Paul Auster has a radical idea to speed up games

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Paul Auster wrote three of my favorite stories: “City of Glass,” “Ghosts” and “The Locked Room.” They were eventually combined into one book called “The New York Trilogy.” They’re superficially detective stories but they’re really sort of post-modern freakouts in the form of detective stories. Which was something that blew my mind when I read them in the mid-90s or whenever it was. I re-read them every couple of years and, God, you should go read them too. They’re amazing.

Auster has another book I like too, “Book of Illusions.” Totally different thing — a mourning writer and long-missing silent film star — but there are post-modern elements to it too. Stuff where the author gets mixed up with the characters and things like that. I haven’t read a lot of his other stuff, but I assume that’s just one of his things: exploding the story and turning it inside out or whatever. A little of that goes a long way in my experience, but he does it very well.

But maybe he should stick to blowing up his characters’ lives and step away from blowing up baseball. From the New York Times Letters to the Sports Editor page from the other day:

To the Sports Editor:

Re “In Push to Shorten Games, There’s No Time to Waste,” Aug. 17: I would like to offer a suggestion about speeding up baseball. Eliminate the two-strike foul ball as a neutral play (neither strike nor ball) and rule it a strike. To compensate for the advantage this would give the pitcher, allow the batter to go to first base after three balls instead of four.

This way, no at-bat could last more than five pitches. Pitch counts would go down, allowing starting pitchers to go deeper into games, which in turn would reduce the dead time caused by changing pitchers — the primary reason games last so long these days.

Traditionalists will argue that this will alter baseball as we know it. But if games continue to drag on for three hours or longer, baseball as we know it will lose its audience.

PAUL AUSTER

Brooklyn

I feel like that would blow my mind in a bad way even more than “New York Trilogy” blew my mind in a good way when I first read it.

(h/t to the Baseball Freaks)

The Mets are a mess

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The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.

Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.

Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.

By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.

Joey Votto isn’t on board with the latest fly ball trend among hitters

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If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.

Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:

Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.

Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.

Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”

So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.