Dear MLB: Solutions for pitching changes, reviews, extra innings and more

Dear MLB: Solutions for pitching changes, reviews, extra innings and more

It's been nearly two days since the latest fulmination about the crushing tedium of baseball -- its pace, that is, rather than its execution -- and how its games can be made faster for the modern generation, which apparently lives life as though it has a Lyft waiting in the driveway.

The most notorious one, which sticks a runner on second base after the 10th inning of games to bring back the thrills of the sacrifice bunt and slow roller to the right side, was rightfully ridiculed for its inherent idiocy, but a competition committee (like the one in the NFL that gave us the exciting new catch rule that requires a wide receiver to hold a thrown ball until death) keeps firing out new ideas like speeding up intentional walks and replay mechanics.

None of which is guaranteed to do anything or even suggestive enough to intrigue the youth of America (say, anyone younger than 50) to watch more baseball.

But since they have ideas, we have ideas.


THE ISSUE: There are a lot more of them now than ever because managers be managing. No baseball idea ever goes uncopied or unabused, so shaving time off here is vital.

THE SOLUTION: After the first reliever, each additional reliever loses a pitch, as in the third reliever starts off with a 1-0 count, the fourth with 1-1, the fifth with 2-1, etc. By the time you get to the fifth guy, it’s a full count and hitters have one pitch. Time will fly right by, and if it means the end of the delicate mental battles between pitchers and hitters, hey, at least you’ve shaved off a couple of minutes – until you get some wiseass who just fouls off pitches out of spite.


THE ISSUE: Every hitter has his own tune, and moseys to and saunters from the plate to hear as much as much of said song as possible. This first became a crisis when Carlos Baerga of Cleveland seized upon Macarena in the mid-90s, thus midwifing a torture implement of untold agony to the game.

THE SOLUTION: Speeding up the music slowly but discernibly to fool the hitters into changing their stride to the plate, thus getting to the box earlier and saving . . . oh, 10 seconds tops. Until, of course, you get a hitter who figures it out and has Sibelius’ Karelia Suite played. That’ll slow anybody up.


THE ISSUE: It takes too long to initiate the process because managers like to take their time deciding, it takes more time because umpires trot blobblishly to the video equipment, and even more time because the fellows in the Chamber Of Secrets often agonize over a play. Getting it wrong seems eminently more sensible by comparison.

THE SOLUTION: Managers must pay out of their own pockets (cash only; no billing) for every challenge – $5000 to a charity, service organization or winery of their choice. In addition, umpires can decide to accede to a challenge or decline it if the call is too obvious by simply saying, “No. You’re wrong. I’m not doing it. Shove off, Waddles.” The kids baseball is trying to reach like that sort of anti-authority kind of thing, even if it is delivered by someone in authority.


THE ISSUE: Commercials, which help pay the freight but are often not worth the wait. This will not be changed because sports would rather turn back time than give back a dime, but I see one idea.

THE SOLUTION: Starting the game while the commercials are still playing, and then telling the folks at home, “You missed a five-pitch groundout, a review and a manager ejection while you were watching that floor wax commercial . . . and here’s the 1-1 to Khris Davis.” This will enrage viewers and sell them on the idea of coming out to the ballpark to see all the stuff they miss at home. This solves the sports-wide problem of television being a better vehicle than the “in-game experience,” which is a stupid term that should never be used again under penalty of beating.


THE ISSUE: They’re extra. Evidently, some people in baseball think more baseball is worse than less, a marketing concept known as “scarcity by embarrassment” that has never really taken off in America, or anywhere else for that matter.

THE SOLUTION: Tell anyone who doesn’t like extra innings to take poison. If you really are trying to make the case that your product stinks so much that you would do anything to minimize it, why not make the games seven innings, or even five (thereby taking care of Problem No. 1)? Why not just run a simulation of the game, send the results to the MLB offices and ship the box scores out to all the metrics folks to reduce to sub-atomic structures as they do currently?

THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Reduce the season to six marathon weekends – 72 hours in a row without rest. The more games a team fits in, the better chance it has of winning enough games to get to the postseason, a seventh weekend, so the players will pretty hustle their sit-upons down to the nubbin for the extra paycheck. That’ll speed up the game to a very agreeable pace.

THE ALTERNATE TO THE ALTERNATE SOLUTION: Extra innings are great. The more, the better. More people are more interested in a 17-inning game than not. In fact, innings 10 through infinity are played at a much faster pace than innings 1 through 9, so just start with the 10th and don’t tell anyone you’re doing it. You know, just to see if anyone is paying attention.


THE ISSUE: People yammering ceaselessly about time of game being the reason baseball fans skew older and how this is a fundamental crisis that must be addressed immediately lest the sport die and the nation implode atop its rotting corpse. This has been an ongoing snivelfest for nearly ever, and baseball is no more willing to put its money where its stopwatch is than it ever has been.

THE SOLUTION: Shutting up at the first available opportunity, and maintaining that stance until the rest of us have safely left earshot. That may not speed up baseball, but time won’t seem to run nearly so slowly the rest of the day.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”