Commentary: Wall Street Baseball heading for a bust on opener pitching strategy?

Commentary: Wall Street Baseball heading for a bust on opener pitching strategy?

10/17/2021 7:33:00 AM

Commentary: Wall Street Baseball heading for a bust on opener pitching strategy?

Using pitchers as openers has strategic value but is it good for the game? Dodgers starter Max Scherzer doesn't think it's something fans like to see.

AdvertisementTony Gonsolin could have. Knebel was not a starter in the minor leagues, or even in college. The Dodgers decided a reliever getting the first three outs was their best path to getting them all.Knebel was the Dodgers’ opener, at a time Major League Baseball is exploring whether to put a close on the era of the opener.

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Wall Street Baseball is the quest to find and exploit even the tiniest of advantages. Just win, baby, and who cares about the aesthetics?The Tampa Bay Rays invented Wall Street Baseball. Their baseball department puts a good team on the field. Their marketing department cannot persuade fans to come see the team.

The Rays might say their low revenue gives them no other option. What worries the league — and the players’ union — is that too many teams might try to copy this aspect of the Rays’ winning ways.“From a fan’s perspective and baseball as a whole,” Scherzer said Saturday, “if you look at it more from the game outside and say, ‘Is this something that ... we want the game to go into? Do we want to see this in the regular season?’ my answer is no.

VIDEO | 02:47Dodgers’ Max Scherzer and Dave Roberts on using openersDodgers pitcher Max Scherzer and manager Dave Roberts discuss their feelings on baseball’s new trend of using openers to start games.“No, you don’t. You want to see starting pitchers. You want to see starting pitchers pitch deep. I think that’s best for the fans, best for the players, everybody involved. I think that’s how we all envisioned the games.”

We could have seen Scherzer against Max Fried on Saturday. We got Fried, against Knebel and a parade of following pitchers.That might have been a special circumstance, but starting pitchers can have marquee value over the course of a season. Anticipation drives ticket sales, and the chance to see Scherzer or Kershaw or Jacob deGrom can lure fans.

In an Ipsospollreleased Thursday, Americans were asked to name their favorite sport. Football ranked first, with baseball and basketball tied for second. However, in a glaring warning to a league already concerned about cultivating a younger audience, the Gen Z segment of the Ipsos poll had football ranked first and baseball sixth, with basketball, soccer, hockey and volleyball in between.

Dave Roberts, the Dodgers’ manager, minced no words when asked what he thought about the opener strategy the first time he saw it.“I hated it,” he said. “It wasn’t baseball.”Roberts said he has softened his stance since then. His job is to win and, if the opener can help his team win, he gets it.

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But how much of an advantage does one team get out of an opener when most every team tries it?“The Rays kind of captured a marginal advantage for a few years,” Roberts said. “So the industry’s catching up.”In the 2018 NLCS, the Milwaukee Brewers lacked good starters and opted for an arsenal of openers against the Dodgers, including Wade Miley for a memorable one-batter stint. In this year’s NLDS against the Braves, the Brewers started actual starters, and very good ones: Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta and Eric Lauer.

“This is the best way to do it,”Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell told Andy McCullough of the Athletic. “This is what every team would prefer.”MLB used the minor leagues and independent leagues this year as a laboratory, testing rules changes that included robot umpires, limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts, a 15-second pitch clock, and moving the mound back one foot.

VIDEO | 02:05Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and Trea Turner discuss NLCS Game 1 lossDodgers manager Dave Roberts and second baseman Trea Turner talk about the team’s 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday.A little-noticed change, in the Atlantic League: the test of a “double hook” rule, in which a team would lose its designated hitter when it removed its starting pitcher. Use an opener for an inning or two, and the DH would get one time at bat, followed by pitchers or pinch-hitters.

The early returns were promising, said Michael Hill, MLB senior vice president of on-field operations.“It’s worth further discussion,” Hill said here Saturday.With a universal DH up for discussion, so is this.“I think it’s got a little bit of momentum,” said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. “Enhancing the value of a starting pitcher, with diminishing the value of a one-dimensional slugger, directionally makes sense to me.”

Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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Trying to better understand the whole strategy of the Dodgers. What happen to your aces start the first game in a series. Dodgers have no aces Or what!!

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