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More Realignment Musings

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Diamondbacks don’t want to move to AL. Bah! Who cares?! They came into existence in 1998. Their opinion matters not!

Calcaterra’s arguments about the logistical problem(s) of adding another Texas team to the AL West make a lot of sense, too. The Mariner already travel more miles than almost every other team pretty much every year; some (most) years they are first in miles traveled, other years they are second, depending on what sort of interleague nightmare the Marlins end up having to deal with (last year,  because they played AL West teams, the Marlins traveled the most miles, but pretty much every other year the Mariners do).

Calcaterra then asks if realignment is just a Trojan Horse method of universalizing the DH? Gosh, I hope not. Not that I like watching pitchers hit, since they generally don’t, but rather I like watching managers try to use their benches, though thanks to Tony LaRussa-influenced bullpen construction, they don’t have much to work with these days.

[Parenthetical Rant–Curse LaRussa and his “defined bullpen role” stuff that makes bullpen management kind of a paint-by-numbers routine. And how come announcers who always pine for the old pre-pitch count days also say that guys in the bullpen need to know their roles? Huh? Back when they didn’t use pitch counts they brought in bullpen aces in high-leverage situations rather than just in ninth with a three-run lead and no one on base. I tell ya’, announcers really take the cake for failing to consider the lather that passes their lips. (I like Bert Blyleven, but he’s as guilty as anyone for talking out both sides of his mouth: starters should finish what they start ’cause he did it, but bullpen guys HAVE to know their role. Read The Long Season, read Ball Four, those guys had no idea when they’d be used…..) *sigh* 3 shots and a beer later and I still wish LaRussa would swallow the lemon he’s been sucking on since about 1980 and retire…so. damn. overrated.]

Here is a link to Goold’s piece, “The Problem with Perpetual Interleague Play,” which Calcaterra references. Note, however, that the short response to its contentions is this: how about we add two roster spots, instead? Granted, LaRussa would immediately add two more relief pitchers so he can make the sixth to ninth innings last even longer, but other teams might rationally use them to extend their benches and add additional hitters so that NL teams will be DH-capable. The problem with Goold’s piece is that while he makes a bunch of decent arguments about the problem of perpetual interleague play, he leaps to the conclusion–without a shred of evidence–that it’s all just a ploy to force the DH on the NL. Huh? It’s not completely terrible, but it’s pretty weak and weasley. While he isn’t writing for Foreign Affairs or an appellate court, you gotta’ figure he could at least reach his conclusion with some evidence or at least a decent argument.

Joe Lemire at Sports Illustrated doesn’t like abolishing divisions. Divisions, he says, “have a sense of identity and purpose.” This argument makes some sense on its face. Apply it to other circumstances, however, and you begin to see its inherent weakness. For example, in the former Yugoslavia, ethnic nationalism supplies “a sense of identity and purpose.” Uh, not so positive. It is an appeal to “the ways things have been” rather than to any intrinsic necessity. He then says that divisions heighten rivalries. As though there were no rivalries before divisions. Sorry, pal, but rivalries between the Cubs and Cardinals and Yankees and Red Sox persisted long before anyone in the Commissioner’s Office even dreamed of divisional play. The rest of his piece nicely demolishes the problem of persistent interleague play, so I’ll that be.

Here is an example from 2008 on why divisions suck and insert a imbalance (and irrationality) into the game that should be corrected.

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Written by jjvedamuthu

June 14, 2011 at 14:40

Relignment and Re-Divisioning, Continued

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More discussion on realignment and re-distributive divisioning from former-GM Jim Bowden and Rob Neyer.

To Bowden’s proposal, I say UGH!

My problem with Bowden’s proposal is that it goes way, way too far. This isn’t the NBA or NHL or NFL, whose history’s prior to, oh, 1950 are largely lost in a beer and whiskey haze. No, this is baseball, which has a rich history worthy of preservation and a sense of continuity.

So, Bowden goes a lot too far.

Heck, even the NFL, in its last–extensive–realignment, realized that pure geography wasn’t conducive to maintaining historical rivalries: Dallas in the NFC East, for example. And the “new” NFC North is really the old NFC Central as it existed prior to  Tampa Bay joining it in 1977.

