Random MLB Musings

Over the last few years I’ve been thinking about many different things about the game of baseball that strike me as odd, in addition to recent rule changes. The following topics are all of the things that have been on my mind:

Scoring groundouts and fly outs

Why is it that when a groundout scores a run it’s considered an unsuccessful turn at bat, and scored as an RBI groundout, but a fly out that scores a run is not a turn at bat, and is scored a sacrifice fly? It should be an unsuccessful turn at bat and scored as an RBI fly out. Neither move is intentional and groundouts and fly outs that advance runners but don’t score any runs are unsuccessful turns at bat. It is for this reason that a sacrifice fly will count as a plate appearance and lower the batters on base percentage and if a batter has no official at bats but has a sacrifice fly, their hitting streak will end. Same logic.

Double plays and fielder’s choice

When a fielder boots a ground ball that would have been a double play but instead everyone is safe, and then both runners score, only 1 run (from that error, forget about 2 outs and subsequent runs for this) is unearned because you can’t assume a double play, which is way it should be. But now, when the defense is trying to turn a double play, and an out is made at 2nd, and then the throw to first is dropped by the 1st baseman or pulls him off the bag, there’s no error. On its own, such a play is called an error. But because of the out at 2nd base, the runner is declared safe on a fielder’s choice. The defense is not charged with an error unless the batter-runner advances a base. Why? You’re not assuming a double play. We can say with certainty that there would have been an out at 1st had the throw not been dropped or pulled the 1st baseman off the bag. Why should the fact that there was an out at 2nd change it from an error to a fielder’s choice?

Failed fielder’s choice

Why are runs scored on a failed fielder’s choice at home plate or with 2 outs earned runs against the pitcher or RBI’s for the batter? If an error is made in these scenarios, there’s no RBI and the runs are unearned because the runs shouldn’t have scored and/or the inning should have been over. Same logic here.

Pitch clock

At first, I was against it because baseball is a game played without a clock. But after seeing it in action for a year and a half now, I don’t mind it. It’s increased the pace of the action in the game. The only downside is if I go away for 5 minutes to pee or heat up food, I’ll miss half an inning. Before I would have missed maybe one or two batters.

Limiting pitcher pickoffs and step-offs

This is a good move IMO. Most pickoff throws are legitimate attempts to get a runner out or cut down on their lead, but an excessive amount is usually a stall tactic to give a reliever time to get ready. I remember a game about 15 years ago where the manager went out to the mound and told the pitcher he was done, just make a few throws over to first until the next pitcher is ready. If a manager wants to stall for time to get the next pitcher ready, he should instead take a long slow walk to the mound, wait for the umpire to break up the meeting, and then a long slow walk back to the dugout. If the pitcher has used up their pickoffs and step-offs in the at bat, the catcher can still make snap throws to the base to get the runner out or cut down their lead. Pudge Rodriguez and the Molina brothers would regularly make snap throws to cut down on the runner’s leads. Why can’t other catchers do this? It should be part of their game.

3 batter minimum

I think this is an unnecessary rule. Baseball does not have free substitution the way football, hockey, and basketball do. Once you’re out of the game, that’s it. If a manager wants to burn his relievers playing the matchup game he’ll run out of relievers eventually. And with September roster expansion reduced from 40 to 28, September games won’t be a parade of relievers anymore.

Infield shift ban

Dumb dumb dumb. The name of the game on defense is to get outs. So logically they’re going to put their fielders where the batters are likely to hit the ball. Now MLB is policing where the infielders have to be positioned. The rules of the game for 120 years were only the pitcher and catcher had to have set positions, and the other 7 fielders could be wherever they wanted as long as they were in fair territory when the pitch was thrown. In 2014 with the game on the line, the Dodgers used a 5-man infield and put 4 fielders on the right side. The move worked as the Dodgers fielded the ball and got the out at home. If dead pull left handed hitters don’t like their base hit being taken away by the 2nd baseman playing in shallow right field, work on becoming a better opposite field hitter. Or take the free bunt down the 3rd base line like David Ortiz once did. Hit the ball where the fielders ain’t. But of course, it’s easier to bitch about your base hit being taken away than it is to work on becoming a better opposite field hitter.

