MLB/Atlantic league to experiment with the idea of stealing first base

Hawk68

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Feb 29, 2008
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I am encouraged. MLB is taking on the larger question of quality of game. This mlb trial is a "laboratory agreement" intended to find changes that speed up pace of play, increase action and fit games into three-hour broadcast windows.

We keep seeing discussions of pitch velocity dominance as the reason for the shift toward three true outcome at bats. To me, it is larger issue: data are changing the play of game.

And the most fundamental change is by measuring more events and executing analysis based strategy, in-game variance is reduced and three true outcomes becomes more dominant.
 

Reverend

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It seems like such a change could dramatically change pitching strategy and what pitches are thrown.

Any effect on the time of game from that, linger or shorter (I don’t know.), could easily dwarf the time effect of the plays where the batter tries to take first themselves.
 

Buck Showalter

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Reducing the duration of the games starts with the enforcement of the pitch-clock (as others have noted).

Some other suggestions:


· Batters “must” remain in the batter’s box for the entire duration of the at-bat and will not be allowed to ask for timeout
· Relief pitchers who enter mid-inning will only be allowed three warm-up pitches (haven't they already thrown at least 20-25 pitches in the bullpen?)


And finally – another one that will need some explanation…..

These days, everyone is all hot-and-bothered about the number of at-bats that result in lots of walks and strikeouts. A big part of the reason(s) for these results centers on the pitchers need to “miss the bat”. With PEDs and juiced balls running rampant in baseball, pitchers are throwing more and more breaking pitches which are obviously more difficult to control. This invites longer at-bats, more pitches for an individual hurler, and the reliance on relief pitchers.

Also- gone are the days of pitching-inside with a fastball to “jam” a hitter --- causing the bat to break and forcing a weak ball in-play. Why?

One piece of evidence that would support the reason for pitchers avoiding this strategy pertains to the bats that today’s hitters are able to utilize. You don’t see bats breaking as often as you used to and that is due to the technology and production behind these lacquered (maple) bats.

These bats allow for many additional advantages on the hitter’s part including (as already stated) the elimination of pitchers ‘breaking bats’ while pitching inside.

What is my suggestion?

Create an experiment in the Atlantic League that only allows hitters to use ‘white ash’ bats….which are not as strong as maple. This is the raw material that was historically utilized by yesterday’s players. Maple bats are not as vibrant for the hitters and this would allow pitchers to feel confident in challenging hitters with more fastballs around the strike zone. In theory, this would cause more balls to be put in play and speed-up the game.

Less offense and less interest (the fear of MLB)? Maybe not.

More balls put in play might simply change the way runs are scored as opposed to the current reliance on walks and home runs.

So again – force ‘em to use white-ash bats and let’s see what happens.


By the way....here's an interesting take on maple vs. ash

 
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phrenile

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Switching to ash en-masse would wipe out the few trees the ash borers didn't eat. That isn't even a feasible option, much less a good one.
 

Boggs26

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Switching to ash en-masse would wipe out the few trees the ash borers didn't eat. That isn't even a feasible option, much less a good one.
Also, wasn't one of the reasons for changing bat material the dangers of broken bats? There's no way the league would force the use of a more dangerous bat (right?...right?)
 

Buck Showalter

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Also, wasn't one of the reasons for changing bat material the dangers of broken bats? There's no way the league would force the use of a more dangerous bat (right?...right?)
Listen I get it with respect to the dangers of the bat breaking.....

However, if manufacturers continue to improve the maple bat and even get MLB to sanction other makers of 'birch' (which is being introduced lately)......

Then the fear MLB will have is the exit-velocity of a batted-ball.....to a pitcher that is 55-feet away and a corner-infielder that will eventually need some minor armor to protect himself.

If turning to ash isn't feasible -- look to reduce the bat as a weapon for the hitter.

Give the pitcher a chance / invitation to throw strikes.

Right now, they are forced to "miss the bat" with sliders, cutters and any other breaking pitches their arms can withstand.

And these breaking pitches (which are out of the strike zone --- just as much as they are in it) are elongating the game.
 

