No, Game Length Isn’t Hurting Attendance

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by: Patrick Reddick

“If the people don't want to come out to the ballpark, nobody's going to stop them.” - Yogi Berra

The Pirates and Cubs played a 16-inning game last week and few people who stayed until the end cared that it took almost six hours. Most would have stayed until the sun came up. But longer games are apparently the last thing some people want to see.

A “high-ranking executive” told Buster Olney on Monday he was so worried about games being too long that he proposed shortening them to seven innings. He backed the idea so strongly that he would not allow his name to be published in connection with it.

I would never support making games seven innings, but game length comes up every year, so maybe something does need to change. But before we get ahead of ourselves let’s actually look at the numbers: How long are games, really? And is attendance falling because of it?


The length record was set in 2000, when the average game was 178 minutes long. It dropped off after that, but according to the guys holding the stopwatches games have once again increased in length over the past decade. By a whopping ten minutes. Ten minutes, guys. That’s more than nine minutes! It does add up though, over a whole season that’s 27 hours that you could have spent doing whatever it is you do when you aren’t watching baseball… reading high quality baseball blogs perhaps.

Surely this 5% increase in game length has driven fans past their threshold for how much baseball they can consume, right? Eh.


The attendance has clearly been more chaotic over the past decade than the length of games, but it was higher last year than it was in 2004. The major drop was between two seasons in which there was virtually no change in game length. Besides, even if it were declining it would take a lot more than a few graphs to say that it was due to game length.

Younger fans may want shorter games, but if a 2-hour, 50-minute game is fine when a 2-hour, 57-minute game is too long, then the problem isn’t baseball.

Sources:
http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/buster-olney/post/_/id/5683?ex_cid=InsiderTwitter_Olney7innings

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100613&content_id=11167658&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/baseball-games-take-too-long-and-thats-the-long-and-short-of-it/2013/07/12/88c73634-eb25-11e2-aa9f-c03a72e2d342_story.html

4/9 Pirates Opinions and Comments

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Did you guys know that Brad Lincoln plays for the Phillies now? Remember the trade the Pirates made in 2012 that sent Lincoln to Toronto for Travis Snider? Remember how mad all the idiot hosts on The Fan were about it (namely Paul Alexander, who no longer has a job in Pittsburgh sports)? Can we revisit that trade real quick?

So since the trade, Brad Lincoln has pitched 60.1 innings (58 of which were with the Blue Jays in 2012 and 2013) and he has allowed 35 earned runs in those innings. Lincoln has a 5.24 ERA since the trade. Mind you, he went from one of the worst hitting divisions in the league to the best, but needless to say he hasn't lived up to his closer potential that everyone was seeing when he was in Pittsburgh. On the other side of the deal, Snider hasn't helped the Pirates much either with a .228/.298/.327 triple slash line, so you can't say the Pirates necessarily got the best of the deal, but you'd rather have potential in an outfielder than in a bullpen pitcher after all. And nobody misses Paul Alexander's blabberings.

I haven't talked about the Jameson Taillon Tommy John surgery news on here yet. I have nothing to say, that news really bites.

The Pirates have looked very good early on. You can't hope for much better than a 5-2 record to open the year (you could have hoped for 6-1 or 7-0 I suppose, but we have the 3rd best guess which is a bronze medal right?). It was nice to see them win a game in which they didn't pitch well last night. You don't expect this club to score seven runs very often in a game, but it's always relieving to time those games well. Pedro Alvarez has hit the ball hard this year, Andrew McCutchen is getting out of his early slump, and they've gotten surprising performances from Travis Ishikawa and Edinson Volquez, can't ask for much more than than seven games in right? And it's always nice to win some games against division foes. Nobody expects the Cubs to be in the race at the end of the year, but every game against the Cardinals really counts, because you never know if that head-to-head record is going to be a determiner at the end of the year. A win in April could mean the difference between winning the division or having to play another one game wild card series. As of right now, the Cardinals have to have one more win than us to be in first place, so that's always nice.

