Welcome to Modern Baseball. I hope you enjoyed Game 2 of the World Series Wednesday night because it was the best of new-age, analytics-based baseball.
Home runs? It's what the game is about these days. Yes, I'm guessing the ball is juiced, which is fine with me. But add in all the attention to launch angles, exit velocity and the fact that nobody wants to hit ground balls into shifts these days, you're going to get more home runs. And I love it. Eight home runs in a Series game was amazing and five in extra innings was shocking.
For too long, baseball has embraced a silly sort of one-base-at-a-time approach that has led to needlessly giving up outs with weak grounders to second and sacrifice bunts in early innings. Nobody ever paid good money to watch players bunt. And unless it's a weak-hitting pitcher bunting, the numbers just don't justify it.
I was watching a playoff game a couple of weeks ago -- wish I could remember who the participants were -- and there was a runner on second and nobody out. And of course we got all the usual pablum from the announcers about how the hitter has to make a "productive out" so the offensive team could "manufacture a run." You know, hit the ball to the right side of the infield. Hogwash. What happened was the right-handed batter took the first pitch, a hanging curve he could have hit into the upper deck, because it wasn't suitable for hitting to the right side of the field to advance the runner. On the second pitch he grounded weakly to second and became an instant hero.
He got huge back-pats from teammates and announcers for coming up with a weak out. "He did his job," they say. "He moved the runner up."
Sorry, I'd rather have a two-run homer or a simple line-drive single to left field. Even a walk. "Productive outs" are still outs -- and you get only 27 of them. Don't just give them away. And again, I think the analytics will back me up on this. Today it's all about the long ball and walks. Run the pitch count up, take your walks and belt three-run homers.
Of course there are a few things in the "new" game I don't like, foremost of which is the trend to overuse relief pitchers. All those pitching changes extend the game times and I think, in the long run, are detrimental to pitching staffs. It's led, like last night, to removing starters too early and asking closers to get six-out saves. I have no trouble with closers throwing more than one inning, but if that's what you want to do, go old school and have them do it in the regular season the way Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage did it. Don't condition them all season for one inning of work and then in the postseason, the most pressure-packed times, ask them to double their work load and do something you didn't ask them to do all season.
This World Series features two teams that are leaders in statistical analysis. They compile data and have learned how to use it to their advantage. It's a very underreported part of this World Series. These guys have come up with algorithms to analyze pitch sequences, if you can believe it. And the reason I bring this up is that I'm just sick of the old timers clinging to their tired and boring way of playing the game and deriding the new era of statistical analysis. There are still so-called experts who don't know OPS from TNT and it's time they did a little studying.
If you don't respect new information, you're never going to learn anything. And if you want to stop learning, just go away.