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The State of the game today


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The problem is the same as in other sports: what is efficient is not always what is exciting.


Everything evolves. When new things work, everybody starts to use them. Sabermetrics started out as a way to understand what really goes on in baseball, but now everything is based on sabermetrics. And why not? If the idea is to win, and there's something you can do that makes that a couple of percent more likely, why wouldn't you do it? Teams have discovered that hitters have definite patterns of where they hit it, so shifts are everywhere. And many players have said they can't beat a shift unless they bunt. And teams have also decided that taking a few extra hundredths of a second away from hitters makes too much sense, so rather than have one guy save his arm so he can go 7-8 innings, they'd rather the guy go all out for 5 innings and bring in 4 more guys who can throw 98+ for an inning. Teams have also decided that everyone should swing for the fences every time up, in the same way that NBA teams have decided that mid-range jumpers are inefficient. The big problem is that every one of these changes have taken action out of the game. They've essentially turned baseball into cricket. Now, OK, a lot of people like cricket, but most of those people aren't Americans...


 Maybe the worst new idea is the idea that tanking is good for you. It's one thing when it's just one or two teams, but when a quarter of the league decides that losing a lot is better than being OK, well, most people in the US aren't interested in watching teams that have no hope. 


It's tough to think what MLB could do to fix this. If you make the strike zone bigger, some guys are going to strike out 250 times a year. If you make it smaller, someone is going to get to 80 HR in a year. They probably can't legislate against the shift. They certainly can't force teams to have fewer pitchers on the roster.


The only thing that can really save things is the next round of evolution. And don't think it can't happen - relatively quickly, too. Maybe the new ballparks in Tampa and Oakland will be pitchers parks. Maybe the 1-IP 100 MPH guys become really expensive and teams decide to go back to longer starts. Maybe hitters will spend this offseason learning to beat shifts and someone like Justin Bour hits .330 with 95 hits to RF next year and still gets 25 HR in the band-box known as Citizen's Bank Park. Maybe teams realize that if 10 teams are tanking and claiming low revenues due to plummeting ticket sales, there's too much competition for prospects and no reasonable expectation that any particular team will be able to turn it around. (Quick, how many guys on a hypothetical 2021 winning team in MIA are in the organization right now? Five to seven, maybe?). A good example of this is the wildcat in the NFL. It worked for awhile, and then defenses figured out how to stop it, so teams have basically scrapped it, replacing it with the read-option. If you don't like the read-option, don't worry - they'll figure out how to defend that, too.



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While I don't disagree with the fact that the game is changing I don't think it's fair to fault anyone who's ever figured out a smarter way to play the game effectively. 


The goal of the game is to score more runs than your opponent... pat on the back to everyone who has figured out smarter ways to make that happen. It's the way it is and forcibly changing it now would be horribly awkward. The game has evolved... evolve with it but don't dumb it back down and try and make it easier for everyone either. 


Getting upset that the game is more boring is like getting upset that the invention of the seatbelt has caused less automobile deaths. 



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I think ultimately it's like a pendulum, though, like bmg was implying.  What works now will work until someone tries something different and once that works, everyone swings over to that.  Eventually someone will realize there is a different way to win - doing it the "old school" way of hitting against shifts, etc. and then you'll see teams stop shifting.



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