Bucs started a long stretch of games last night with their win in Chicago, and they pick it back up tonight at 8:05 as Wandy Rodriguez faces Jason Hammel. The Pirates made Hammel look like a Cy Young contender last Thursday in a game they lost 3-2. I'm not a baseball genius, but I'm pretty sure Hammel isn't a Cy Young contender, so hopefully the Pirates can prove that to me tonight. After that it's a classic 2:20 game in Chicago then a flight to Milwaukee for a weekend series with the Brewers, who have also started hot with a 5-2 record and a rejuvenated Ryan Braun, who hit three home runs yesterday in Philadelphia (one off the aforementioned Brad Lincoln). So we can get back to cussing out Braun this weekend for how good and douchey he is. That'll be fun, right?

Gerrit Cole 4/4 Pitch FX

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7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Pitch TypeVelocH-BreakV-BreakCountStrike%
4-Seam 95.8 -6.20 7.13 69 66.7%
Change84.9-5.665.622100.0%
Slider84.25.07-1.251070.0%
Change84.26.61-5.122748.1%

Run expectancy table - when should the Pirates bunt?

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I'm a big fan of the use of math when making decisions on what action to take during sports games. Baseball is far and away the best sport to do such things, which probably accounts for a lot of the reason that this here blog exists. One of my favorite elements of the use of math in baseball is when you can use the history of the game to determine run expectancy in given situations.

One of these interesting situations happened in the ninth inning of today's game. The Pirates were down by one run and Neil Walker led off the inning with a single. The Pirates needed just one run to stay in the game, so that's what they should have been aiming for.

According to math, the chances of scoring one run with no outs and a man on first are about 43.5% and you can expect .435 runs that inning. From there, the Pirates had a decision about what to tell the next batter to do. The two options are bunting the runner to second or swinging to try and do more than that and avoid recording an out. Let's say that Gaby Sanchez bunted Walker over successfully. That would change the situation to having a man on second base with one out. The chances of scoring a run in that situation is 41.4% and the expected number of runs for the inning is 0.69. So by bunting the runner over, the Pirates increased their expected runs for the inning, but actually decreased their chances of scoring Walker's run by 2.1%.

Charlie Morton 4/2 Pitch F/X

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6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Pitch TypeVelocH-BreakV-BreakCountStrike%
4-Seam 92.7 -7.81 6.15 12 75%
2-Seam 92.2 -9.512.483464.3%
Sinker93.8 -9.571.394367.4%
Curve78.710.91-7.81669.7%

Cubs (0-2) vs. Pirates (2-0), Game 3

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Jason Hamel (0-0, 0.00) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00)

Pirates lineup:
  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Travis Snider, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  5. Neil Walker, 2B
  6. Travis Ishikawa, 1B
  7. Tony Sanchez, C
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Wandy Rodriguez, SP

Cubs (0-1) vs. Pirates (1-0), Game 2

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Edwin Jackson (0-0, 0.00) vs. Charlie Morton (0-0, 0.00)

Pirates lineup:
  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Travis Snider, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  5. Russell Martin, C
  6. Neil Walker, 2B
  7. Travis Ishikawa, 1B
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Charlie Morton, SP

The 2013 Part II Pirates Baseball Club

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by Brandon Posa

As I waited anxiously for the pregame festivities to start on Opening Day Monday afternoon, something just felt a little bit off. The last time I sat in this beautiful ballpark was October 1, 2013 for the game of my life. That Wild Card game will forever live on in my memory as the day the Pirates corrected their course back into a winning franchise. The players, the chants, and the raised-Jolly Roger are moments that will never escape me. But now, about seven months after the Pirates secured their first postseason victory since 1992, something felt different. Sure, this was the beginning of a brand new season, one in which the organization and fans alike both have the same goal in securing our first National League pennant since 1979. But to me, this was one of the most unique scenarios a ball club has ever found themselves in: on paper this was a brand new season, but in the hearts of the players and fans, this was merely a continuation of the memorable 2013 season.

Opening Day was fantastic. We saw Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Clint Hurdle all honored by former esteemed Pirates of years past, and it was incredible. From Bonds to Leyland, and Groat to Jumpin' Jack Wilson, this was a great day for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The past was reconnecting with the present, and what more could you possibly ask for on a beautiful day for baseball? We saw starter Francisco Liriano look like he never missed a beat while throwing six shutout innings to go with ten strikeouts. The Shark Tank reactivated, with Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, and Bryan Morris all combining to throw four shutout innings. And, in case you haven't heard, hometown hero Neil Walker sealed the day with a 10th inning walkoff home run over the Clemente Wall.

