"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Gee Whiz: A Look Back at the 1950 World Series

1958 Topps Richie AshburnOne of the happy side-effects of the Yankees’ general dominance over major league baseball since 1921 is that they have a postseason history with nearly every other team in the game. In the American League, only the White Sox, Blue Jays, and Rays have never faced the Yankees in the playoffs, and in the senior circuit, only the Rockies, Astros, Brewers, and Expos/Nationals have never faced the Yankees in the World Series (the ‘Spos/Nats have never been to the World Series, period), and the Brewers faced the Yankees in the 1981 Division Series.

Of the 24 teams the Yankees have faced in the postseason, they’ve faced 22 of them since their lone meeting with the Phillies in the 1950 World Series (the exception being the Cubs, who they last faced in the 1938 Serious). To give you a sense of just how long it’s been since the Yankees swept Philadelphia’s Whiz Kids, the 1950 World Series was the last Fall Classic to feature two all-white teams.

That fact is not as trivial as it might sound. The Yankees’ struggles in the late 1960s and early 1970s had several sources, including the institution of the amateur draft and the corporate ownership of CBS, but their failure to properly exploit the African American talent pool was undeniably a contributing factor. When they finally emerged from that slumber, it was with black stars such as Mickey Rivers, Willie Randolph, Chris Chambliss, Roy White, Oscar Gamble, and Gamble’s replacement, Reggie Jackson.

Similarly, the Phillies’ surprising pennant in 1950 fed the organization’s resistance to integration. The 1950 Whiz Kids got their name not only because they won the pennant, but because they were the youngest team in the National League on both sides of the ball. In fact, the 1950 Phillies were the youngest pennant winners ever. The Phillies’ oldest regular was first baseman Eddie Waitkus (the player whose shooting the previous year inspired The Natural). Just one of the six men to make more than ten starts for them was over the age of 26, and future Hall of Famers Richie Ashburn and Robin Roberts were both just 23.

Assuming that young squad would only get better with age, the Phillies didn’t even begin scouting black players until 1954, when Roy Hamey took over as general manager following four seasons in which the Phillies finished between third and fifth place. The Phillies didn’t field their first black player until 1957, didn’t have an African-American starter until 1961, and didn’t have an African-American star until the arrival of Richie Allen in 1964.

That was awful timing for Allen, who despite one of the best rookie campaigns in major league history, fell victim to the Phillies infamous Phlop, in which they blew a 6.5-game lead over the final dozen games of the season thanks to a ten-game losing streak (during which Allen hit .415/.442/.634). Allen’s ensuing battles with the Philadelphia faithful as well as the organization’s brutal treatment of Jackie Robinson back in 1947 were key factors in Curt Flood’s decision to refuse to report to the Phillies after being traded from the Cardinals, ironically for Dick Allen, after the 1969 season. The Phillies wouldn’t return to the postseason until 1976 (again ironically with Dick Allen back in the fold as their first baseman), and despite the Philadelphia fans’ affection for center fielder Gary Maddox and a late-career cameo by Hall of Famer Joe Morgan on the superannuated 1983 pennant winners, the Phillies didn’t have a black superstar who was embraced by the city until the arrivals of Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in the new millennium.

As for the 1950 World Series itself, it was indeed a Yankee sweep, but it was paradoxically closely contested. The first three games were all decided by one run, with the Yankees winning 1-0 in Game One, in ten innings in Game Two at Shibe Park, and winning in a walk-off in Game Three.

Game One pit the Springfield Rifle, 21-game-winner Vic Raschi, against Jim Konstanty. The bespectacled Konstanty was a curious case. He had been a 27-year-old rookie with the Reds in 1944, then threw just 25 major league innings over the next four season before reemerging in the Philadelphia bullpen in 1949. Then, in 1950, at age 33, he claimed the NL MVP by winning 16 games in relief for the pennant-winning Whiz Kids. Game One of the 1950 World Series was his first major league start since 1946, and he was excellent, allowing just one run in eight innings despite not striking out a single batter. However, Raschi was better, holding the Phillies to a walk and two singles, retiring the first 13 men he faced as well as the last 11, and not allowing a runner past second base. It was the third year in a row that Game One of the World Series finished 1-0 with one team managing just two hits. The lone Yankee run scored following a leadoff double by third baseman Bobby Brown in the top of the fourth. Brown moved to third on a 400-foot drive by Hank Bauer that was flagged down by Phillies center fielder Richie Ashburn and scored on a sac fly to the left-field warning track by Jerry Coleman.

