator could possibly oppose exposing students to previously suppressed truths? Sadly, even a few self-proclaimed conservatives have embraced this seductive relativistic argument.

    But while we agree that knowledge is good, we can also assert that this CRT nonsense (e.g., slavery is the basis of the American nation) only tells part of the story. Our response must be that if CRT is to be taught, more needs to be said. Let’s enforce the Equal Time Rule in classrooms. For certain programming types, this rule legally requires radio and TV stations, when presenting the views of one candidate, to give equal time to rivals upon request (similar to the FCC’s Fairness doctrine).

    The aim is to balance tales of white skullduggery by recounting harms inflicted by blacks. Tell students about how Newark, NJ; Detroit; Camden, NJ; Gary, IN; and countless other cities sunk into poverty, violence, and administrative incompetence during the administrations of African American mayors. If students can learn of the racism of the Founding Fathers, surely there is time to discuss the high crime rates among the black community, albeit most of which is black-on-black, though the most common form of interracial violent crime is black-on-white, followed closely by Hispanic-on-white.

    This makes for an unpleasant account for those who see white devils as totally responsible for the woes of African Americans. No doubt, advocates of CRT will reject everything as “racist” and therefore factually incorrect. For example, black crime must only reflect the behavior of prejudiced cops or the legacy of slavery.

    But as proponents of CRT insist, isn’t education all about examining all information, discussing it and reaching informed conclusions? If that is so, any well-conducted trial involves a thorough cross examination. Fourth graders might want to read about how decades of government mandated racial preferences have failed to move the economic equality needle for minorities. If CRT experts can be paid handsome consulting fees, the Equal Time Rule would require schools to also pay CRT’s opponents to organize seminars and conferences to educate teachers that CRT is hardly the only vision of history.

    Most importantly, we must demand that all race-based claims be supported by hard evidence. Education is not astrology. Our fourth graders need data on crime and welfare dependency if education is to be anything more than mindlessly absorbing and then regurgitating political talking points. Who could oppose lively fact-based classroom discussions?

    Advocates of CRT will claim that introducing youngsters to facts and figures about black crime rates will promote hate, but if all these dangerous stereotypes are to be banished from public life, isn’t it best to confront them directly, rather than allowing them to fester unchallenged outside the classroom? Recall the argument of sex education proponents: youngsters should learn about sex from trained experts, not “in the gutter,” and so schools offered courses on the birds and the bees. Teachers should relish the chance to help disprove “dangerous stereotypes” about minority communities with government statistics, and who can possibly oppose anti-hate instruction?

    This “tit-for-tat” strategy confronts one education-based argument with another. As such it differs from the usual fuzzy rejoinders that CRT is “un-American” or hostile to our ever-improving race relations. Instead it hoists CRT advocates with their own petard. Proponents of CRT should not be allowed to monopolize the high ground when they claim to speak truth to power.

    CRT advocates are driven by dogma, not objective reality, so rational discourse is pointless. They will only be deterred by those who tell a contrary story. If fans of CRT want to bash America, opponents can fight back by telling students all the unpleasant facts CRT fans are loath to admit: the United States government has tried mightily to help African Americans, often to no avail, and even with contrary effects. In confronting this ugly reality, CRT advocates’ passion for “an honest and open debate about race” may well cool.

  6. vhrm says:

    In the comments, an NYT reader asks why the newspaper doesn’t devote this much brilliant attention to more substantive matters like gun violence and public school test scores.

    On that, we can only dream for now.


    On the question of rules changes to favor hitters, is there anything that can be done to or about pitching that would make it less inherently damaging to pitchers arms?

    It’s way less important than the whole brain damage issue in most contact sports, but still i’d prefer something where you don’t get injured just by the basic playing of the sport even outside of accidents.

    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
  7. Nathan says:

    So there’s a chance it was actually the Yankee’s pine tar that ended up on George Brett’s bat? It would explain how the Yankees were able to see it.

    And I agree about banning the aggressive field positions. I saw a minor league game the other week, and baseball played around line drives and base stealing is way more fun. Bring back the dead ball era of 100 years ago.

    And while analytics may not have improved the game as a spectator sport, technology has vastly improved the quality of watching the game on TV. With 4K, you can actually see the ball and what the players look like.

