Tuesday, October 04, 2011

How Moneyball Ruined Baseball

The wanting comes from not having. Red Sox fans suffered almost a century without a championship, and then got two within four seasons. They had some luck and pluck, and of course, the 'run prevention' before it became a design, with outstanding pitching from Schilling, Martinez, Lowe, and Lester, and more.

Baseball started to retreat into oblivion in America with the LaRussan Gambit, the left-right, four pitchers in an inning tedium that helped the Oakland A's become a power. But it's reached its nadir in interest (and watchability) not because of steroids or science (instructional and game video), but because of mathematics.

Who are the best pitchers on your team, generally? The starters, with not only power, but an assortment of pitches, and of course, pitching skill. If were all about stuff, then Andrew Miller would be a premium starter. So just as in Michael Lewis' "Blind Side", the left tackle position became critical to defeat the blind side rushers like Lawrence Taylor, baseball's stat geeks (like the Red Sox' own Bill James) developed a COUNTER for premium starting pitching.

Baseball no longer sought only sluggers, but players who could 'work the count', have quality at bats, and wear down the opponent's starters, fighting a war of attrition, away from the best pitchers into the soft underbelly of the enemy bullpen. If you're not happy with the Matt Albers and Franklin Morales of the Sox pen, then similarly most teams feel likewise about their pen pals.

Granted, the hitters who can foul off innumerable pitches or show 'plate discipline' are in limited supply. We can recall the Rod Carew or Wade Boggs or Johnny Damon who could have those 6, 8, 10 pitch at bats, but now 'taking pitches' has become an art form. The Sox have a plethora of hitters who can drive pitch counts to astronomical heights, the Yankees have the Jeter, Swisher, Teixeira types in their lineup who do the same.

And what you get is boredom, disinterest, and games that routinely go past four hours. Has the national pastime seen it's time pass?

Baseball has the potential for plenty of exciting plays, with steals, hit-and-runs, electric double plays, and home run robbing catches. But watching guys take an ever-increasing number of pitches?  Tony LaRussa and Billy Beane, pioneers of modern baseball, or its destroyers?

1 comment:

London Bosoxer said...

I've always thought 'foul 4' should be an out. Even the most Dykstra-brained hitter knows pitchers don't have many more than 100 pitches to play with. If an MLB-level hitter cannot find 'his' pitch in amongst a maximum of nine, (3 balls, 2 strikes, 4 fouls), he deserves to make way. The no-cost, (to the hitter), infinitude of fouls unbalances the game. Wheres the interest in sluggers gorging themselves on tired relievers, while starters are back in the dugout all pitched out by patient leather only infielders?