As good as that pitching matchup was, Game Two’s pairing was even better. Future Hall of Famer Robin Roberts and “Supercheif” Allie Reynolds, who would throw two no-hitters the following year, both went the distance in a ten-inning game that was knotted at 1-1 after nine. The Yankees got their run in the bottom of the second when Coleman drew a two-out walk, moved to third on a single by pitcher Reynolds, and scored on an infield single to deep shortstop by left fielder Gene Woodling. The Phils tied it up in the fifth when second baseman Mike Goliat led off with a single, moved to third on a single by Waitkus that took a wild bounce over Coleman’s head at second, and scored on a sac fly to left by Ashburn. Joe DiMaggio struck the decisive blow by leading off the tenth with a home run off Roberts and into the second deck in left center. Reynolds walked pinch-hitter Jackie Mayo to start the bottom of the tenth but, after a sac bunt, got Ashburn to foul out and struck out Dick Sisler on a check swing on a high fastball to put the Yankees up 2-0.

Game Three brought the Series to New York without an off-day. The Yankees got an early lead on veteran lefty Ken Heintzelman when, with two outs in the third, Phil Rizzuto walked, stole second on the next pitch, and moved to third when catcher Andy Seminick’s throw skipped into center field. Coleman singled Scooter home, but was thrown out trying to take second when the throw home was cut off. Junkballing lefty Eddie Lopat took that 1-0 lead into the sixth, but with two outs in that frame, Del Ennis doubled and Dick Sisler singled him home on the very next pitch to tie it. Ennis was then picked off first by Berra on a missed bunt attempt to end the inning. The Phils took the lead in their next turn when shortstop Granny Hamner singled, moved to second on a bunt, and scored on a Golait single.

Heintzelman held the 2-1 lead, which would prove to be the Phillies’ only lead of the series, into the bottom of the eighth, but with two outs he lost the plate, walking Coleman, Yogi Berra, and, after a mound visit from Phillie manager Eddie Sawyer, DiMaggio to load the bases. Sawyer then turned to relief ace Konstanty, but Hamner booted a grounder from pinch-hitter Bobby Brown to allow Coleman to score with the tying run. Casey Stengel had hit for Lopat in the eighth, so Tom Ferrick got the ball in the ninth. Hamner, the Phillies’ top hitter in the Series, immediately tried to atone for his error with a drive toward the 457-foot sign in death valley, but DiMaggio chased down the ball before it reached the wall and held Hamner to a double. Seminick then bunted Hamner to third, putting the go-ahead run 90 feet from home with one out, after which Stengel had Ferrick intentionally walk Golait to get to the pitcher’s spot. That took Konstanty out of the game. Pinch-hitter Dick Whitman hit a grounder to first that defensive replacement Joe Collins (in for Johnny Mize) charged and fired to home to retire Hamner. Sawyer then sent the remarkably-named Putsy Caballero in to run for Golait, but Waitkus flew out to end the inning.

Caballero’s pinch-running attempt was not without its impact, however. Russ Meyer, who had been bumped from the rotation in favor of Konstanty due in part to his 5.30 regular-season ERA, came on to pitch the ninth and got two quick outs, but then Woodling hit a chopper to Jimmy Bloodworth, who had taken over for Golait/Caballero at second base. Bloodworth flubbed the ball allowing Woodling to reach on what was ruled an infield single. Rizzuto followed with a hard shot off Bloodworth for another infield single. That brought up that man Jerry Coleman, who split the left and center fielders with a game-winning single that gave the Yankees a 3-2 win and a 3-0 lead in the Series. There was no on-field celebration.

The concluding Game Four wasn’t nearly as interesting. The Yankees bounced rookie righty Bob Miller in the first inning after a Golait error, a Berra single, a wild pitch, and a DiMaggio double made it 2-0 with one out. Konstanty came on, stranded DiMaggio and shut the Yankees down for the next four innings, but he fell apart in the sixth, giving up a lead-off homer into the right-field corner by Berra, after which he hit DiMaggio in the small of his back. Joe D came around to score on a triple to the 407-foot sign in right center by Brown, who himself scored on a sac fly to the left-field warning track by Hank Bauer.

Those five runs were more than enough for the Yankees’ 21-year-old rookie starter. After the Yankee defense cut down a run at the plate in the first, Whitey Ford, wearing number 19, held the Phillies scoreless into the ninth. Philadelphia didn’t break through until they were down to their last out, when Gene Woodling lost what would have been the last out of the Series in the sun of Yankee Stadium’s left field, allowing two runs to score. After a mound visit by Stengel, Golait singled through the shortstop hole past the reach of Rizzuto to bring the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Stan Lopata. Much to Ford’s obvious disappointment, Stengel countered with Reynolds, and the big righty struck out Lopata swinging on four pitches to give the Yankees their second in their record five consecutive world championships.

The Phillies would have to wait thirty years for a return trip to the series and the first (and prior to 2008, only) world championship in franchise history.


1 Ken Arneson   ~  Oct 28, 2009 12:19 am

You're just a little late with that Geocities link, Cliff.

