Thursday, July 11, 2013

6 comments Bill Madden Hates Free Baseball, Likes Steroids, and Just Kicked a Baby Panda in the Teeth

Bill Madden is frustrated with these low-scoring baseball games and he misses the days when baseball players used amphetamines and the game action was more exciting. This is the big secret among sportswriters, that many of them take every chance they can get to crucify PED users and rail angrily about any PED user being in the Hall of Fame, but yet these sportswriters are bored by baseball games that don't feature guys slugging the ball out of the park at an alarming rate. One minute these sportswriters are writing 1000 words about how A-Rod/Bonds/Sosa should not make it into the Hall of Fame, the next minute they are writing 500 words about how low-scoring and boring the game has become. Bill Madden specifically longs for the days of amphetamines (even if jokingly, I don't believe he is completely joking) and hates all of this good baseball that leads to extra inning games. This is typical modern sportswriting. One minute the sportswriter is eviscerating cheaters who ruin the purity of the game of baseball and the next minute the sportswriter is complaining the game of baseball is too low-scoring.

Honey, are you still awake?”

“Of course, I am. It’s only the 14th inning!”

Extra inning games are SO boring aren't they? Who likes the idea of free baseball? Not Bill Madden, that's for sure.

So are you loving all this or not? All this extra-inning baseball we’re being treated to this season? Eighteen bonus frames alone by the Mets and Marlins (Ugggh!).

It's one game between two not very good teams that went into extra innings. It's free baseball, how can you hate free baseball? 

The Yankees had to play a whole ’nother nine innings on getaway day in Oakland before losing, 3-2, to the A’s Thursday, and from the looks of their pathetic offense (0-for-28 with 12 strikeouts from their 4-7 hitters, Mark Teixeira, Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis), they could’ve easily gone another nine without scoring a run.

Two teams from New York played extra inning games that weren't very exciting, so all extra inning games are now seen as boring by Bill Madden. He misses those days when baseball players used PED's and then he could write about how exciting the games were AND later write about how these PED-using players should never make it into the Hall of Fame. And yes, Madden has a history of moral grandstanding when it comes to steroids and a history of criticizing MLB players who have been caught using PED's. It's all about the story to Bill Madden. He wants more offense in the game of baseball, but also wants to remove steroids from the game entirely. I don't think it would be a lie if I said he probably misses the Steroid Era in some ways.

While you were sleeping, there had been 110 extra-inning games played this season through Thursday which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, puts baseball on pace for a total of 272, which would shatter the previous record of 237 in 2011.

Oh sure, NOW Bill Madden embraces statistics when they help him prove a point, but when anyone else uses statistics Madden gets his panties in a wad.

Now it would be one thing if these games were replete with suspense, dramatic home runs and occasional great plays, like in, say, Mets-Astros, 16 innings, Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, or Yankees-Red Sox, 11 innings, Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS.

Basically if it were an exciting extra innings game that involved a New York team then Bill Madden would have no problems, but since these were boring extra inning games that involved a New York team then this must mean all extra inning games are boring. 

Also, to compare a regular season extra inning game to three of the most exciting extra inning games in MLB history is a bit unfair. This is like saying if every regular season game can't be as exciting as Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Game 7 of the 2001 World Series or contain as much excitement as the 1951 National League pennant race then what's the point in playing these regular season games? It's not fair to expect every extra innings game to be among the most exciting extra inning games in the history of baseball. 

But for the most part, this year’s version of Extra Innings Theatre has been an exercise in futility, boredom and, in the case of Mets-Marlins, been downright unwatchable.


So why is this? Why have extra innings, which used to be looked upon with great anticipation, instead been replaced by a sense of dread?

Perhaps because you are using the example of two games to serve as an example for all extra inning games. This sense of dread could very easily be your conscience telling you that your moral grandstanding and super-secret love for players who used PED's has led to games that features less offense and you feeling like the non-Steroid Era has become offensive to your delicate senses. 

According to scouts and baseball execs I talked to, it starts with the gradual decrease of runs and homers since baseball instituted its ban of amphetamines in 2006.