No pitch intentional walk 

Another ridiculously stupid rule. Make the pitcher throw 4 balls. How bad do you have to be to throw a wild pitch or give the batter a hittable pitch when attempting to throw 4 balls intentionally? The catcher stands several feet away from the batter and gives the pitcher a target. All you go to do is lob it to him. I’ve seen plenty of wild pitches uncorked during an intentional walk attempt.

If this rule had been in place in 2006, Miguel Cabrera would have one less base hit and RBI. Or in 2014 when Ole Miss hit a walk-off homer on an attempted intentional walk. Why stop at the no pitch intentional walk? Why does the batter have to circle the bases after hitting a home run? There’s no liability to being put out. It’s a waste of time. Eliminate that rule and speed the game up. What’s that you say? Batters have lost their home run for passing a teammate on the bases? Or Robin Ventura’s grand slam single when he didn’t get credit for the grand slam because he didn’t round the bases? How is that any different than a wild pitch or what Cabrera or Ole Miss did during an attempted intentional walk?

Ghost runner in extras

I was okay with this rule as a health and safety measure due to COVID and the lockout but it should have gone back to the way it was for 2023. It’s stupid. Play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. I like extra inning marathons. Oh boo hoo I’ve burned my entire pitching staff! There’s a farm system for a reason. Send a couple pitchers down to AAA and bring up some fresh arms. Use one of your other starting pitchers if you have to. Use the off days to manipulate your rotation. Find a way. Teams did it that way without issue for 120 years. They don’t use the ghost runner in the postseason. Heck, in the postseason you can’t even change your roster during the series unless you want to lose a player for the next round. Why all of a sudden is it a problem now? A compromise I would be okay with is play innings 10-12 the traditional way, and then do the ghost runner starting with the 13th inning. And instead of a runner at 2nd base, do runners at 1st and 2nd.

Separate awards for each league

What’s the point of doing this? No other sports league does this. There’s no Eastern and Western conference MVP in the NBA or NHL or AFC/NFC MVP in the NFL. Instead it’s NBA/NHL/NFL MVP. Why does MLB still give awards for the AL and NL? It should be MLB MVP. Especially now that both leagues play under the same set of rules, and everyone plays everyone.

Universal DH

I have long been in favor of this ever since I became a baseball fan. I don’t care about strategy and double switches. I care about my team winning games. People would say the pitcher should hit because the other 8 defensive players hit. I call hooey. The ace pitcher is not being paid 30M a year to hit. He’s paid it to pitch. The star hitter is not being paid 30M for his glove. He’s being paid it for his bat. I don’t want to lose my ace for 2 months because he suffers a batting or base-running injury. Additionally, having the DH in the AL and the pitcher batting in the NL gave the AL the advantage in interleague play, regardless of what leagues rules were being used. The AL has dominated interleague play since it began in 1997.

The NL team had to put a bench player into their lineup when the game was played in AL parks. Even though the AL team had to play without their DH in NL parks, that left them with a starting player available to pinch-hit and/or come in as a substitute player later in the game, as opposed to a bench player on the NL team. The idea that using the road team rules instead of the home team rules would combat this is laughable. Because the AL team would still have their DH and the NL team wouldn’t.

Batting Average On Balls In Play (BABIP) 

What’s the point of it? You’re taking a stat that already excludes walks, and then you’re further excluding home runs and strikeouts. I’m not a fan of batting average to begin with. I find it on its own to be a useless stat. It lacks context. It’s only useful if it’s presented in conjunction with a players on base percentage and slugging percentage. The name of the game is to reach base. I don’t need it to tell me how good a hitter is at making contact. Strikeouts do that already.

