Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
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2006-04-13 05:29
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Yesterday's game will be remembered for Gary Sheffield's wicked foul ball in the first inning, which sent third base coach Larry Bowa to the turf. In the same at-bat, Sheffield hit a three-run homer to left, tying the game. According to the Daily News:

Sheffield apologized, but Bowa waved him off. "I told him forget sorry," Bowa said. "I'll go down on my back every day for a three-run homer."

The Royals had a 3-0 lead, but their starting pitcher, Jeremy Affeldt walked Johnny Damon and then Derek Jeter in the bottom of the first (oy) before Sheff's homer. Oh, those base on balls. The Bombers didn't look back as they handled Kansas City 12-5. Shawn Chacon wasn't especially terrific but after a rocky start he was good enough.

Comments
2006-04-13 06:15:16
1.   mikeplugh
I always feel a little conflicted about those games where the Yankees walk 8 or 9 times. On one hand (the far bigger hand), I feel happy that the other team is crumbling and that we have so many chances to score.

On the other hand (the extremely tiny hand), I feel bad about the lack of artistry the game has taken on. It's a far better watch when you feel the team has met great resistance and overcome to win. When the pitcher is so bad he can't find the plate, it's like winning a race against a toddler. In professional sports, you take every win. In life, you usually let the toddler win because it's the right thing to do. Therein lies the conflicted feeling.

All that said, I hope the Royals walk 8 or 9 Yankees tomorrow too. ;)

2006-04-13 06:44:27
2.   mikeplugh
If any of you haven't been over to Catfish Stew to read Ken Arneson's latest masterpiece.....what are you waiting for....
2006-04-13 06:45:03
3.   monkeypants
It's also the aesthetics. Games that feature a lot of walks (especially), but also strike out and home runs are just not all that interesting to watch. I would much rather see fielders and batters running, catching, and throwing than walking.

So (keeping with the theme), on the one hand I understand that the game as it's played now is the culmination of a long process going back to babe Ruth where walks and HRs generally lead to lots of scoring. It is better to have a Giambi's .250 BA/.400 OBA/.550 SLG/120 K than to have a Mattingly's .310/.350/.460/30; bunts and steals often don't pay off; strikeouts are generally no worse than other outs; etc. These things I do not deny.

On the other hand, I sometimes wish there could be a way to alter the aesthetics of the game by encouraging teams to do the things that are more exciting on the field.

Of course, I also want the Yanks to walk a bunch of times today too!!

2006-04-13 07:39:31
4.   Shaun P
Said the NY Times this morning, "Torre will not make a habit of sitting Cano against lefties." I hope that's true, but I'll believe it when I see it.

I love aesthetics and a great 1-0 pitchers' duel as much as the next guy. And yesterday's game certainly didn't have the 'artistry', and nail-biting tension, of a 1-0 game. But, that said, take a look at these numbers for yesterday's game:

Home runs - 2
Walks - 11
Strikeouts - 9
Triples - 0
Doubles - 5
Singles - 15
Stolen Bases - 2
Double Plays - 3
Runner thrown out at home - 1
Batters who left runners in scoring position with 2 out - 7
Wild pitches - 2
Putouts by fielders - 39

Even if you call strikeouts and home runs 'unexciting' or 'uninteresting' - which is a hell of a stretch, to me - the number of such plays (including walks) is still much less than the number of other, 'more interesting/exciting' plays.

Winning baseball is fun baseball. And when a team walks a lot, hits a lot of homers, and strikeouts out a lot of the opposing batters, that team usually wins a lot. Sounds fun to me!

2006-04-13 09:16:47
5.   Schteeve
I actually find walks aesthetically pleasing. Giambi seems to go up there looking for one pitch and will not swing the bat until he gets it. I may be creating things that aren't there but i feel like there are so many times that he goes down a strike or two and then next thing you know it's five pitches later and he's walking.

The patience, the cat and mouse game is very dramatic to my eye. If i just want to see action I'll play video games.

2006-04-13 09:18:42
6.   wsporter
http://makeashorterlink.com/?R20C234FC

MonkeyP, 3 The point you raise is I think an interesting one concerning the value of high strikeout, high OBP guys v. high average low, strike out and relatively lower OBP guys. The HBT link above is something I keep looking at and can't quite get my intuitive side around.

