Is Analytics Ruining Baseball?

A significant decision in this years World Series left people asking this weighted question.

As the baseball offseason gets into full swing, we see a lot of teams cutting down on spending due to the pandemic; but many teams such as the Oakland A’s, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cleveland have been intentionally cutting costs for a very long time now.

These teams learned that you don’t need a superstar on a huge contract, instead these teams have built up large minor league systems that turn young propesects into stars that when called up can immediately contribute. That way of thinking has been around for a long time for small market teams dealing with a budget. But recently those front office people who have been signing players using that thinking have brought it to the field. As a result of that, teams are now focused entirely on stats. Gone are the days of a manager going with his gut and keeping the pitcher in late in the game.

Unlike in this year's World Series, where Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell was taken out in a game where he was pitching great because the stats suggested that after he had faced every batter two times, he would become predictable. The move completely blew up in Rays manager Kevin Cash’s face and the Rays ended up losing the World Series. This move made by Cash made many fans upset, which may just be because after the game we now had the experience to point out why what Cash did was a mistake. But Cash had done this all season, and the Rays made it all the way to the World Series using analytics.

Using analytics the Major Leagues has become a place where the infield shift reigns wild and baserunners are rarely seen unless someone pokes a ball into the outfield and grabs a single. Instead players focus on the home run because according to analytics a one run home run is worth more than a nice single in left field where you might not end up scoring. As a result of this, the game has suffered with less men on base, there is nowhere near as much scoring and exciting Pete Rose running into the catcher in the All-Star Game plays as there used to be. One more thing added to the game is relievers entering the game one after another which makes the game way longer than It could be if we keep starters in longer. The length of a game has gotten so long that many people have lost interest. So where does this leave us, is the game gonna survive this? Do we need to ban the shift? Will there ever be another dominant complete game pitched in the postseason? The answer is that we will have to wait and see.

The league has made many rule changes to speed up the game, using a pitch clock or the rule that a reliever has to pitch to at least three batters before getting taken out. But the true problem is that players will need to learn how to beat the shift which would happen by hitting the ball in a whole other direction. More baserunners would be good for the game and increase competitiveness. Another factor is more base-hits if we can get more hit machines like DJ LeMahieu and Raimel Tapia the game will not only be better but it will pick up the pace. But I would still argue that analytics has not ruined the game, if anything It just made us realize how random of a game it is when someone does something analytics could have never predicted.

Baseball is a timeless game that has made through a time where bunts where used in almost every run scoring situation through the scandalous sterious era and through the terrible player weekend uniforms of 2019, baseball will find a way to become a hit again.

-Story by Dominic Fratino '21

Photo courtesy of Google Images