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Why I hate watching NL baseball
Posted by Bret Cohen at 4/24/2007 7:54:00 PM
View more posts by this author

 

I know I'll probably get it from all you "purists" out there, but here's one reason I hate watching NL baseball. As I currently am watching the Rockies/Mets score in bottom of the 12th inning, with a tie ballgame, the game on the line, the Rockies' lineup is:

Steve Finley
Jamey Carroll
[Pitcher Spot]
Todd Helton
Matt Holliday
Clint Barmes
Willy Taveras
Troy Tulowitzki
Chris Iannetta

Out are Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, and Yorvit Torrealba, the latter of which has two of the Rockies' six hits up to this point.

I'm sure you'll say: "But it's good strategy to take out Atkins, one of their best hitters, because he won't come up to bat for another couple innings." This is why NL extra inning games go on forever. I'm located in D.C., and I caught on TV two Nationals games within a three-day span last week where they went 13 and 14 innings against the Phillies and Marlins, respectively. The Marlins' lineup at the end of the game:

Hanley Ramirez
[Pitcher spot]
Mike Jacobs
Jason Wood
Joe Borchard
Aaron Boone
Miguel Olivo
Alfredo Amezaga
Cody Ross

I know the conventional notions of batting order placement are drastically changed in extra innings, but still, when the Marlins get to the 2-3-4 spots, wouldn't it be better to see Uggla-Jacobs-Willingham rather than Treanor-Jacobs-Wood? When the game is on the line, when it's supposed to be its most intense in the late innings of a tie or one-run game, wouldn't you like to see Jonathan Papelbon have to face Derek Jeter, Bobby Abreu, and Alex Rodriguez rather than some schmo like Miguel Cairo? Oh wait, he did this past Sunday. And in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game, wouldn't it be exciting to see Todd Jones face the starting 2-3-4 batters of the Angels' starting lineup, Orlando Cabrera, Vlad Guerrero, and Garret Anderson? That happened tonight. It's bad enough watching the Yankees sub Jason Giambi out for a pinch runner in the top of the eighth inning with the team up four runs, like they did on Saturday, only to see Boston come back and them having to bat Kevin Thompson down a run in the bottom of the ninth in the No. 5 spot. In the National league, this atrocity happens on a daily basis.

If strategy means "substituting weak-hitting utility infielders for our better batters so we can pinch hit for our pitcher with another weak-hitting bench player who will have a 5-to-10% better chance of getting a hit," then it ain't for me.


Comments....

Some intelligence needs to be used by the manager.

Hurdle should have pulled Jamey Carrol instead. Similarly, Cody Ross, needs to come out of the Marlins game instead of Uggla. But the formula says to pull the guy who made the last out, so that's what the manager does. Heaven forbid they should be a little creative one time.
Posted by iceguy at 4/24/2007 9:08:00 PM
 
I say the only true baseball now resides in the AL. The lineup is stronger - you don't have weak hitting eighth place hitters and pathetic pitchers hitting and you don't have to deal with the lineup changing strategy. The sooner MLB baseball goes all DH the better.
Posted by jem37 at 4/24/2007 9:12:00 PM
 
But what about all those cool bunts you get to see? And men running the bases in team jackets? . . . In all seriousness, I actually like the fact that the AL and NL play mildly different brands of baseball. I've never understood the perceived "need" that some feel to change it to one universal game.


Posted by spianow at 4/25/2007 4:21:00 AM
 
It's never a good sign when Jose Valentin is third in the majors in intentional walks. Even Brian Schneider (career .254/.321/.382) and Troy Tulowitzki (career .222/.304/.268) have been intentionally walked twice each this season to get to the pitcher. It's sickening.

Where are all the NL apologists?
Posted by bscwik at 4/25/2007 5:30:00 AM
 
Bret,
I will defend the NL. To just have nine hitters, including the DH, like what is followed in the AL is great if you like purely offensive games with little strategy but what makes the NL interesting - at least to some of us - is the decisions like what happened Tuesday that face managers. When to double-switch, when to bunt, when to pull the pitcher etc., if all I wanted was offense, I would go down the block and watch softball. As they say, different strokes for different folks and the variances between the two leagues adds to the interest as you now have options rather than one size fits all.
Posted by airjan23 at 4/25/2007 7:41:00 AM
 
Except that the "strategic decisions" occur because you have one player, in a lineup of top professionals, who hits at the level of a high school player. Pitchers nowadays don't practice batting nearly enough to be relevant in game situations. It may have made sense when the game was still developing and players like Babe Ruth were pitching, but to make it to the majors as a pitcher today it's almost imperative that you focus on that sole aspect of your game. The Mike Hamptons and Jason Marquises of the world are few and far between. It's an offensive sinkhole in the middle of the game. Of the last 24 Silver Slugger awards handed out to pitchers, 6 of them batted under .200. The best offensive player at a position hitting under .200? If only Abner Doubleday had the foresight of the designated hitter...
Posted by bscwik at 4/25/2007 8:43:00 AM
 
I always go back to the study Bill James did about how "strategic" the NL is. He found that while NL managers made more moves in terms of raw numbers, there was actually LESS variety in the strategic moves made in the senior circuit. When an NL manager makes a move, it's a double-switch in the last few innings, and usually with the same couple of utility guys.

