October 22, 2002
Improvements in Baseball

After much meditation, I have decided that baseball needs only two changes in order to become a great sport:

  • A twenty-five second pitch-hit clock--with a called ball or strike against whoever violates it.
  • A walk on a 4-0 count is not a one-base but a two-base walk.

It is crystal clear why these two changes would greatly improve the game. It would speed it up--which is important. And it would eliminate the boring and unfair practice of depriving the best hitters of chances to show their stuff.

Posted by DeLong at October 22, 2002 01:00 PM | Trackback

Email this entry
Email a link to this entry to:


Your email address:


Message (optional):


Comments

I am struck by how non-daft these ideas are. never happen, of course.

Regards,

Posted by: Tom on October 21, 2002 08:10 PM

Er, why is speeding up the game important? It's not crystal clear to me...

Posted by: Josh on October 21, 2002 08:45 PM

Re:

>>Er, why is speeding up the game important? It's not crystal clear to me...<<

How many times did you say you wanted the camera to look at all those not-very-good-TV-actresses whom Michael Eisner has strategically placed in the stands? I mean, a pitch-hit clock would greatly constrain that activity, I understand...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 21, 2002 09:03 PM

Re:

>>I am struck by how non-daft these ideas are. never happen, of course.<<

Basketball did the shot clock...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 21, 2002 09:05 PM

The stadium concession operators will never go for shortening the game :-)

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on October 22, 2002 12:09 AM

Admirable suggestions, but baseball is not a 'timed'game, and that is important to its character. There are rules about how much time is allowed between pitches (made in an attempt to speed up the game) and that can be adjusted, but if you are looking for a digital clock and a buzzer, forget it. We can, of course, put more pressure on umps to enforce the time with warnings, etc. Limiting players ability to all timeout, might also improve the speed (maybe timeouts must come from the manager and he only as one per inning?)
The extra base on walks, I believe is too much of a change, although I agree it should be expanded. Perhaps any walk that does not go to a full count should get two bases. Otherwise, fouling off for a walk would become a major part of the game, and would be worse.
When thinking of remedying baseball you have to be awfully careful. Rule changes can make a big difference. In 1969 one change was to lower the pitcher’s mound 5 inches to give hitter’s an advantage (as well as adjusting the strike zone). Here is a summary for the interested.

Posted by: theCoach on October 22, 2002 03:49 AM

>> I have decided that baseball needs only two changes in order to become a great sport.

Wow, it jumps over "normal sport" and goes straight from "pasttime" to "great sport"!!! ;)

Posted by: on October 22, 2002 05:12 AM

Nonsense. A few changes which *would* improve matters:

Spread the game out to two innings played over five days, to allow tactics to develop and to allow batsmen more opportunities to face the strike.

Remove the pitcher's mound, to equal things up a bit.

Reduce the number of bases to two.

Outlaw pitches thrown with a bent arm and insist on an overarm action.

Widen the bat and give it a flat face, to increase the element of skill in batting.

I think that once these minor changes were made, it would be possible to have a genuine *World* Series.

Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 22, 2002 05:24 AM

Oh, and mark out the "strike zone" with a small wooden "wicket" arrangement, of course.

Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 22, 2002 05:25 AM

There is no formal time clock in baseball, the game was originally played under very tight time control. Once the sun went down, the game had to be called. It was an important part of the umpire’s duty to maintain the pace of play and make sure the game was completed. The delaying tactics we see today—the batter calling time and stepping out just when the pitcher is set, the pitcher taking all day to deliver the next pitch—would never have been tolerated. There is no reason that an exciting, brisk game can’t be played in well under three hours.

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb on October 22, 2002 05:56 AM

It is sometimes hard to remember that games used to be routinely played in less than 2 and 1/2 hours, and frequently less than 2. The players have far more control over the game than they once did, which generally is an improvement over the indentured servent era, but the increased power of the players has also had some negative effects, and the slowing down of the game has been among the worst.

Posted by: Will Allen on October 22, 2002 06:56 AM

Proposed changes have some merit, although they would remove some element of control from the players and managers. Especially the time-out rule to award a strike or ball. This is quite problemmatical; strikes or balls should be based solely on a combination of the pitcher's skill and intentions, and the batter's skill and agressiveness. If the count winds up 4-0, intentionally or otherwise, a one base walk is appropriate.

One change that would improve the game, although not in the timing department, is elimination of the evil designated hitter rule. If pitchers can not hit, too bad. Call me old-fashioned, but all athletes playing in the Bigs should be able to do three things very, very well: hit, field, and run. (Skill at negotiating multi-million dollar contracts optional)

Regards.

Jack, a Bronx Boyo and saddened Yankee fan.