Ford Frick's Asterisk

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Also, wasn't one of the reasons for changing bat material the dangers of broken bats? There's no way the league would force the use of a more dangerous bat (right?...right?)
The era of the dangerous broken bat was actually tied to maple bats, not so much the ash. The ash bats have more of a tendency to splinter or "explode" which is safer than the version of maple bats that became popular because of Barry Bonds 15-20 years ago, which would shear off and become jagged projectiles. I'm no expert though, so I don't know what changes were made to make the maple bats safer, but they don't seem to be as big (or at least as frequent) of a problem anymore.

*
 

Boggs26

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The era of the dangerous broken bat was actually tied to maple bats, not so much the ash. The ash bats have more of a tendency to splinter or "explode" which is safer than the version of maple bats that became popular because of Barry Bonds 15-20 years ago, which would shear off and become jagged projectiles. I'm no expert though, so I don't know what changes were made to make the maple bats safer, but they don't seem to be as big (or at least as frequent) of a problem anymore.

*
Thanks, I knew there had been a change related to broken bats but apparently I had the timeline backwards.
 

mostman

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It would be great if the runner would have to be tagged out just like they're stealing second or third. This could lead to the hilarious spectacle of getting into a rundown and sliding back into home the wrong way. Then they could just resume their at bat as though nothing happened.
Ok. Now I’m in.
 

williams_482

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First blush, I like this rule, for two reasons.

First, as mentioned above, it gives teams a reason to give a damn about catcher defense once robot strike zones make pitch framing irrelevant. Preventing normal steals and passed balls are nowhere near as important as framing is, and once the robots take over sticking Ryan Doumit back there becomes a really solid option, with all the hideous aesthetic that entails. I'd rather teams have at least some reason to employ people who can catch without looking like a total clown.

Second, this is a rule that will boost offense in a manner completely independent of how well the ball is flying out of the park. MLB needs stuff like this, because the juiced ball is (very nearly) the only thing separating our current run environment from the dead zone of 2014. MLB will likely tone down the balls at some point, and they still want to see runners crossing the plate once and a while afterwards.

Finally, I don't think this adds any significant judgement calls. Have a "commit line" three to six feet past home plate down the first base line, if the batter's foot lands on or past that line he's a live runner and must touch either first base or home plate before being forced out. Nothing is perfect, but that is as cleanly enforceable as baseball rules come.
 
Jul 5, 2018
221
First blush, I like this rule, for two reasons.

First, as mentioned above, it gives teams a reason to give a damn about catcher defense once robot strike zones make pitch framing irrelevant. Preventing normal steals and passed balls are nowhere near as important as framing is, and once the robots take over sticking Ryan Doumit back there becomes a really solid option, with all the hideous aesthetic that entails. I'd rather teams have at least some reason to employ people who can catch without looking like a total clown.

Second, this is a rule that will boost offense in a manner completely independent of how well the ball is flying out of the park. MLB needs stuff like this, because the juiced ball is (very nearly) the only thing separating our current run environment from the dead zone of 2014. MLB will likely tone down the balls at some point, and they still want to see runners crossing the plate once and a while afterwards.

Finally, I don't think this adds any significant judgement calls. Have a "commit line" three to six feet past home plate down the first base line, if the batter's foot lands on or past that line he's a live runner and must touch either first base or home plate before being forced out. Nothing is perfect, but that is as cleanly enforceable as baseball rules come.
I've been a baseball fan for a long and off the top of my head the only rule changes I can think of are no longer having to throw the ball four times for an intentional walk and catchers not being allowed to block the plate. How could such a drastic change to the game ever be approved? It would ruin the game for me.

And the robot change is far from a done deal. It would result in the home plate umpire just hanging around for a play at home. MLB umpires would never agree to it and and I doubt the players would either. It would hurt the guys good at pitch framing and other players are going to support them.
 

Blue Monkey

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Listen I get it with respect to the dangers of the bat breaking.....

However, if manufacturers continue to improve the maple bat and even get MLB to sanction other makers of 'birch' (which is being introduced lately)......

Then the fear MLB will have is the exit-velocity of a batted-ball.....to a pitcher that is 55-feet away and a corner-infielder that will eventually need some minor armor to protect himself.

