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The Downside of Baseball’s Data Revolution

2017 October 4
by Skip Sauer

Most revolutions have a downside (see October 1917).  So too with baseball.  The use of data analytics in baseball has changed the game in important ways — where fielders are positioned, how batters swing (to avoid ground balls), and how pitchers pitch.  The result is more strikeouts, more home runs, and more mid-inning pitcher changes.  8.4 pitchers are used today in an average game, up from 5.8 30 years ago.  That’s a big change.  The pace of the game has slowed as a result, with an average of 5 minutes and 47 seconds between balls put in play.  These statistics are presented in a fascinating article, well worth a read, by Brian Costs and Jared Diamond in today’s WSJ:  The Downside of Baseball’s Data Revolution–Long Games, Less Action.  Last night’s wild card game between the Twins and Yankees was a case in point.  The game featured 11 pitchers (6 for the Twins, 5 for the Yankees, and took 3 hours and 51 minutes to come to a conclusion, ending after midnight.  No wonder that young viewers are such a small share of the tv audience.  Let the counter-revolution begin!

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