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Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The blog that follows was written by Patrick Johnson, a student in my Baseball and Statistics course given at Quinnipiac University where I am a Professor in the Mathematics Department. I would be interested in your take on the controversy involving the Jackie Robinson West Little League Team.

Jackie Robinson West (JRW), an all-African American team from South Side of Chicago have gotten their LLWS title revoked after a cheating scandal, where coaches apparently made district sizes larger to get    more quality players. This is a very complicated subject, so I will start on the side of who really matters, the kids. 

First thing first, I do not believe taking away the trophy does anything to these kids. They have already gotten the glory and excitement that their trip through the LLWS brought. Most of these children are no longer eligible for the LLWS anymore either, so why does it matter what happened to them in the past. They have gotten the glory and the parade that Chicago gave them. They got to go to the LLWS and enjoy the festivities, on the roller coaster that landed them on top. These children have already been to the White House and gotten the glory and pride of winning the LLWS, which is the greatest moment in many of these children’s lives. While it stinks to get the trophy taken, these children have already gotten all the good that comes with winning the LLWS. 

The second point is, yes the coaches cheated by making an expanded bracket. JRW basically made up their district, making it extremely large, so they could have a larger pool of talent to pick out of. This is not fair at all. It is easy to do well, when your pool of players is twice as large as other places. However, none of these kids had anything to do with this. This was all of the doing of parents and coaches, who in the end stole the trophy from these children. This is not about the kids, but the parents that cheated so they had a better chance to win. While it is unfair to discipline the children for things their parents did, they did have an unfair advantage and sadly the team must accept the consequences of that. 

 Next, this will not hurt the long-term memory of this Jackie Robinson team. While it may be mentioned that they did cheat, this team will be mentioned more than any little league team ever. I can personally guarantee that in the next 5 years there is a 30 for 30 based on this team. The most famous/remembered little leaguer of all time is Danny Almonte, who lied about his age and tore up the LLWS. These children will be mentioned more than any other team, which will give them a shot at redemption and chance to explain what happened. 

A possible positive outcome of this scandal is that this incident might provide a lesson for young children, showing them the negative results of when someone attempts to exploit or cheat the system. This could be used as a platform for these children to see action-consequence and paying for your actions. Sadly these actions were not done by the children themselves.

A big issue for me is that a kid’s game has become all about adults. There were press conferences right after this news was released, and all it contained was parents yelling at each other. This game is for the kids not for the adults. It is unfair to the children who put days and weeks of preparation and hard work to accomplish their goals. The adults that run the program are diminishing the kids. It is not fair to the kids, but cheating is cheating, and cheat the coaches did
- by Patrick Johnson


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

The expression that good pitching will defeat good hitting has always been true in baseball. Instead of chasing top free agent pitchers Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields, the Yankees decided to stand pat with their 2015 starting pitchers. The only guy they brought in was Nathan Eovaldi via trade. Gone from the 2014 roster are Brandon McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, David Phelps, and Shane Greene. With the opening of spring training around the corner, the projected five starters for the Yankees are Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Capuano.

Recently, both pitching coach Larry Rothchild and GM Brian Cashman declared their projected number one and number two pitchers CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka will both pitch complete seasons in 2015. In spite of their optimism, let’s look at reality. Sabathia, 34, is a large man coming back from off-season surgery to fix a degenerate knee condition. In his first season last year in New York, Tanaka, 26, had a 12-4 record before he was diagnosed with a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, an injury that often requires Tommy John surgery. Hoping to avoid a procedure that would sideline him 12 to 18 months, he chose a rest and rehabilitation program. Eovaldi is regarded as a lot better pitcher than the 4.37 ERA he put up last year. Capuano, resigned as a free agent, will be a temporary replacement for Ivan Nova, who is recovering from TJ surgery. No one ever questioned Pineda’s stuff but the table below reveals a real problem. He had the lowest ERA .189 of the seven starters but only averaged 38 innings pitched for 2013 and 2014. His average number of DL days for those two years was the highest of the seven starters at 98 days.

The table below (courtesy of LLSTATS,LLC) provides the ERA, average innings pitched and average days lost due to being placed on the DL list for the projected seven starting Yankee pitchers. The last two rows compares the Yankee starting pitchers AVG to the AL Playoff Teams starting pitchers AVG for the two years 2013 and 2014. Tanaka only pitched in 2014.