Posted by: Jack Rich on October 22, 2002 07:06 AM

Re:

>>Nonsense. A few changes which *would* improve matters:<<

But such massive changes would transform the character of the game completely. It wouldn't be cricket to still call it "baseball"...

Posted by: Brad DeLong on October 22, 2002 07:22 AM

Go Barry!

Posted by: on October 22, 2002 09:06 AM

>>One change that would improve the game, although not in the timing department, is elimination of the evil designated hitter rule. If pitchers can not hit, too bad. Call me old-fashioned, but all athletes playing in the Bigs should be able to do three things very, very well: hit, field, and run<<

Actually, the case is strengthened for removal of that rule even if they can't. Cricket is one of the few globally popular sports in which it is possible to sit down for up to half an hour and watch a trained world-class sportsman spend half an hour performing a physical activity that he is just simply no bloody good at. Nobody who watched Devon Malcolm in his prime will ever forget the experience.

Posted by: Daniel Davies on October 22, 2002 09:15 AM

Isn't baseball enough of a superstar market as it is? Right now, Bonds' salary is lower than under the proposed system, because his hitting production can be limited by walks. The walk system trasfers income to better mediocre players who would hit behind Bonds. If you raise the price of walks to two bases (increasing expected runs from walks)this transfers income from the Santiagos to the Bonds of baseball.

Posted by: JC on October 22, 2002 09:27 AM

This is the most civil debate I've seen on these pages for months. I agree with D2 on this one, by the way.

Posted by: Paul on October 22, 2002 10:00 AM

"Cricket is one of the few globally popular sports in which it is possible to sit down for up to half an hour and watch a trained world-class sportsman spend half an hour performing a physical activity that he is just simply no bloody good at."

Yes. In the intellectual arena, the comparable activity is called "blogging". Not at this site, of course. I was thinking more that there is no place like home...

Regards,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on October 22, 2002 10:02 AM

>> It wouldn't be cricket to still call it "baseball"...

It's not really cricket for Americans to call football soccer either.

Posted by: .david on October 22, 2002 10:30 AM

I kind of like the slow pace. In any event, theCoach is right that the essential character of the game is that there is no clock. That's why it aint over till it's over.

Posted by: BJ on October 22, 2002 10:43 AM

Brad, Major League Baseball already thought of this (in part).

8.04
When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher shall deliver the ball to the batter within 20 seconds after he receives the ball. Each time the pitcher delays the game by violating this rule, the umpire shall call "Ball." The intent of this rule is to avoid unnecessary delays. The umpire shall insist that the catcher return the ball promptly to the pitcher, and that the pitcher take his position on the rubber promptly. Obvious delay by the pitcher should instantly be penalized by the umpire.

What is the effect of longer commercial breaks on the time of games??

Posted by: Andrew Lazarus on October 22, 2002 11:37 AM

Shocking, wisdom from a Yankee fan. Actually, removing the DH would speed up the game on two counts, less offense and a higher chance that pitching changes occur between innings. Here is a humble suggestion. Limit pitching changes to one change during the inning per game for both teams with unlimited pitching changes between innings. I am torn as to wether eliminating the DH would be a boon to low budget teams. On the one hand, they don't have to pay big money for a great hitting DH. However, they would have to upgrade their bench as it would become more important. Go Royals.!!

Posted by: MARK on October 22, 2002 01:56 PM

So what is so bloody important about having one more rapid-paced, timed game, to add to soccer, football, basketball and so on. I am no particular fan of baseball, as I find basketball, for example, a far more graceful sport, and thus far more fun to watch. But why do we have to extend the tyranny of the clock to a game which has its charm its almost pre-modern character?

Posted by: Leo Casey on October 22, 2002 02:41 PM

OK, how to make soccer more fun: get rid of the offsides rule.

Hockey: I would say, get rid of the blue line, if I knew what the blue line was.

Posted by: on October 22, 2002 03:56 PM

OK, how to make soccer more fun: get rid of the offsides rule.

Hockey: I would say, get rid of the blue line, if I knew what the blue line was.

Posted by: on October 22, 2002 03:56 PM

>>So what is so bloody important about having one more rapid-paced, timed game...<<

Hear hear, when the one day game was introduced in Cricket it got quite exciting for a while, now I would much rather watch a test match. A player can get on the feild with his position in the side hanging in the balance and come off a hero. Even a draw can become quite exciting.

Mind you, the game was shortened from about 8 days many years ago to a five day format now and I think that has added to the drama of the game. If you want to tinker with the game like baseball or cricket you would be surprised what impact variations of a slight nature can do.

Posted by: Harry Notaras on October 22, 2002 04:08 PM

I remember when there were pennant races in baseball. They were exciting. Today....