2 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Oct 28, 2009 12:35 am

[1] I swear it was working last night. Damn.

3 thelarmis   ~  Oct 28, 2009 3:25 am

Putsy Caballero !!!

(that's all i got...)

4 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Oct 28, 2009 3:54 am

[3] Putsy Caballero's comparable players on B-Ref include Coot Veal.

I love baseball.

5 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 6:22 am

One factor omitted from the story is that the reason the Phillies had to rely on guys like Konstanty, Heintzelman and Miller is because Curt Simmons, perhaps their second best pitcher, was called to active duty in September (the Korean War had escalated). The Phillies were barely able to hang onto the pennant in his absence. Curiously, Simmons was granted leave to attend the Series, but the Phillies didn’t seek to have him reinstated. So, instead of pitching in the Series, Simmons watched it as a spectator.

6 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 6:41 am

Some interesting Yankee World Series facts (thinking about them being one of the extended pleasures of the Yankees making the World Series):

The 6 year absence from the World Series marked the Yankees fourth longest drought, behind: 18 years (1903 to 1921); 15 years (1981 to 1996); and 12 years (1964 to 1976).

The Yankees have now opened all three versions of Yankee Stadium with a World Series appearance.

Since making their first appearance in the World Series, no more than 4 years has separated one World Series appearance from another (either more than 4 years before or after an appearance). If the pattern holds, that means the Yankees should be making at least one more trip to the World Series between now and 2013.

Since divisional play in 1969, only once have the Yankees won a playoff series and not advanced to the World Series. That occurred in 2004, when they lost the ALCS. Otherwise, when they haven’t won the pennant, they’ve been bounced in the first round: 1980, 1995, 1997, 2002, 2005-2007.

The Phillies have played in 5 World Series and faced 4 (what are now) AL East opponents: the Yankees in 1950, 2009; Rays in 2008; Jays in 1993; and Orioles in 1983.

7 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Oct 28, 2009 7:24 am

[6] Make that six World Series and all five AL East teams: Red Sox in 1915 plus the five you list.

Good stuff. Third-longest drought since Ruth is just six years. That thought ran through my mind as well.

8 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Oct 28, 2009 7:26 am

[5] Indeed, I didn't get into the Whiz Kids regular season or their extra-inning win over the Dodgers in Brooklyn on the final day of the season to win the pennant.

Simmons would reemerge with the 1964 Cardinals, contributing to the Phillies' Phlop that year and making his first World Series appearance 14 years after what should have been his first.

9 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 7:46 am

[7] Even better...I guess the Phillies are drawn to the AL East like a moth to a flame. Since about 5th grade, I have been able to recite from memory just about every World Series winner (and most losers) since it began. For some reason, however, I can't nail down the teens. I always forget a few in that decade. Must be because the Red Sox were so dominant in it.

10 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 8:58 am

More on bunting:
Dave Pinto and Mitch Litchman at Fangraphs make an interesting point about bunting. Their point is that there is a drawback to adopting the general strategy of never bunting in traditional bunting situations, which is that other teams learn that this is your strategy and they don't have to play their infielders in to guard against the bunt. That in turn lowers your batters' averages. On the other hand, always bunting is probably even worse, since the opposing team can always charge their corner infielders.
The best approach is to adopt a "mixed strategy", choosing randomly in reasonable but not obvious bunting situations (as e.g. Melky's in the eighth against the Halos). Then you'll have the benefit of infield-in often when swinging away (and that's supposed to give you about 100 BA points), and sometimes you get to bunt when the defense isn't prepared for it.

Does Joe know game theory??

11 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:05 am

[10] Posted that yesterday, RI, in one of the way-too-scattered threads we were inhabiting simultaneously. I even wondered if it was a reason to have Swisher bunt instead of Gardy ... Swish leaves open the chance he might not, which affects how far in the D plays and shifts the success odds on the bunt. May give Joey G too much credit, but ...

I find Fangraphs interesting, but because so many different people post, there's some issue about validity/credibility. Still, the comments thread tends to have people calling each other on errors or missed factors. I think the Baseball Prospectus people are top of the heap.

With all the Evil Empire stuff resurfacing, and well be sick of it by 9 pm tonight, it has been pointed out that baseball has the most championship parity of all big sports. If Yankees manage to win it'll be (I think) 8 winners in 9 years. William, is that right?

12 Cliff Corcoran   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:08 am

That's right, but the Yankees do have four pennants this decade while no other team has more than two. Of course, that cut-off is arbitrary. Since '02 the Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Phillies have all won two pennants.

13 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:15 am

[10] I saw that article today, and quite frankly found some of the conclusions to be a little silly. MGL seems to advocate flipping a coin, which of course is ridiculous. A manager should be able to consider all of the variables within a WE framework. It isn't about trying to outsmart the opposition as much as employing the correct strategy

14 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:20 am

[11] The Red Sox would be the only repeat winners over the past 9 years.

