Sunday, February 11, 2007

WS Home Field for Best Record!

In an internet based survey conducted January 27-31st this year baseball fans indicated they want the home field advantage in the World Series to go to the team with the best record as opposed to the winner of the All-Star game. Additionally, the designated hitter rule remains controversial some 34 years after it introduction. The survey collected 230 responses from four internet sources. Approximately 46% of the responses were collected from the SABR-L newsgroup a membership newsgroup for the Society for American Baseball Research. The remaining responses were collected in internet chat venues conducted on yahoo sports, mlb.com and baseball-fever.com.


The survey collected responses around 24 ideas relating to proposed changes in baseball rules. The idea set was collected by survey of the internet for ideas being discussed in the public venues about possible changes to improve the game of baseball and were not ideas by this author. For the most part changes to baseball rules are not favored. Using a multi-voting technique fans were allowed to select three rule changes which should receive futher consideration. The top five ideas receiving votes were.

1) The American league should eliminate the DH to be consistent between leagues.
2) Home field advantage for the World Series should be given to the team with the best record.
3) Implement a video replay similar to that used in the NFL or NCAA football.
4) Interleague play should be reduced to provide more league identity.
5) Shorten the season to 154 games and complete the season one week earlier.

Respondents rated each of the 24 ideas on a 1-5 Likert Scale indicating their preferences from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (5) respectively. Results are shown in the table that follows:





Through comments survey respondents cautioned against changes in baseball. “I have seen too many changes in the game that are detrimental to it…” answered one respondent. With regard to the DH rule, it remains controversial, either fans agree or disagree with it. One respondent indicated. “The DH is the worst thing that has ever been invented in the history of sports.” The distribution of responses on Idea No. 3 about elimination of the the DH from the American league was bimodal in that either respondents strongly agreed or strongly disagreed with this idea. On this question the SABR-L mailing list members indicated a stronger preference for elimination of the DH in the American League than the MLB.com, Baseball-Fever or Yahoo Sports group. One possible explanation for this may be age related. Older reponsdents tended to favor the elimination of the DH rule in the American League. Of the two ideas dealing with the DH rule, respondents preferred the elimination of the DH rule in the American League as opposed to adopting it in the National League.


Another area where SABR-L newsgroup members held differing opinions was in the issue of inter-league play. SABR-L newsgroup respondents favored reduction in inter-leauge play with a mean score of 2.49 where as the other respondents tended to be more neutral on this issue with a mean score of 3.24. Age may also have been a factor in this for the SABR-L group as older respondents tended to favor the reduction in inter league play.

The use of technology to improve baseball was embodied in ideas about the video replay (16 and 9), a pitch clock (14) and a virtual strike zone (13). Overall video replay was not favored, however, most respondents did not strongly disagree with this idea either. Reponses tended to be neutral or disagree on the use of video replay. Some interesting correlations were also present. Respondents who did answer favorably to the use of a virtual strike zone also answered favorably to the use of a pitch clock and video replays. One respondent thought, “An umpire upstairs with replay, and a challenge system like the NFL or tennis, would be the single biggest improvement - and unlike football, where such plays can happen anywhere on a huge field usually with at least one player on top of another, baseball plays happen either at specified places - the bases - or with only one player by himself (catch, home run, swing) and so should be easier to decide by replay.”

Changes to some of the fundamental rules in baseball are not favored at all and represent the area where most agreement exists.

1) Eliminate the intentional walk
2) Allow the use of aluminum bats
3) Eliminate or ban bunting from the game.

Respondents disagreed strongest to these types of ideas. “Bunting is a must for winning baseball!”, from a SABR-L member. Aluminum bats are perceived to be so much faster than wood bats that one respondent claimed the following. “ALUMINUM BATS?? You've got to be kidding? If that rule is implimented MLB will have to have 'one' day every week designated for pitchers furnerals.”


Some new ideas were proposed that were not part of the survey but possible candidates for future research. The following ideas came from survey respondents for consideration.

1) To shorten the season start sooner and or return to double headers.
2) Instead of the DH, allow a team to pinch hit for the pitcher and leave the pitcher in the game.
3) Scoring rule change: Award a win to the pitcher on the winning team with the most IP; assign the loss to the pitcher on the losing team with the most runs allowed. (add sub-rules for tiebreakers.)
4) When a man who was on base during a pitching change subsequently scores, split the earned run between the pitcher who allowed the man to reach base and the pitcher who allowed him to score.
5) Make the intentional walk 2 bases.
6) Deaden the ball and make gloves smaller.
7) Limit the commercial time between innings.
8) Probably could be more on ballpark's minimum field dimensions to limit cheap homeruns.

In conclusion the survey found resistance to change in some proposed rule changes in baseball. Perhaps the best idea coming forth from the survey is the idea to give the World Series home field to the team with the best record. This idea seems to be the most popular idea of the 24 ideas presented in the survey. Limitation of inter-leauge play and the elimination of the DH rule in the American league may also warrant some future discussion and research.