    • Disagree: Abolish_public_education
    • Replies: @ScarletNumber
    , @Goddard
  8. Anonymous[405] • Disclaimer says:

    Of the top 10 pitchers whose spin rates have fallen the most since June 3, the three biggest names are Dodgers Trevor Bauer and Walker Buehler and Yankee Gerrit Cole.

    All three are Germanic.

  9. Wish they had this much obsessive curiosity about Hunter Biden and the Big Guy

  10. Mike Tre says:

    “In the comments, an NYT reader asks why the newspaper doesn’t devote this much brilliant attention to more substantive matters like gun violence and public school test scores.”

    Scary questions tend to produce scary answers. We can’t have that.

  11. Alfa158 says:

    Bauer wasn’t trying to assault that woman. He just gave her a social hello hug and then found himself stuck to her.

  12. Was trying to watch the Yankees and Philly play, but yawn. Yanks are starting three players up from AAA ball. Desperation for sure. Some one help me with this. Phills have a man on second with two outs. Their batter, Jankowski, who is batting .367 attempts a bunt. Not once but twice. Can’t figure that one out. Struck out looking.

  13. “We’re both in the food business, and we’re in the oil business. Food prices are getting higher, and we expect even more increases by October,” he said. “We’re seeing anywhere from 10% to 14% by October 1. It’s a real number.”

    “And oil prices — I know they’re a little bit off today, but I expect even higher numbers,” Catsimatidis continued. “It’s a sine wave — everything just goes up and down. I expect by October you’re gonna have over a 6% annualized rate of inflation.”

  14. I read somewhere (probably on iS) that MLB modified the ball by raising the seams. That extra grab (increased drag coefficient) will beget more ball movement, even in the absence of pushing the spin envelope. I believe that pitchers have long liked to dig their fingernails into (i.e. scruff up) a baseball, in order to create the same, movement-enhancing effect.

    Have the knuckleball pitchers been more dominant, also? The re-seaming would tend to make the flight of their go-to pitch even more wildly unpredictable. But unlike stickyballers, their effectiveness would not be diminished by better environment against foreign substances.

    I get the sense that many of you could support sticky substances, so long as they were not foreign made.

    [MORE]

    why the newspaper doesn’t devote this much brilliant attention to more substantive matters like .. public school test scores.

    The perennial problem of public school kids achieving crappy scores on standardized tests is a seasonal, GOP issue. They only bring it up when their election campaign advisors observe that “school choice” is a hot button, local issue.

    I’m fine with that neglect.

    When GOPs argue for more choice they simply mean more tax dollars for GOP controlled, charter schools; and by no means less for traditional, public schools.

    I oppose the whole testing mania, btw. Testing is part of that GOP imperative of “accountability”; it also serves to funnel tax dollars into GOP controlled, testing service firms. But what possible satisfaction can taxpayers get from finding out that kids have learned to read (the news is all bad, anyhow)?

    Taxpayers don’t want the government taking their money in the first place. It does matter to them one bit that the government can show, which it can’t, that it had actually accomplished what it purportedly set out to do.

    How many of you feel better off knowing that the government just successfully tested an H-Bomb at the NTS?

    • Replies: @Roger Sweeny
  15. anon[307] • Disclaimer says:

    baseball is even more autistic than generic sportsball.

    watch Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media and stop having autism…

    steve!

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  16. In the comments, an NYT reader asks why the newspaper doesn’t devote this much brilliant attention to more substantive matters like gun violence and public school test scores.

    Progressives understand that if a society can’t talk about sex problems, most sex problems will get worse.

    They now need to understand that a society which can’t honestly talk about black problems, will find it impossible to ameliorate them.

    Don’t start with the answer “white racism.” Start with getting a full understanding of the phenomena and then see what answer comes. Progressives who claim to have done that, will need to at least be able to cite black IQ and crime stats.

  17. So Bauer boosted his spin rates too and won a Cy Young award last year, got a huge contract from the Dodgers, and now, as perhaps tends to happen to athletes with giant contracts is suspended and being sued for sexual assault by a young lady.

    No love for PC soaked sports. But white professional athletes doing real sexual-assualt is relatively rare.

