The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
I liked baseball more, before it became more of a science

We are currently debating who’s responsible for the sign-stealing scandal, when we should be talking about where Mookie Betts will hit in the Dodgers’ lineup and whether Gerrit Cole will get the Yankees to the World Series again.


We have evolved to a situation where technology has outdone itself in baseball for the average fan.  The cameras used to steal signs were a relatively basic deployment of technology, especially when you consider that it was combined with the “high-tech” garbage can banging used to signal the batters what pitch was coming.


But there are more prevalent technology implementations now that involve the use of massive databases supporting advanced data analytics, pitching sleeves to measure stress on a pitcher’s arm, STATCAST to capture virtually every motion on the playing field, “smart bats” that break down body mechanics of batters, and soon there will be robo-umps calling balls and strikes.


Fans are subjected to discussions involving terms such as launch angle, exit velocity, defensive shifts, defensive runs saved, runs created, and fielding independent pitching.  It helps to have a degree in physics or mathematics to fully comprehend some of these.


The reality is baseball has evolved into more of a science.


Major-league clubhouses now include cubicles where data scientists are providing real-time information to the coaches and players.  Major-league coaching staffs now include a person responsible for interfacing between the front office and the manager, translating and presenting complex information to field personnel for implementation of game strategies. Some coaches have even gone so far as to learn database languages so they can sift through available information for themselves.


As a result, the technology and the people who promote it have taken some of the passion out of the game.  And it has flowed over to the people who analyze and report on the game, which has gradually flowed over to fans.  I believe all this is contributing to a decline in interest in the sport by the average fan.  A lot of the simplicity of the game has been lost.


We don’t hear as much about the long, storied history of the game and its players from years past.  (The MLB Network would lead you to believe that baseball history began at the same time as the network launched about 11 years ago.)  Off-the-field transgressions of current players are often talked about more than the latest hitting streak or string of scoreless innings pitched.  We’re talking about players who might have worn buzzers and Excel spreadsheets that have “code breaker” logic for stealing signs.  The metrics we grew up with--batting average, earned run average, and fielding percentage—could be calculated in our heads.  Have you seen the arithmetic expression for WAR (Wins Above Replacement)?  By the way, what is WAR anyway?


When I was growing up sixty-something years ago, baseball was a great game for a kid.  It was simple and unsophisticated.  You really didn’t have to know much about the game in order to play.  If you could hit, catch, and throw, that was all that was important.


If you could play baseball at the playground, you could easily watch a major-league game and know what was going on.  Sure, there were more rules to be aware of, but you could still follow what was happening on the field.


It seems we have evolved away from those days.  The recent technology innovations have been primarily designed to help front offices, coaches, and instructors develop higher performing players, which ideally translates to winning more games.  I get that.  But perhaps an unintended consequence is the game has become more complex and less enjoyable.  Or maybe it just says something about my age and tolerance for change.

2 comments | Add a New Comment
1. Bill | February 17, 2020 at 07:05 PM EST

Richard, I couldn't agree more. More than a couple of legends have said something like,\you can't think and hit at the same time.\

People our age generally agree.

It's a generational conflict if there ever was one.

2. Richard | February 17, 2020 at 10:12 PM EST

I got a few other emails who agree with us, but one who said he's gotten more in touch with the sport because of the technology, analytics, and newer trends. (I think he was a younger guy, ha!) I appreciate your note.

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