Four Prescient Takes on MLB Opening Week 2021

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1. Let’s First Answer Baseball’s Most Pressing 2021 Global Questions

Four Prescient Takes on MLB Opening Week 2021Will the Baltimore Orioles lose 100 games in 2021?

No, but there isn’t a team in baseball who will work harder than the Orioles to hit or surpass that number of losses. And don’t count them out, they absolutely can pull that off.

Will the Los Angeles Dodgers win 115 games in 2021?

They certainly could, but the average fan may not be aware that for any team to win even 105 games (a .650 winning %) takes an enormous level of talent and some fortunate breaks during a long season. To win 71% of an MLB season (115 games), a baseball team would have to be extraordinarily dominant, lucky, and repeatedly beat even the best teams in their league throughout the season.

Four Prescient Takes on MLB Opening Week 2021Who is Pete Rose betting on to win the 2021 World Series?

Not sure, but that’s a very good question; I’d like to know so I can massively bet the other way.

2. Which Teams Are Being Way Underrated in 2021?

I don’t think the world has quite caught up with where the Chicago White Sox, Atlanta Braves, and Seattle Mariners are at the start of 2021.

Four Prescient Takes on MLB Opening Week 2021The White Sox have that combination of dynamic young pitching and a dynamic young offense which often leads to postseason dominance. The Braves have a fierce core of young talent and a brilliant POBO/GM in Alex Anthopoulos who can smartly re-imagine his team’s needs at any time—off-season, during the season, it doesn’t matter.

And while the Mariners will almost certainly not make the American League postseason in 2021, they are where the White Sox were two or three years ago—a franchise with a hugely talented minor league system, the kind that could eventually take a team to the top tier of the AL.

3. Rule Changes

Let’s keep this simple.

Adopt the universal DH?
Understand, this is not a huge, massive big deal to me– I was initially happy with the American League keeping the DH and the National League not adopting it. Not anymore.

I now want the DH to be adopted throughout the Majors. Immediately.

Four Prescient Takes on MLB Opening Week 2021Most importantly because of the serious threat of injuries to pitchers, who don’t practice hitting or bunting, who don’t practice running the bases, and where 98% of their at-bats are tedious exercises in incompetence.

And any amount of time pitchers devote to learning how to bunt or hit better takes away from their #1 mission: to continually improve their ability to efficiently create outs and prevent run scoring.

Another DH thing: we now know that sacrifice bunts actually lessen a team’s chances to score runs—which is why teams don’t bunt anymore. So pitchers, who already can’t hit, should absolutely never be asked to bunt. Let’s just stop the madness.

Seven inning double headers?
Yes, because they would create several more days off for teams during the season, or even shorten the season. But only if there are two or three double headers prescheduled for each team each season, and fans can watch both ends with one ticket.

A runner on second base in games tied after the 9th inning?
Not on my watch. That’s not baseball, that’s fourth tier, middle school softball. Is it interesting? Sure! The same way moving the mound 10 feet closer to home plate would be interesting; or allowing fans into the dugouts after the 5th inning would be interesting.

September roster call-ups limited to 28 total players?
Please god, yes. It’s so embarrassing to look into MLB dugouts in past Septembers and see the equivalent of two regular baseball teams scurrying around to find seat space.

Expand the number of teams in the playoffs?
Four Prescient Takes on MLB Opening Week 2021All in favor. But not 16 teams, a la 2020, or even 14 teams. Ten baseball teams now make the postseason each year— the three division winners in each League and two Wild Card teams from each League.

How about twelve playoff teams, accomplished by adding one more Wild Card winner in each League. Let the two Division winners in each League with the most wins have a bye at the start of the playoffs, then have three game playoffs for the three Wild Card teams in each League.

4. Something That Should Never Happen

Any talk of “limiting” or “banning” defensive shifts in the Major Leagues is a ham-handed, embarrassingly fatuous idea.

Think about it. The cutting edge of the analytics revolution in baseball over the past ten years is centered around one simple thing: the ability to get more information than ever before about virtually every aspect of the game, and then to create new strategies based on that information.

The essence of defense in baseball is to prevent run scoring. It’s what every pitcher and position player is trying to do.

Now think about the absurdity of knowing the hitting tendencies of every MLB batter but being forced by a new rule to pretend that information doesn’t exist. By not being able to strategically move your outfielders and infielders to where you know the ball is likely to go.

It would be comical if it wasn’t so ridiculous. (Though it would certainly be comical to watch baseball games being played with TV broadcasters showing exactly where each batter usually hits the ball, while the fielders are forced to stand like statues, unable to move to where they also know the baseball is likely to go.)

Four Prescient Takes on MLB Opening Week 2021So when the splitfinger fastball was invented in the 1970s and became a dominant out pitch in the 1980s (often called “unfair” by legions of radio/tv broadcasters), the solution the anti-shift neanderthals would have proposed would have been to ban the pitch.

You know, because it was creating too many strikeouts and double plays. Which is bad for baseball.

Only MLB didn’t ban the use of the splitfinger. They let the normal evolution/adaption process that occurs in baseball all the time take hold. Hitters adapted, then pitchers re-adapted, and so on and so on.

What’s happening is called “strategy”, and there are people called “managers” and “coaches” who develop strategies and counter-strategies to either score runs, or prevent the opposing team from scoring runs. To artificially limit that process is absurd.

There has never been any official Major League Baseball rule directing exactly where each defensive player should be positioned on the field of play. And there never should be.

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