If turning to ash isn't feasible -- look to reduce the bat as a weapon for the hitter.

Give the pitcher a chance / invitation to throw strikes.

Right now, they are forced to "miss the bat" with sliders, cutters and any other breaking pitches their arms can withstand.

And these breaking pitches (which are out of the strike zone --- just as much as they are in it) are elongating the game.
Couldn’t they just raise the mound to get the same result?
 

McBride11

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For stealing first base, is the runner out by a tag or a throw to first as with ground balls? Can the runner return to home plate and continue the at bat if the former? For example, catcher drops the ball and it rolls a few feet. The runner takes off towards first, as the catcher picks up the ball and throws to first, could the runner simply stop advancing towards first and run/slide back into home plate, and then resume the at bat?
I would loveeee to see a pickle between first and home, and then the guy is safe and picks up a bat to continue his AB.
Ichiro is pissed he played in the wrong time of baseball.

This all makes the game more exciting but it certainly doesnt shorten the game. More base runners means longer game generally. But it does make it more exciting generally.

(I'm against the rule)
 

The Gray Eagle

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If they allowed a rundown between home and first then the rule would be a big change. Batters would try for first more frequently and it would end up being dumb. But that's not how the proposed rule would work. Batters wouldn't give up their chance of hitting to try to make it to first on a wild pitch unless they felt they had at least a 50-50 shot of making it safely. The ball would have to go pretty far away from the catcher for even a fast runner to decide he had a 50-50 chance.

This rule wouldn't shorten game length at all, but it would end a few at-bats sooner and keep the line moving faster, replacing more pitches with more action. That is why it's being experimented with.

There are certainly better ways to shorten game time and and speed the pace of play. There are already rules on the books that would do both, but they just aren't being enforced and it seems like they just won't be. So experimenting with this rule is just a look at making a minor tweak to replace the same pitch, pause, pitch, pause routine with more fast paced action a couple of times a game.

Again, this rule basically already exists when the hitter has 2 strikes. When batter whiffs and ends up at first, nobody calls it a mockery of the game or a ridiculous rule. If this rule is put in, it might add a little action to the game, which would be nice. It wouldn't change much and wouldn't fix much. But as long as the rules that would do that are ignored, only huge, risky rule changes or minor tweaks can really be looked at. I much prefer experimenting with minor tweaks.
 
Jul 5, 2018
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If they allowed a rundown between home and first then the rule would be a big change. Batters would try for first more frequently and it would end up being dumb. But that's not how the proposed rule would work. Batters wouldn't give up their chance of hitting to try to make it to first on a wild pitch unless they felt they had at least a 50-50 shot of making it safely. The ball would have to go pretty far away from the catcher for even a fast runner to decide he had a 50-50 chance.

This rule wouldn't shorten game length at all, but it would end a few at-bats sooner and keep the line moving faster, replacing more pitches with more action. That is why it's being experimented with.

There are certainly better ways to shorten game time and and speed the pace of play. There are already rules on the books that would do both, but they just aren't being enforced and it seems like they just won't be. So experimenting with this rule is just a look at making a minor tweak to replace the same pitch, pause, pitch, pause routine with more fast paced action a couple of times a game.

Again, this rule basically already exists when the hitter has 2 strikes. When batter whiffs and ends up at first, nobody calls it a mockery of the game or a ridiculous rule. If this rule is put in, it might add a little action to the game, which would be nice. It wouldn't change much and wouldn't fix much. But as long as the rules that would do that are ignored, only huge, risky rule changes or minor tweaks can really be looked at. I much prefer experimenting with minor tweaks.

It would be a lot different than the current rule for 2 strikes. With the new rule the batter would decide whether it's to be a live ball or not which is blasphemy. What if the bases are loaded and the batter takes a step too far and the catcher steps on home for the force? How is it scored? CS at home or first?
 

effectivelywild

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It would be a lot different than the current rule for 2 strikes. With the new rule the batter would decide whether it's to be a live ball or not which is blasphemy. What if the bases are loaded and the batter takes a step too far and the catcher steps on home for the force? How is it scored? CS at home or first?
Easy: You put a little marker on the first base line that if the batter goes beyond that, they are considered a runner. Obviously you would have to have separate lines for right and left handed batters. If a batter advances beyond the marker without yelling "STEALS!" as he moves, he is out. Once he yells "STEALS!" its a live ball----unless the opposing catcher yells "STICKERS!" beforehand, thus negative the ability to steal first.