    So I did a quick search and read. The 50,000ft level take: a groupie wanted rough sex and was happy to get it, once, then twice without complaint. Ergo looks like either a shakedown or the “then he stopped calling”. (The ability of some women to believe that making themselves available for a squirt is going to “go somewhere” is pretty amazing.)

    Maybe pro-sports should provide a sort slut-certification process, where such women could sign up, give their preferences: sport, race, other physical characteristics, desired activities, etc. etc. All under-aged would be screened out. What specifically the woman was signing up for would be transparent and on-the-record clarifying any downstream legal issues. Mutual feedback/ratings given, and nut jobs could be screened out, as well as “problem athletes” detected. And both the local women and the athletes could be signaled when potential “matches” were available in town. And the athletes’ ratings on the system would be great fodder for the press.

    • Replies: @BLESTO-V
  18. @vhrm

    vhm, make a rules change to save pitchers’ arms. After three foul balls, the next foul is a strike. No more 10 pitch at bats.

    • Replies: @Ganderson
  19. Peterike says:

    “ the newspaper doesn’t devote this much brilliant attention to more substantive matters like gun violence and public school test scores.”

    Or vote counts.

    • LOL: Paul Jolliffe
  20. Brutusale says:

    If you’ve played baseball beyond Little League, you know that there is a players honor code and they’re quite happy to enforce it.

    I remember how my brother would smile when a teammate took a high, hard one. Retribution would be his!

    The umps were content not to get involved unless something a little too extreme happened.

    If you want a more involved baseball experience, Steve, join a money fantasy league that does a live draft. 35 years now with the same core group of guys. Great times.

    We still drink a toast to my original highly-touted, can’t miss failure of a #1 pick, Todd Van Poppel, the first of many promising pitchers whose careers went to shyte after I drafted them!

  21. Read the following 2 Tweets.

    Now you understand everything you need to know.

    • Thanks: Paul Jolliffe
    • Replies: @Anon
  22. Arclight says:

    If only the majority of the NYT staff had the inclination for exhaustive reporting on other interesting and non-political phenomena…you see glimpses of it here and there, but the woke millennial insurgency against the old guard appears to have resulted in victory and all that is left is mopping up the last pockets of resistance and shooting the casualties.

    • Replies: @Triteleia Laxa
    , @Feryl
  23. Bauer, a nerd, and Cole, a jock, were arch-rival teammates at UCLA, and have long been conducting a feud over spin rates (that I wrote about in 2019) that’s strikingly similar to the feud between nerd golfer Bryson DeChambeau and jock golfer Brooks Koepka.

    Tyler, Trevor, Walker, Gerrit, Bryson, Brooks…

    We are getting into an era where every young white male notable has a name that his parents thought was “cool, man dude bro”. Our own kids’ names are anything but, and people act as if they’re refreshing.

    If You Can Measure It, You Can Manipulate It

    Measure once, manipulate twice. Or thrice. Or…

    • Replies: @Edmund
    , @Pericles
  24. Edmund says:

    All you need to do to improve baseball is:

    1. Go back to the old baseballs – the ones that didn’t leave the yard every time someone made half-decent contact.

    2. Make it against the rules to leave the batter’s box to take swings or adjust batting gloves. There is no room in the game for Nomar Garciaparra-like shenanigans.

    3. Remove instant replay. It slows down the game.

    4. Allow runners to break up double plays and bowl over catchers. Buster Posey will just have to suck it up.

    5. Get rid of that dumb new extra inning rule, which I think the MLB will do next year.

  25. Edmund says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Tyler and Trevor are cool names? Sure they’re not Jim or Don, but at least they’re not.

    Jayden
    Aiden
    Gayden…etc.

    • Replies: @Reg Cæsar
  26. @Arclight

    You’ve got to give it to the Millenial insurgents. They sure won that easily. The New York Times has also never had more subscribers nor been more profitable. It would be like the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and making its economy equal to Singapore’s in only a few years of struggle. Bizarre that this has happened while competition has actually intensified.

  27. Shaq says:

    How difficult is it to bunt opposite the shift? Unless your agent worked in a clause that warrants a bonus for extra base hits over batting average, it’s an easy stroll to first….

    • Replies: @R.G. Camara
  28. @Edmund

    Remove instant replay. It slows down the game.

