Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, July 6, 2022 -- "Mariners Worse, But Better"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

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"That’s not been the case in 2022. A team that was 39% better than its baseline in high-leverage spots in ’21 is 9% worse in them this year. As statheads have long preached, clutch hitting isn’t a skill over and above hitting, and outlier performances in those spots, good and bad, will always regress."

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, July 5, 2022 -- "The Market"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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Kansas City Royals: Getting the Royals to act in their own best interests is the challenge. Whit Merrifield should have been traded two years ago; now he’s 33 with a .291 OBP. Andrew Benintendi is the most likely prize, as he’s bounced back from a lost 2020 to hit .290/.345/.427 as a Royal with strong defense in left field. He’s basically Alex Gordon Lite. Michael Taylor is having a career year and would be a big upgrade in center for a number of contenders, even a couple of World Series favorites. He’s signed through 2023. Hunter Dozier is just in the way here, has bench-bat value on a good team and is signed inexpensively through 2024 with an option for 2025.

 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, July 1, 2022 -- "Players' Weekend"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"I retired the “my guys” conceit a while back, but had I done it this year, Luis Arraez would have been high on the list. I have Arraez in both Mixed LABR and AL Tout, valuing his bat-to-ball skills and positional flexibility. Arraez leads the AL with a .340 batting average thanks in part to being one of the best contact hitters in baseball: an 8% strikeout rate this year, 9% in his four-year career. Since his debut in 2019, Arraez is one of just three players, with Alex Bregman and Juan Soto, to walk more than he’s struck out."

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Fun With Numbers: The Yankees' Pitching

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 

Last night in the Bronx, the Yankees allowed their first unearned run in more than a month. With two outs in the ninth, Sean Murphy reached on catcher’s interference and came around to score on an Elvis Andrus single. Clay Holmes got the final out in the Yankees’ 2-1 win. The Jose Trevino mistake cost the Yankees their 12th shutout of the season, but in the end the game was the team’s 21st, in 75 games, in which they allowed no more than one run. As you might expect, the Yankees are 21-0 in these contests. Surprisingly, that does not lead the league.

Shutdown Games (most games allowing zero or one run, 2022)

           G     Rec
Dodgers   24    23-1
Astros    22    22-0
Yankees   21    21-0
Twins     20    19-1
Angels    20    18-2



It would have taken me a lot of guesses to peg the last team on that list.

The Yankees’ run prevention has been incredible this season. Even while losing a number of stalwart relievers to injury, with Chad Green out for the season and both Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loaisiga missing time, the Yankees have allowed the fewest runs in baseball, 229. They have the lowest FIP and xFIP in the game. Their starters are in the top three in ERA, FIP, and xFIP, and they’ve thrown the second-most innings in the game, behind only the Padres. The team’s bullpen has the lowest ERA and third-lowest FIP. Yankees’ relievers lead MLB with a 49.9% groundball rate, and they have a chance to be one of the few bullpens to have at least a 50% groundball rate since we started tracking in 2002.

Ground and Pound (single-season GB% by RPs, 2002-2022)

               Year     GB%
1. White Sox   2015   53.4%   
2. Giants      2012   52.6%
3. White Sox   2014   52.1%
4. Pirates     2013   52.0%
5. Athletics   2002   51.9%
19. Yankees    2022   49.9%



A big part of this is the emergence of the reliever who closed out Tuesday night’s win, Clay Holmes, Holmes has become a right-handed Zack Britton, someone whose pitches are hard to hit and nearly impossible to elevate. Here’s how Statcast would put it.

Worm Burning, Pt. 1 (Lowest Launch Angle allowed, 2022, min. 50 batted balls)

                          LA (degrees)
Clay Holmes      NYY   -10.0
Framber Valdez   HOU    -3.9
Tim Mayza        TOR    -3.7
Sam Hentges      CLE    -3.5
Andre Pallante   STL    -3.1



That’s breaking the scale. The difference between Holmes and Framber Valdez, 6.1 degrees of average launch angle, is the difference between Valdez and #19 on the list.

We’re nearly halfway through the season, and Holmes has allowed seven fly balls and nine line drives, total. I mentioned Zack Britton above...see if you can figure out why.