"Branca winds up... here's the pitch... Thompson swings, its going way back... THE GIANTS WIN HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE FOR THE QUARTERFINALS! THE GIANTS WIN HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE FOR THE QUARTERFINALS! EVERYBODY'S GOING CRAZY!."

No, not quite the same thing.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on October 22, 2002 05:05 PM

I like the traditional stately pace of baseball as much as the next man, but the positively glacial pace of the modern game is a bit too much. No one really derives enjoyment from watching the batter step out after every pitch to adjust his wrist strap. Twenty years ago, ball games were regularly played in two and a half hours or less, and no one ever complained because the game was to fast-paced

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb on October 22, 2002 06:41 PM

Games are soooo much longer these days for several reasons. 1. in the 1970s, Mike Hargrove was notable because he stopped between every pitch to adjust his battle gloves, fidget around, and then got in the box. He was called the Human Rain Delay. Today, EVERY player does that. There is a simple solution. The umpire does not award time out to a player once he steps in the batter's box, period. You get something in your eye, Tough shi__. How often does that really happen anyway.

Second problem. Pitching changes. In the old days they were rare. As a Yankees fan in the 1970s and 80s, I remember Billy Martin routinely letting a pitcher go nine innings, even when he gave up 15 hits! Then the Tony LaRussa style of bullpen management became the rage, where lefty/righty matchups are the focus and relievers often pitch to just one batter. Well, you can't stop that, but I hate pitching changes. Make them faster. Three warm up pitches. Period.

3. Bogus conferences on the mound.
Don't allow the manager or pitching coach to visit the mound, ever. If you want to take a pitcher out, take him out. 90% of all trips to the mound are stalling tactics to get the next pitcher warmed up anyway. Have the umpires end all on the mound conferences. Just stop them. No Carlton Fisk style walks to the pitcher six times an inning. Its boring and it shouldn't be tolerated.

Simple changes, that don't change the "real" rules but just return the game to its roots, and you could lop 45 minutes or more off of every game.

Posted by: pj on October 22, 2002 07:43 PM

Jeez, reactionary much? The game is perfect.

Posted by: Dennis O'Dea on October 22, 2002 09:17 PM

I'm still holding out for George Carlin's suggestion of randomly placed land mines in the outfield...

On a more serious note, chaning the rules to allow only one pitching change per inning would go a long way toward making things better.

In a similar vein for a superior sport, something needs to be done about the incessant time-out calling in basketball at the end of the games. The whole foul-timeout-shot-timeout-foul grind has got to go.

Posted by: Chad Orzel on October 23, 2002 05:12 AM

I am still intrigued by the "two-base" intentional walk. I had never seen that idea before, and thought the notion of some penalty for intentional walks was quite creative. ("non-daft" is, in this context, a compliment, although that may not have been obvious).

So, possible penalty - have the next batter step up with the count 1-0.

Or, perhaps the San Francisco fans have shown the way by waving chickens (Rubber chickens, please) when opponents elect to walk Bonds.

New rule: if the pitcher wants to avoid a penalty (extra base, 1-0 count, whatever) he simply has to don the "Shirt of Shame". The manager (or pitching coach) runs onto the field wearing a shirt with a big yellow stripe down the back, and some message in the front like "My Mother Wears Army Boots". He gives the shirt to the pitcher, who puts it on and executes the intentional walk.

The immediate consequence will be to slow down the game. Deterrent effect to follow.

Regards,

Posted by: Tom Maguire on October 23, 2002 05:33 AM

"I am still intrigued by the "two-base" intentional walk. I had never seen that idea before, and thought the notion of some penalty for intentional walks was quite creative."

I HAVE seen such a rule in practice, in a "co-recreational" softball league. The penalty serves to deter intentionally walking all the guys to pitch to the girls . . .

Of course, the sacred game of baseball ought not to be descretated by a rule imported from "co-recreational" softball

Posted by: rea on October 23, 2002 08:41 AM

FYI, the NHL speeded up hockey to its benefit by cutting out long line changes ahead of face offs, dropping the puck even if one team isn't "ready" and also penalizing bickering after penalties. Baseball is overdue for your pitch time suggestion. Who doen't think that basketball improved with the 23 second clock and its college equivalent? (And before that, they were at least playing during those boring 4-corners strategies, not just spitting and adjusting their batting gloves).

Posted by: on October 24, 2002 01:28 PM

Baseball is not meant to be a speed sport; it is a skill sport, a finesse sport, a game of inches. Who cares if the pitcher takes forever to pitch? Who cares if the batter steps out of the box after each pitch. that part of the battle going on between them. baseball is a game of inches, not seconds.

Posted by: Dennis O'Dea on October 25, 2002 04:10 PM
Post a comment
Name:


Email Address:


URL:


Comments:


Remember info?