Steve Lyons doesn’t want your filthy, rally-killing home runs

25 Comments

Remember a while ago, some had the idea that having slow runners on base was a bad idea because they “clogged up the bases“? Even though having runners on base directly leads to scoring runs? It took a bit of work (and ridicule) to get that idea out of the zeitgeist. Now, thanks to Steve Lyons, we have to do some extra work to get another bad idea out:

Lyons, who spent nine years as a Major Leaguer and subsequently became a broadcaster, is referring to the two-run home run Hanley Ramirez hit against Braves reliever David Carpenter earlier tonight to bring the game from 4-1 to 4-3. The two-run home run Yoenis Cespedes hit in the seventh inning to bring his team from 3-0 to 3-2 also qualifies as a “rally killer”.

If the idea happened to be fleshed out a little deeper, there may be something to Lyons’ theory. Opposing hitters in the Majors posted an OPS 21 points higher with runners on base than with the bases empty. Is this alone evidence? Of course not, because pitchers that tend to allow runners on base frequently tend to be pitchers of poorer quality, so the results are biased a bit. And 21 points of OPS is not that much to begin with. It’s a theory that needs to be researched a bit deeper rather than adamantly defended as sacrosanct.

However, we’re talking about scoring guaranteed runs. If given the choice to score 2-3 runs on a home run to close your deficit to within one run, or to undo the home run and wait for a base hit, you choose the home run every day of the week and twice on Sunday. In a sport where you’re considering a hitting phenom if you can succeed three out of every ten attempts, the Dodgers were very likely to stop scoring runs after Ramirez batted anyway. Braves reliever David Carpenter struck out 74 batters in 65.2 innings, so it isn’t surprising that he got back-to-back strikeouts on Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig after surrendering the Ramirez dinger. Similarly, Max Scherzer — who held the Athletics to one hit in his first six innings of work — was likely to continue dominating the A’s even after giving up that Cespedes homer, and he did, recording three quick outs in succession to wrap up the seventh inning.

And hey, does anyone remember this homer-fueled rally?

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
2 Comments

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.