Mar 312014
 

Rankings for Opening Day 2014

Baseball is back following its banishment of winter back to hell for another half year. Yes, baseball did it! If some people think men rode dinosaurs, then baseball surely can defeat winter. Jack Frost has been bludgeoned to death by a Louisville Slugger. (UNSPOILER ALERT: Alternate ending to Disney’s “Frozen”)

I’ve divided the rankings in to 4 tiers of teams. The “Elite” are the best of the best right now. The “Contenders” are in the thick of the pennant race. Those in the “Meh-zo-sphere” cling to dreams of playing relevant September baseball, and once mathematically eliminated are shooting for .500. The “Suh-diddly-uckleheads” are already looking forward to October golfing.

 

Rank Record Team Rise/Fall
The Elite
1.
0-0
Los Angeles Dodgers
2.
0-0
Boston Red Sox
3.
0-0
New York Yankees
4.
0-0
Oakland A’s
5.
0-0
St. Louis Cardinals
The Contenders
6.
0-0
Texas Rangers
7.
0-0
Pittsburgh Pirates
8.
0-0
Detroit Tigers
9.
0-0
Atlanta Braves
10.
0-0
Baltimore Orioles
The Meh-zo-sphere
11.
0-0
Cincinnati Reds
12.
0-0
Cleveland Indians
13.
0-0
Tampa Bay Rays
14.
0-0
Los Angeles Angels
15.
0-0
Washington Nationals
16.
0-0
Arizona Diamondbacks
17.
0-0
Kansas City Royals
18.
0-0
Colorado Rockies
19.
0-0
Philadelphia Phillies
20.
0-0
Toronto Blue Jays
21.
0-0
New York Mets
22.
0-0
Seattle Mariners
23.
0-0
San Francisco Giants
24.
0-0
San Diego Padres
25.
0-0
Minnesota Twins
The Suh-diddly-uckleheads
26.
0-0
Milwaukee Brewers
27.
0-0
Chicago Cubs
28.
0-0
Chicago White Sox
29.
0-0
Miami Marlins
30.
0-0
Houston Astros
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Feb 252014
 

Yesterday, Major League Baseball announced their first attempt to protect players from collisions at home plate.

Here’s the meat of the new rule:

  • A runner attempting to score may not deviate from his direct pathway to the plate in order to initiate contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate). If, in the judgment of the Umpire, a runner attempting to score initiates contact with the catcher (or other player covering home plate) in such a manner, the Umpire shall declare the runner out (even if the player covering home plate loses possession of the ball).
  • Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.

 

Home Plate Collision

via Getty Images.

How will it change the game in reality?   For the runners, “direct pathway to the plate” has to mean more than staying within the baselines.  Perhaps they mean moving your body, leading with your hand or foot, covering the shortest distance possible between where you are and the closest part of the plate.  Aiming for the catcher = bad.  Aiming for the plate = good.  However, what if you are dodging a tag and initiate more than a brushing contact with the catcher?  Under the rule you could be out, but it seems to go beyond the rule’s purpose: preventing harmful violent collisions.

For the catcher, it’s a big issue of timing.  If you block the plate when you have the ball, you’re fine and the runner’s out.  If you block the plate before you have the ball, the runner is safe.  There’s the rub.  A strategic catcher might end up causing the legal collision to be more violent.  To abide by the rule the catcher should be sure to stay clear enough behind the front of the plate before he gets the ball.  When he does get the ball, in many cases, instead of starting from a more stationary position, the catcher then would have to move/lunge to block the plate.  Someone else can check my physics, but having both players in motion at the time should create a greater force of impact.

Still, the play is still rare enough that we won’t notice the impact on the game. For a couple of years, expect the plays at the plate to be a little more awkward.

If you are looking for a more exciting change, take a look at the “Live Fly Ball” rule.

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Dec 182013
 

This offseason, Major League Baseball has adopted some rule changes that will clearly change the game:  limited instant replay and prohibiting plate collisions.