Worm Burning, Pt. 2 (Highest GB%, 2002-2022, min. 30 IP)

                        Year     GB%
Clay Holmes      NYY    2022   81.8%
Zack Britton     BAL    2016   80.0%
Zack Britton     BAL    2015   79.1%
Zack Britton     NYY    2019   77.2%
Aaron Bummer     CHW    2021   76.1%



It’s all about the sinker. With the Pirates, Holmes was a three-pitch pitcher, using a two-seamer, slider and curve. Since being traded to the Yankees last summer, he’s junked the curve and turned the slider into a secondary pitch, leaning more and more on that sinker. In 2022, he’s thrown the sinker four out of every five pitches, and gotten more ground balls than any pitcher in recorded history.

You know what’s crazy? The Yankees could get Britton himself back late this season and for the playoffs. The two best groundball pitchers in recorded baseball history might be coming out of the same bullpen this fall.

All of this puts the Yankees in position to be the best run-prevention team ever in a DH league. Through 75 games, they have allowed 229 runs. With a good week, they could top this list...

A Good Start (fewest RA through 81 games, DH leagues only, non-strike years)

           Year     RA
Astros     2018    246
Angels     1989    261
Angels     1973    274
Yankees    1976    276
Orioles    1973    277     


...which would position them to top this one:

A Good Start (fewest runs allowed, DH leagues only, full seasons)

           Year     RA
Astros     2018    534
Athletics  1974    551
Orioles    1975    553
Mariners   2014    554
Orioles    1973    561  



The Yankees actually have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done since 1972, and hasn’t been done in a non-shortened season since the Year of the Pitcher in 1968. Since the first expansion in 1961, which brought with it 162-game seasons, just eight teams have allowed fewer than 500 runs. Two did it in 1972, when the players’ strike lopped a week from the season. (The 1972 Orioles allowed 430 runs in 154 games and somehow finished third in the AL East.) Six others did it from 1966 through 1968, when the strike zone was defined as “if the ball gets here intact, it’s a strike” and pitchers were airlifted to the top of the mound.

We still have quite a ways to go, but as they take the field in the Bronx today, the Yankees are putting together one of the best pitching seasons in baseball history.
 

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 28, 2022 -- "No Longer LOLrioles"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"Orioles relievers have thrown more innings than any other team’s. Of the five teams who have asked at least 300 innings from their relievers, the Orioles have the lowest ERA and by far the lowest FIP. They’re getting both volume and run prevention from a group of pitchers who, even today, wouldn’t get recognized across the street from Camden Yards."

 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 23, 2023 -- "Guardians Partyin'"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The 17-4 run coincides with some roster decisions that have stabilized the defense. After using Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario all over the diamond for 200 games, Francona has settled in on the two as his double-play combination. Rosario has started 21 of 22 games at short, and in 17 of those he’s been paired with Gimenez at second. (Owen Miller is still getting some starts against left-handers, though he’s also now getting some of them at the expensive of Josh Naylor.) Just before the winning stretch began, the Guardians promoted outfielder Oscar Gonzalez. Gonzalez, who looks a little like Franmil Reyes’s more athletic brother, has hit .333/.363/.500, and the Guardians are 18-6 when he starts."

 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

On Bob Nutting and the Pirates

 This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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You can trace the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates back to 1882, when they went 39-39-1 in the inaugural season of the American Association. One of the strongest teams in that nascent league, the Pirates jumped to the better-established National League in 1887, and have played in the larger circuit ever since. 

Pittsburgh was big-time then. In the 1880 census, the city rated as the 12th-biggest in the U.S., and it was the fourth-biggest with a team in the AA. A decade later, however, the then-Alleghenies played in the smallest city with an NL team, with a sixth of the population of New York, 30% of that of Brooklyn -- still a city of its own -- and half that of Boston and St. Louis. By the turn of the century, the gap between the largest cities in the NL and the smallest had grown, establishing a dynamic that remains to this day.