Looking at the ERA in the table below, if the Yankee starting pitching staff stays healthy they represent a playoff quality staff. However, the second and third columns show staying healthy is a real problem.

Yankee Pitching Staff 2015
 

The uncertain state of the Yankee starting pitchers will be bolstered by a very strong bullpen. In spite of the loss of David Robertson, the acquisition of Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, and Chasen Shreve along with the return of Esmail Rogers and Adam Warren give the Yankees one of the best bullpens in baseball. Not matching the White Sox offer of four years $14.6 million for Robertson was a big mistake. If George was still alive this never would have happened. If the Yankees had kept Robertson as their closer, Betances would have been the eighth inning pitcher and Miller would be the seventh inning pitcher. This would have represented the best late-inning trio in baseball.

Without Robertson, Betances will become the closer and Miller the setup man. Please don’t worry about Betances as the closer he is a power pitcher who has demonstrated he can perform under pressure. The signing of Miller and the trading for Wilson and Shreve gives the Yankees three left-handed strikeout pitchers which is very rare in baseball. Warren performed well in his first year in relief and can be a part-time starter, long reliever, or even a one-inning pitcher. Another good candidate for long relief is Esmil Rogers.


 
Posted By Dr. Stan, the Stats Man

First, I would like to thank Marty, William, and Jose for commenting on my last Blog in which I criticized the new baseball commissioner’s idea of making the defensive shift illegal. All three agreed with me that this will not solve the problem and can actually hurt the game of baseball. In reading the comments of William and Jose they both felt the real problem with baseball is not the reduced scoring but is the time where nothing is happening. William pointed me to an article published in the Wall Street Journal which used analytics to document how in a typical three-hour game there is a very small amount of action. An observational research study consisting of a small sample of three games was done by the WSJ. The sample involved both leagues and six different teams. The results of the study showed a baseball fan will see approximately 18 minutes of action in a three-hour game. This means only 10% of the time spent watching a game resulted in action. So what happens in the 162 minutes of no action? Here is the WSJ’s breakdown by category of the 162 minutes of non-action. The numbers below represent the approximate average times for the three games.The categories are sorted from most to least time spent.

  1. Time-between-pitches (75 minutes). The time between pitches begins when the pitch to the batter who saw the last pitch concludes—either when the catcher catches the ball or it is fouled off—and ends when the pitcher begins his next pitch. This includes the antics of the batter after he steps out of the batter’s box and the antics of the pitcher on the mound.
  2. Time-between-innings (43 minutes).  This is TV commercial time.
  3. Time-between-batters (34 minutes). This is announcing the batter, the walk-up song, and adjusting the batting gloves. The time between batters concludes when the pitcher begins throwing to the new batter.
  4. Misc. Time (10 minutes): This includes manager arguments, instant replays, injury timeouts, trips made to the mound and not removing the pitcher, and pitching changes within an inning.

According to Stats LLC, the 2014 year’s average time of three hours and three minutes for a major league game was the highest since they started tracking the numbers in 1987. In 1987, the average time was two hours, 52 minutes. John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian, attributes the increase in time to hitters' increased patience at the plate, which leads to their taking and fouling off more pitches. That, in turn, leads to pitchers' throwing more pitches, hence longer games. He also pointed to the fact that the amount of time spent on TV commercials between innings also increased.

So what can be done to shorten a game without destroying the integrity or finances of the game of baseball? The most egregious category, category one above, is the one I would attack. Here are my suggestions.

  1. Enforce the already existing but never enforced 20 second time for a pitcher to make the next pitch after receiving the ball from the catcher. A 20 second clock on a scoreboard behind the catcher should be visible to the pitcher. If he exceeds the 20 second time the homeplate umpire is buzzed and a ball is awarded to the batter. If the batter walks it is scored the same as fielder’s interference.
  2. Except for certain events a batter is allowed to step out of the box only two times during his plate appearance. Each time after the second time the pitcher is awarded a strike. If a strikeout occurs it is scored the same as an out but the pitcher is not credited with a strikeout.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions on how to speed up a game. Please email these to me so I can publish them


 

 

 
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