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January 2, 2013

The Lineup Card

8 Baseball Resolutions

by Baseball Prospectus

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‚Äč1. The Yankees Resolve to Quit Acting Like the Pirates
The Yankees are going to cede the title of having the highest payroll in baseball to the Dodgers this upcoming season. It will be the first time since 1998 that the Yankees haven’t topped the game in spending; the Orioles were the payroll kings that year. However, who would have guessed the Yankees would be taking a backseat to such small-market teams as the Pirates and Indians when it comes to spending this winter? Owner Hal Steinbrenner is resolute that the Yankees will not top the $189-million luxury tax threshold in 2014. Thus, the Yankees are holding the line on any contracts extending beyond 2013. Heck, they allowed the Pirates to sign away catcher Russell Martin for two years and $17 million. Another former Yankee, right fielder Nick Swisher, signed a four-year, $56-million deal with the Indians. The Yankees’ frugality is puzzling. They still generate more revenue than any team in the game, so their resolution should be simple: They should go back to being the Yankees, instead of searching for money in couch cushions. —John Perrotto

2. Use MiLB.tv More Frequently
Last year was the first in which I had a subscription to MiLB.tv. I enjoyed having it, though the quality of some of the games that were broadcast was less than stellar. While I liked it, I used it far too infrequently. I love keeping up with prospect analysis, and being able to watch some of the most talented youngsters in baseball play on my laptop from the comfort of my own home is a luxury I intend on taking advantage of to a greater degree this season. —Josh Shepardson

3. The AL and the NL Acknowledge Their Relationship
The American and National Leagues are like those two people that you know who are always together, flirt with each other constantly, and whom everyone assumes are a couple, and yet they swear that they aren't. But the reality is that if I could bottle the sexual tension between them, I could solve the energy crisis (a billion points for that reference). They started off very separate leagues, but over time, they've grown together. It started off with trading between leagues and the All-Star Game, and then free agency let players move between leagues with ease. Over the last few years, we've seen interleague (fore?)play, and this year, they'll be doing it every day. They've moved into the same office together. Teams have moved between leagues. The AL ad NL even have the same last name. This new year, they should resolve to just make it official. The American and National League should stop pretending that they aren't a couple.

Oh sure, they can keep the names for branding purposes, and the World Series can still match the champions of each conference (erm, league). The All-Star Game is rather charming, so it can stay. But when a player gets traded from one league to another, we need to stop pretending that his stats start over at zero. Ask Mark McGwire, who in 1997 hit a grand total of 58 homers, but hit 34 for the A's before being traded to the Cardinals and hitting 24 more. History records that Ken Griffey Jr. (with 56) won the AL title, and Larry Walker (49) the NL title. And just like a couple doesn't need two microwaves and two sets of dishes, there's increasingly little justification for having two sets of awards (MVP, Cy Young, etc.). Yeah, there's that little DH thing. Every couple has something that they squabble over. But seriously, would the two of you just do it and get it over with? —Russell A. Carleton

4. Don't Overreact to April Happenings
Every year, April brings the same things—small samples, and the people who attempt to analyze them. Teams seem to be rather well-behaved, actually, in the whole. It's fans and the people who study the game who sometimes tend to overreact to what a player does in the course of a few weeks or a few months.

The games in April are meaningful, they are important, and they are fun. What they aren't is particularly predictive, compared to what we know going into a season. Often the season's biggest surprises will have an out-of-character April performance, but far more often a player or team that performs abnormally in the early going will tend back toward something more in keeping with expectations. Reacting to every performance as if it's a harbinger of things to come is far more likely to be an overreaction than not. So this year, I urge fans and analysts to resolve to take April for what it is, and not for what it isn't. —Colin Wyers

5. The Padres Resolve Their TV Dispute
The Padres resolve to broadcast their games on TV throughout all of San Diego. Letting fans watch baseball on TV, once considered radical, reportedly has succeeded in other markets. With more than 40 percent of households blacked out for the entire 2012 season due to an ongoing cable dispute and interest in the team waning, now might be a good time to reach out to the people of San Diego. They helped pay for Petco Park. Why not let them pay for the privilege of watching their home team on TV as well? —Geoff Young

6. A Resolution on the Oakland Athletics' San Jose Move
This is that resolution you have to go to the gym. You've told yourself before that this will be the year. But this time, seriously, you swear, this is the year.

It's been three-going-on-four years since the formation of Bud Selig's panel on the Athletics' potential South Bay move. As recently as October, it has been just silence. It's an unfortunate situation for a very well-run ballclub and one that, if you listen to certain decision-makers, needs resolution on the stadium issue to plan its future on the baseball side. So whether it's a straight yes/no answer or an arrangement like the Baltimore/Washington settlement, put this one on the calendar for 2013.

It's been said before, but seriously, this is the year. —Zachary Levine

7. Abandon the "Proven Closer" Paradigm
A lot of virtual ink has been spilled over the bullpen-usage methodology that predominates in Major League Baseball these days. Essentially, contemporary bullpens are configured and deployed in a way that allows one pitcher to pursue a decidedly hollow statistic known as the save. Pitchers who attain a critical mass of saves over the course of several seasons are often branded as Proven Closers.

“Oh, you preserved your team’s three-run lead by retiring the opposition’s 7,8,9 hitters? You do deserve some sort of statistical recognition that bespeaks your unparalleled pitching mastery!”

But despite the popularity of this closer-centric paradigm, it’s probably not the most effective way to manage a bullpen. It’s just something that everyone seems to do, like employing Edwin Jackson. As Colin Wyers aptly states, this tendency to reserve closers solely for save opportunities limits a team’s ability to use (presumably) its best relief pitcher in the situations with the highest leverage. Wyers also notes there’s been but a negligible increase in a team’s ability to close out tight games in the ‘closer era,’ stating that “the modern innovation of the closer has allowed teams to preserve one additional one-run lead in the ninth inning every two seasons or so.”

These facts and figures haven’t yet swayed the minds of baseball’s tactical decision-makers—20 teams had a pitcher register at least 31 save opportunities in 2012—but let’s hope that in 2013, more skippers resolve to break this myopic trend and use their best relievers in the most important situations, as devastating as that may be to your fantasy team. —Jonah Birenbaum

8. Giancarlo Stanton Resolves to Hit Lots of Long Homers... Everywhere
Giancarlo Stanton resolves to set the record for longest home run in each and every major-league ballpark he plays in in 2013. And if Stanton does ever get traded from Miami, this resolution will be one of the few good things about it. He could set the record in all 30 ballparks in one year! —Larry Granillo

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