Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Listen to us Baseball Purists occasionally...

I admit that I am one of those baseball fans: the dreaded baseball purist. I loathe the Designated Hitter. (If a pitcher is making $1000000+ dollars a year, is it really too much to ask him to get off his rich, lazy bum and take some batting practice?) I tolerate the multiple league divisions, but have never been a big fan of the wild card (a true baseball champion should be about winning a pennant, not rewarding 2nd place team's mediocrity). I have never particularly liked Interleague play, aside from perhaps an annual series of true geographical rivalries like the Cubs-White Sox, St Louis-Kansas City, or Mets-Yankees, etc. (But the plethora of series like Atlanta-Seattle? Texas-San Francisco? What's the point of series like that?) And don't even get me started on those horrendous (though thankfully now mostly defunct) soulless cookie cutter stadiums from the 1960s that looked like cosmic space ports with fake grass. In an era of baseball progressivism, I remain firmly seated with the rest of the loyal opposition Baseball Puritans.

That having been said, I thoroughly enjoyed Tom Verducci's latest article that espouses what Baseball purists have said for years: pitch counts, relief pitching, and the whimsical "closer" have always been crocks of epic diamond proportions. Pitchers routinely pitched well into the 8th and 9th innings up until the 1970's. Relief pitchers were largely leftover and aging starting pitchers that just could not cut it any more but might be good in an emergency.

Nowadays, the sacred cow of managing is the 100 pitch count. Once a pitcher hits 100 pitches, he is yanked from the mound, even if he's cruising smoothly. Managers have never given any specific reason why 100 pitches is the gold standard for arms suddenly going limp. Why not 80 or 120? Doctrine governed by the first 3 digit pitch number, nothing more. No science, no real reason. It is just something everybody does for no good reason. But like all sacred cows, woe to any who might question it, particularly with logic.

I doubt baseball gurus will listen. Too many closers make too much money to question "the system," even though the subject has come full circle and the idea of radically returning to pitching orthodoxy is now kitschy and perhaps even "forward thinking," though ironically it is what Baseball Purists have said for years.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That's from the Bible by the way.  

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