On the aesthetics side of things, I think a lot has to do with context. A well pitched, low scoring, no offense, tight game can be an invitation to an afternoon nap in August. It can be a ticket to cardiac arrest in October. In April I'm still just glad they're playing ball.

2006-04-13 09:22:01
7.   Jen
I'm with Schteeve on this one. It's one thing if the pitcher is just plain wild and walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. But I like watching the guys like Giambi with a good eye, who can work a count just to find his pitch. I like that tension of who's going to outlast who.
2006-04-13 09:27:36
8.   monkeypants
Ok, Ok, I was unclear. Certainly winning baseball is fun relative to losing baseball.

I say that Ks and HRs are relatively less exciting because these are basically static events that involve only a couple of players. I would rather see a double or triple in the gap with a close throw than a HR. At least then one or two players are actually running.

And yes, the "exciting plays" still outnumber the "boring" plays. But, again, it's all relative. The more walks means the greater % of plays that are less exciting. More walks (and ironically, more Ks) also generally means more pitches, which means more pitching changes, which is not the most exciting part of baseball. Wouldn't the most exciting game be one that featured the most "exciting" plays and the least "unexciting" plays? In a macro sense, then, wouldn't the aesthetics of the game as a whole (an admittedly subjective thing) improve if static plays were even more limited?

The problem, of course, is what sort of dis/encouragement? I don't mean asking the coaches to ask their players nicely to bunt more. I mean finding a way to alter the risk-hazard and cost-benefit analyses that all players and coaches make. For example, if walks caused more immediate damage (say, the batter automatically scores as opposed to taking a base), then pitchers would be much more likely to avoid the edges of the plate. This would certainly lower the number of walks and would likely increase the number of balls in play (but also presumably the number of HR)--of course, this is a drastic and unrealistic suggestion. Perhaps the composition of the ball or bat could be altered slightly to reduce the distance the ball flies, etc.

Every major sport tinkers with rules and equipment to maintain a desired balance between offense and defense, and to encourage a certain style of play (or to eliminate "exploitation" of loopholes in the rules, such as the Bengals' hurry-up offense to catch the other team off-sides). Baseball tends not to do this, except in extreme cases (live ball, DH). This is both a strength and weakness of the sport, in my opinion.

2006-04-13 10:55:43
9.   Schteeve
8

"The more walks the greater % of plays that are less exciting."

This is an opinion not a fact. I don't see why the rules of the game need to be changed. I mean sure, they could pull in the fences, use a ball made out of plutonium, and put snipers with laser cannons in the bleachers to make outfielders jobs more exciting.

But part of the inherent drama in a baseball game, is the constant gradual slow build of action and plot. If I want to see acrobatics and fireworks constantly, I'll watch Arena Football.

2006-04-13 11:50:27
10.   monkeypants
""The more walks the greater % of plays that are less exciting."

This is an opinion not a fact. I don't see why the rules of the game need to be changed."

Agreed--as I said, the aesthetics issue is subjective. I think walks are boring. Others, however, find them riveting. I would prefer a version of baseball that looks somewhat different from the way it is currently played, but that's just one voice.

"I mean sure, they could pull in the fences, use a ball made out of plutonium, and put snipers with laser cannons in the bleachers to make outfielders jobs more exciting."

Hmmm, interesting. I was thinking more along the lines of regulating bats to eliminate the really skinny handled models with large sweet spots, or alter the ball slightly to take a few feet off of flyballs, or to move the batter's box an inch or two off the plate so batters would hang over the plate less (this last suggestion I got from sabermetrically-inclined Bill James).

As for outfielders, I would not suggest shooting at them with laser cannons. I would consider making the fielders' gloves a little smaller.

2006-04-13 12:20:53
11.   KJC
// I think walks are boring. Others, however, find them riveting. //

I'm with Schteeve that "the cat and mouse game [can be] very dramatic". I think everything is relative based on what's going on in the game: Watching the O's walk 6 Sox in the 1st inning was pretty boring, but Mo's walk to Millar in the '04 ALCS was a pretty exciting one. Same with home runs: a game-tying or walk-off HR is great, but one when your team already has a 7 run lead isn't much to go nuts about.

2006-04-13 18:50:56
12.   joejoejoe
OT: According to Amazon.com, Vic Power is quoted extensively in the upcoming Roberto Clemente biography by David Maraniss. Maraniss wrote excellent biographies of Bill Clinton and Vince Lombardi so 'Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero' should be a great read.

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