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“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” - Earl Weaver

Young prospects aren’t the only ones being put to the test in the Arizona Fall League this year. Major League Baseball is also using the league to experiment with a series of measures designed to speed up the game. MLB has used Arizona as a laboratory for innovation in the past, but this time around, the proposed changes are intended to turn the clock back to a time when the “pace of the game” was deemed more fan friendly.

Average Length of Baseball Game, 1947-2014
Length of Game
Note: Includes shortened, nine inning and extra-inning games.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

The length of the average major league baseball game has increased over the last 70 years. In 1947 (the first year for which baseball-reference.com has nearly every game time), the typical game lasted two hours and 11 minutes, a far cry from the three hours and eight minutes needed to complete a contest this season. What’s the reason for this increase, and, is baseball’s desire to reverse this trend a case of trying to fix something that isn’t broken?

What probably concerns baseball suits the most are the last three years depicted in the chart above. Since 2011, the average length of a baseball game has increased by over 10 minutes, representing the first sustained breach of the three-hour mark in the period covered. What explains this sudden spike after years of gradual increases?

Replay Review Snapshot
Replay snapshot
Note: Official replay time is from retrosheet. Actual replay time is based on the time from when a manager enters the field until the next batter steps into the batter box.
Source: retrosheet.com and MLB.com video Continue Reading »

Despite suffering another mediocre year on the field, 2014 was a rebound year for the Yankees in terms of fan engagement. TV ratings on YES were up 15%, while attendance at Yankee Stadium jumped nearly 4%. However, these increases belie a longer-term trend in the opposite direction.

Yankee Stadium Attendance, 2009-2014

Attendance since 2009

Note: Dotted line is a two-year moving average.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Since opening the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, average attendance has declined by 8.5%, a drop off that accelerated in 2013, when the team missed the playoffs for only the second time in nearly two decades. Compared to 2012, the average crowd in the Bronx last year declined by 7.4%, or exactly double the 3.7% recovery that took place in 2014. Considering the positive impacts of Masahiro Tanaka’s debut and Derek Jeter’s farewell, this modest rebound could prove to be a brief detour from an otherwise steady descent.

Yankees Ratings on YES, 2003-2014
Yankees TV Ratings Since 2003
Note: 2013 is first year that YES was carried on the Cablevision system. Rating is based on viewing households compared to Nielsen estimates for total New York market size. 2004 Household number not available. 2008 rating is estimated based on 2009 total New York market households and may differ from the actual rating.
Source: YES Network, Nielsen, New York Times, TV By the Numbers Continue Reading »

The major league baseball postseason is often referred to as a “crapshoot”, but is there any method to the madness that ends with a World Series champion? Are teams with a better record more likely to win in October, or is run differential a better barometer of postseason success? What about teams that are hot entering the playoffs, or those who performed better against stiffer competition in the regular season? Let’s take a look.

Regular Season Record

Since 1901, there have been 281 post season series, and the team with the better record has won only 53% of them. By individual series, only the ALCS has seen the better team emerge victorious more than 60% of the time. The same pattern also holds for more recent results. Since 1995, the team with a better record has won the ALCS 63% of the time, but the overall outcomes have been a coin flip.

Postseason Series Won by Team with Better Regular Season Record, 1901-2013
Regular Season Series Postseason Records
Note: Bars represents percentage of teams with a better regular season record that won a playoff series. Number labels above aggregate categories represent total series played.
Source: baseball-reference.com and proprietary calculations

Post Season Series Won by Team with Better Regular Season Record, 1995-2013

Regular Season Series Postseason Records since 1995

Note: Bars represents percentage of teams with a better regular season record that won a playoff series. Number labels above aggregate categories represent total series played.
Source: baseball-reference.com and proprietary calculations

Better is a relative term, but a one or two game difference over 162 has little meaning. In order to avoid that conflict, series results were grouped into winning percentage ranges. Using this approach reveals that as the differential widens, the better teams tends to be more successful. In fact, at the extreme parameter (winning percentage difference greater than 0.100), the percentage is 81%, albeit in a more limited sample of 16 qualifying series. Continue Reading »

It’s official. With today’s loss, the Yankees will be heading home in October. However, 2014 hasn’t been a complete loss, at least not from a historical perspective. With one victory in the team’s final four games, the Bronx Bombers will secure a winning season for 22nd consecutive year.

Longest Consecutive Winning Season Streaks, By Franchise (1901-2014)
Consecutive winning seasons

Note: Data is as of September 24, 2014 (Brewers and Blue Jays could still have their season status change before end of the year); Blue bars represent NL; red bars represent AL.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Yankees’ current stretch of 22 consecutive winning seasons would be the second longest streak of its kind in baseball history. However, it would be a distant second. From 1926 to 1964, the Bronx Bombers reeled off 39 straight winning campaigns, including 18 championships, 25 pennants, and a victory in over 62% of all regular season games.

