Week of October 22, 2021

Phil reading texts about former Twin Eddie Rosario

The Perfect Overtime

I know, I know; playoff baseball is happening, and former Twin, Eddie Rosario—who was terrible for the Twins in any big game ever—decided to continue the legacy of former Twins to have big moments in the playoffs (David Ortiz). Stil, I think this story was the best thing I read all week, and it’s about an early-season NHL overtime between the Rangers and the Maple Leafs. 

Barry Petchesky takes a great highlight in a regular season game and creates a broadly compelling story about the challenge of creating an overtime system in a sport for an American audience (ties ain’t gonna fly) that is both entertaining and not a complete departure from the usual game, e.g. shootouts. He thinks hockey just might have found the perfect balance with the 3-on-3 overtime.

He writes, “[i]t’s fun—the same forces that discourage OT from lasting the full five minutes make it a breathless arcade version of the sport. Not quite the real thing, but not a bastardization either: a condensed adaptation rather than a thin imitation. 


The highlight—which is the entire overtime—is incredible. Non-stop action. Great plays, great saves, a blow-for-blow attack. Just a great sports moment that you can’t turn away from once you hit play. That description of an overtime rule—“a condensed adaptation rather than a thin imitation”— is a great nugget of writing. I get an extra bit of satisfaction when I find a completely random story and get rewarded with a great read. -PAL

Source: Watch This Overtime,” Barry Petchesky, Defector (10/19/21)

Final Grades: Baseball’s Minor League Experiments

After watching the umpires make a bunch of bad ball/strike calls in the Giants/Dodgers series, TOB and I were texting that it just might be time for the robo ump. And then Laz Diaz gave an all-time performance in the Red Sox/Astros game, missing on a playoff high 23 ball/strike calls. The robo umps are already being tested out in lower leagues, so is the sun setting on human umpires calling pitches in a MLB game? 

The Ringer’s Ben Lindbergh and Rob Arthur bring up an important consideration before we jump all the way there with the automated ball-strike system. For one, leagues need to define the zone. Not difficult, you’d think, but there are a lot of variables at play there. One example of these variables: teams providing an accurate height for its players in order for the system to establish the vertical zone). Also, consider this example in the Atlantic League, which went from a 17-inch wide zone (the width of the plate) to a 21-inch zone, making pitch 3 a strike in the graphic below: 

Now, consider that the catcher was set up on the other side of the plate and the pitcher missed location badly. The catcher reaches across his body and stabs at the pitch. The umpire calls it a strike. 

And there there’s the question of a 3-D zone, a 2-D zone, something called a super ellipses zone. It’s not as simple as you might think, all of which leads to the other side of the coin when consider real umps vs. robo umps

Robo umps just make different divisive calls. Even without the traditional “human element,” the strike zone remains a living document. In effect, the old human element of umpires is being replaced by the new human element of MLB executives who are trying to determine which size and shape the strike zone should take. And it’s difficult to take a strict-constructionist stance on what is and isn’t a strike when the zone is repeatedly reconstructed.

The ABS system is just one experiment headed up by MLB this season in an effort to ““increase action on the basepaths, create more balls in play, improve the pace and length of games, and reduce player injuries.”

Now that the season is over in the minors and independent leagues, Lindbergh and Arthur took a look at the data of the various experiments in hopes of having an idea of what proposed changes might potentially make an appearance in real game, maybe even a playoff game, in the years to come. 

Of the rules tried out in the summer season, a handful of them are being instituted in instructional fall leagues, which could be an indication of what changes are still being considered by MLB. Those rules are as follows: 

  • ABS system
  • 15-second pitch clock
  • Shift restrictions
  • 18-inch bases (up from 15-inch)
  • Pick-off attempt limits 

This is a super in-depth story, it’s a bit of a data slog, but it’s no doubt excellent. – PAL 

Source: MLB Just Tried a Bunch of Experimental Rules in the Minors. How Well Did They Work?Ben Lindbergh and Rob Arthur, The Ringer (10/21/21)

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Michael Scott