    Video appeals on tag plays are the worst. I can watch the replay from six different angles in super slo-mo for three minutes and still not be sure. Just let the umps make the call the way they see it, like they did for 120 years, and move on.

    On the other hand, maybe they should go to robots calling balls and strikes?

  29. being sued for sexual assault by a young lady

    Sounds like a classic case of victim-blaming. Was the sportsball man dressed provocatively? Was the young lady particularly strong, or did the sportsball man resist inadequately? We’ve all been there.

    I know, I know… the sportsball man is being sued by a young lady; he’s not being sued for “sexual assault by a young lady“, although that is probably the most unprosecuted crime known to man, if the young lady is remotely fetching.

  30. If You Can Measure It, You Can Manipulate It

    It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion?

    Remember when Steve avoided one particular pattern observed by Rushton because readers’ minds would “shut down”?

  31. Gamecock says:

    Batters struck by pitches will go way down with Acuña out for the season.

    Sony has done the most to make baseball watchable: they invented the Fast Forward on DVRs.

  32. @Edmund

    Jayden
    Aiden
    Gayden…etc.

    Someone surveyed people to find the most hated children’s names in the US. Aidan (a saint) wasn’t among them, but the top four boys names on the list rhymed with it.

    • Replies: @res
  33. Anon[208] • Disclaimer says:
    @JohnnyWalker123

    Now you understand everything you need to know.

    Explain please?

    • Replies: @JohnnyWalker123
  34. @Steve Sailer

    Steve, the Superimposed strike zone shows how often the ump makes the wrong ball/strike call. Don’t need it.

  35. @Shaq

    Yeah, you and every other baseball strategist tries to tell that to pull hitters with shifts on them, but they almost never do it. Pull hitters who force a shift actually get really proud of it and also feel challenged to one-up it–“these guys are so afraid of me they’re breaking all the normal rules, and yet I’ll get a hit anyway”–so the just-bunt-it logic falls on deaf ears.

    Ted Williams was such a pull hitter, and the shift teams pulled on him was famous– notably, the Indians shift on Williams was called the Boudreau shift after their player-manager Lou Boudreau. Other teams followed suit on Williams.

    After teams had starting shifting on Williams and he refused to stop pulling, Williams recalls meeting an old Ty Cobb. The two hit it off and discussed the intricacies of hitting, and Cobb, the old deadball, basestealing, bunting, hit it anywhere, slash-and-run hitter, begged Williams to just lay down one bunt down the third base line after they put the shift on (as a lefty hitter, Williams was pulling to the first base side, so no one was on the third-base side). Williams refused, but noted that Cobb’s mouth was “practically watering” as Cobb imagined what he would do if they laid such a drastic shift on him.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  36. @Steve Sailer

    On the other hand, maybe they should go to robots calling balls and strikes?

    I have no doubt, if they did that, Rickey Henderson would jump out of retirement, grab a bat, crouch so low you’d think he was squatting a barbell, get walked every time, and then add to his MLB-record stolen base total. Even at age 62.

    Rickey knows he ain’t no fool. Rickey knows how to hack a robot that measures a strike zone from between shoulders and knees, and Rickey would touch his shoulders to his knees every pitch.

    • Replies: @Tony massey
  37. @R.G. Camara

    And Ted Williams still hit .388 at age 38.

  38. @Steve Sailer

    Everything’s a trade-off.

    Some of the time we waste watching the umps huddled around a phone waiting for New York to make up its mind is time we used to spend watching managers scream in the face of the ump with their caps on backwards so they can get right in his face, kick dirt on the ump’s shoes or the plate, and other nonsense.

    My rule: get rid of instant replay and make the penalty for prolonged arguments so severe that no cranky Bobby Cox / Billy Martin types would dare try it.

    I’ll go for robot call of balls and strikes if you promise to get off of my TV screen that stupid – @$$ rectangle that’s supposed to approximate the strike zone. You can’t draw an accurate map of the Earth on a flat surface, and you can’t depict a three-dimensional space with a two-dimensional drawing. Also, next time you watch a Yankees – Astros game, note that the rectangle draftsman seems to believe that Altuve and Judge are the same height. Or something.

  39. @anon

    baseball is even more autistic than generic sportsball.

    You miss the clock?