Aside from the Yankees’ two winning season streaks of 39 and 22, the Baltimore Orioles boast the next longest stretch, which lasted for 18 seasons from 1968 to 1985. The best run put forth by a National League team is shared by the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. The Braves enjoyed 15 straight winning seasons from 1991 to 2005, while the Cardinals run lasted from 1939 to 1953.

Franchise Winning Percentage Distribution, Since 1901
season distribution

Note: Data is as of September 24, 2014 (Brewers and Blue Jays could still have their season status change before end of the year).
Source: Baseball-reference.com Continue Reading »

In July, Nike helped the country pay “RE2PECT” to Derek Jeter. Now, Gatorade and Jeter are teaming up to return the favor.

This morning, Gatorade unveiled a new 90-second commercial in which Jeter literally and figuratively tips his cap to the fans who have honored him during his final season. Set to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”, the ad, which will begin airing on September 20, follows the Captain on a special farewell tour through the streets of the Bronx. This journey gives Jeter the opportunity to interact with fans, allowing the Captain to say thanks with various personal touches before culminating with his signature tip of the cap to the crowd at Yankee Stadium.

2In addition to the commercial, Gatorade also announced a series of sponsorships that will adorn Yankee Stadium during the season’s final home series against the Orioles. Starting on September 22, the Yankees’ dugout will feature Gatorade equipment, including coolers, adorned with Jeter-inspired logos in place of Gatorade’s G.

Too bad Paul O’Neill didn’t have a farewell tour.

 

Playing .500 on the road while cleaning up at home has long been a prescription for success in baseball. No wonder the 2014 Yankees have been such a failure.  With only 10 home games remaining, the Bronx Bombers are at the threshold of their first losing season at Yankee Stadium since 1991, and the offense is entirely to blame.

Yankees’ Actual vs. Pythagorean Home Record, 1901-2014
nyy home record
Note: Oriole Park from 1901-1902; Hilltop Park from 1903-1912 (and Wiedenmeyer’s Park in 1904); Polo Grounds from 1912-1922; Yankee Stadium I from 1923 to 1973; Shea Stadium from 1974 to 1975; Yankee Stadium II 1976 to 2008 (and Shea Stadium in 1998); and Yankee Stadium III from 2009 to present. Source: Baseball-reference.com

The Yankees are teetering at one game over .500 at home despite being outscored by 30 runs in the Bronx. If the team finishes below that mark, it will mark only the 14th time in franchise history that the home crowd was witness to more losses than victories. Either way, the Yankees should consider themselves lucky to have won so many games at home. Barring an outburst in the final 10 games, the Bronx Bombers’ run differential at Yankee Stadium will likely go down as one of their all-time worst. To date, the Yankees’ Pythagorean winning percentage of 0.449 at home ranks eighth lowest in franchise history, and there’s still a chance it could crack the bottom-five. Continue Reading »

If Stephen Drew’s attempt to score the tying run in last night’s game had taken place on Monday, the Yankees and Rays might still be playing. However, a memo issued by MLB executive vice president Joe Torre earlier in the day altered the enforcement of baseball’s controversial rule 7:13 (see below for full rule text) and likely resulted in Drew being nailed at the plate. But, did the umpires and replay officials get the call right, and does Torre’s memo really provide the clarification it intended?

In the missive from Torre, which was obtained by ESPN, umpires were instructed to give a catcher more leeway to block the plate without the ball, provided he hasn’t “hindered or impeded the progress of the runner attempting to score.” The impetus for this adjustment was to prevent runners, who otherwise would have easily been thrown out, from being awarded home on a technicality. As Braves’ manager Fredi Gonzalez told ESPN, “If you’re out by 40 feet … let’s not call that guy safe.”

The rationale behind Torre’s memo makes perfect sense. If the catcher is standing in front of the plate, but the runner still isn’t in the picture, the position of his feet should be irrelevant. Rule 7:13 was intended to prevent catchers from impeding the runner; it wasn’t meant to create a no standing zone in front of the plate. But, how long is the leash? Can a catcher continue to put up a wall until just before the runner is ready to touch home plate, or must he yield the right away when the runner gets within a reasonable distance (what is a reasonable distance)? Last night’s controversial call hinges on the answer to this question.

In Exhibit 1, we see Drew and the ball approaching, while catcher Ryan Hanigan straddles the plate. At this point, there is no potential violation of Rule 7:13. Hanigan has provided a path and Drew is running on a direct line to home.

Exhibit 1: Drew and the ball approach home plate.
Drew1

Continue Reading »

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