I always find it amusing how on one hand, people will harken back to baseball's golden age, and then on the other criticize the sport for a lack of parity. The bottom line is the Yankees have always had an advantage. In fact, it was probably a lot greater way back when than it is now.

Also, I wish someone would explain to me why MLB has been flourishing since the advent of the games payroll discrepancies? Quite frankly, I think having benchmark teams is very good for a sport, so all the hand wringing about the Yankees is really just that (in fact, the hand wringing is great because it indicates interest).

15 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:28 am

It is, admittedly, easier for us to say this, but it does tend to be good for a sport to have Evil Empires to hate. Loathing the Dallas Cowboys back when? Check.

Rant Mode On.

I know this has all been said before, but I still feel angry. WHAT is MLB doing starting tonight's game at 8:30? That means, absent delays, a likely 12:30 am finish. I have a kid who really wants to watch, and I WILL let him stay up, but that finish hour really makes for problems in the morning. (Who falls asleep instantly after a game, anyhow?) They are killing the Series for young fans, or potential fans, with long games and late starts. There is no reason, beyond the network (and not even a good one for them that I can see) to start so late. What negative thing happens to Fox (or whichever network has the games in a given year) with a 7:30 slot? They have a way better chance of getting semi-fans to watch the whole thing! Is this about letting the west coast get home from work? I doubt it.

Rant Off

16 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:42 am

And, as I recall, Konstanty later surfaced on the Yanks, and pitched very well in relief for Stengel in, 1955 I think? Yes, b-r.com confirms, it was 1955.

One of my prized possessions is a program from the 1950 World Serious, which my father and grandfather attended. When I went to a Phil Rizzuto autograph show in 1994, after his Hall of Fame induction, I had him sign beneath his picture in that program.

17 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:43 am

[15] Right on!

18 Sliced Bread   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:52 am

great piece, Cliff. I've been meaning to read up on the '50 Series. I asked my dad about it the other day, and he didn't remember much. He was 15 at the time, and he's seen so many Series they're mostly all jumbled together in his memory.. and I mean, how much are we going to remember about this Series 59 years from now? Hopefully, we'll live long enough to remember it was a championship year, ARod's first of however many...

Let's see... 59 years from now, I'll be (eek!) 102 years old, and my great grandkids will ask, "Great Grandpa, tell us about the 2009 World Series."
I'll tell them, "I've told you kids once, I've told you a thousand times (wheeze) call me Sliced Bread. (cough) Now go to the Bronx Banter and check the archive for the game threads - (wheeze) and don't you mind all the cussing. That's how we spoke during baseball games back in my day."

19 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:53 am

[15] It is easy for us to say that, but I know in other sports, where I don't root for the big dog, I still prefer having benchmarks. If the Celtics and Lakers are involved, the NBA is more interesting. When the Steelers, Cowboys and 49'ers were dominating, the NFL was more compelling. The Patriots ability to defy the NFL's mandated mediocrity has saved the league, in my opinion, but if they can't keep that up, the NFL suddenly becomes very boring to me.

As for the start time, the Biz of Baseball had an interesting piece about how the starts times might very well be the most conducive for getting the most eyeballs on the games. Regardless, I have never bought into the argument that late starts are killing the future fan base because as a kid, my fandom wasn’t inspired by the postseason, but by the daily following of the Yankees.

MLB has moved start times up in the ALDS (and many people here complained because they had to miss the first few innings), but I don’t see why they should start the World Series any earlier than 8PM. If FOX and MLB thought earlier start times would increase people’s ability to watch the games, they would do it. The ratings analysis, however, seem to indicate otherwise.

20 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 9:53 am

[16] 1950 was a very good year for the Scooter...he won the MVP that season.

21 ms october   ~  Oct 28, 2009 10:07 am

good stuff cliff - very interesting.

[15] hoss - first pitch is 7:57pm - it is 8:20pm for the sunday game (which is bs)
i would have preferred they start the thing tues with thu as the off day and then the middle games fri-sun, but whatever.
i actually think 7:57 is as close to "fair" as it gets and can live with that time.

22 BuckFoston   ~  Oct 28, 2009 10:21 am

Just an FYI, Caballero means Gentleman in english. So he was (a) Putsy Gentleman.

23 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 10:33 am

[13] No, flipping a coin isn't ridiculous. Sometimes that is the correct strategy. It's a mixed strategy, and often they are better than any pure strategy, because you preserve the element of keeping your opponent from knowing what you will do.

24 Shaun P.   ~  Oct 28, 2009 10:51 am

[19] I think you're right, william - it was the daily watching of the Yanks that made me a fan, not anything I saw or missed in the postseason. Of course, when I was a kid who could really become a fan, the Yanks never made it to the postseason . . .

