Monday, May 26, 2014

Arizona Diamondbacks 2-2 at New York Mets 1-4 - May 25, 2014


This past Friday, the Diamondbacks and Mets were in the fourth inning of their series opener when the skies opened. Fans waited patiently for a couple of hours before the game was suspended and all statistics up to that point were thrown out, ruining scoresheets around the ballpark. The upshot was the game was moved to Sunday as part of a single-admission doubleheader. I decided to attend as it is not every day you can see 18 innings of major league baseball for the price of 9, although on the whole, I would rather have been in Philadelphia. From this day at the ballpark, I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

Single-Admission Doubleheader

When did this term enter baseball vernacular? When I was a kid, the word doubleheader meant two games for the price of one. At some point, a financial genius and baseball lunkhead realized that they could double their income by scheduling one game in the afternoon and another in the evening, thus taking up the entire day for players, season ticket holders, and stadium employees. Who cares about them though, we can DOUBLE GATE RECEIPTS! Thus the day-night doubleheader was born. These days, there are almost no doubleheaders on the original schedule; and even many rainouts are rescheduled as the dreaded day-night variety.  Only on the rare occasion where a team is not returning to the city and circumstances prevent a day-nighter will you see two games for the price of one. Of course, given how bloody slow these games have become, that might not be a good thing after all.

Games Slower Than Ever

I've been talking about the terrible slowness that pervades MLB these days. Average game time is 3:08 but beyond that is how little happens during that time. Strikeouts are up while hits and runs are down. The stat I like to use is Pitches Per Minute (PPM) which measures the pace of the game, but it is only good for 17 seasons as reliable pitch counts are not available for games before 1998. Still, this season's PPM of 1.563 is nearly 10% slower than the high of 1.711 reached in 2004. For a more historical look, consider Runs Per Hour, which simply measures the number of runs you see per hour of baseball. The lowest figure for RPH in the past 60 years was in 1968, the year before the pitching mound was lowered. RPH that season came in at 2.672 while runs per game were at an all-time low of 6.84. This season, an average game sees 8.32 runs, but RPH is the lowest ever at 2.651! Games are more than 30 minutes longer now so even though you might see more total runs, you are spending relatively more time to see them.

This was true for what should have been a quick doubleheader. With the D-backs flying back home afterwards and both teams already out of the pennant race, I thought we might see some good old-fashioned baseball with pitching and swinging. Nope. The first game was won by Arizona 2-1 and took 3:09. That's less than a run per hour. The second game was won by New York 4-2 and took 3:12. That's less than 2 runs per hour. Overall, 9 runs in 6:21, or 1.42 RPH. Thankfully it was a beautiful day and the fans around me were of a like mind, so we spent most of the time complaining about how baseball is slow and boring. Smart fans, on the other hand, went home after the first game.

Scoring By iPad

I still score most games that I go to, using my customized scorebook. I even track pitches, assists and putouts as well, which keeps me more focused as the games become longer and filled with more interruptions. Recently though, I found an iPad app that allows you to score the game. After tracking Game 1 manually, I decided to try the app to see how it works in a live game. I had practiced a couple of times while watching the Jays on TV, but an NL game is quite different with all the lineup changes and there were plays that the app did not handle that well, though it does track all stats automatically, and allows you to create PDFs of the scoresheet for printing out at home. Ultimately though, I prefer the paper option, where you can easily make corrections. You really don't want to be using your iPad in a rainstorm either.

Anyway, the funny part of this story happened after the game one of the guys sitting behind me said, "You're the problem with baseball these days with that computer shit". Woo-hoo! I thought the problem with baseball was steroids and slow games, when really all we need to do is stop using technology. Problem solved. Interesting that this gentleman sat through two long, boring games and found my attempts to try something different to be the problem.

Close to a No-Hitter

I mentioned that I would rather have been in Philadelphia. That quote is based on a similar one attributed in various forms to W.C. Fields, a native of the city. Many believe it to be his epitaph, but his grave contains only his name and years of birth and death (1880-1946). Anyway, I brought this up because just down the road from Citi Field, Josh Beckett was authoring the first no-hitter of the season. I've yet to see a major-league no-no, and the two I saw in the minors are asterisked (one was 7 innings and 3 pitchers, the other a rain-shortened 5-inning affair). I do hope to see one sometime, but it is quite possible that this will be the closest I will ever come.

Best,

Sean

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