April brings two comforts to the baseball fan. Big League ball is back on TV. And college ball -- the College World Series and the summer leagues -- are agonizingly close. My spring cleaning consists mostly of getting piles of baseball reading off my desk and onto Codball.
Boston University's Law Review published a surprisingly entertaining article this fall entitled, "Baseball's Moral Hazard: Law, Economics and the Designated Hitter Rule." Full disclosure, it is co-authored by my wife's colleague, Steve P. Calandrillo along with Dustin Buehler.
No subject prompts vinegar among fans more than the designated hitter rule, they write. The rule increases the number of hit batsmen, "and some have suggested this effect is a result of a moral hazard, which recognizes that persons insured against risk are more likely to engage in risky behavior.
Calandrillo and Buehler artfully conclude that the DH rule does create some moral hazard but recent structural changes in the game have largely overshadowed this effect. Manager ejections and cost-benefit analysis even out the so-called moral hazard. Further, a 'baseball composition' theory suggests that there are simply more batters worth hitting in an American League game because talented sluggers have replaced weak-hitting pitchers in the line-up."
Why would lawyers want to study the designated hitter rule? "Baseball supplies a natural experimental laboratory for testing bedrock economic theories about how changes in the rules of the game affect human behavior."
The article is worth reading also for the historical account of how the DH rule came into being.
From hitting for pitchers we move on to pitching. With all the no-hitters and perfect games last season, writers have gone wild on the topic of this new pitching era. And no set of pitchers have inspired publishers' ink like the new Phillies rotation.
Both The New York Times Magazine and Sports Illustrated look at pitching and the Phillies from different angles. SI has a wonderful feature on velocity. The piece looks at the renewed fascination with speed and t hefastball. Did you know that a 92 mph heater takes 400 milliseconds to reach home. An Aroldis Chapman fastball takes 398 milliseconds. The blink of an eye is somewhere between 300-400 milliseconds.
SI concludes something Cape League fans know well. "Pitchers wo throw hard are drafted higher, sign for more money and get more changes to fail than those who do not."
I was impressed with Pat Jordan's article for the NYT Magazine on the Phillies pitchers.
Jordan is the author of a False Spring, which may be my favorite baseball book of all time. Jordan's article for the NYT Magazine reminds me of the quality journalism I have always enjoyed from Roger Angell. He introduces you to Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, but he also explains the art and science behind their pitches. Of Cliff Lee's pitches he writes, "All his pitches look like strikes, until they aren't."
We'll look forward to seeing whata kind of stats the pitchers put up this season. In the meantime I see a number of fascinating books that look take a statistical approach to the game. I will be checking out the following books, which my mother-in-law in Philadelphia discovered in a recent WSJ review by Tim Marchman:
The Extra 2% by Joel Keri
Wizardy: Baseball's All-Time Greatest Fielders Revealed by Michael Humphries
The Runmakers: A new Way to Rate Baseball Players by Frederick Taylor