This wasn't a brand new team, filled with unfamiliar faces. This is virtually the same team looking to continue what they started last year.

This is a team that is full of young, high-ceiling potential that the city hasn't seen in years. This is a team that may have lost a few impact players, sure. But that clubhouse is ready to win and finish the job from last season. Everyone has said all the right things: "we've turned the page, 2013 was fun but it's 2014 now." My response to that is simple: these are still the 2013 Pirates, playing in 2014. There's nothing to analyze yet based off of statistics or player comparisons, but if you feel like I did on Monday, this team still exerts the magic of 2013. It looks like the pitching staff, albeit after one game, hasn't missed a beat since the end of 2013, and the offense will come around. There will be help, internally and externally, as the season moves forward. If we thought 2013 was exciting, just wait to see what's in store for 2013 Part II.

60 (Maybe) Surprising Player Projections from Deadspin from Baseball Prospectus

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This is a reference post to a reference post - we're breaking serious ground here at mceffect.net - the post is Deadspin's which they took from Baseball Prospectus. It's 60 interesting projections made by BP. Check it out by clicking the image below.

Pittsburgh Pirates Preview (hype video by @_DrewBrown)

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I'm a little late on this, but my boy @_DrewBrown made another one of his brilliant Pirates videos. You can check it out below. I'd also recommend checking out the rest of his videos cause the dude has serious skill. Also, follow him on twitter cause he's in high school and tweets about crap that happens in high school are hilarious. Videos below. Deuces.

Replays Won’t Be Perfect, But They’ll Teach Us Something

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by: Patrick Reddick

They say money can’t buy happiness, but fans sure seemed glad on Monday that Major League Baseball spent $30 million on a new replay room this off-season. Whether that will last is another matter.

Both challenges at PNC Park on Opening Day went in the Pirates’ favor, but there are a few issues with the system that will come to center stage sooner or later. Some might lead to changes in subsequent years and depending on how things shake out, others could potentially legitimize people who think their hometown team is being shortchanged more often than not.

To Review or Not To Review?

As you may have heard, each team gets to challenge one play per game. If the play is overturned, you get another challenge. Also, from the 7th inning onward the umps can elect to review any play they want to, which will not be charged as a challenge to either team.

On Monday, Bryan Morris picked off Emilio Bonifacio at first base. The first base umpire, Bob Davidson, blew the call. Being that it was the 10th inning, the umps could have reviewed it themselves, but none of them seemed to consider the idea until Clint Hurdle came out to challenge it.

This raises a few questions. First, how close does a play have to be before the umps review it on their own? Had Hurdle stayed in the dugout would the umps have avoided the replay because they knew Hurdle had a challenge remaining? Or would they have been more likely to review the play if Hurdle had already used his challenges?

As it played out, the umps essentially forced Hurdle to use his challenge, rather than looking at it themselves. In this case he got another one, but had Hurdle blown a challenge earlier in the game he could have argued until he was red in the face (which we know he excels at) and the umps could have refused to review the play—even though the call was wrong.

The scenario is almost certain to happen: The call will be wrong, the manager will be out of challenges, he’ll argue, the umps will refuse to review, the call will stay wrong, and the umps will be blasted on the post-game show. The irony for the umps is that it almost has to be that way. If the umps just call up New York every time a manager comes out to argue, it would defeat the whole point of limiting challenges in the first place.

But it gets worse, because if you want to argue that managers should be more careful with when they use their challenge and they deserve what they get, even if the call was wrong, then what is the point of even having replay?

Replays Are Now Stats

When NFL refs blow a call, there are so many of them on the field that it can be difficult to say who should shoulder the blame. But in baseball, everyone watching knows that Davidson blew the call (not to pick on him, he certainly won’t be the last). Because we can become so specific, replays have become another stat.