  40. res says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Here’s a link from 2011.
    https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna42803678

    The most hated boys’ names — Jayden, Brayden, Aiden and Kayden — all rhyme and all shot up from obscurity during the last decade.

    Number 6 was Hayden.

  41. @Nathan

    And I agree about banning the aggressive field positions.

    Correct. The infield isn’t there for decoration. Four of them should have to be on the dirt at the time of contact; two of them to the right of second and two of them to the left of second.

    • Replies: @guest
  42. SafeNow says:
    @Edmund

    Additional improvement for baseball:

    6. Lighten-up. Take the high road. No trash talk or hostile conduct. I remember the ending of Bang the Drum Slowly, where Michael Moriarty is attending the funeral of a young Robert DiNero. Moriarty closes the movie with this line: “From here on out, I rag nobody.”

  43. SafeNow says:
    @Edmund

    Additional improvement for baseball:

    6. Lighten-up. Take the high road. No trash talk or hostile conduct. I remember the ending of Bang the Drum Slowly, where Michael Moriarty is attending the funeral of a young Robert De Niro. Moriarty closes the movie with this line: “From here on out, I rag nobody.”

  44. @Steve Sailer

    I haven’t followed MLB for a long time.

    No way that the Home Plate umpire can call the low strike with any high degree of accuracy. The computer will definitely fix that one.

    Regarding the appeal to the instant replay official in NY, that guy’s office is probably just across the hall from Steinbrenner’s. The call will go to whichever way most benefits the NYY.

    The dullest play in all of sports is the appeal to the baseline umpire, to rule whether the batter went around. The computer can fix that uncertainty, too.

    They should abolish the DH, the Infield Fly rule, and public education.

  45. BLESTO-V says:

    your speedy Latin free-swinging base-stealer as your leadoff hitter

    Hmm, from ’70 to ’71, the Pirates went from 89 to 97 wins, and a championship, by adding Vic Davalillo.

    • Replies: @I, Libertine
    , @Brutusale
  46. BLESTO-V says:
    @AnotherDad

    It was a better world when Sport magazine could host a banquet in which it introduced baseball’s player of the year, prompting an Annie at the back of the room to yell, “and the worst lay in the National League!”

  47. @Edmund

    All you need to do to improve baseball is:

    6. Allow the pitcher to try to hit the batter in the nuts or hip (no cup allowed) for an instant strikeout—this will encourage bunting. Every fair bunt grants the batter the right to run bases with the bat in his possession and club anyone attempting to tag him out.

    • Replies: @Pericles
  48. Pericles says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Isn’t Gerrit just a nice dutch first name? Yes, Wikipedia tells us:

    Gerrit is a Dutch male name meaning “brave with the spear”, the Dutch and Frisian form of Gerard.

  49. Pericles says:
    @Jenner Ickham Errican

    Maybe the batters box should be on top of a dunk-tank or something?

  50. Feryl says:
    @Arclight

    Wow, evidently people over 40 are completely defenseless against young people who are far poorer than the young adults of the 1950’s-1980’s. Excuses. Boomers have latched onto every trend (good or bad) throughout their lives, while Gen X has remained largely skeptical to apathetic of taking a larger role in shaping society.

    If it’s true that older generations really hate wokeness, than they’re doing a terrible job of opposing it.

    Political Correctness and Sensitivity both date to the very late 60, 70’s and 80’s (so it was Boomers who were the first generation to be indoctrinated) but it was the early 90’s by the time many people realized the scale of brainwashing and whining that was taking place. Regardless of realizing the degree of the problem, we obviously failed to halt it.

    My hunch is that the anglo/Germanic countries are falling into ruin due to the self hatred, lack of intellectual and physical courage, and decadent indulgence all promoted to an ever advancing degree after WW2. Blaming this on Millennials is ridiculous.

    • Replies: @Anon
  51. Pericles says:

    The smarter, nastier franchises like the Houston Astros started having their MBAs look at the data

    Imagine when they realize they should have hired engineers. However, regarding the original topic, note that the Astros have been hitting and scoring like mad for a while now. There seems to be no spin rate crisis over there.

    The smartes/nastiest team at the moment is probably Tampa Bay. They seem to be able to every year sell off any and every face you can recognize and still do quite well. Too bad this at the same time makes them kind of uninteresting.