As of 2020, Pittsburgh is the 67th-largest city in the U.S. by population, between Greensboro, N.C., and Irvine, Calif. There are about 27 times more people in New York than in Pittsburgh, about 13 times as many in Los Angeles. If we use the modern convention of measuring by the size of the TV market, Pittsburgh is 26th in the U.S., about 15% of the size of New York City, about 20% the size of Los Angeles. It is not the smallest market in the U.S. with a team -- that’s Milwaukee -- but it is part of a tier that simply doesn’t have as many people to please. The Pirates won 88 games in 2014, made the playoffs for the second straight season, and sold 2.4 million tickets. That same year, the Cubs went 73-89, finished fifth for a fifth straight year, and sold 2.6 million tickets. Don’t even ask about their respective TV deals. 

I take you on this snoozy demographic tour to make this point: There is a real need for the sharing of local revenue among baseball teams, to smooth out the differences in revenue for teams in small cities and teams in large ones. Over the last 30 years, baseball has asked teams in those large cities to share more and more of the money they make by dint of geography with teams that do not, ostensibly to prevent the development of a financial underclass, to sustain competitive balance. 

It’s not working. The Pittsburgh Pirates are, at the moment, the signature example of how it’s not working. The Pirates get a 3.3% share of the national-TV deals even if they never appear on national TV. They get a large share of local revenue-sharing money generated by the Yankees and Dodgers and Cubs and other large-market teams. Locally, their deal with Bally Sports brings in an estimated $44 million a year. They also, even as a bad team, sell tickets. Their last-place team in 2019 sold 1.5 million, and all the hot dogs and ball caps and parking spaces that go with that. Only the last of those figures is in any way contingent on the short-term performance of the baseball team. 

Bob Nutting isn’t the first owner to recognize that the league will subsidize a losing team, but he’s the one who has been the most aggressive about exploiting it. When his Pirates were good in the middle of the last decade, he didn’t do what owners in Kansas City and San Diego and Milwaukee -- all smaller markets -- did, bolstering his roster and raising the team’s payroll to maximize the Pirates’ chance of winning. Nutting let that team founder, its payroll peaking at 22nd overall and never rising above $116 million. For three years running, his Pirates have spent less on baseball players than any other team, and will fight to retain that crown in 2022.

This is a structural problem, but not the one you think it is. MLB shares more local revenue than any other league, more than enough to make the Brewers and Padres and Royals competitive with the Cubs and Dodgers and White Sox. MLB now shares, in fact, too much local revenue, so much so that teams can be both bad and profitable. A system designed to prevent the development of an underclass is now subsidizing an underclass.

Bob Nutting has, over and over again, chosen the next dollar over the next win. He’s the problem, and until he’s replaced, the Pirates are going to struggle. I can write about them in the middle of a lockout because I know that despite $200 million in revenue and a $52 million payroll, they’re not going to do anything to materially change the roster.

 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Joe Sheehan Newsletter, May 9, 2022 -- "The Big Questions"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 

The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 14, No. 36
May 9, 2022

What about changing to starting with a 1-and-1 count (like softball). So we only need two strikes for a K and 3 balls for a walk? it actually gets to the action quicker in the count.

--Chris A.


This is a common rule in amateur sports. It may even be a fair one at those levels, particularly in non-fast-pitch games where the pitcher’s role is closer to its original one, to enable batters to put the ball in play. 

In MLB, though, it wouldn’t work. The league is hitting .232/.306/.370 -- ugh -- this year. After batters get to a 1-1 count, they’re hitting .212/.297/.333. Last year, the difference was about 40 points of OPS, and in 2019 it was about 50. We think of 1-1 as a neutral count, but it isn’t; it’s a pitcher’s count. In fact, there are no neutral counts after 0-0. Getting to a 1-1 count has the smallest effect, and even it takes away 10-15% of offense from hitters.

No Neutral Territory (Batting by Count, 2021)

             AVG    OBP    SLG  tOPS+
Overall     .244   .317   .411   100
After 1-0   .256   .379   .442   127
After 2-0   .266   .499   .481   174
After 3-0   .263   .730   .474   246
After 0-1   .214   .261   .351    67
After 1-1   .226   .306   .379    89
After 2-1   .235   .390   .412   123
After 3-1   .254   .589   .470   200
After 0-2   .160   .193   .256    23
After 1-2   .169   .225   .276    38
After 2-2   .181   .290   .305    66
After 3-2   .199   .456   .352   130

tOPS+: OPS relative to the overall league OPS


This leads to one of my favorite notes. In 2017, batters hit .255. In 2021, even being spotted a 1-0 count, they hit .256. Heck, maybe the solution is to go to three balls for a walk.