At the end of the season, we will add up which ump had the most calls overturned. Is there some punishment that exists for that guy? That is, beyond the public embarrassment of knowing he’s the worst at his job. We shouldn’t judge too quickly though, as we won’t know for years if some umps are constantly good (or bad) year-after-year or if their quality fluctuates over time.

Like most people, I tend to accept that when you play over 1400 innings in a season, some calls will go your way and others won’t. But now we’ll have numbers to tell us which teams, or even players, had the most incorrect calls made against them. Depending how things shake out, replay statistics could show us that things do in fact even out over time and we were right all along. Then again, we might find that the umps are consistently favoring some teams over others. How do you stop that? More replays.

No matter what they end up telling us, the replays and the numbers they produce will be worth looking at more than once.

Home Opener post game thoughts

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You're probably not going to find many game recaps on the site this season, because I've never really seen the point of that. Nobody relies on some blogger nerd to give them a recap of the game, if you want that there are much better alleys to go down. I'm also not on the type of schedule that allows me to pay attention to what the Pirates are doing every night, but it's Opening Day and that's always an exception.

I was at the game today sitting in section 314 and it was just a gorgeous day for baseball - probably the best weather I've seen for an Opening Day for as long as I can remember. Even better than that, the Pirates actually found a way to win the game this year, which they hadn't been able to do for the last three years.

I can't sit here and say how great Francisco Liriano looked, because I really couldn't see how his pitches were moving or how his location really was. Anyone who watches the game from section 314 and tells you they can tell how a pitcher's stuff is looking is a liar. The numbers are real though, six scoreless innings with ten strikeouts - right back into 2013 form it seems. I posted Liriano's pitch f/x here, which I'll try to do as often as I can. You can check that out, watch the highlights, and make your own opinions on how he really looked. One start is nothing to get too excited about, especially when that one start comes against the Cubs, but he couldn't have started his year off much better.

The rest of the bullpen got their job done as well. The Pirates got scoreless innings from Tony Watson, Mark Melancon, Bryan Morris, and Jason Grilli, Watson being the only one not to have to strand a runner. I was keeping an eye on the radar gun when Grill was on the hill, and the pitch f/x show that his fastball sat around 94-96 in his outing. He topped out at 95.9, according to Brooks Baseball. His average velocity in 2013 was 93.3, so it seems his fastball has just as much if not more zip on it this year than last year - which is always good to see from your aging closer. I don't think anybody had any worries about the bullpen coming into this season, and they showed us why today.

The offense was a bit rough. Before Neil Walker's walk off solo home run the team only collected five hits, all but one of which were singles. Two singles came from Travis Ishikawa who had a nice game with a couple slick defensive plays as well. Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen added the other two singles and Starling Marte had a lead-off double and was then stranded. Pedro Alvarez hit one ball well, but right into a shift for a double play, and he struck out twice. One at bat came against a left-handed pitcher. For what I can see he didn't look all that bad in the box.

You can't take too much from one game, but it's always good to see your pitching staff get out on the right foot - especially with how much we depended on the staff last year to get the team through when their offense goes on their dry spells. It's always a confidence lift to win the first one and look good doing it. The offense is going to unpredictable like it always is, and probably won't finish anywhere near the top of the league in terms of raw numbers, but they showed last year that that's not necessarily a needed ingredient for success.

The big story before the game was the reception that Barry Bonds would receive from the fans. I took a video of the reception (with an iPhone 5S mind you, not the greatest sound quality) that you can check out below. There were some scattered boos and cheers - the reception was pretty neutral to my ears, but check it out for yourself.


Now we have the always hated day off after a very exciting day of baseball and the Pirates will be back in action Wednesday night when Charlie Morton faces Jason Hammel on dollar night at PNC Park. Tickets are ridiculously cheap as they always are for the season's second game, so I'd recommend checking that out. I'll be back with more tomorrow.