  52. “Nowadays, left-handed pull hitters…routinely hit rocket line drives into right field but get thrown out at first by second basemen playing as extra outfielders because the shortstop is playing where the second baseman normally would be. So, why even try to get a base hit, just swing for the fences and hit a homer or strike out?”

    Or, they could (horror of horrors) hit the ball to the opposite field (e.g. Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, etc) until the other team stops with the shift. It keeps everyone honest a la ‘Ok, ok, he CAN hit the ball to all fields when he wants to’. Then he can go back to pulling the ball,

    Also, today’s power hitters, per the past 75 or so yrs, tend to have 100+ SO’s per season, roughly 3-1, and 4-1 as many SO’s as HR’s. Perhaps, you know, the sluggers could learn to reduce their number of SO’s (which everyone can agree is not conducive to scoring R’s), thus helping the team even more.

    More pitches thrown but still very few complete games. If P’s have improved all that much, then they would be permitted to toss more complete games, thus helping their team, and thus demonstrating that yes, they indeed are worth their exorbitant salaries.

    Middle relievers is a bogus position. Any washed up starter can pitch the 6th thru 8th innings fairly unscathed. At one time, closers (Elroy Face, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter) came in in the middle of the 7th and pitched the 8th and the 9th.

    Psychology aside, any pitcher of value can pitch a single inning unscathed, including the 9th.

    Point being, both pitchers and hitters should return to what worked quite well for nearly a century of MLB. (more complete games and hitting the ball to all fields)

  53. Ganderson says:
    @Buffalo Joe

    Joe- I waved to you as I drove by on the Thruway on Monday.

    I, too, hate the infinite procession of 10 pitch ABs, so I like your thinking, but if it leads to more strikeouts rather than more balls in play I’d be opposed.

    I have a friend who’s a sportswriter for a major metro daily- he’ll occasionally send me texts that say:

    “ for those of you keeping track, it had now been 45 minutes since the last ball was put into play…”

    • Replies: @Buffalo Joe
  54. Anon[255] • Disclaimer says:
    @Feryl

    My hunch is that the anglo/Germanic countries are falling into ruin due to the self hatred, lack of intellectual and physical courage, and decadent indulgence all promoted to an ever advancing degree after WW2.

    Who promoted it and why?

  55. All in all, a good thing since in April and May pitchers were getting the upper hand, throwing a record pace of no-hitters, and turning baseball into a boring game of strikeouts and occasional homers.

    Traditionally, batters heat up with the weather. Though this is not always borne out by the numbers.

    The shift and the the True Outcomes philosophy, while rational and correct, have had the greatest effect on the game IMO. Spin rate is important, but batters seem to figure this stuff out. How many guys throw 100 mph these days? Too many to mention, whereas Nolan Ryan was the only one when I was a kid.

    Baseball is a bit like economics, in the sense regulators tweak things when they get unbalanced, often guessing and hoping for the best. Players have been complaining about the baseballs one way or the other for over 100 years. We had the ‘deadball era,’ the steroid era, the greenies era. Scoring went up before WW2, there was a second dead ball era, they lowered the mound after Bob Gibson posted a 1.12 ERA in 1968, etc.

    But that’s baseball, Susan.

  56. @Abolish_public_education

    The “testing mania” is a response to a major conflict of interest in education. The same people who teach tell you how well they’ve taught. Moreover, any teacher who doesn’t pass most of her students will never get tenure. A newbie quickly learns that there are many ways to make it look like students deserve a passing grade.

    Actually, the “testing mania” has largely subsided. It told parents something they didn’t want to hear: Lots of students who can pass a teacher generated test today can’t pass an outside generated test two months from now.

  57. Gamecock says:

    Pirates-Braves last night, Pirates had big shift on for an Atlanta batter (Pederson?). He laid a bunt down toward third, and the infielder didn’t get to it til the batter was almost at first. He watched the ball roll past third, in hopes it would go foul before it got to the bag. His only defensive play.

    I was quite amused. Here, this morning, I learn that this counter to a shift is generations old.

    Freeman occasionally hits one up the third base side for an easy double against the shift. But surely quality hitters can drop bunts with some control. If pitchers can do it, good batters can do even better. One wonders why they aren’t doing it. I imagine it’s more fun for the batters to swing away than to bunt. But swing away/bunt is called by the manager, not the player.