I'm not entirely sure this is an accurate statement, but when have baseball execs and scouts ever been wrong? NEVER. That's the answer. Baseball execs and scouts are never wrong.

This is a lesson in being careful what you wish for. In Bill Madden's mind fewer PED's mean fewer runs, so if Bill wants to criticize PED users that is perfectly fine, but he needs to reduce his whining about lower scoring games in that case. He can't necessarily have it both ways.

“There’s less power in the game,” said one exec, “less examples of one swing of the bat ending the game.”

When compared to the Steroid Era, this probably makes sense. Again, this is what happens when MLB has a steroid policy. In fact, this is the entire point of a steroid policy. The point is to make sure players aren't using artificial means to power their swing. 

The Elias Bureau reports there are 2.01 homers per game this season and 15.15 strikeouts per game. In 2006, there were 2.22 homers and only 13.03 strikeouts per game.

That means every fifth game teams hit a home run in 2006 they won't hit in 2013. Over an entire season that is 34 additional home runs (162 games times 0.21) that are hit in a certain team's slate of 162 games. I don't feel like doing regression analysis and I'm sure 34 fewer home runs in a team's season is a statistically significant number, but it doesn't seem like the fact teams hit one fewer home run every fifth game in 2013 could be attributed to the boringness of the next inning games being played. This seems like a simplistic kind of answer. As far as the strikeouts go, each team is striking out one more time in 2013 as they were in 2006. I can't see how this can be the reason there are more extra innings games. But don't worry, Bill Madden has anecdotal evidence of his being correct that he will share with us in a moment.

(I'm pretty sure all my math is right. I would love to do a regression analysis, but I'm very lazy.) 

My point, and I do have one, is that while Bill Madden, scouts and baseball execs are talking about the reduction in home runs (which there does seem to be one) as the reason for more extra inning games, I'm not entirely persuaded. It's very possible the reduction in runs can be attributed to the amount of extra inning games, but teams can score runs by other means than hitting a home run. Plus, Bill Madden needs to decide if he likes baseball with less offense or baseball players using PED's. 

“But that hasn’t stopped guys from swinging from their heels,” the same exec said. “The problem is, you get into extra innings, and guys who can’t hit home runs are swinging from their heels anyway and striking out.

Gosh, this doesn't read like anecdotal evidence at all. Players try to hit home runs in extra innings and are striking out all over the place. It seems like an epidemic doesn't it?

At the same time you get into the sixth or seventh inning of a tie game, with runners at first and second and nobody out, and nobody seems to bunt anymore.

NOBODY bunts anymore. Again, more anecdotal evidence. Why wouldn't you bunt in a situation where you have gotten two runners on base and nobody out? Clearly the pitcher isn't (a) tiring or (b) struggling to get batters out, so the best move is to give the other team a free out. There is a time and a place for bunting and if it is a tie game in the sixth or seventh inning with runners on first and second, I'm not sure this is the time or place. It depends on the status of the pitcher and other factors, but simply saying "nobody" bunts in this situation is just dumb. Not to mention, were teams bunting a lot in this situation during the Steroid Era or something? Or could teams in 2006 just hit that extra home run every fifth game that is the reason so few games went to extra innings in 2006?

It’s like managers are being disrespectful to the batters to ask them to bunt.”

Or managers are realizing that asking a player to bunt in a situation where there are no outs means that manager is giving up an out in an inning where the opposing pitcher seems to be struggling. 

“There’s far less power and far more hard-throwing relievers,” said one scout.

The relief pitchers are becoming more talented? Whatever can be done about the increased skill level of relief pitchers? Maybe the hitters should be allowed to use PED's, just to keep up with the hard-throwing relievers. 

“You get in these low-scoring games, and now it seems almost every team in baseball has two-three relief pitchers who can come into a game and throw 100 mph gas for an inning and it’s a mismatch. Then, by the time you get into extra innings, look at these guys the way they’re dragging!”

