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Thread: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

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    Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    [Every time I read or type the name Bill James on this forum it reminds me of the movie Blazing Saddles when Sheriff Bart says “you wouldn’t do this to Randolph Scott” and the choir sings and trumpets blow, etc., etc.]

    For those who didn’t read the original post about the gentleman lawyer Harold Spears, here it is: http://www.redszone.com/forums/showthread.php?t=47811

    It was an odd set of circumstances that lead me to this post, but that’s for another day. Anyway, last night, I sat down with my 2003 edition of the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. I ended up reading the section of analysis on the 1990s and Mr. James’ predictions on where the game would go by 2015.

    To recap, Mr. James compares the way the rules of basketball have been changed (shot clock, 3 point line, 3 second lane widened) to the way that baseball has not had any major changes in its’ set of rules. Mr. James contends that the basketball rules have been changed to “save the game from itself.”

    Mr. James’ primary issue with the game the way it is played now (“sit on your [butt]” baseball, as he quotes Whitey Herzog) is that the games are too long. The biggest piece of Mr. James’ argument is that the emphasis of the game is now on home runs and as a result, there are too many walks and strikeouts.

    Mr. James advocates a return to a “speed” game through various rules changes (limiting the number of pickoff attempts, moving the batters box away from the plate, limiting minimum bat weight and handle diameters), in order to speed up the game in more than one sense.

    The point of all this is, the thoughts of Mr. James and Mr. Spears are not that much different. Mr. Spears emphasizes the selfishness and greed of the modern player, while Mr. James emphasizes the need for quicker games to draw in more fans. Mr. James does, however point out the difference in salaries for "big, slow home run hitters" vs. "little guys who can get on base and run." Both would advocate a return to “smaller” ball and “playing the game the right way,” as I have seen it mockingly referred to here on this board numerous times.

    I wanted to make this post, because I think sometimes, on this board and elsewhere, some of us who are more statistically-minded, mock those who call for a “smaller, faster” game. I don’t think that’s quite fair.

    As always: comments, questions, concerns to be added here:
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Then Mr Spears should attack the game, not the players of the game.

    But this leads me to the following question.

    What was the best era of baseball you ever watched?

    I'll say 1975 - 1985, the perfect blend of speed and power.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    What's interesting is that James is coming from the perspective (assumption) that any smart team would structure itself and it's talent such that it maximizes it's chance of winning. Thus, the problem with the game is not that teams and players are lazy, but that the current rule structure has created an environment where a power based attack is the most effective. Thus, to combat this, you need to alter the rules, not the attitude of the players.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick
    What's interesting is that James is coming from the perspective (assumption) that any smart team would structure itself and it's talent such that it maximizes it's chance of winning. Thus, the problem with the game is not that teams and players are lazy, but that the current rule structure has created an environment where a power based attack is the most effective. Thus, to combat this, you need to alter the rules, not the attitude of the players.
    Yes, and I thought I outlined this in my original post. Two approaches, same desired outcome. Mr. James does not limit his criticism to the rules, but also to salary structures.

    WOY - I believe Mr. James says the "small ball" teams of the 1930s actually scored more runs per game than the "sit on your [butt]" teams of the 2000s. Is this accurate?

    Edit: I'm also fairly certain, Mr. James would also be anti-"body armor."
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    WOY - I believe Mr. James says the "small ball" teams of the 1930s actually scored more runs per game than the "sit on your [butt]" teams of the 2000s. Is this accurate?
    "Small ball" ??

    The 30's was fraught with high BA and low K totals, lots of Runs, lots of balls in play.

    7 of the top ten seasons in Runs scored occured between 1929 and 1936.

    Four of the top ten runs scored in the NL are from 1930 and 3 from 2000.

    Both seasons generated massive runs, however they both did it diffrently.

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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou
    "Small ball" ??
    Yes, that was a misstatement by me. I didn't know how to say de-emphasized home run era easily/quickly.
    When all is said and done more is said than done.

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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou
    Then Mr Spears should attack the game, not the players of the game.

    But this leads me to the following question.

    What was the best era of baseball you ever watched?

    I'll say 1975 - 1985, the perfect blend of speed and power.
    I believe that Bill James himself once wrote about his preference for the baseball of that era. During that decade, players hit as high as .390 (George Brett) and .388 (Rod Carew), players hit as many as 52 HRs (George Foster) and 48 HRs (Mike Schmidt) in a season, regularly had players who stole 80-130 bases a season (with Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Vince Coleman leading the way in steals), and yet there were pitchers who pitched in excess of 300 innings a season, had 20+ complete games, with pitchers having 23, 24, 25 victory seasons, and yet relief pitching was really coming to the fore--it was a time of diverse offenses and diverse ways of playing the game.
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    Score Early, Score Often gonelong's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    I think "small ball" is decidedly more interesting and fun to watch.

