Last Update: 05 Feb 00
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REPLY #16 TO
Exactly. That's why it has nothing to do with any discussion of the DH rule. After all, since both teams play by the same rules whether or not there is a DH, isn't symmetry still preserved?
(R) Symmetry refers to the structure of the game, and not to whether each team is playing by the same rules. Again, the genius of baseball is that the best defensive players tend to be the worst offensive ones.
(MB) I'd say that this is an undefendable claim. Sure, many good fielders are poor hitters and many poor fielders are good hitters. Yet, they all tend to find their ways onto major league rosters even if they end up as somebody who rides the pine most of the time. However, the best defensive position players are the ones who win the Gold Glove awards and the vast majority of them are also decent to excellent hitters. The genius of baseball is that those who get the most playing time are those who tend to excel both at the plate and in the field.
To support your claim will require an explanation to account for such players as Ken Griffey, Jr., Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Jeter, Barry Bonds, Matt Williams, Roberto Alomar, Mark McGwire, Ivan Rodriguez, and many others.
(R) To use an analogy, what if the NFL changed field goals to 4 points each? It would be a subtle shift at first glance, but actually a major shift in effect.
(MB) Any change in the basic rules of scoring would be a major change. Field goals are 3 points since they're only designed to be worth half as much as a touchdown.
The American League has traditionally been a "hitter's league" even before the inception of the DH rule, so that is a non-issue.
(R) Nonsense. The perception of the AL as a hitter's league is incorrect, probably because of the Yankees. A check of league batting averages in the 1950s and 1960s shows the leagues as even or the NL higher in most batting stats.
(MB) While that is true on the surface, the actual difference is barely significant. For the years 1950-1963, the batting average difference between the two leagues averages .0024 in the NL's favor. That's equivalent to about one extra hit for every 500 official at bats.
But, we can also look at other stats which might influence the perception of which league has traditionally been the "hitter's league". One that sticks out is team slugging percentage -- certainly a better measure of perceived hitting for the average fan. Here we see that American League teams have 21 of the top 30 team single-season slugging percentages in the history of Major League Baseball (through 1990).
Team walks are another good measure of the perception of hitting prowess. Since most fans would agree that you pitch more carefully to good hitters and, thereby, end up issuing more walks to them, high walk totals for a team should go hand-in-hand with the perception of superior hitting. Here the difference between AL and NL is even more pronounced. There have been 26 teams in baseball history (through 1990) which have drawn 700 or more walks in a season. 23 of these teams were American League teams.
How about team home runs? Here, once again, we find the records solidly in favor of the American League. Up to 1990, 24 of the top 36 all-time team home run totals belonged to AL clubs. Once again, this contributes to "perception". Whether or not this perception is correct, there is certainly ample support for it.
As far as length of game goes, I don't understand why shorter games are "better". The excitement value of a baseball game is a factor of its competitiveness and not of how long it lasts. The 15-inning playoff game between the Braves and Mets was hailed as one of the best ever even though it lasted forever. Are fans really more interested in getting the game over than in savoring what happens during the game?
(R) Games that extend past 3.5 hours and are actually interesting to watch are few and far between, especially during the regular season. Playoff games by definition are more important, hence more tense. I would also but several of the 1986 LCS games in that category. A four hour 9 inning game is dull. Period.
(MB) Why? A four-hour game likely has lots of pitching changes and other managerial moves going on. I thought that non-DH folks point to these things as making for a better game of baseball. As I've already said, my criteria for whether or not a game is "interesting" is whether or not it is competitive and well-played on both offense and defense. A sloppy game completed in a brisk 2 hours can easily be far less interesting than a back-and-forth battle which rages over 4 hours.
The switch from 4-man to 5-man rotations has nothing to do with the DH. If you think otherwise, you'll need to explain why the DH-free National League also uses 5-man rotations.
(R) The NL is also affected by the pitching shortage. There are only so many healthy arms to go around.
(MB) Correct. But, your initial argument was that the DH causes pitcher burnout and, as a result, leads to 5-man rotations. I think it's clear that this is not the case.
There weren't enough quality pitchers to go around when each league had only 8 teams and each team used a 4-man rotation. Now, we have 30 teams (soon to be 32) which use 5-man rotations. That means baseball has gone from needing 64 starters to 150 starters over the past 40 years through 1999. Certainly, the population of the United States hasn't increased 2.5 times over that same period. Therefore, if the population couldn't produce enough quality starters 40 years ago, why should we expect the problem to be anything but much worse now?
(R) The employment of nonwhite players in 1959 was limited, which also restricts the presence of nonwhite Latin American players. Factor those numbers in and expansion has still failed to keep pace with the growth of potential ballplayers.
(MB) That still doesn't work. The percentage of the population which falls into those categories is far too low for their inclusion to produce a 250% increase in the available pool of potential players over the past 40 years.
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