So are the relief pitchers dragging or are the batters dragging? There's a disconnect here. Bill Madden has stated that these extra inning games are boring, so does he want a reduction in the pitching talent in baseball or what exactly is his solution for these boring extra inning games? What's the complaint, that pitchers are pitching too well and this is making baseball boring? Isn't the exclusion of PED's from the game of baseball and the increased skill set of pitchers a good thing?

Any way you look at it, the common denominator in most of these extra-inning games is a dearth of runs —

This makes sense considering when a game goes to extra innings if one team scores more runs than another team then the game is over. So games that last for 14 innings tend to have fewer runs scored after the ninth inning is over, because if a lot of runs were scored then the game would be over when one team outscored the other in a certain inning.

I would also enjoy seeing the data that makes Bill Madden believe the dearth of runs is the reason for most of these extra inning games. I'm not sure he has supporting data and is probably basing this conclusion on the viewing of two extra inning games during the 2013 season.

which suggests that maybe baseball needs to do something drastic to rouse its fans and players out of their slumber.

Bill Madden thinks extra inning games are boring. He has anecdotal evidence of why baseball games are boring and that's because the hitters are not hitting as many home runs as they did during the Steroid Era. Plus, it doesn't help the pitchers are so talented they can overmatch the hitters. So in summary, Bill doesn't like competitive baseball games that go to extra innings, he thinks there is too much talent among MLB pitchers, and he wishes there was a way to make a drastic change to improve the hitting. So what's his solution? 

Yo, Bud — call off your amphetamines police!

There we go. The solution is to call off the amphetamines police. This is Bill Madden's solution even though he has repeatedly written about PED users (like A-Rod) and how he wouldn't vote a player like A-Rod into the Hall of Fame because he doesn't have the integrity required to be there. It seems Bill Madden wants every MLB player to lack integrity and use PED's to make the game more exciting. Even if this is a joke, it's a bad one. 

This is typical modern sportswriting though. Just typical. Madden rails on and on about PED's and the lack of integrity among PED users, but then when baseball takes a harsh stance against PED's he complains the game of baseball isn't exciting enough. All those extra inning games cut into his sleep time and all of these talented relievers make the game boring for him. Some people just feel the need to complain about baseball  no matter what.


JJJJShabado said...

The difference is slight in home runs. Madden doesn't report whether that difference is between entire 2006 and 2013 or April-June 2006 and 2013. Home Run rates go up as the season goes on.

I did a difference of proportions test for 2006 vs 2012 (much fairer to compare whole seasons to whole seasons) and its not statistically significant. [2.86% of 2006 PA were home runs, 2.68% of 2012 PA were home runs. Over 184K+ PA, not a whole lot of difference]

Madden actually presents the correct number that's affecting home runs and that is the strikeout rate. The additional two strikeouts. Dave Cameron wrote a couple of articles on this during the off-season.

Home Runs per contact is about the same over time, but since there are fewer contact plays, there are less home runs. That's on both players and pitchers.

Bengoodfella said...

JJ, I don't feel the two additional strikeouts are that much more significant either. Madden was cherry-picking one or two games that he found boring and then tried to turn it into a MLB-wide issue.

Players are still hitting home runs and the games are just as boring as they used to be...for good or bad.

Bengoodfella said...

Oh, and you did a difference of proportions test for 2006 and 2012? You deserve extra credit for that.

JJJJShabado said...

Sorry, I'm an idiot. I forgot how to do math this morning

Both are actually significant. Because the sample sizes are so large, differences will be more apparent.

That said, the difference in the case of strikeouts is way more apparent than that of home runs. The z-score which tells how far you are away from the mean is about 3 for home runs and about 23 for strikeouts. Point is, the more noticeable difference is the higher amount of strikeouts.

Snarf said...

Extra inning baseball is awesome. the O's-Red Sox marathon game last year was one of my favorite games, particularly because Chris Davis showed that he's the league's best pitcher.

Bengoodfella said...

JJ, I guess it is speculation to say whether steroids would help with strikeouts or not. Either way, players are still hitting homeruns.

Snarf, I like extra-inning games too. They just seem to happen a lot when I have to get up early in the morning.