April 17, 2018


Jeff Passan sees a potential MLB problem. In his latest column, he sees a pattern of attendance drop-off in large numbers, notwithstanding the horrible national weather.

After a weekend records for game  postponements, attendance is down precipitously, enough that one league official expressed concern that this isn’t simply a manifestation of the weather but something deeper and more troublesome for the game.
“I’m worried,” and executive told Passan. “The tanking scares me.”

Inside front offices all spring, officials wondered whether the significant number of teams that neither spent in free agency nor harbored realistic notions of contention would have a tangible, negative effect on fans attending games. The early numbers are chilling.

Compared to last season at this juncture, the Boston Red Sox are down about 2,500 fans a game. For the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals, it’s nearly 5,000. The Cleveland Indians’ average crowd has dropped more than 5,000, the Texas Rangers’ more than 7,000 and the Pittsburgh Pirates more than 7,500. The Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals each are in the 8,000-fan range, and the Miami Marlins are pushing 10,000. The most severe is the Baltimore Orioles, who have played six games at home and are at almost 16,000 fewer per.

Even if some are obviously weather-related, the numbers are nevertheless staggering. The average crowd of 27,532 over the 221 MLB games played this season is about 2,700 fans per game lower than last year through the same point. Over the course of a full season, that would amount to a drop of more than 6.5 million fans.

Now, the last time the league suffered through an April with more postponements than this was 2007. Over the first 225 games that season, the average crowd was 29,888. By the end of the year, that number leaped to 32,704 per game for a total of more than 79.5 million, still the largest attendance figure in the game’s history.

However, last season drew only 73 million fans.  A projected decline of 6. 5 million would be a 8.9 percent decline in attendance. Or at least $325 million in lost gate revenue to the owners.

Weather may have been an early factor. But the high cost of attending games and younger children not playing the sport as much due to school, video games and other entertainment options are other factors to consider. The King of American Sports, the NFL, saw a large decline in TV ratings. Some attributed it to the anthem protests. Others thought it was because parents have stopped allowing their children to play contact football because of concussions. If kids don't play the games they watch on TV, they will likely not watch those games as adults.

April 9, 2018


Baseball is a fundamental sport. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball and you run the bases. It has been a timeless game played by millions of people.

But the overlords of MLB want to mess with the rules to the point of absurdity.

The MLB executives want to "speed up the game." The reason is allegedly to attract attention-deficit disorder youngsters. But in reality, it is to appease the television networks who want to keep games in nice, neat, programmed blocks.

But baseball is the one sport that does not have a game clock. Even though umpires are told to put a timer on pitchers and batters going in and out of the box, the traditional game was meant to be played at its own pace.

So when you have 17 inning marathons that tax both players and managers, fans do appreciate the unique outcomes and drama of extra inning contests.  But MLB wants to force feed results.

The new rule in the minor leagues is to have any extra inning start with a runner on second base. The run expectancy with no outs and a runner on second base is 35 percent.

By implementing the rule, MLB is disrupting the holy grail of fandom: statistics. How do you "place" a runner on second? Is it the next player up in the line up? Or is it "free" managerial extra player, a designated runner, who gets no "at bat." And if the player scores, does his stat line get a "run scored?" Or if it is the next player up, why would he give up an AB since contracts are based upon the "big" stats: average, home runs, RBIs - - - which would be taken away.

Granted, extra inning ball games are not the norm. But that is also the best reason why MLB should not mess with it. Let the game play out in the normal course. So what if a manager runs out of position players. That is part of the charm and strategy of the game. So what if a manager runs out of pitchers. Fans love when their back up catcher comes in to throw an inning.

The extra inning rule experiment should die a quick death in the minors. If baseball wants to attract the next generation, it should help support youth baseball teams because kids who play baseball when they are small will grow up to be fans.

April 5, 2018


Defense and statistic metrics have become so important in baseball. Teams can now accurately predict each batter's contact areas, fly ball rates, ground out locations, etc. The extreme shifts on certain pull hitters have become the norm.

But the Astros have taken defense alignment to a new level: the four outfielder set up. As Yahoo Sports noted, it was a success:

The first player to face the Astros extreme shift is one Houston will see a lot of over the years. Rangers slugger Joey Gallo, whose power-oriented approach often leads him to hit the ball in the air, looked out and saw this arrangement before him.

Astros third baseman Alex Bregman became the fourth outfielder and essentially played a straight up left field. Houston puts its three remaining infielders on the right side, with second baseman Jose Altuve essentially playing short right field. That wrinkle is included because of Gallo’s tendency to pull the ball to right field.

After one game anyway, Houston’s extreme shift should be considered a success.
Gallo hit directly into the shift in three of his four plate appearances. In the first inning, he lofted a fly ball to the relocated Bregman in left field. In the fourth, he hit a sharp fly ball that Josh Reddick  handled in left-center field. In the eighth, it was a fly ball to right field. Gallo added a strikeout to go 0 for 4.

 Here’s a clearer visual of the alignment via Statcast’s Daren Willman.