Take a look at that second line, those plate appearances where the batter starts 1-0. They hit .256/.379/.442, which is around what the league hit in the crazy season of 1894, when there were 14.7 runs scored per game. That would be overshooting the mark. A game with a walk rate of 16% would be unwatchable, even if you shaved a pitch per batter off those walks.

For all the things that may be worth tinkering with given the way player skills have changed, four balls and three strikes may damned well be perfect.

There’s going to be tinkering, however, whether we like it or not. What we want to start thinking about is not what changes we want to see from the current game, but whether there is an optimal version of baseball for which we should be aiming. Should baseball be a ten-runs-per-game sport? Nine? Eight? 14? How long should a game take? I’ve written about this before, but the people who think a baseball game should take two-and-a-half hours are crazy; the last time games ran an average of 2:30 was in 1977 and the players were all smaller, skinnier, and weaker. Games ran 2:50 in the first half of the 2000s, and that’s an optimistic goal.

Perhaps most germane to these discussions: What should the strikeout rate be? Baseball’s strikeout rate has climbed inexorably from the sport’s earliest days. I sounded the alarm about this in 2014, when the strikeout rate had just reached 20%. It’s 23% now, even with pitcher batting finally off the table. Thinking back a bit, the Davenport Translations that were the backbone of the early Baseball Prospectus annuals were created for a league with a 16% strikeout rate. We used to target pitchers, for fantasy-drafting purposes, who struck out seven men per nine innings. I’m not talking about the 1890s here. This was 25 years ago.

The absolute all-time peak for MLB tickets sold was in 2007, just short of 80 million fans. That league hit .268/.336/.423 with a 17.2% strikeout rate, a 3.6% HR rate, and 9.6 runs per game.

Speaking just for myself, I think 20% is where you lose the thread, and you really want a game with a maximum strikeout rate in the high teens. When I wrote that series in 2014, one of the points I made is that if you didn’t address the problem, you’d eventually have a crisis. That was at 20% and with more hits than strikeouts. Now, we’re at 23%, headed for the fifth straight season with more strikeouts than hits, and nothing’s been done.

MLB seems to be hoping that nibbling around the edges -- deadening the baseball to modify batter behavior, using a pitch clock to modify pitcher behavior, limiting rostered pitchers to modify front office behavior -- will lower the strikeout rate. They may be right, but all these changes combined are, at best, going to slow the increase rather than roll it back. Some may increase the league's walk rate, making them a wash. Some come with unintended consequences, like punishing hitters for making really good contact. There’s the potential for some to cause an increase in injury rates, which should be a concern for a sport where star players break down way too frequently. Certain changes we’re likely to see, like mandating bad defensive positioning, are likely to increase the strikeout rate -- hitters will be rewarded for dead-pull hitting, while pitchers will have greater incentive to avoid contact.

I’m getting buried in the details, same as MLB. 

The details aren’t where we have to start. We have to start with this: What should a baseball game look like? What is the right mix of offensive and defensive events to entertain fans, allow the players to show off their skills, keep competitive integrity, and get everything done in a reasonable amount of time?

The last time baseball really engaged with these questions was in the 1800s, when the sport was young enough to still be malleable. Twelve decades later, it’s time to do so again. 

 

Newsletter Excerpt, June 20, 2022 -- "All-Star Ballot"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"As longtime readers know, I consider the All-Star Game, as designed, to be a showcase for the very best players in baseball. Among the many reasons for the Game’s decline in stature are that bloated rosters and a picnic-softball approach to the game mean that the contest's attractiveness declines sharply with each passing inning. An eighth-inning matchup with the tying run on base is likely to feature a hitter whose All-Star status is 'player having the best first half on a bad team' against 'reliever having the best 20 innings of his life.' Contrast that with the NBA All-Star Game, which, whatever its flaws, is at its very best at the end of the contest, the ten best basketball players in the world trying to win a game."