Francisco Liriano 3/31 Pitch F/X

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6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 K
Pitch TypeVelocH-BreakV-BreakCountStrike%
4-Seam 92.7 7.64 8.98 11 54.5%
2-Seam 93.0 9.905.643450.0%
Change86.7 10.144.702653.8%
Slider85.90.871.783369.7%

Cubs (0-0) vs. Pirates (0-0), Game 1

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Jeff Samardzija (0-0, 0.00) vs. Francisco Liriano (0-0, 0.00)

Pirates lineup:
  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Travis Snider, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  5. Neil Walker, 2B
  6. Russell Martin, C
  7. Travis Ishikawa, 1B
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. Francisco Liriano, SP

Opening Day morning - What I'm most interested in

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Today is one of the most exciting days of the year, it's Opening Day of Major League Baseball. This has been one of my favorite days of the year for quite some time now, and this year's especially exciting now that I know for a fact that it is possible for the Pirates to make the playoffs.

I'll be at the game today, so if anybody wants to say hello or share an adult beverage with me before the game, feel free tweet me @JonPGH so we can make that happen.

For now I'm at work until 2am helping the world's largest paint companies employees with their computer problems, so I figured I'd use some of the night shift's free time to post some of my thoughts for the upcoming 2014 season. Every year there are a few things that I'm most interested in seeing from the team. Here's what I've come up with so far.

For the immediate future, I'm interested to see Barry Bonds at PNC Park and see the reception he gets from the fans. I'm sure there are going to be a good amount of boo's for Bonds, and it's hard to say that he definitely doesn't deserve it. The guy pretty obviously took steroids at some point in his career, which deserves criticism, but for what he did in Pittsburgh I'm not so sure we shouldn't all just get over it. So he was a dick to everybody, didn't seem to care about the fans, and didn't throw out Sid Bream - none of those are unforgivable offenses. Me saying all this might not matter as much since I was a toddler when Bonds was playing in the Steel City. Anyways, it'll be fun to see him there and to hear all the unwarranted and inhumane comments from the fans.

In terms of baseball, here are a few things I'm really looking for.

  • Gerrit Cole's pitch selection. We all saw shades of what Gerrit Cole can bring to the table last year, but we have yet to see the pitcher that Cole will be for the long run. He threw mainly fastballs last year, and leaned heavily on the pitch for success. The pitch is good enough where that's perfectly fine for him to get by with, but Cole won't become a true ace until he integrates the rest of his pitches fully. He has an excellent changeup and a solid slider that I'm very intersted to see. The selection percentage is what I'm most interested in, but I'm super excited to see the ugly swings he gets this year when batters gear up for the 98 mile per hour fastball and get an 85 mile an hour changeup. That'll be fun. I'm not expecting Cole to be a Cy Young candidate quite yet, but it'll be very entertaining to see his progression.

  • Starling Marte's progression. It's always interesting to see how players perform after getting a contract extension. Obviously Marte isn't at the point of his career where he'd be playing for a contract yet, he's still unproven and needs to establish himself as a legitimate big league outfielder. I do think that Marte will relax a bit more this year, which good be a good thing or good be a bad thing. The guy has a crazy amount of talent, and I'm interested to see how quickly he can realize it. The power numbers will be the most interesting part to see, because he has 20+ home run potential. He probably isn't going to get there this year, but it'll be fun to see him try. The fantastic defense and high stolen base numbers will come, which adds a ton of value already, so any power numbers he can provide are just gravy.

  • The mid-season callups. This is an obvious thing that all baseball fans look forward to seeing from their team. In the last several years, this was probably the most exciting part of the Pirates season. We would have to hold out hope that our minor leaguers would come up and turn into stars so we could actually make a run at the playoffs. That's not the case this year, the big league team is good enough to be a contender as is, so anything guys like Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon can add will be added bonuses. It'll be nice to not have to put pressure on the young guys to feel like they have to help the team win. The team should be winning without them, so they can be a little more patient and comfortable when they do make their debuts. Polanco and Taillon are two special talents, and I can't wait to see them in Pirates uniforms, but it's refreshing to know that they aren't necessarily needed this year.

  • The fans reaction to everything. This is a different year for fans of the Pirates. They've seen their team have a winning season and win a playoff game, and now they want to see that happen all the time. There's never been a reason for high expectations in the pre-season and now there is. Will the fans be able to handle some early struggles? How quickly will they start to lose hope in the team? This is all new for the younger generation of fans, so it'll be interesting to see how they react. Chances are that no matter what happens the fans will piss me off in some way, but I promise to try to be reasonable and calm.

Happy Opening Day everyone!