Saturday, September 15, 2007

There is no such thing as too much baseball

It is high time to bury the notion that baseball games, played "the right way", should finish in under 2 hour and a half hours. Tonight's Yankees/ Red Sox classic clocked in at 4 hours and 43 minutes, the second longest 9 inning game in Major League history. Not at all coincidentally, the longest 9 inning game ever was played between these two clubs last year.

The Yankees and Red Sox play the game the right way. Sure, hitting the cut-off man or poking a grounder to the right side with a runner on second and nobody out will help a team win the odd game here and there. But in terms of fundamentals, they are both secondary to pitch selection. I don't care how many of "the little things" a player does to give his team's announcers boners. If he gets on base at a .310 clip and he consistently swings at the first pitch, he is a fundamentally unsound player.

Waiting for a good pitch to hit gives the team three advantages. First, the pitcher may well throw 4 balls, before he throws 3 strikes, resulting in a free pass. Second, the more pitches the batter sees, the more likely he is to get a fat pitch to hit. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, if most of the lineup employs a patient philosophy at the plate, the starter will tire prematurely. This will result in appearances by the opposition's long men (sexy!) and middle relievers, the worst pitchers on the team. The Yankees and the Red Sox both understand this. Along with their Scrooge McDuck pools of money, this is why they win.

Taking lots of pitches adds to the length of the game, but it is surely the right way to play. Your average Giants/ Pirates borefest will end in half the time of tonight's Yankees/ Sox game. But being that I like baseball in general, and, you know, players that play it well in particular, I am not bothered when the games last longer than normal. In fact, I welcome these all night affairs.

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