    IMO its just not how MLB is set up during this era.

    I have posted here on more than once occasion about this. When Cincy was building their park I was hoping they would build the largest park MLB would allow. 440 to center if they would let them. It would give them a novelty as well as a competetive advantage I would think.

    Pitching is a difficult commodity to find and retain, it would help with that. You could also load up on punch and judy defenders with great speed - these guys are cheap in this era. Since the running game is so devalued in this era many clubs carry catchers that can be run on.

    GL

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    Member Spitball's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Very interesting post. I totally agree with James on this topic. I loved the strategy and speed of 20-30 years ago.
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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Quote Originally Posted by westofyou
    Then Mr Spears should attack the game, not the players of the game.

    But this leads me to the following question.

    What was the best era of baseball you ever watched?

    I'll say 1975 - 1985, the perfect blend of speed and power.
    And I'll vote for the 10 years that followed: 1985-1995.

    It was interesting to watch as more parks were being built with grass, and seeing the speed game decline. It was gradual but fascinating at the same time. Barry Larkin may have been the most perfect player of that era as he could be a power guy or a speed guy with excellent defense. Most importantly, he adapted his game to the evolution of baseball during that period.
    Suck it up cupcake.

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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    I don't think the games are too long, except when they go to extra innings of course. Two-and-a-half to three hours is the norm, and I like that. It's the way it's supposed to be.
    "Enjoy this Reds fans, you are watching a legend grow up before your very eyes" ... DoogMinAmo on Adam Dunn

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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    I was going to do a post on this essay when it first came out. For those who don't know, James recommends that:

    1) The pitcher is given two throws to first per baserunner and every throw-over after that is a ball on the batter.

    2) Your allowed one in-inning pitching change per game unless the pitcher has given up a run.

    3) Move away from thin-handled, thick-barrelled bats by instituting a minimum size for handles.

    4) Move the batters box away from the plate.

    5) Prohibit the batter from leaving the box unless the really need it (i.e. a bug in their eye).

    I think these are fine ideas and its really a fine persuasive essay. Read it if you get a chance.
    The widow is gathering nettles for her children's dinner; a perfumed seigneur, delicately lounging in the Oeil de Boeuf, hath an alchemy whereby he will extract the third nettle and call it rent. ~ Carlyle

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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Quote Originally Posted by TeamBoone
    I don't think the games are too long, except when they go to extra innings of course. Two-and-a-half to three hours is the norm, and I like that. It's the way it's supposed to be.

    I don't think it's possible for a baseball game to be too long.
    "But I do know Joey's sister indirectly (or foster sister) and I have heard stories of Joey being into shopping, designer wear, fancy coffees, and pedicures."

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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsBaron
    I believe that Bill James himself once wrote about his preference for the baseball of that era. During that decade, players hit as high as .390 (George Brett) and .388 (Rod Carew), players hit as many as 52 HRs (George Foster) and 48 HRs (Mike Schmidt) in a season, regularly had players who stole 80-130 bases a season (with Rickey Henderson, Tim Raines and Vince Coleman leading the way in steals), and yet there were pitchers who pitched in excess of 300 innings a season, had 20+ complete games, with pitchers having 23, 24, 25 victory seasons, and yet relief pitching was really coming to the fore--it was a time of diverse offenses and diverse ways of playing the game.
    Yep. I concur. Strictly from the viewpoint of baseball aesthetics, I'm a big fan of the running game and the ball in play.

    Quote Originally Posted by dabvu2498
    I wanted to make this post, because I think sometimes, on this board and elsewhere, some of us who are more statistically-minded, mock those who call for a “smaller, faster” game. I don’t think that’s quite fair.
    Well, there's "aesthetically pleasing" and there's "effective," and a difference between "I'd like the game to be like that" and "the Reds should play that way." If the game should ever return to the days where smallball was the best way to win games, then I'm all for it. Until then, I want the Reds doing the things that win games, even if it's not the most interesting thing to watch.

    As a general aside, not talking to anyone specifically... There's often a "all I need to know, I learned in Little League" mentality among baseball fans. People accept that the NFL is another level and the strategies that work in youth football aren't applicable, and NBA teams play differently than college teams, but they get mad when a major-league team doesn't play the way they're teaching the 11-year-olds to play.
    Not all who wander are lost

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    Re: Bill James and Harold Spears... "Sit on your [butt] baseball"

    Quote Originally Posted by Raisor
    I don't think it's possible for a baseball game to be too long.
    I do and I'm a big fan. I'm also a fan of Citizen Kane but I imagine that inserting a lot of pointless footage wouldn't add to the experience.

    I really recommend you read it.
    The widow is gathering nettles for her children's dinner; a perfumed seigneur, delicately lounging in the Oeil de Boeuf, hath an alchemy whereby he will extract the third nettle and call it rent. ~ Carlyle


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