Yesterday afternoon, I received an email from the reader in Houston. I have always described him as a person with a treasure trove of sports stats and history. The email yesterday – with no prompting that I can discern – demonstrates how and why he is always able to flesh out things I posit generically here. This is the entirety of his communique:
“A review of MLB’s Injury (formerly ‘Disabled’) List as of 4/13, less than two weeks into the season, shows 169 players on the list, which is the equivalent of almost six full teams, give or take, or almost 20 percent of the players.
“Of those, 112 are pitchers, which is almost the equivalent of 10 pitching staffs, with 37 being starters and 75 being relievers. Of those 112 pitchers, 21 are ‘out for the season’.
“The Padres lead MLB with 14 players on the list, including 10 pitchers, four of whom are out for the season.
“Based on the average player salary, that’s a lot of money being paid to players for being on ‘sick leave’.”
According to statista.com, the average salary for MLB in 2020 was $4.43M. Using that figure as an approximation for the 2021 season, that means the players on the IL now represent an annual cost to MLB teams of $748.7M. [Of course, many of those players are not out for the season and will be “earning their salaries” in short order.] Nonetheless, that is a lot of money for injured players…
MLB announced earlier this week that they will be experimenting with a rule change in the independent Atlantic League this year. The pitching rubber will be moved back 12 inches from home plate; the idea is to give hitters another split second to get the bat on the ball and – presumably – to put the ball in play more often. The Atlantic League was a major part of the tests for robot-umpires calling balls and strikes in previous years and that experiment has now carried forward to further experimentation in some of the lower minor leagues. There had been a proposal to move the pitcher’s rubber back 24 inches, but MLB and the Atlantic league settled on a 12-inch setback as the experiment for 2021. As with any “experiment”, one must not jump to a conclusion until there are data to analyze; so, we shall wait and see what comes of this.
The Atlantic League will also experiment with another rule change that has come to be known as the “double hook”. What this rule would say is that a team can use a Designated Hitter; but when the starting pitcher is removed from the game, so is the Designated Hitter and the relief pitcher assumes that spot in the batting order. As you know, I have hated the Designated Hitter concept from the jump; ergo, you cannot be surprised to hear that I like this rule. One recent trend that adoption of the “double hook” would reverse is the use of a pitching “opener” who is only intended to go an inning or two into the game. Under those circumstances, that team’s DH would be almost useless. I will restrain my enthusiasm here to see if there are any unforeseen and/or unintended consequences from application of the “double hook”, but I confess that I hope it turns out to be wonderful.
Speaking of baseball rules that I hate, there are statistical implications for the “runner on second to start extra innings” that is in place again in 2021. Rather than go through all the details, here is a comment from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times that will give you an overview:
“For pitchers’ stat purposes, that runner stationed on second base to start extra innings is considered an unearned run if he scores.
“So how long before numbers geeks demand an ‘unearned loss’ stat, too?”
The Texas State Senate overwhelmingly passed a Bill called the Star Spangled Banner Protection Act; the Bill had strong conservative support and attracted more than 75% of the Democratic votes in the chamber. The Bill would make it mandatory for “any professional sports teams with contracts with the state government to play the national anthem before the start of a game.” The final vote in the Texas State Senate was 28-2.
Whether or not you think this is a good idea, one must wonder why such legislation would be considered necessary. The reason goes back to a decision made by the Dallas Mavericks and its owner, Mark Cuban, to stop playing the anthem before their home games in Dallas. The Bill now goes to the Texas House of Representatives for consideration as it moves to become the law in Texas.
When the Mavs stopped playing the anthem, it was not much of an issue because there were no fans in attendance at the time. However, it became a big deal pretty quickly once the Lt Governor there found out about it and Tweeted that Cuban should sell the team to some “Texas Patriot” who would buy it and announced that this sort of legislation was one of his legislative priorities for 2021. The NBA seemed to render the issue moot when it decreed that all its teams would play the anthem before their home games – – including the Mavericks. Obviously, that was insufficient; and it surely seems as if this legislation is on its way to become State Law.
Finally, Bernie Madoff died yesterday. Madoff was serving a 150-year prison sentence for his fraudulent financial Ponzi scheme which defrauded as many as 35,000 people in more than 100 countries over a period of 4 decades. Here is an important question in my mind:
- Will his grave marker be in the shape of a pyramid?
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………