Baseball is doing its best to get replay right

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People complained that the reviews of the Gary Sheffield and Daniel
Murphy home runs this week took too long, with the former taking more
than six minutes and the latter almost four minutes. I can understand
the frustration, but you have to laud Major League Baseball for having its priorities in order:

“In the case you’re talking about, the home run call on Sheffield,
that one took about six minutes – just over six minutes. And the reason
for that was because we were really trying to get clear and convincing
evidence if we were going to overturn the call. So we were pulling up
all the various camera angles that we had available to us, and it took
us some time to discern whether or not that play could be overturned.
Ultimately, the home run was upheld, but it took a little time. But we
want to get the play right. The ultimate, ultimate, overriding concern
is to get the play right.”

Which it should be. We can argue about whether or not replay itself is
a good idea, but if you’re going to go with replay, there’s no reason
to rush it if it risks getting the call wrong.

Not that baseball shouldn’t do what it can to speed up the process
where it can. Indeed, based on some of the reviews we’ve seen, I can
think of two things that would go a long way towards making replays as
efficient as possible.

First: strongly discourage umpires from standing around trying to
decide if a replay should be reviewed. During last week’s Red Sox-Mets
game, the umps held a conclave around third base for some time,
apparently trying to determine if Youkilis’ shot down the left field
line should be reviewed. We all got pride, and umpires more than most
of us, but really, it was obvious within about five seconds of the ball
clearing the fence that there was a question as to whether it was fair
or foul. End the conference, go watch the video, get the call right,
and play ball.

Second: as we get more experience with replays, patterns are
probably going to develop. We can imagine, for example, that given the
stupid placement of the railing and advertisements on the upper deck at
Citi Field, that more than a few disputed calls are going to occur
there. Indeed, just about every park is going to have its own
particular problem areas, and once they’re identified, perhaps it would
be worth installing some fixed cameras that focus specifically on those
areas. Also, given that balls over the foul pole are going to be an
issue, maybe baseball should install the same sort of camera that sits
on every set of goal posts in the NFL.

Heck, they could even solicit sponsorships for the things. Based on the great publicity they’re getting over the Murphy homer, Subway would probably pony up at this point.

Study: West teams at a disadvantage due to jet lag

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - JULY 14:  A Delta airlines plane is seen as it comes in for a landing at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on July 14, 2016 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Delta Air Lines Inc. reported that their second quarter earnings rose a better-than-expected 4.1%, and also announced that they decided to reduce its United States to Britian capacity on its winter schedule because of foreign currency issues and the economic uncertainty from Brexit.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Every year, when the schedules are released, we often hear about the teams that have it worst. Almost always, those teams are West teams. According to MLB.com, teams in the West division of their respective leagues had the top eight most travel-heavy schedules in 2016. The full list:

Team League Division Miles
Mariners AL West 47,704
Angels AL West 44,945
Athletics AL West 42,119
Rangers AL West 41,128
Dodgers NL West 40,294
Giants NL West 39,341
Astros AL West 38,553
Padres NL West 37,363
Rays AL East 36,916
Red Sox AL East 36,896
D-Backs NL West 35,312
Yankees AL East 35,252
Marlins NL East 35,226
Rockies NL West 33,287
Blue Jays AL East 32,895
Orioles AL East 32,322
Braves NL East 29,236
Royals AL Central 29,077
Twins AL Central 28,948
Phillies NL East 28,351
Mets NL East 26,832
White Sox AL Central 26,538
Cardinals NL Central 26,451
Pirates NL Central 26,134
Brewers NL Central 25,620
Tigers AL Central 25,450
Indians AL Central 25,176
Reds NL Central 25,108
Nationals NL East 24,664
Cubs NL Central 24,271

The averages by division:

  • AL East: 34,856 miles
  • AL Central: 25,176
  • AL West: 42,890
  • NL East: 28,862
  • NL Central: 25,517
  • NL West: 37,119

The maps aren’t up for 2017 yet, but rest assured that West teams will once again have it worst. It’s easy to see why, taking a look at the map on MLB.com. If you draw a line to split Texas in half and go straight up through North Dakota, there are only eight teams to the left of that line, leaving the other 23 condensed on the right side. When West teams aren’t playing intra-division games, they are traveling. That’s often not the case for East and Central teams. The Phillies and Pirates, for example, don’t even have to leave the state to play each other.

As Gizmodo points out, a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found a link between jet lag and performance. Sleep scientist Ravi Allada of Northwestern University analyzed 4,919 games, finding that teams that traveled East performed worse than those that traveled West. Allada and his colleagues adjusted for home field advantage and park effects.

Specifically, teams that traveled from the West to the East lost more often than East teams traveling West. They gave up more runs and scored less runs. They hit for a lower batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They gave up more home runs, accounting for most of the decline in run prevention.

There was a peculiar finding. Allada found that jet lagged home teams performed worse than jet lagged visiting teams. He hypothesizes that “teams may be more cognizant of their schedules when traveling away, thus mitigating jet lag effects,” he told Gizmodo.

The Braves ask Cobb County for $14 million more

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The Braves’ new ballpark in Cobb County Georgia is the gift that keeps on taking.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have asked Cobb County for $14 million for roads, walkways and other pedestrian improvements around the stadium the team has already paid for but which it says the county is responsible. The county says it’s not responsible for them and that it has already paid nearly $70 million for transportation improvements around the ballpark, including on privately-owned property in the mixed-use development.

The reason this isn’t settled: at the time the deal between the county and the team was struck, there was a provision for the county to pay for $14 million for certain improvements. The Braves, this past September, told the county that it wants to be reimbursed for these projects under that provision and that the $70 million the county has already spent shouldn’t count. For reasons, I guess. It’s a bit complicated, but the AJC story lays it out pretty well. The upshot seems to be “why didn’t the Braves say they wanted the county to pay for these things long ago?”

The answer to that question, I suspect, is “because the Braves have been treated as entitled corporate welfare recipients since this deal was announced and they have learned that they can get away with almost anything.”