    The shift should evoke a laugh from the hitting team. No need for rule change; shift is foolish.

  58. @BLESTO-V

    To a Mets fan who followed that pennant race closely, your statement seemed a bit off.

    So I checked. Vic Davillio appeared in 99 box scores for the ’71 Pirates. His most frequent designation was “pinch hitter.” He amassed only 312 plate appearances. He didn’t walk a lot (11), but he didn’t strike out that much either (31).

    As for the suggestion that he increased Pittsburgh’s win total by eight: the nerds who calculate a player’s offensive and defensive Wins Above Replacement player value (WAR), give him a total, rounded to the nearest whole integer, of zero. So I must respectfully disagree.

    No snarky hostility intended! Actually, there’s an iSteve regular who obsesses over my every comment on iSteve baseball posts, looking for (and usually finding) errors big or small. I suppose I’m just paying it forward.

    • Replies: @Marty
  59. megabar says:

    > Which system is better: cooperative or adversarial?

    Cooperative, when it can be effective. Unfortunately, it’s often ineffective.

  60. Gamecock says:

    There is some art in shifting required.

    The Braves batter squared up to bunt early. The shortstop froze.

    If you send the third baseman over into the right field gap, you leave the shortstop to defend the bunt. Problem is, shortstops never defend bunts, third basemen do!

    If you are going to shift, you better train your players to play the new positions they are also covering.

    Another thing is that the shortstop must realize he has to cover third base, too. I’ve seen more than once where a player beats the shift and makes it to second, looks over and sees no one at all covering third. Double morphs into a triple. I guess the pitcher needs to be trained to head over to third, just in case.

  61. @Edmund

    MLB needs to speed up the pace of play and get more balls in play.

    Over the last 20 years the time between pitches has increased by almost 3 seconds, adding 14 minutes of dead time per game. An average game is now well over 3 hours with fewer balls in play, 24% of plate appearances end in Strikeouts, 12% walks…25 years ago just 21% of plate appearances ended with a strikeout.

    Need to institute a pitch clock and limit the number of pitchers per game, end the shift to favor hitters and get more balls in play. Bring back the dead ball to reduce home runs and get hitters trying to get hits instead of home runs. Make the outfield walls higher , to get more action , more base runners and more excitement.

    Back in the eighties the average game was 2 hours and 45 minutes. The average game had 5 pitchers and under 6 strikeouts per game. Today we get 9 pitchers and 7 strikeouts per game and the games last 3 hours and 9 minutes with fewer hits, less balls in play and more dead time between pitches…too boring to watch , viewers end up falling asleep between pitches or switching the channel during pitcher changes…

    • Replies: @Gamecock
  62. Goddard says:
    @Nathan

    I agree about banning the aggressive field positions.

    I disagree. Lefties hitting into a shift should bunt down the third-base line for an easy hit. Bunt again and again and keep those shifters honest.

    • Replies: @TomSchmidt
  63. So the top 10 cheaters in baseball were all white?

    Or was it legal to use adhesives on the skin prior to the introduction of the new rules.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_Australian_ball-tampering_scandal

    • Replies: @Ghost of Bull Moose
  64. @R.G. Camara

    Rickey knew Rickey.
    Now Rickey is the greatest of all time.

  65. @Jonathan Mason

    There are all kinds of baseball cheaters, but the ones that bother players the most are PED users. If you look at the list of MLB baseball players suspended for steroids, you might notice a trend:

    https://www.baseball-almanac.com/legendary/steroids_baseball.shtml

    As Steve has mentioned before, Dominican and Venezuelan players in the early stages were mostly great field/no hit types, but then Something Happened. Maybe it’s steroids sold in drugstores over the counter in D.R., maybe it isn’t, but many of the new guys are big beefy sluggers.

    If you know any Dominicans ( hopefully not too many, that might mean you spend too much time in welfare offices), you know they don’t really like vegetables. They like pernil and fried yucca and platanos, high carb, lots of meat. Apparently one of the most popular requests for Dominican travelers is vitamins, which they take to make up for the lack of vegetables.