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 19, 2022 -- "Lorenzo Cain"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"It’s facile to say that the Royals made their leap because Lorenzo Cain made his, but the two are inextricably linked. In 2014, Cain hit .301/.339/.412, stole 28 bases in 33 attempts, and was one of the best defensive outfielders in the sport. He was the personification of the 2014 Royals, a team that played great defense, ran the bases with abandon and efficiency, and was just good enough at the plate to make it all work."

Friday, June 17, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 17, 2022 -- "Fun With Numbers: 14"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The Braves, like those Angels, are on a 14-game streak of their own, albeit to the good. Taking advantage of some internal promotions, some good health, and what amounts to a rehab assignment through the bottom of MLB, the Braves haven’t lost in June."

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 16, 2022 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"I’m torn on this. On a macro level, I think baseball has to reverse every recent trend and start pushing more innings to the best pitchers, both starters and relievers. For Bednar and the 2022 Pirates, though, I wonder if Shelton is going to burn out his best pitcher chasing 65 wins."

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt. June 14, 2022 -- "Outliers"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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--
 
"The loss was the Marlins’ 16th in one-run games this year -- fully half of their 32 losses. They have outscored their opponents by 21 runs and are still 26-32, 11 1/2 games behind the Mets, 6 1/2 behind the Braves for any playoff berth."

Monday, June 13, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 13, 2022 -- "["Spinal Tap" Joke Here]

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

--
 
"The Braves have played ten straight games against teams that, to use the technical term, can’t hit. They allowed 30 runs in those ten games, three or fewer in seven of them, and won every one of them. Throw in a shutout win in Phoenix on June 1 against the Diamondbacks, who rank 25th in wRC+, and the Braves have allowed 30 runs in their 11-game winning streak, cutting the Mets’ NL East lead in half."

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 11, 2022 -- "Notes From the Park"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The obvious solution is to not let the Cubs leave town with Willson Contreras. Contreras, a free agent at the end of the season, is hitting .273/.396/.517 with his usual average defense. The Cubs have sold off everything else, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stop here, especially when Contreras might be the best player available in trade this summer. He’d be a four-win upgrade over the rest of the season for the Yankees, providing them even more cushion over the Rays."

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 8, 2022 -- "Firing the Manager"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"You have to go back to 2018, and the Cardinals’ exchange of Mike Matheny for Mike Shildt, to find a team firing its manager in the hopes of changing its short-term fortunes. I remind you that Steinbrenner alone did this twice in 1982."

Monday, June 6, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 6, 2022 -- "Angels With Dirty Faces"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The pitching has been worse. Angels starters are last in ERA, 28th in FIP, 27th in K-BB% during the streak. They’ve thrown just 47 2/3 innings, last in MLB over that time. They don’t have a quality start in the streak. The bullpen has not picked up the load: 27th in ERA, 29th in FIP, 21st in K-BB%."

Friday, June 3, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 3, 2022 -- "Go, Girardi"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"In firing Girardi, the Phillies are repeating the error they made three years ago, blaming the manager for the roster's flaws. Their prior manager, Gabe Kapler, had a 161-163 record with the Phillies, breaking a six-year string of sub-.500 finishes in 2019. Kapler was a lightning rod for criticism, however, especially with how he managed pitchers, and he was let go after the ’19 season. Kapler was NL Manager of the Year two years later, and his injury-riddled Giants roster is comfortably in the NL’s last playoff slot today."

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, June 1, 2022 -- "National Problems"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"I do feel for the Nats. No team were as screwed as they were by the pandemic. You make your money the season after a championship, and they had that year wrecked by the Covid season."

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 31, 2022 -- "The Double-Bank-Shot Theory"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Some fans will lament the failure of batters to evolve. The thing is, batters did evolve. People just don’t like the way they did."
 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 26, 2022 -- "Tim Anderson"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"Anderson just crossed over the 3000 career PA line, which qualifies him for this list as well.

3-5-5 Contact! (Highest career BABIP, 1961-2022, min. 3000 PA)

                   BABIP
Roberto Clemente    .359
Rod Carew           .359
Austin Jackson      .355
Tim Anderson        .355
Derek Jeter         .350



"Any time you’re on a list with Roberto Clemente and Rod Carew and Austin Jackson, you’re in incredible company."

