To save baseball,it must be ruined

The Cincinnati Reds take the field for their first day of spring training baseball workouts, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, in Goodyear, Ariz. Matt York  | AP

The way the big shots in baseball are trying to speed up the game, you’d think that people were forced at gunpoint to watch it.

True, baseball may be a game that time and smartphones have passed by. To watch a baseball game requires patience, and — gasp — conversation with the person you subjected to the spectacle.

Now, officials are taking aim at the problem of games that go beyond nine innings, in a bid to placate fans who have to get up to work the next morning, but who apparently are unaware that you can get up and leave anytime you want.

The solution is that baseball may start the extra innings with a runner on second. It’ll be tested out in the low minor leagues first but the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Bill Livingston reported this week that it’s a sure bet to happen at the Major League level.

Attention spans resemble those of puppies these days. If many people don’t have the time to read a book or a newspaper, they don’t have time watch a baseball game decided by four runs for over four hours.

The Designated Runner (DR) or whatever they’re going to call him, is a shiny object for some fans’ debatable powers of concentration, which offers the possibility of a quick outcome.

But it strips away the layers upon layers of accumulated tension that makes baseball special.

The odds, of course, are that a team is more likely to score a run if it starts with a runner on second. The sooner that happens, the sooner fans — that’s an odd word for anyone who would watch the travesty — can go home and browse Twitter.

But Kevin Knudson, who writes mathy things for Forbes, points out what the baseball execs miss: the odds of both teams scoring a run increases, leaving the likelihood that the game would be extended.

So what’s the probability that a game ends after 10 innings under the new scheme? Now the probabilities of the first two scenarios are both 0.633 × 0.367 = 0.232311. As above, the probability of the third event is negligible and so we can expect a 46.46% chance a game will end after 10 innings. Let’s round that up to 50% just to be safe.

To sum up: this rather drastic rule change, one that flies in the face of 150 years of tradition, will give MLB about a 6% increase in the likelihood of ending a game after 10 innings. Similar analysis tells us that we can expect about 75% of games to end in no more than 11 innings while the current rate is about 69%. Doesn’t seem worth it, does it?

If baseball wanted to speed up the game, he says, it could shorten the time between innings — less TV commercial time — and stop allowing hitters to step out of the box between innings.

The league could also stop with the practice of suspending games because it might rain in a few minutes.

Locally, the Twins could solve the problem by putting better squads on the field so fans wouldn’t care so much how long the game is going.

Like that’s going to happen.

(h/t: Tom Weber)