    I don’t know what the welfare cheats put in the food barrels they send home, paid for by you, the American tax payer, via EBT and TANF, and then resold on the black market:

    https://nypost.com/2013/07/28/nyc-welfare-food-is-shipped-in-barrels-to-the-dominican-republic-then-sold-on-the-black-market/

    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
  66. @Anon

    BLM is being led and financed by Jews.

    https://www.unz.com/aanglin/blm-is-just-a-totally-jewish-scam-that-isnt-even-run-by-black-people/

    BLM Is Just a Totally Jewish Scam That Isn’t Even Run by Black People

  67. Talk about applying SMART goals to real-life payoffs.

  68. @Brutusale

    You’re thinking of 1979, not ’71.

  69. Marty says:
    @I, Libertine

    You’re right, the wins difference might be better attributed to Dave Cash playing twice as much in ‘71 as he did in ‘70. Still, it’s fun to say, Vic Davalillo.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
  70. Gamecock says:
    @Hernan Pizzaro del Blanco

    Today . . . the games last 3 hours and 9 minutes

    Braves games take me less than an hour to watch. DVR and FF make that easy.

    I would not sit and watch a 2 hour and 45 minute game, except maybe Braves in World Series, should I live that long.

  71. @Ghost of Bull Moose

    Maybe it’s steroids sold in drugstores over the counter in D.R., maybe it isn’t, but many of the new guys are big beefy sluggers.

    I lived in the DR for a couple of years, and I can tell you that performance enhancing steroids are not sold legally over the counter any more than in the US, but you might be able to get dexamethasone, which is useful for treating Covid-19. I had some myself for a frozen shoulder, and I think I was able to buy them over the counter in the DR, though my doc gave me a month’s supply wrapped up in a piece of paper along with a cortisone shot, all for $50.

    The fact is that people who use steroids in sports where they are not allowed are cheaters, even if Dominican, and CHEATERS TELL LIES. So, yeah, guys caught using steroids will claim that they were taking some kind of legal nutritional supplement while on vacation in the DR, because they are pretty sure that no one will actually investigate their claim in the DR.

    I think that in professional wrestling that steroids are permitted, but that is entertainment and not competitive sport.

    In one of his autobiographies Linford Christie, a great Olympic sprinter of Jamaican and British origin said that even if you caught a sprinter with a syringe full of steroids in their arm, they would claim that they had been sitting by the window and that someone just threw the syringe through the window and it stuck in their arm. No doubt he was exaggerating, but not by much. People just lie. Think about Lance Armstrong who pedaled lies for years.

    Some years later Christie tested positive for nandrolone and came up with some ridiculous excuse, proving that he knew of what he spoke.

  72. @Ganderson

    Gandi, thanks for the reply. could have used some help with yard work.

  73. @Goddard

    This seems obvious to me. Hitters are great when they fail 7 out of 10 times. There has to be a reason that the easy hit isn’t taken. Any ideas?

    • Replies: @Goddard
  74. @Marty

    Vic Davallio and Manny Mota saved the Dodgers 1977 season in a crucial ninth inning in the league championship series against the mighty Phillies:

    https://lancasteronline.com/sports/black-friday-revisited-phillies-1977-loss-to-dodgers-still-haunts-garber/article_95a98267-18e9-571a-abec-fead1938a375.html

  75. guest says:

    Violating an unenforced rule is cheating, yes. So long as you know you’re doing it. There must be intent to cheat.

    Assuming of course that the cheater is not being deliberately obtuse about what is and isn’t allowed. Baseball has a complex rule system, and you can reasonably claim you weren’t aware of a rule and therefore didn’t technically cheat. Rather, you ran afoul unintentionally.

    However, you can’t say “Gee, unp, no one told me I couldn’t pull a switchblade on the 2nd baseman. If I’dda known…”

  76. guest says:
    @ScarletNumber

    The infield isn’t there for fielders to stand on. It’s for baserunners to run on.

  77. @Goddard

    I read a couple of articles. Current baseball thinking is that doubles are much more important than singles. Supposedly teams that shift are happy to have a power slugger who might hit a double settle for the easier bunt single, since it doesn’t score a run.

    • Replies: @Goddard
  78. Goddard says:
    @TomSchmidt

    Wait. I thought on-base percentage was the name of the game now. Just get on base any way you can.

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