[16] h-c-e, as I recall, the local east coast affiliates all make quite a bit of money off of the 7-8 PM block of programming, because (unlike 8-11) its 100% theirs, and the ad revenue they generate during it belongs entirely to them. During primetime, I believe they split ad revenue with the national network. For sporting events the national network has a contract to broadcast, I'm not sure if the local affiliates get their usual cut, or less (something tells me less).

If the national network gets to start broadcasting the game at, say, 7:15, the affiliates lose most, if not all, of that revenue. Sure, its only 4 (or up to 7) days at most, but . . .

I believe this is the reason games don't start before 8 PM on the East Coast. I could be wrong; the last time I was up to date on communications law and policy was 2000. =)

25 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 10:55 am

[23] We'll have to disagree because I can't see any scenario wherein flipping a coin is the best approach. If the manager doesn't have the expertise to gleam even the slightest advantage from the available information, then that team should hire someone who can. Trying to maintain the element of surprise is folly, in my opinion. Like Knute Rockne used to say, he wasn’t trying to trick anyone because if his team executed their game plan, they were going to be successful.

26 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 10:58 am

Why is it folly to try to maintain the element of surprise?

It looks like you agree that coin-flipping is the way to maintain surprise. So do you think surprise isn't valuable?

27 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:11 am

[24] There used to be several laws that governed the syndication time period, but most of those have been repealed. Instead, as you noted, the relationship is more financial. The percentage of ad revenue distributed to affiliates is relatively small, so they obviously would much prefer to keep the 7-8 period than say the 11-12. Also, the networks need the affiliates to show the programming. Otherwise, they will lose ratings, which impacts future ad sales.

The network system is very complicated, so a lot of factors have to be considered. If having these games on free-TV is still important, then I think you have to deal with some of the inconveniences.

28 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:14 am

[26] How does coin flipping maintain an element of surprise? If the defense is preparing for a bunt and my coin flips determines a bunt, where is the surprise in that? The bottom line, in my opinion, is determining whether the bunt is an effective strategy, not whether it can be used to surprise the opposition.

29 51cq24   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:17 am

[28] the defense will never be prepared for a bunt if you never bunt, or it will only be prepared for bunts in the exact situations when you normally bunt. then you won't get an advantage of catching the defense off guard by swinging away instead of bunting when you might have bunted. it isn't hard to understand.

but in the playoffs, i'm not sure it's worth it anymore to set up the other team.

30 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:19 am

Well, if you randomize to determine which pure tactic to use, then the opposition doesn't know what it will be. That's surprise. Yes, if they are preparing for a bunt and your coin flip determines that you'll bunt, then they've guessed right. But you're making them guess, and by randomizing you ensure that they will sometimes guess wrong. (It's quite similar to calling a football play. You don't tell the opponents which play you're calling. If you call a long pass, and they were setting up their defense for a long pass, the fact that you didn't tell them hasn't prevented them from guessing right... )

Bunting will be more effective (by a lot) if the defense doesn't know you're going to do it. So adding a random element makes your pure tactics more effective.

By the way, I don't think it's really necessary to flip an actual coin. A human being like Joe Girardi adds a random element pretty much unaided by any randomizing device (and in Joe's case particularly so!). The FanGraphs article makes this point nicely.

31 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:22 am

[29] Good point about that element being less advisable in the playoffs. I think it still plays a role. If the opposing manager expects that you'll abandon your 'mixed strategy' in the playoffs, then you'll lose your surprise advantage, and in that case mixing up does help.
But I agree that the main point of adding a random element is to show other teams that you are unpredictable; calling for a surprise bunt is an advantage in part because it gives you an advantage in the future. And that's much less important in the playoffs.

32 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:28 am

[29] My point is a good strategy doesn't need the element of surprise. That isn't hard to understand either.

33 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:31 am

[31] Surprise bunts are not sacrifices...if the only objective is to wind up with a bunt single, then that pretty much argues that the sac bunt should never be used. Personally, I want my better hitters swinging away and my bad hitters sacrificing where appropriate. The element of surprise doesn't seem very useful in either situation.

34 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:36 am

[33] Why can't surprise bunts be sacrifices? It's a sac situation, but because you add a random element your opponent doesn't know whether your batter will lay down a sac bunt. Surprise sacrifices are more effective than expected ones. Similarly, swinging away when the opponent expects you to bunt is more effective than swinging away when they know you will. That's why the surprise element helps.

I don't see that you've addressed this point. It just doesn't help to say that a good strategy doesn't "need" the element of surprise. A good strategy will be better when it's unexpected.

35 51cq24   ~  Oct 28, 2009 11:43 am

[32] not hard to understand, but wrong. even if you think that bunting is never a good option, you overlook the advantage your hitters have when the infield is drawn in expecting a bunt. while you're right that you can't be trying to set up the opposing team for the future in certain circumstances when the best strategy is obvious, there are some times when it is not obvious, and when it's best to keep your opponents guessing so that their job is harder. part of having a good strategy is to keep the opposition from knowing your strategy.

