When Bill James entered our life as baseball fans, he disrupted our way of thinking. The games were about wins, losses, batting averages, ERA’s and home runs. That was passed on from generation to generation and was how results were measured.
But in the 1980’s, James thought of baseball differently and as time went on, like the Beatles and others, this changed are thinking as we saw the wisdom of his ways.
Fast forward to today and James has spawned an industry that has altered how the game is played. We have WHIP’s, WAR, ISOP and any number of new acronyms.
With this change has brought shifts, pitchers who can only throw 100 pitches every five days or, god forbid, facing the same batting order a third time because the starting pitchers see’s his OPB, SLGP and or OPS go up five to seven percentage points against the very same hitters.
Some say this has dragged baseball into the new age of information and everyone is more enlightened. It is not my place to say this is not true, because as a baseball handicapper, I have become wiser and this has increased my knowledge of the game.
But if all this information is generated by millennials and those moderately older, why does baseball have the oldest age of a fan?
The story is the game’s too slow or rather the pace. But when you have four pitching changes when your team is throwing a no-hitter, well, that’s just messed up. Analytics has paralyzed baseball. No pitcher is afforded the supposed chance to make a mistake, but batters striking out 200 times a game is acceptable.
It’s gotten to the point of absurdity and younger fans have no interest.
A large part of baseball handicapping forever was the starting pitching matchups. But now, except for a handful of hurlers, few starters ever see the seventh inning. It used to be 300 innings pitched was the benchmark, now 200 has replaced it. The theory is to save a pitcher’s arm and the team’s investment. One problem, the DL is loaded with pitchers of every kind, so that’s not working.
Handicappers and bettors have to spend roughly a third of their time on capping pitching on relievers today.
As anyone that bet baseball knows, there is hardly anything more frustrating when it comes to betting baseball than have starter give up one or fewer runs, but be pulled in the 95-100 pitch range, while showing no weakness. Too often with the score say 3-0 or 4-1, the next relief pitcher or two blows the lead and either the choice loses or has to rally to win.
When “by the (new) book” lacks practical or common sense and fails to work, people don’t understand and become disinterested.
I’m not suggesting going back to baggy flannel uniforms. This is where the game is and we all have to adjust, but as baseball starts to slip to the third position behind the NFL and the NBA, they should be asking the right questions.
People like bettors want action, find a way to give it to them without strangling the sport.
Doug Upstone wrote this for ScoresandStats.com