<![CDATA[TheSportsMinded.com - Blog]]>Mon, 13 May 2024 00:15:31 -0400Weebly<![CDATA[Fans dig the long ball, but baseball needs small ball.]]>Sat, 12 Mar 2022 17:34:06 GMThttp://thesportsminded.com/blog/fans-dig-the-long-ball-but-baseball-needs-small-ballThe shifting (and over-shifting) of defensive players in baseball is seen as something baseball needs to regulate to improve the game. The league has even started a discussion of rules that would outright ban the shift. I initially felt that getting rid of the shift would improve the game. It would get baseball back to what it once was: an exciting game with more singles, doubles, and manufacturing runs. My thought was that the more action you can get in a baseball game, the better. When you have a game with mostly strikeouts or balls hit where a defensive player has been shifted, there's less entertainment because the strategy behind plays does not come out. You can look away from the action because there isn't any - just a stream of unsuccessful outcomes.

But this is where I catch myself. While I see the shifting (and over-shifting) as detrimental to the game, does there need to be a rule banning the shift? Baseball is known as a sport that rarely changes its rules on the field. Instead, baseball is more commonly known for the "unwritten" rules of the game. This is partly because "unwritten" rules allow flexibility, while written rules restrict. Instead of a formal rule, why not get at the real problem, which is the lack of strategy to overcome the shifting. Leave shifting as an unwritten rule where players can use strategies to adjust. For example, hitters can bunt and force the defense to use something other than shifting. Forcing each side to adjust and change their strategies instead of eliminating a strategy would make baseball more exciting. In other words, why can't teams and players be more like Bill Belichick?

Hear me out. Bill Belichick is arguably the greatest football coach of all time. His New England Patriots are considered a dynasty of successful teams. Bill's coaching is known for his attention to detail and preparing his players. When I think of his Patriots, I see them as running their most successful play based on the opposing team's defense. In other words, the Patriots are flexible, and they don't force a play. Suppose the defense is situated where the most successful play would be running the football. In that case, the Patriots will run the football to gain three to five yards. Sure, that's not a considerable outcome. But it does push them toward success. The same mindset was taken for short, intermediate, or longer passing plays. They always put themselves in the most successful position for that play. Moreover, they always put themselves in the best situation for the plays that follow.

So again, why can't baseball teams and players be more like Bill Belichick? Why can't they make the adjustments in the batter's box to give them the highest percentage of a successful outcome based on what the defense is giving them? To "beat the shift," the "hitting it over the shift" approach can't be the only strategy or successful outcome. I know firsthand that hitting a baseball is difficult, especially at high velocities. However, sometimes a hitter needs to recognize that the most successful outcome is just laying down a bunt or slapping the ball the other way. To beat the shift, you simply put the ball where the opposing team isn't. If a shift is what the defense is giving you, you take that and allow the next player to have a runner on base.

Sure the bunt or slap hit are not highlighted plays of a game that will be shown on TV, but Moneyball taught us that the most crucial aspect of baseball is getting on base. If you are getting on base, you are not accepting failure. If you "hit over the shift," there's a high likelihood that the ball will land in the shift and result in an out. In the latter scenario, you are accepting an unsuccessful outcome. Instead, based on what the defense is giving you, you should be looking at each at-bat to boost your and your team's overall numbers most successfully. Yes, in the calculation of slugging percentage, a home run is four times more than a single. But what is missing from this calculation is the probability of success. If just taking the single to beat the shift comes with a 90% chance of success, the result is a probable slugging % of 0.9. Unless the probability of hitting a homerun comes with 22.5% (or greater) success, the slugging % would be lower than 0.9.

Baseball has the potential to police itself. Rules banning the shift would be unnecessary if players simply chose to take the highest probability of success based on what the defense gives them. This would bring strategies back into the game. It would facilitate action. More importantly, it would expose the smarter hitters and force the defense to not depend on the shift.]]>
<![CDATA[Baseball Moving Forward]]>Fri, 11 Mar 2022 22:08:33 GMThttp://thesportsminded.com/blog/baseball-moving-forwardIn 2016, I submitted my master’s thesis to Georgetown University. The focus of my thesis was to restructure a regular season in Major League Baseball. I concluded that if the schedule were to be decreased from 162 games to 156 games and restructured so that all teams play each other while still maintaining divisional and league rivalries (also known as “competitive balance”), MLB would have the ability to attract younger fans with marketing and financial opportunities. I also concluded the following: 

•    Start the season a week later
•    Remove statistically lowest attended days throughout the season
•    Have last week of the season for the opportunity to expand the playoffs
•    Overall financial impact of the restructured schedule -> positive!

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