36 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 28, 2009 12:31 pm

"I have never bought into the argument that late starts are killing the future fan base because as a kid, my fandom wasn’t inspired by the postseason, but by the daily following of the Yankees."

William, my problem with this is that - as so much of this culture - it argues from one's own experience and draws a universal conclusion, or tries to refute a thesis. Of course diehard fans watch all year, or in my day follow the box scores all year. But you are dismissing the idea of the EMERGING fan, or even the playoff fan who BECOMES a diehard over time. I ewatch NFL and NHL mostly come playoff time, I don't have toime to track them all season. Playoffs are the best teams and the high intensity games. Works for me.

So a late start can definitely impact a lot of people. The argument that 8-11 is prime misses the point. If a game runs to 12 or 12:30 (or 1 am, which can happen) you miss this window as much as you do starting at 7:30 and aggravate viewers who have an early start to the day.

I 'hear' the affiliate/local argument, though ... how they can lose money for those few days with an earlier start. I bet the eyeball difference between midnight or 12:30 am and 7:30 is enough for the network to compensate locals for their loss of that half hour.

In other words, I still think it is wrong.

37 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 12:44 pm

[34] Surprise bunts stop becoming sacrifices because by your explanation, the manager doesn't always use it out of fear of being predictable. From my viewpoint, if the manager thinks moving the runners up is worth an out, he should bunt regardless of the element of surprise.

The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the sacrifice is something that shouldn't be used if the desired outcome is to not give away an out. The reason why I don't think it makes sense to say "A good strategy will be better when it’s unexpected" is because to make it unexpected requires forgoing it at times when it does make sense.

Basically, if a manager considers all the variables, the chances of their being a predictable pattern should be reduced anyway. And, where one does develop, it will more likely be because the decision is almost always the better option.

38 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 12:46 pm

[35] So I am wrong? Wasn't it you who suggested I try to be less dogmatic?

As I posted on fangraphs, you seem to be suggesting that the best strategy is to periodically make bad decisions so that other times you can make good decisions. If that’s the case, I think that really doesn’t make sense because now you have to differentiate between when the good and bad decisions should be made. Also, you have to assume that the other team isn’t smart enough to figure out this strategy. It’s one thing to try to conceal a good strategy and another thing to employ a bad strategy because it will be a surprise. It’s kind of like the Mariano cutter…everyone knows it is coming, but because it is so good, it usually works. I am sure Mo would shock the hell out of some batters throwing the changeup, but the few times he didn’t could be deadly.

39 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 12:49 pm

[36] Aren't you arguing from your own experience though? What makes you think late night baseball games curtail casual fan interest? Do you really think there are people who wont tune in because the game starts at 8 versus 7? Also, what about other parts of the country. Don't they count too? I have yet to see anything that suggests baseball would be better off starting its World Series games earlier, but have seen ratings analysis that actually show more people tuning in at the later hours.

40 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:04 pm

William, I don't think I am. I am arguing that there's a wide cross section of fan types and I don't think it is so individualized to suggest that game to 12:30 (leaving aside the whole 4 hour game issue) can be a negative for many. I think there are people who do tune out when they run past midnight, yes. Have I done the viewer numbers, no ... but I'd be very surprised if they weren't to that effect. Later hours can mean 10 pm, I assume - after some of the favorite shows finish? Or just those who can't sit through 4 whole hours?

The point, to rephrase your take, isn't when they start (7 vs 8) it is when they end.

I do hear your rest of the country argument, but that's really just the west coast for a 7:30 start and they are used to early starts anyhow, during the season. In effect, baseball has shifted start times BACK an hour or an hour and a half for the WS from the usual 7 pm. I am simply suggesting it is a bad idea and my focus is on the end time, not the start.

Add October, cold, colder later ...

Put it another way ... what would be bad, from your point of view, with an earlier start?

41 51cq24   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:10 pm

[38] i believe you are factually wrong, and you're overlooking what makes you wrong. there are obviously situations where the correct move is obvious, and you wouldn't choose the obviously wrong move to throw off your opponent. it's not a question of purposefully choosing a bad strategy to fool your opponent at some future date. the point is that if a bunt sometimes is the right move (and i think we all agree that there are at least some situations where it is), then there must be some times when it's a close call between bunting and swinging away. in those situations, it behooves a manager to be unpredictable, because predictability makes it easier for the defense. if you are predictable, a bunt is less likely to be successful and definitely less likely to "overachieve" because the defense knows it's coming, or a hit is less likely because the defense is playing at its normal depth. if the other team is "smart" enough to guess along with you, then it is definitely smart enough to know what you're going to do if you always do the same thing. the comparison to mo's cutter is inapt: the only analogous situation would be a bunter who is so good at bunting that he should always bunt, or a hitter who is so good at hitting that he should always swing away. that isn't what we're talking about here. you are starting with an assumption that there's always a right move, always a mo-cutter that is the best thing to do. that is not always the case, and when it isn't, you have to keep the opponent guessing.

