After the Canada Day boondoggle between umpire Vic Carapazza and the Toronto Blue Jays, do baseball traditionalists
need to be more open to the idea of an automated strike zone? (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)
Hi everyone, my name is Derek and I am a cousin and friend to the creator/principle author of Everything Bluebirds. When I was asked to write a guest post, I felt I had absolutely nothing to contribute but after about 24 hours, my brain was filled with more ideas and opinions than Goose Gossage after watching a bat-flip.
My first thought for a post came after reading Mike’s blog about the ridicule associated with the Jays having a six man rotation. The following day I happened to be visiting with my grandfather and we (inevitably) got to chatting about baseball and whether or not there should be 1) an electronic means of determining strikes/balls as opposed to a traditional home plate ump, and 2) a pitch clock before which the pitcher must release the ball or receive a penalty. My grandfather would hardly entertain the notion of either.
I bring both Mike’s post and my conversation with my grandfather up because in each of the two cases, the individual was opposed to changing ideas or rules that have been the status quo for many years in baseball. I find it so interesting that many serious fans who grew up playing, or even watching baseball are reluctant to embrace changes that may benefit a player, a team, or the game itself. I don’t believe for a moment that any ill-conceived idea will have a positive impact on its intended target but what I would like to suggest to the more “old-school” fans of baseball is to put aside any guttural feelings of traditional or conventional baseball staples and embrace an evidence-based approach to all aspects of the game.
This term “evidence-based” is becoming more and more commonplace. I first encountered it in school when I was asked by my professors to move away from anecdotal decision making as it is often based on previously developed biases through your various experiences. For example, if you get a shock every time you touch a piece of cheese, you will think that subsequent pieces of cheese seen in the future will also give you a shock.
Essentially, this is a roundabout way of saying that just because teams conventionally use a five man rotation and your team decides to ride six starters and one of them blows a game and says it’s because he hasn’t pitched in a week, don’t immediately follow the easy narrative and don’t just say that the idea in question is silly just because it’s against the grain of the norm. Try to use data to support or refute the concern in question. For example, have there been other times in history when teams have used an alternate number of pitchers? Was it successful? Explore confounding factors like how do the pitchers on the team do on short rest? After extended periods of rest? It is only through exploring all these possibilities, and hopefully looking at past clusters of data, that we can determine what is the best course of action and either confirm our current practice or change for the better.