 

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 25, 2022 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"In the moment, it seemed a bit like a passing of the baton. This was the game the Giants had been winning for more than a year, doing whatever they needed in the late innings to outscore their opponents. That’s what the Mets have been doing for seven weeks so far in the 2022 season, with nine comeback wins, including one in a game they trailed by seven runs. At a bit past midnight ET, it sure seemed like the Mets were out-Giantsing the Giants."

Monday, May 23, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 23, 2022 -- "Cardinal Rules...Changing?"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"In April, the team had a 96 wRC+, tenth in the NL, squeezing out a tick over four runs per game. In May, the Cardinals have the best offense in the NL, a 127 wRC+, scoring 5.6 runs per contest."

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 18, 2022 -- "A Peculiar Decision"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"A one-off decision to bat Andrew Vaughn ninth is small potatoes. La Russa’s explanation, though, shows that he simply doesn’t understand why he’s making the move or, for that matter, remember why he did what he did and how he did it a decade ago."

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 16, 2022 -- "What I'm Watching"

 

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Toronto’s performance is pretty easy to explain. The Jays’ offense hasn’t come close to expectations, with a 98 wRC+ and just 130 runs in 35 games, less than four a game. The left side of the infield has been a disaster, with Bo Bichette (.234/.275/.345) and Matt Chapman (.182/.259/.347) combining for almost 300 PAs of a .270 OBP, most of it in the top half of the order. "

Friday, May 13, 2022

Newsletter Excerpt, May 13, 2022 -- "Potpourri"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"When you add hit batsmen to walk rate, you see what’s happened in recent seasons. These non-events for purposes of action have pushed the Free Base Rate to turn-of-the-century levels. Combined, the elevated walk and HBP rates are propping up OBP in a league hitting .234, providing enough baserunners to keep scoring above eight runs a game for the moment, but again, not making baseball any more entertaining. If the league pushes for even a moderately aggressive pitch clock in 2023, with an intention to create more hittable pitches, the unintended consequence could be a record level of non-events -- walks and hit batsmen."

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Baseball and Television

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and has been a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. 12, No. 104
December 9, 2020

It started a bit more than 80 years ago.

Oh, you can go back further if you want, back to Philo Farnsworth and Vladmir Zworykin and Kenjiro Takayanagi, developers of the technology we would come to know as “television.” For our purposes, though, it started on August 26, 1939, at Ebbets Field, with a doubleheader between the Reds and Dodgers. Those two games, less than four hours between them, called by the legendary Red Barber, were the first major-league ones sent over this new medium. 

It’s possible no one watched Bucky Walters go the distance in the Reds' win, nor Dolph Camilli have a big second game for the Dodgers. Television was still something of an experiment, the first sets having gone on sale in the U.S. just a few months prior to that late-summer ballgame. W2XBS, a predecessor of WNBC-TV, was broadcasting in fits and starts, airing some news, some sports -- including that Dodgers doubleheader -- some performing arts. Dick Vitale was born that summer, and Lily Tomlin, and Valerie Harper, three people who would eventually ride television into our homes and our hearts. 

The men who ran baseball were already aware of the value of their game to broadcasters, of course. The rights to cover the World Series on radio brought in $100,000 as early as 1933, despite the wariness of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis. At the local level, though, the new technology was feared more than it was welcomed. Owners protected their attendance fiercely, and believed that radio broadcasts would undercut demand for tickets. In the ‘30s, the three New York City teams entered into an agreement that their home games could be aired over the radio, but not their road contests. As radio grew in popularity, though, the value of the broadcasts -- both in generating direct revenue and in promoting the team -- overcame the initial objections. 

It was a simple equation back then. A business would pay the team to be the sole sponsor of the broadcasts, which went out over the air for free. In return, the sponsor would interject advertising for its product into the broadcast. The ballgame brought people to the radio, a captive audience for the ad message. The players, the teams, the front office, the owners ... they didn’t have to do anything extra. The ads were worked into natural breaks in the game or, over time, folded into broadcasters' calls. By the time television arrived, radio had established the rules. 