When an AL manager makes a move, it can be anything -- late-inning defensive replacement, pinch-runner to try and get a crucial run home, pinch-hitter to try and get a specific hitter/pitcher matchup... NL managers make those sorts of moves *less* frequently, precisely because they have to save their bullets off the bench to cover for the pitcher's slot in the order...
Posted by ESiegrist at 4/25/2007 9:39:00 AM
 
Erik,
But doesn't part of the decision making process for the NL manager involve determining when to make these moves "because" of the pitcher replacement that has to go on rather than just making a move with no impact on the pitching staff. The AL has separated both parts of the game while the NL forces the incorporation of combining pitching and hitting within one entity and not two, separate and distinct components.
Posted by airjan23 at 4/25/2007 10:02:00 AM
 
Sorry, but I'm an NL-defender as well. While I enjoy watching Big Papi and Frank Thomas launch home run after home run, I also enjoy the strategy that the NL format affords fans. Perhaps I still have the Orel Hershiser fake-bunt-swing away and single to center images in my mind, but I enjoy the fact that NL managers can't just sit on the bench and fall asleep until the seventh inning like their AL counterparts.


Posted by vtadave at 4/25/2007 10:06:00 AM
 
i couldnt agree with you more bret. the only team i can watch in the NL is the Mets mainly b/c their lineup vaguely resembles an AL team.

I look up and down the boxscores everyday and have no idea how half the NL scores runs when half their lineup hits below the Yankees team batting average.
Posted by koaj at 4/25/2007 12:15:00 PM
 
Funny then that of the top 10 teams ranked by OPS, six of them (including the top 3 - Mets, Marlins, Brewers) reside in the NL.
Posted by vtadave at 4/25/2007 1:22:00 PM
 
I don't think anyone's mentioned this-but now Pedro will have to face the music, he can't bean people at will, I like the AL better, but it's crap when a pitcher retaliates by beaning some poor schmuck who happens to be batting first the next inning because the opposing pitcher doesn't bat.....
Posted by kevinccp at 4/25/2007 1:22:00 PM
 
Kevin,
Pedro has already pitched two years with the Mets, so he would have faced the music when he hit four batters in '05 and 10 in '06. Compare that to his years in Montreal: 11 in '94, 11 in '95, three in '96 and nine in '97 and in Boston: eight in '98, nine in '99, 14 in '00, six in '01, 15 in '02, nine in '03 and 16 in '04. He seemed to alternate light years followed by heavy years in hitting batters in Boston and pitched four years in the NL before that, so why would he now have to face the music?

I agree with you on most AL pitchers not facing the music, plus it usually happens that the second pitcher that throws at a hitter is the one tossed, which is ridiculous.
Posted by airjan23 at 4/25/2007 3:24:00 PM
 
vtadave, when you say "I also enjoy the strategy that the NL format affords fans," how do you respond to Erik's post about the lack of variance in NL substitutions? I'll take watching a climactic match-up between a manager with the maximum amount of offensive options at his disposal over weak-hitting bench guys in the late innings any time.
Posted by bscwik at 4/25/2007 4:45:00 PM
 
I don't really have much to add. I do like the fact that the leagues are different, but I'm sure that won't last forever. The reason pitchers are useless as hitters is not because "to make it to the majors as a pitcher today it's almost imperative that you focus on that sole aspect of your game," as someone stated earlier, but rather because they are never encouraged to hit. The problem in baseball right now is that the only league in organized baseball without the designated hitter is the National League. All minor leagues, NCAA, high school and even some upper level little leagues utilize a designated hitter so when pitchers get called up to an NL team, many have not hit in a competitive situation in years and are all of a sudden facing major league pitching. The designated hitter was originally introduced in the American League as an "experimental" rule, and just kind of stuck around and ended up being picked up by many other leagues over the years until the point where it became a ubiquitous aspect of baseball everywhere except the National League. Around the time when they eliminated the separate league offices and unified the umpires, they were all set to eliminate the DH from the major leagues in exchange for one extra roster spot, but the MLBPA balked at the last minute. It'll be interesting to see what happens over the next 10 to 15 years because I think there's too many people who for some reason think both leagues should have the same rules and it could really go either way.

Also, I tried to figure out what koaj's second sentence meant, but I had to stop thinking about it out for fear my head might explode. He says he "has no idea how half the NL scores runs when half their lineup hits below the Yankees team batting average." I'd have to look up the numbers to be sure, but I'd assume that close to half the Yankees lineup hits below the Yankees team batting average.
Posted by msandler at 4/26/2007 6:28:00 AM
 

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