URL Weaver: Videodrome

File photo of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig during a news conference in New York

Baseball took the bold step yesterday to embrace the future by expanding use of instant replay in a sizable number of scenarios. If you’re so inclined, click this link for a full breakdown of when and where instant replay appeals are applicable.

It’s a positive step for a sport notoriously reluctant to make changes to the established order of things. It’s great news for folks who demand the highest integrity of…the shows they watch on TV?

Call me crazy but I tend not to get too bent out of shape over blown calls or missed strikes. I know I’m in the minority here and I welcome the change but if they repealed all these rules for 2015, I don’t know that I’d lose much sleep.

If it slows down the game, I’m not a happy camper. Though the managerial tirades and kabuki mound meetings and a zillion other moments that make baseball baseball contribute to the overall pace and feel of a baseball game do a great job of slowing the pace to a leisurely crawl all on their own, don’t they?

Does it makes baseball better. I think it makes baseball more precise. Which is fine, I guess. But baseball, in the macro sense, isn’t really a game about precision for me. At the risk of getting all “baseball is a poem written in parallel to the American Experience” here, let me just say I don’t mind a few bumps in the road now and then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get to my bespoke tailor before his shop closes at sundown. Blast, I shan’t make it by penny farthing at this rate.

Important Read of the Day

Division Series - Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees - Game Three

If the idea of inflating writers to the level of gods makes you uncomfortable, this SI profile of a profile might not be for you. But the Sports Illustrated feature on famous newspaperman Richard Ben Cramer trying to get the goods on Alex Rodriguez and failing is really something else.

Yes, it spends too much time mythologizing a writer and his importance but that isn’t to suggest the journey isn’t worth it. Cramer is an larger-than-life figure and reading about his difficulty in getting anything of substance out of Alex Rodriguez, in 2006, is telling.

It’s about more than one guy and one failed book project, if you really want it to be. At the very least, it’s worth your time.

Hiring for fit

A nice read from Beyond the Box Score on the different faces of fourth outfielders around the league. The piece by Ryan P. Morrison puts fourth outfielders into a few different buckets – defensive specialist, base runners, platoon splitters, and big boppers. Morrison eventually decides on Craig Gentry, recently acquired by the Oakland A’s, as the best fourth outfielder in the business.

Gentry is a nice player, essentially a cheaper version of Peter Bourjos as explained earlier in this space, but at the risk of punting on the selection, the best fourth outfielder is the one who best compliments the talent on hand.

Does a player like Gentry work for teams like the Pirates or Angels, whose outfielders feature beefed-up versions of the versatile Gentry. A team featuring more injury prone players in its starting outfield might want a more viable starter option than a heavy platoon-split player or one dimensional back up (cough cough Toronto).

It’s about building the best team you can under the roster structure already in place. Mike Morse, a big bopper, lines up well with the needs of the Giants, who get very little power from left and center. The Angels don’t have much use for a player like Morse, as they have Josh Hamilton in right and are already so far ahead of the game in center it might well be farce.

The Red Sox outfield last season was a brilliant collection of players. Ellsbury, of course, the mainstay in center. Then Victorino re-established himself as an excellent contributor by moving to right field. Left field was an ideal platoon between Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes. Neither is any great shakes with the glove but two above-average hitters who lined up with Boston’s goals and stated purpose.

It’s a tough balance to strike. Below are the teams that gave 50 or fewer plate appearances to no more than five outfielders. Notice anything about this group?

Of those ten teams, only two missed the playoffs outright (Baltimore and Washington, winners of 85 and 86 games respectively) and one other, Texas, lost game 163 to miss the postseason. The other seven were playoff teams.

At the other end of the spectrum you have your Cubs and Mets and Blue Jays and Rockies. The only good team to give 50 PAs to seven outfielders was the Reds – and they just lost their starting center fielder.

Depth is good but the less you need often you test it, the better off you are. There is really no substitute for good health, as one or two injuries quickly turns the best fourth outfielder into a mediocre starter. Which then brings your fifth guy into a “one heartbeat” situation and then you’re really scrambling.

The best fourth outfielder is the best fit for your club who stays a fourth outfielder for as long as possible. Compensate for your shortcomings and hope against hope you don’t need him too often. It’s all anybody can really wish for, in the end.

Comments (6)

  1. Maybe it’s a shallow motive on my part, but as a Jays season ticket holder (who watches half of their season at the park) I’m curious to see how expanded replay adds to the fan experience.

    You normally don’t get to see much on the big board unless it’s something undisputed (ie/homeruns) and there’s lots that you miss while focussing on one segment of play and missing out on another component. Like a batter bunting – I usually watch the pitcher/batter and completely miss what another base runner may be doing.

    Disputed calls aside, it will be interesting to see if the in-game experience will be rounded out a little more with alternate views of a play. I wonder what kinds of editing decisions will evolve if the access to visuals grows?

  2. Just need to add football style “play clocks”.

    20 seconds from when the pitcher receives the ball to make a, to borrow a phrase from the NFL, baseball move (that is 3 more seconds than Buerhle and Dickey take on average). Penalty will be 1 ball. 3 infractions in 1 game; burned at the stake at home plate. Harsh but fair is how I would describe this.

  3. The thing about replay that is not yet being discussed in detail anywhere is the thing that I expect to find the most distasteful: That the replay official will advise where runners should be placed on an overturned call. Sounds innocent, but think about it:

    - Runner on 1st, batter hits a line drive down the line. Ump calls it foul, but is overturned on video review. Video guy has to declare if the runner is placed on third, or would have scored. Icky.

    - Runners on 1st and 2nd, batter hits a shallow pop fly; centrefielder dives for it; ump signals ‘safe’ (ruling it a trap). Runners, who went halfway, see the safe sign and run to the next base. Centrefielder fires the ball into second, looking for either a double-off OR a force out. On video review, ruling overturned as it was actually a catch. Official has to decide what would have happened if the ump had signalled out correctly in the first place – would the runner behaved differently, or been doubled off 2nd? ICKY.

    - Any tag play, subsequently overturned, where after the tag, the fielder fires the ball somewhere else – maybe for an out, safe, or an error. What would he have done if the first call had been immediately correct? ICKY ICKY ICKY.


  4. Re: balls and strikes

    Why not just give the umps performance bonuses for quality of games called from behind the plate?

    Make the standard quest tech or whatever, and soon you’ll see an improvement. I bet you’ll see umps adjusting to the data between innings.Guaranteed.

    A system of sticks and carrots I say!

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