Baseball would take advantage of those rules. Rights fees to air the World Series grew tenfold in the 1940s. Come the 1950s, ABC and then CBS paid to air a Game of the Week. Blackout rules kept these games from being true national telecasts, but in the cities where they did air, they were incredibly popular. At the local level, though, the old fears still carried the day. It wasn’t until 1965 that baseball allowed the Game of the Week to air in cities with MLB teams. Owners still guarded their gate receipts, still saw fans watching baseball on television not as potential customers, but lost ones. Their business was putting on baseball games in front of crowds, crowds that would buy tickets and beer and hot dogs, park in their lots, and return again and again. Television was an intrusion on that business model.

The sheer amount of money involved, however, was too much to ignore. When ABC began showing their weekly ballgame in 1953, less than half of all American households had a TV. A decade later, more than 90% did. Television was replacing radio in American living rooms, was replacing radio as the way American companies reached American consumers. By the mid-1960s, national TV contracts were bringing $6 million a year to baseball, and local broadcast deals generated a total of more than twice that

The tipping point in this story comes in 1967. For almost two decades, baseball was happy to take TV’s money without its input. The only concession was the way inning breaks lengthened a bit to allow for advertising. In 1939, when Barber called that doubleheader for W2XBS, the average game ran 2:06. Twenty years later, it was 2:34. For the most part, though, baseball operated the same way it had before the war: Owners were in the business of baseball, not the business of television.

In ’67, MLB played its All-Star Game in prime time for the first time, and it blew up. Half the televisions turned on in the country were tuned in to watch the NL beat the AL 2-1 in 15 innings. The 1968 All-Star Game, also played in prime time, drew similar numbers. When the 1969 game, played during the day due to a rainout, attracted half the audience of ’67 and ’68, the penny dropped. Bowie Kuhn went to NBC with the idea of moving a World Series game to prime time. On October 13, 1971, Game Four of the World Series was played under the lights of Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. 

It’s something when you see how quickly it happened. As of October 12, 1971, there had never been a World Series night game. Since October 24, 1987, there has never been a World Series day game. It took 16 years for baseball to turn its crown jewel into just another television program. 

In 1971, MLB’s national television revenues were $16.5 million per year. 

In 1987, MLB’s national television revenues were $171 million per year.

MLB was no longer just in the business of baseball. It was also in the business of television.

That shift explains the decisions made over the following 30 years, and likely as not, every decision that will be made from this point forward. In 1990, MLB ended relationships with NBC and ABC stretching back decades to sign a four-year deal with CBS for $275 million a year. That deal, however, ended the Game of the Week; CBS broadcast just 12 regular-season games, squeezing them in on weekends between its NBA obligations in the spring and its football obligations in the fall. It was a deal designed by a television network, not a baseball league, dispensing with the regular exposure, the rhythms of that weekly showcase, because it wasn’t what the network needed.

It was also a spectacular failure. CBS lost hundreds of millions on the deal, burdened in part by having two World Series featuring just one U.S. team (the Blue Jays won the AL pennant in 1992 and 1993) and just six playoff games, in total, featuring teams from Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. The contract was perceived to be such a disaster that baseball was unable to find an acceptable broadcast partner as it came to an end. In 1994 and 1995, it formed The Baseball Network in partnership with ABC and NBC, ended the broadcast national Game of the Week entirely, and, most notably, introduced realigned leagues and expanded playoffs.

Baseball was now thinking like a television executive: Create the kind of games TV likes, and toss the ones it doesn’t. Pennant races still drew some national attention, but you couldn’t rely on having them every year. An extra round of playoffs, though, was money in the bank. Literally. If it cheapened the regular season a bit, if it lowered the bar for success, if it meant a second-place team could win the World Series, well, that’s a baseball concern, not a television one. 

The first year under this plan was lost to the strike, but the second, in 1995, produced an epic five-game Division Series between the game’s biggest brand and the game’s biggest star. When Ken Griffey Jr. slid across home plate to defeat the Yankees in Game Five, it was great baseball, but more importantly, it was great television. So great, in fact, that it brought bidders back to the table: $1.4 billion over the next five years from Fox, NBC, and ESPN. What strike?

The numbers have only risen since then. From 2001-06, MLB brought in $650 million a year from ESPN and Fox. From 2012-19, that figure, with Turner now chipping in, was up to $1.5 billion a year. In part to address complaints about how the one-wild-card system affected competition, MLB added two playoff teams and set up one-game elimination rounds -- catnip for TV executives -- in each league. Again, any concerns as to how this would lower the quality of playoff teams were dismissed. It was about programming, not baseball.