I don't understand why everyone is having such a hard time figuring out how this would work.
 

Jim Ed Rice in HOF

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It would be a lot different than the current rule for 2 strikes. With the new rule the batter would decide whether it's to be a live ball or not which is blasphemy. What if the bases are loaded and the batter takes a step too far and the catcher steps on home for the force? How is it scored? CS at home or first?
Simply add the language "with first base open". Problem solved.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Yes, I assumed that would obviously be part of the rule-- you can't "steal" first base if it's already occupied.
 

ZMart100

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And the robot change is far from a done deal. It would result in the home plate umpire just hanging around for a play at home. MLB umpires would never agree to it and and I doubt the players would either. It would hurt the guys good at pitch framing and other players are going to support them.
MLB umpires don't get a vote. As the saying goes nobody goes to the park to see the umps. With robot umpires calling balls and strikes and video review, the umpires are even more easily replaceable.

I don't think the players union would have any problem with it either. I don't think players are going to have a problem with pitches being called consistently and correctly. Catchers will still need to throw to second and call games so good defensive catchers will still matter.
 
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Jul 5, 2018
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Ninth inning, 2 outs, a perfect game broken up by someone stealing first. Of course, it would have miraculous if there hasn't already been about five of them before that.
 

Red(s)HawksFan

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Shitty video quality, but it sure looks like the catcher got caught napping in a situation that he never had to be on his toes before. I would imagine that once catchers get used to having to chase down every passed ball/wild pitch, it would take a weird hop for a batter to get a good jump and have time to beat a throw to first.

I just don't see the value this adds to a game.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Ninth inning, 2 outs, a perfect game broken up by someone stealing first. Of course, it would have miraculous if there hasn't already been about five of them before that.
That would be SO much worse than the batter in the same situation reaching first on a missed third strike, or catcher's interference, or one of the other rules that are already on the books so no one gets mad about them.
 

Nevermore

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Give the pitcher a chance / invitation to throw strikes.
The conversation around bats is really interesting. MLB rules state "The bat shall be a smooth, round stick not more than 2.61 inches in diameter at the thickest part and not more than 42 inches in length. The bat shall be one piece of solid wood." There doesn't seem to be a rule regarding the bat's weight.

This article suggests "early bats had very little taper, resulting in a bat with a very thick handle and a relatively small barrel" and modern bats have gotten lighter (with Babe Ruth being quoted as saying he used bats 40 to 54 ounces in weight compared to the 32- or 33- ounce bats favored today) with most of the mass in the barrel.

It would be interesting to see the Atlantic league experiment with changes to the bat rule to see what impact it would have. Would decreasing the maximum diameter of the bat speed up the game? Would establishing a minimum bat weight (of maybe 40 ounces) lead to fewer home runs but more base runners? If you decreased the maximum diameter of the bat, made it heavier, and introduced a Coefficient of Restitution (COR) rule (like they have in golf), would materials other than wood be a safe option?

To go way out on a limb ... what if MLB took control of the manufacturing of bats like they do balls? Pitchers aren't allowed to use a signature ball. Why do hitters get to use custom bats? It isn't too hard to imagine a future where the bat is like a base - standardized, provided by the home team, and used by every player.
 

geoduck no quahog

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I don't like stupid rules that change the nature of baseball and this ridiculous idea alters the historical nature of the modern game. Toying around with minimum batters faced, pitching clocks, mound heights, strike zone, ball properties and the like are experiments around the edges. Altering infield dimensions (including the mound/plate), policing field positions (shift), etc. are fundamental changes that, for me, go too far. Introducing an entirely new rule like stealing first, that has nothing to do with player or fan safety is absurd. They might as well introduce a 3-point line.

Now those more savvy than I will bring up a bevy of changes that have occurred over the past 100+ years: the foul/strike rule, sacrifice flies, designated hitter (probably the most dramatic change), etc.

But this thing is a gimmick looking for a rationale.