Instant Replay

Get the call right.  Blown calls have cost teams wins, playoff spots, and championships  (yes, “for want of a nail”).  I’m sure the umpires involved feel some shame & guilt.  The downside is not all plays are reviewable.  The stoppage of play for the video review should have little impact on the pace of the game.  We’re used to the delay caused by repeated pickoff attempts and some players’ refusal to stay in the batter’s box.  Besides, it’s about time we integrated some nonintrusive technology into the game.  Next, let’s get those sensors on the ball and get the strike zone right and consistent, too.

Banning Plate Collisions

I’ve decided I’m OK with this one.  Preventing injuries is enough to justify this change.  First, these plays are rare, so we’re not really losing much.  Second, being able to score as a result of a collisions was really a cheap cheater kind of move anyway.   Think about it this way:  the ball already beat you to the plate, the catcher caught it, and the tag is certain.  You should be out.  You lost on that play fair & square.  Instead, under the old rule, you could be safe if you could somehow knock the ball out of the catchers grasp somehow.  It does seem like a cheater move.

Home Plate Collision

via Getty Images.

Now, it did add some excitement to the play at the plate:  will the catcher be able to hold on?  This rule change takes away an exciting play.  I think this give baseball an opportunity (or excuse) to compensate for this loss by taking on another rule change that would add more excitement.  Fans will love it.

The Live Fly Ball

This one simple change would make the game much more exciting.   It’s a more natural change than a Designated Hitter.

  • A fly ball caught in fair territory is not an out. 

Let that one sink in, then imagine the possibilities.    What is more exciting:  a fly out to left or an outfielder throwing out the runner trying to stretch it to a double?  Right now we’ve got outfielders casually waiting for the sky high pop-up to fall easily into their glove, then gently tossing the ball back to the mound.  What if he had to try to throw someone out every time?

A corollary to the live fly ball rule:  a fly ball caught by the defender from foul territory is an out.   Imagine the outfielder concentrating on keeping his toes behind the line before he dives forward reaching as far as he can to make the catch deep in the corner.

Now, of course this makes it a lot easier to get on base, so scoring would be way up for awhile.   There would be a premium on groundball pitchers, strong arms, and speed.  I’d like to see someone film an exhibition with this rule.   Upload it to YouTube & send me the link.

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Sep 162013
 

Rankings for September 16, 2013

Two weeks left in the season and we know who’s going to be in the thick of it.

I’ve divided the rankings in to 4 tiers of teams. The “Elite” are the best of the best right now. The “Contenders” are in the thick of the pennant race. Those in the “Meh-zo-sphere” cling to dreams of playing relevant September baseball, and once mathematically eliminated are shooting for .500. The “Suh-diddly-uckleheads” are already looking forward to October golfing.

Records are through Sunday’s games. The big movers since the last rankings are the Oakland A’s, who’ve snatched the division lead and seem poised to run away with it.

Rank Record Team Rise/Fall
The Elite
1.
89-60
Atlanta Braves
2.
92-59
Boston Red Sox +1
3.
88-61
Oakland A’s +4
4.
86-63
Los Angeles Dodgers -2
5.
87-62
Pittsburgh Pirates
The Contenders
6.
87-62
St. Louis Cardinals +2
7.
81-67
Texas Rangers -1
8.
86-63
Detroit Tigers -4
9.
81-67
Tampa Bay Rays
10.
79-70
Baltimore Orioles
The Meh-zo-sphere
11.
84-66
Cincinnati Reds
12.
81-68
Cleveland Indians
13.
79-71
New York Yankees
14.
78-71
Kansas City Royals
15.
79-70
Washington Nationals
16.
75-73
Arizona Diamondbacks
17.
72-77
Los Angeles Angels
18.
68-82
Colorado Rockies
19.
69-80
Philadelphia Phillies
20.
68-81
Toronto Blue Jays
21.
67-82
New York Mets
22.
66-83
Seattle Mariners
23.
69-81
San Francisco Giants
24.
68-80
San Diego Padres
25.
64-84
Minnesota Twins
The Suh-diddly-uckleheads
26.
65-83
Milwaukee Brewers
27.
64-84
Chicago Cubs
28.
58-91
Chicago White Sox
29.
55-94
Miami Marlins
30.
51-98
Houston Astros
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