The rise in rights fees wasn’t entirely about America returning to its first sports love, though. In fact, it had very little to do with baseball, the game, at all. The original animating relationship between sponsors, the audience, and broadcast content was falling apart. First VCRs, then DVRs, meant that television viewers could more readily ignore commercial breaks in their favorite shows. Pay-cable channels, which first broadcast Hollywood -- and lesser studios -- movies, began to produce commercial-free shows of their own, dragging eyeballs away from the broadcast networks. As high-speed Internet access became commonplace, Americans looked away from their televisions entirely in favor of web content. When people wanted to laugh or cry or get lost in a show, they had options their parents could not have dreamed of.

When they wanted to cheer, though, they needed sports. Sports broadcasts largely had to be consumed live for maximum enjoyment, so they held more of the television audience, as that audience splintered, than entertainment shows did. The rights to air sports gained value, both nationally and locally. Rights fees soared as competition grew. Regional sports networks largely replaced over-the-air channels as the rightsholders for regular-season baseball, and those RSNs needed baseball’s volume, those six games a week for six months, to fill their air. Baseball didn’t necessarily need to be good to be valuable; it just needed to be. It was programming.

This is where we are now. Fifty years ago, baseball teams were businesses built on bringing people to the ballpark, giving those people a good team to watch, a fun day in the sun, so they would come back again and again. The better the team, the more money you could make. Television was an additional revenue stream, valuable but not dominant. 

Today, baseball teams are television programming, their value largely tied to a schedule that sends them out 162 times a year, mostly at night, when people are home watching television. National television money, split 30 ways and guaranteed whether you win 25 games or 125, will bring each team more than $60 million a year come 2022. Every team is paid at least $20 million on a local deal as well, money that goes into the local-revenue-sharing pool and is redistributed to prop up teams in smaller television markets. Loosely speaking, television pays the players -- total TV revenue is roughly equal to league payroll. Tickets, stadium revenue, sponsorships, licensing and everything else pays non-playing staff, expenses and accounts for the profits. 

So we shouldn’t be surprised when the people who run baseball think and act like television executives. There were complaints about the way the 2020 schedule was set up; many fans would have liked to see games, played without fans in attendance, scheduled throughout the day, but most were played at night in the home team’s market. That’s because it was best for the RSNs broadcasting the games. The expanded playoffs? They were designed to sell ESPN and TBS the manufactured drama of short-series baseball. The condensed Division Series and LCS rounds? Scheduled that way so the World Series schedule would be unchanged, pleasing Fox. 

There was no one moment when it happened. From 1967 to 1971 to 1987 to 1994 to 2012 to now, television just became a little more important, and baseball just a little less important, at every turn. Guaranteed TV money is no longer just part of the deal; it has become the whole deal.

So now, in 2021, we have the league looking to keep the TV-pleasing expanded playoffs, even if it means further diluting the regular season, turning more September games into exhibitions, shifting the focus from the very best teams in baseball to the ones trying to stay above .500. Television doesn’t care about September. It cares about October. Television doesn’t care about races, it cares about series.

There’s no one standing up for baseball now. Thirty years ago, Fay Vincent got cashiered in part because he stood in the way of this, opposed the interests of television in defense of the interests of baseball. Baseball learned to never let someone like that in the room again. Baseball is no longer distinct from television. The people who run baseball, and the people who own baseball teams, think of themselves as providers of television programming first and foremost.

This affects every conversation we have about the game. A sport that sees itself as television programming will not notice how little happens outside the center-field camera angle. Strikeouts and home runs are exciting! Maybe, but if you’re in the second deck down the left-field line, what is spin rate or a well-framed slider to you? A sport that cares more about its postseason than its regular season will broadcast its disdain for the latter by shortening its games just to get them out of the way, and by using gimmicks to get them over with. It’s all just a seeding exercise, why are you even watching? There’s Only One October. A sport that cares more about TV ratings than attendance will price its tickets and beer and hot dogs with little concern about whether you watch from Section 228 or your couch. 

Right now, baseball isn’t a sport. It’s programming. Every decision the league and the owners make is through a camera lens, and until that changes, every lousy 21st century trend will continue.