42 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:23 pm

[40] I don't think I am arguing from personal preference either. According to Biz of Baseball, for example, note the following:

Fox's ratings for the Yankees' 13-inning win against the Angels Saturday night peaked at 11:30-midnight ET, and held 90% of its audience for a game that lasted until 1:07 a.m. For anybody who thinks MLB is impractical by staging late games: That game's ratings among males aged 18-49 — the demographic craved in TV sports — peaked after 1 a.m."

I am pretty sure that FOX has looked at this issue very carefully and determined that more people will watch at the current hours. After all, it is in their best interest to attract the most viewers.

If it was determined by my own interest, these games would all start at 6PM. Why I think a 7PM start on the east coast is bad for baseball is because I think it will mean fewer people can watch the games. Starting at 6, 5 and 4 throughout the country will really make it difficult for a large portion of the country to watch, which I think is important to consider.

43 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:29 pm

[41] Where are the facts? It seems like we are talking about a lot of opinions here. For example, no, I don't believe there are times when it is a 50/50 proposition. For me, bunts are only useful in obvious situations (i.e., situations just about everyone would be playing to defend the bunt).

Employing a sacrifice is not about overachieving. It is a purposeful act designed to trade an out for a base. Besides, how many times do you have to flip a coin to be unpredictable? And, if you only flip the coin when it's a close call anyway, how does the opposition know which way the manager is leaning. Presumably, in 51/49 scenarios, it is just as likely to lean bunt as don't bunt.

44 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:36 pm

William, honestly! Here's your quote again:

“I have never bought into the argument that late starts are killing the future fan base because as a kid, my fandom wasn’t inspired by the postseason, but by the daily following of the Yankees.”

THAT is where I suggested you were arguing form the personal. If you offer stats showing the audience doesn't drop, that's different. If you say Fox looks at it closely and maximizes their ratings ... well, that's how we get extra days off in the ALCS, too. In other words

a) you shifted ground from the personal 'as a kid, my fandom...' which was your argument at that point and the one I queried and

b) I find the numbers you cite interesting and maybe even persuasive except ... the same numbers would presumably apply to the 11pm to midnight slot if the game had started earlier! AND

c) Basically I am regretting that tv station logistics is determining the SHIFT of start times from the usual 7 to 8 or 8:30

But I see you have a sacrifice bunt fight on your hands and only 6 and a half hours to opening pitch, so I'll drop this! It really was just an expression of regret.

45 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:40 pm

[44] The quote you've snipped was presented as an aside...my personal opinion about the argument. Also included, however, was my mention of the Biz of Baseball article and the general thesis that FOX is in the business of maximizing viewers. I haven't shifted my argument at all...you just have latched on to one part of it.

What supports your perspective? It's fine for you to regret that the games start later, but that doesn't mean baseball should.

46 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:46 pm

Also, you have to assume that the other team isn’t smart enough to figure out this strategy.

No, to the contrary. Mixed strategies (involving randomizing) are used precisely because you assume the other team is as smart as you. So, if you can see that a sac bunt is a good move in this situation, so can they; if they also know you will use the sac whenever it is a good move, they'll reduce its effectiveness by bringing in their corner infielders. If you randomize, you become unpredictable no matter how smart the other team is being.

It’s one thing to try to conceal a good strategy and another thing to employ a bad strategy because it will be a surprise.

Making your choice unpredictable makes what would be a worse strategy into a better one. Again compare football. Some situations are blitzing situations (down and distance and field position, along with strengths and weaknesses of each team, all public information). In these situations, a smart coach will sometimes mix in a cover-two, or show blitz and back off. If you never do that, you'll get screened to death on the blitzing downs.

47 51cq24   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:49 pm

[43] i really don't see how there can be an exact threshold where bunting is all of the sudden the right move. even if your personal threshold is high (and i agree with that), there must be situations where it's close. for example, if you're down a run in the 9th with runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs, and you have a good hitter up but he's prone to double plays and there's a sinkerballer on the mound, isn't that a close call? if it's a bad hitter who is prone to double plays, it's a pretty obvious call, but there are always variables that make it more or less appropriate.