A view that dissents from mine and Neyer’s was presented by Al Yellon. However, his “response” suffers from not being very responsive: even though Yellon’s piece is a response to Neyer’s, he fails to grapple with Neyer’s pre-emptive answers to the points Yellon raises. That is, Neyer raises those points and answers them, while Yellon just repeats those points without dealing with the answers to them that Neyer makes. About the only real point Yellon makes is to say he appreciates the “quirky” irrationalities of the status quo. Which in my book is sort of like saying you love the Electoral College or the Smoot-Hawley Tariff (sorry, as a political scientist weird things like that leap up at me when I’m looking for quick and dirty analogies).

Remember, I think they should move a team from the NL to the AL–a team which came into existence in 1968 or later, for NONE of the original National League teams should be moved to the AL; you got 100+ years in the NL you get to freakin’ stay there–so that both leagues have 15 teams, and then you eliminate divisions and have league-wide standings and (as close as possible to) a balanced schedule.

Even though I don’t care for interleague play, the reason I don’t care for it is that teams in the same division play different interleague opponents based on their “natural” rivalries. Well, in a 15 team league with no divisions you play each team in the other league twice (30 total games) but that means everyone plays the same opponents, so it wouldn’t be as biased as the status quo. It at least irons out part of the wrinkly inequities of the current “system” of determining interleague opponents. The Mets get screwed every year, and while they aren’t really a threat in the NL East this year, and while I also don’t really care for the Mets, it still is unfair that they have a harder road to hew right off the top than the other teams in their division.

Neyer wisely points out that most of what we’ll here from sports “pundits” (like that colossal idiot Dan Shaughnessy, may a keyboard scald his filthy fingers) will basically whine about the unfamiliar:

Not all, but most of the arguments will essentially be this: We can’t do it this new way, because I like the old way!

Just so you know, most of the people making that argument were also dead-set against realignment and the related changes in 1994. Then, like now, most of the arguments were fundamentally about fear of change, rather than what might be more entertaining, more profitable, more fair, etc.

I don’t mean to dismiss the arguments and the complaints that will attend any change to the current protocol. I’m just saying that most of them will be driven by emotion rather than logic. Which is fine; without emotion, there wouldn’t be professional sports and I wouldn’t make a pretty good living writing stuff for you to read.

I guess that’s kind of like my argument–uh, whine–that the old-school NL teams should stay NL, but divisional play began only in 1969, whereas the NL played with the same eight teams from, oh, 1900 or 1901 until 1962.

Anyway, vote in the poll at the bottom of Neyer’s piece. The results might surprise you.

I’ll try to keep up with the “Pundit’s” reactions to this news from over the weekend. It should be interesting.

Written by jjvedamuthu

June 12, 2011 at 16:18

Sweet Spot Grades…and the D-Backs Incredible Run Prevention Turnaround

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The Sweet Spot grades the NL and also the AL. Pretty decent job by the fella.   The Twins got the grade they deserve (they are terrible).

Nice evaluation of the Diamondbacks can be found here.

Wow, that’s all I have to say given their terrible pitching/run prevention last season and the first part of this season.

Click here to see the D-Backs’ monthly splits for 2011 and the incredible degree to which their pitching  improved in May, from an April team ERA of 4.89 to a May ERA of 3.00. Not only that, but  their team runs allowed per game went from 5.35 through April 30 to a team runs allowed per game of  4.37 through May 30(!!!).

No, you’re eyes don’t deceive you: the D-Backs cut their runs allowed per game by 1 whole run during May (not for just May, but over the course of the month they cut their runs allowed per game over the course of the season by an entire run…Kevin Towers is a freakin’ genius).

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 31, 2011 at 15:59

An Open Plea to David Einhorn

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Mr. Einhorn

I am a baseball fan, and although I don’t particularly like the Mets, I do think that them being kind of, er, bad isn’t good for (National League) baseball. Though I am almost as wildly unsuccessful at life as you are successful, I was kind of hoping you would take what I have to say to heart.

Please, do baseball fans everywhere a favor and push the Wilpons out. Please, for the love of sunshine, hot dogs, well-turned double plays, and nail-biting late-inning heroics, take charge of the New York National League ball club and push the Wilpons right on out of the door.

Thank you, sir, and I hope very much you enjoy your new role.

 

Sincerely,

Jon Vedamuthu

 

P.S. I am also very pleased that your background includes robust experience with mathematical and statistical evaluative techniques. After reading Jonah Keri’s The Extra 2% I hope more “quants” get involved in baseball.

Written by jjvedamuthu

May 28, 2011 at 13:07