Range factor not including errors

I prefer range factor over fielding percentage to evaluate a defensive player’s proficiency. But it doesn’t include errors. Making an error requires the fielder getting to the ball. Many people consider Derek Jeter to be one of the best fielding shortstops of all time due to his highlight reel plays, low number of errors and high fielding percentage. However, statistically, Jeter is one of the worst fielding shortstops ever, and hall of famers like Ozzie Smith and Cal Ripken Jr. were superior on defense than Jeter. If you don’t field a ball, you don’t have an opportunity to make an error. Not making an error means your fielding percentage doesn’t drop. If you get to the ball but make an error, your fielding percentage will go down. But the fielder should be recognized for fielding it. In either case, the result is the same. The batter is safe. Let’s say there’s a runner on 2nd. Player A doesn’t field the ball, it’s a base hit and the runner scores. Player B fields it, and bobbles it. Because player B kept the ball on the infield, the runner doesn’t score.

Retroactively adding or changing stats

MLB is adding Negro League stats from 1920-1948 to their database, which I have no problem with. The quality was on par with MLB as we saw from the blacks who played in MLB following Jackie Robinson breaking the color line. In 1999 a historian found that instead of the 190 RBIs Hack Wilson was credited with in 1930, he should have had 191 due to an error. Bud Selig retroactively gave him the RBI. So why can’t MLB retroactively give Armando Gallaraga his perfect game? This isn’t like Bruce Freomming calling 2 borderline pitches balls to cost Milt Pappas a perfect game. Gallaraga didn’t lose it on a judgment call. Umpire Jim Joyce incorrectly ruled the batter safe, when the tapes clearly showed he got the out. And we can say with certainty had Joyce made the right call, the game would have been over. We have replay now, give him the perfect game he earned. Especially since Joyce owned up to his mistake.

Earned runs in extras following unearned runs that extend the game

This one has been on my mind for a while. When the defense makes an error with 2 outs in the inning and then runs score, the subsequent runs are unearned because the inning should have been over. Now why can’t we extend that logic to extra innings? If a game goes into extras because of an error with 2 outs in the top of the 9th (if the home team is winning), or 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th or any inning thereafter (if the home team is trailing), any runs that the previously trailing team scores should be unearned runs. Because we can say with certainty that the game would have been over.

This scenario happened in a Cubs-Brewers game on June 30, 2000 (click here to see the box score on Baseball Reference). The Cubs were down to their last out, and down 4-3. The Brewers fielder missed the tag that would have ended the game and instead allowed the Cubs to tie it. The game went into extras and the Cubs scored 3 runs in the 15th inning to win it. The runs Milwaukee gave up in the 15th were earned runs.

Why? The runs scored after the error in the 9th were unearned because the inning should have been over. Shouldn’t the same logic apply to the runs in the 15th? They should have never scored because the game should have been over.

Doping suspensions and the playoffs

MLB rules state that if a player is suspended for doping, he’s ineligible for the playoffs that year. When Fernando Tatis was suspended for doping in 2022, the Padres playoff run cut games off his suspension according to ESPN. If he had been suspended in May and completed the 80 games during the season, he wouldn’t have been eligible for the playoffs anyways. So why should the playoff games reduce what’s left for the following season? It doesn’t make sense. Either allow players who served the balance of their suspension to play in the postseason, or don’t have postseason games count towards the suspension.

Pitcher wins/blown saves/holds/losses

The way it’s always been is the pitcher who is in when the winning run scores gets the win, and pitcher who gives up the losing run gets the loss. Many times however, a reliever will give up the lead but still get the win if his team scores the winning run while he’s still in the game. Why should he get the win for creating his own mess? If a pitcher is charged with a blown save, he shouldn’t be eligible for the win. Give it to someone else. Either the starter or the last reliever before him that didn’t have a blown save.

A reliever who comes in in a save situation without giving up the lead and without recording a save is credited with a hold. But if they leave with their team ahead and runners on base, they can still get the loss if the next reliever allows the inherited runners to score. The pitcher who let the runs score will get charged with a blown save (and should be), while the previous pitcher will still get credit for a hold.

Why? He contributed to the loss just as much as the next pitcher. He should still get the loss, but he shouldn’t get credit for a hold. Pitchers who are charged with blown saves should not be eligible to get the win, and pitchers who have their inherited runners score to allow the other team to tie or take the lead should not be eligible to get a hold. It just doesn’t sit well with me. Why should a pitcher be rewarded for creating their own mess?

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