"Employing a sacrifice is not about overachieving. It is a purposeful act designed to trade an out for a base." the purpose of the bunt itself is to give up an out to move the runners over. but, as we're discussing, the decision to bunt or not bunt has more implications than just that. it impacts the defense, and therefore impacts the probability of getting on base.

as for your last point, i think that's basically right: the defense will be unsure how to play because it isn't clear one way or another whether the hitter will bunt. but the point is that the manager shouldn't just decide, "well, if it isn't 100% clear that a bunt is the right move, i'll never bunt," or the opposite. basically, the point is that the manager should treat unclear situations as unclear situations (and acknowledge that there are unclear situations), and not become predictable even in those situations.

48 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 1:53 pm

[46] If a sac bunt is a good move, and the other teams knows it, why is that such a bad thing? The chances are still very likely that a bunt will produce the desired result (the thing that made it a good move in the first place).

You also seem to be ignoring the possible consequences of "making your choice unpredictable". For example, you have to consider that by trying to maintain an element of surprise (squaring late for example), the initial strategy of the sacrifice could be compromised (by a bad bunt, the runner not getting a good jump, or the hitter being left in a poor count).

The football analogy (which I admit I introduced) really doesn't work because the play designs are so intricate and require different kinds of players on the field. In the bunt situation, the defense and offense are often playing for the same outcome (trade an out for a base). If the bunt is put in play, most of the time it does the job.

49 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:01 pm

If a sac bunt is a good move, and the other teams knows it, why is that such a bad thing? The chances are still very likely that a bunt will produce the desired result (the thing that made it a good move in the first place).

They are very likely, but more likely if the other team doesn't know, and less likely if they do.
I assume you are not denying this, so you must think it is unimportant. But I find that kind of bizarre. How could it be unimportant to increase the chance that your tactic has the desired result?

I personally think that squaring late is not smart, but I don't know for sure. It would be hard to get that data, I imagine.

You're right that when "the bunt is put in play, most of the time it does the job," but "most of the time" is an awfully generic characterization. Most of the time, a batter makes an out. That doesn't mean it's irrelevant that A-Rod makes a whole lot fewer outs than Chone. And it's very relevant that sacs are successful (and "oversuccessful") more often when the defense doesn't expect them, even though most sacs are successful even when the defense does expect them.

50 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:03 pm

[47] You've identified two scenarios where bunting is pretty good call, and in both instances, I wouldn't care if the defense knew what I was doing. If I am not willing to give away the out, I am not bunting anyway. Similarly, if I think swinging away is the best strategy, I don't care if the defense plays back. I am not going to make a bad decision to try and surprise them.

And, if there really are 50/50 propositions, the manager himself really wont know how he would decide on case-by-case basis, so how can the opposition? Everyone is just guessing anyway.

51 RIYank   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:05 pm

"if I think swinging away is the best strategy, I don’t care if the defense plays back."

So, you don't care whether the defense gives your batter 100 points of batting average?
Okay, in that case, you're right, you should not worry about surprising the other team.

52 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:06 pm

[49] I am not denying that it would be better to bunt with the IF back and vica versa; I am just stating that unless the defense makes its intentions extreme (infielders in the outfield; corners charging seconds before the pitch), the best strategy is the one most likely to produce the desired outcome.

Being unpredictable has consequences and I just don't think the benefits come anywhere near close to exposing yourself to them.

53 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:08 pm

[51] Right...if I want my batter swinging away, I am not going to be enticed into bunting so at some future time the infielders will play in. As I mentioned, the only way to get those infielders to play in, is to bunt in similar situations. But, if I don't want to bunt now, why would I want to do it then. Baseball is not poker. You can't give away a hand to set up a bigger pot.

54 51cq24   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:12 pm

[52] but then wouldn't it be nice to trick the defense into playing at one extreme?

[53] do you really think that all situations in any baseball game are equally important?

55 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:15 pm

[54] All situations are not equally important, but I would think most bunting situations are. Besides, if your suggestion is that one uses the trick bunt strategy when up by 3 or 4 runs, but employs the real bunt strategy when tied or down by one, I would argue that any team bothering to scout for these tendencies would realize the difference.

56 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:17 pm

William, I'll give you last word. Your energy level - on two fronts - is astonishing sometimes.

57 51cq24   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:22 pm

[55] well first of all, i've been saying all along that i only agree with this when it's a close call between bunting and not bunting. i would never bunt when it's definitely the wrong call. so it's not a question of whether the score dictates that one strategy is better (or less worse) than at other times. but inasmuch as the situation does allow for more flexibility (since i think there's a pretty big range within which you can play with this- not just when it's absolutely 50/50), there are games that are less important to win than others (not just runs that are less important to score than others).

58 williamnyy23   ~  Oct 28, 2009 2:34 pm

[57] I guess where we completely differ is: (1) I don't think there are many situations that either call for the bunt or sit on the borderline, so I don't even know how you'd go about being unpredictable unless you purposely do something you think is wrong; and (2) in baseball, no, I don't think most games are more important than others. Besides, how many non-important games do you have to put at risk to set up the deception you want to employ in an important game?

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver