Thursday, April 08, 2010

Long games 'taking pitches' interferes with Selig notion that splashy home runs rule the game

"The Yankees and Red Sox... are slow, in part, because their hitters are patient. Last season the Yankees were first in pitches seen by their batters with 25,066, and the Red Sox were second with 25,005. The league average was 23,894 per team, according to the Elias Sports Bureau."...
  • When Bud Selig thinks of baseball he thinks of Mark McGwire.
Time Magazine cover July 1998, Griffey and McGwire, "Baseball is Back" McGwire hugs Roger Maris' son in 1998
  • Bad news for Selig is Red Sox recent emphasis away from power and toward pitching and defense.
4/3/10, AP: "The offseason buzz words for the Boston Red Sox were “run prevention.” They added a star pitcher and three outstanding defenders to keep opponents from scoring."... (From Joel Sherman's book, "Birth of a Dynasty" about 1996 and the Yankees, pp 67-68) "The ball flew in April of 1996. Conspiracy theorists suspected baseballs were wound tighter than ever to promote run scoring in general and home runs in particular.
  • In the aftermath of the labor war that led to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and a shortened 1995 season, the conjecture went that the Office of the Commissioner was looking to invigorate apathetic fans. And nothing quite captivates like the long ball.
In 1996, the 40-year old record for homers per game in April was smashed and the 10.58 runs averaged per game were the fourth highest in the month in history. Three players--Brady Anderson, Barry Bonds, and Gary Sheffield--hit 11 homers in April after just 3 players had ever done so before.
  • If it was not simply a livelier ball, then there was a collaboration of factors that helped explain the phenomenon, including smaller ballparks and tiny strike zones.
  • The players were bigger, and more substantive discussions were ongoing about the use of illegal performance enhancers such as steroids.
  • It all created a run-scoring orgy that made it open season on pitchers, which influenced how the games were being played.
  • Starting pitchers were more averse to throwing strikes and having muscular hitters have their way. So, they nibbled around the plate, swelled their pitch counts, and were relieved earlier than usual.
  • That exposed the soft underbelly of every team, so pitchers not good enough either for the rotation or to close were being called upon sooner and more frequently with pinball-like results.
Middle relievers on every club were feeling the remorseless onslaught of offense."....
  • Sherman's book was published in 2006 by Rodale
some photos above ap


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