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September 26, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Farewell

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David Pinto

Wrapping up a season of fun to head for other shores.

The end of the regular season brings an end to The Big Picture, as I'll be departing for the Sporting News to do a weekly column at their site. I want to thank everyone at Baseball Prospectus for the opportunity to contribute to this fine publication. Christina Kahrl deserves a special "thank you" for her excellent work editing my pieces; week after week, she turned my rough sentences into prose.

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September 19, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Thoughts on the Postseason

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David Pinto

Rejiggering the playoffs has already paid dividends--might even more be in order?

With the postseason rapidly approaching, let me offer praise to Major League Baseball. Since the introduction of the three-division format in 1994, tweaks in the first-round format improved the League Division Series (LDS), especially in terms of fairness. Awarding home field based on a rotating schedule switched to winning percentage, keeping division winners playing meaningful games longer. The two-three format gave way to the two-two-one series, ensuring the teams with the better record two home games. In this case, baseball listened to its critics, and acted accordingly.

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September 12, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Never Enough Pitching?

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David Pinto

The increasing number of pitchers crowding big league rosters hasn't improved the quality of a club's performance from its hurlers.

The increase in scoring over the last fifteen years is taken as a sign of the decline in the quality of pitchers, either through a lack of ability or a dilution of talent. As pitching has declined, however, the number of pitchers used has increased. Does this make sense, or is this a logical contradiction? If a team's roster consists of ten people pitching poorly, why would adding an eleventh or twelfth arm improve things? To be clear, roster management changed to add pitchers rather than look for the best nine or ten pitchers to carry on a team. Why did this strategy develop?

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September 5, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Raiding or Raising the East?

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David Pinto

Will MLB live down to its past when it comes to its relationship with Japan?

Professional Japanese baseball faces an uncertain future. With the success of Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, the World Baseball Classic win, and the hoopla surrounding Daisuke Matsuzaka, Major League Baseball sees Japan as a new pool of talent for North American teams. Through the posting system and soon through signing talent out of school, the one-way flow of stars from the Eastern to the Western Hemisphere could drain talent from the Far East. Unless talent--star talent--actually flows both ways across the Pacific, the Japanese major leagues may slide into outright dependence on Major League Baseball instead of becoming a major league equal.

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August 29, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Free Trade Amateurs

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David Pinto

The influx of international talent of the game has a relationship to the ways in which the industry works with all amateur talent.

The completion of the Little League World Series served to remind me of the growth in international baseball. There's reason to think about that, now more than ever now that 28 percent of baseball players in 2006 were born outside of the United States, the highest percentage of all time. With the introduction of the World Baseball Classic, Major League Baseball now actively promotes the game around the world. The hoped-for growth in the popularity of the game promises to expand the talent available to teams, which should make the game even stronger.

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August 22, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Re-calculating the Save

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David Pinto

Who ends up getting the credit if we let the act define the stat, instead of the other way around?

Two weeks ago I proposed a new way of defining saves. The save had been instituted to reward the evolving role of the fireman, the reliever who came into a game in a tight situation to save the day. However, today's closer rarely faces a game on the line situation, unless he creates it himself. The rule defined the role over the years, turning saves into relatively passive activities. It's time to refine the rule, or introduce a more active statistic to move the closer back to the role intended, the pitcher who saves the day.

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Perhaps the time has come to adapt a rule to define who's actually putting out the fires for teams in ballgames.

Back in 1973, in the days when Sparky Lyle and Tug McGraw toiled in the late innings for the New York teams, Bruce Stark of the New York Daily News drew a series of caricatures of the Yankees and Mets. (Here's the Tom Seaver drawing from the series.) When he drew the closers, Stark depicted Sparky and Tug as firemen, a title that stuck to all relievers. That term eventually disappeared from the lexicon of relief pitching-in 2001, the Sporting News changed the name of their award for relievers from Fireman of the Year to Reliever of the Year. By 2000, the closer no longer waited in the bullpen to put out the fire.

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August 1, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Analyzing the Umpires

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David Pinto

David takes a stroll through some data to see if there are any umpires who might favor the underdog a little too much.

The last column in this series wondered about the possibility of an NBA-like referee scandal happening with Major League umpires. The structure of the game makes that difficult, but I'd like to back that up with research. Now, with data in hand, I'd like to explore if there are umpires who are kind to either favorites or underdogs. With help from Retrosheet, home-plate umpires from 2000 through 2006 will be scored on the probability of the winning percentage of game favorites fitting the expectation. This covers the time period since the mass resignation of umpires in 1999.

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July 29, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Gambling on Umpires

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David Pinto

Further thoughts on what's at stake in the Donaghy scandal.

On July 19, the news hit that an investigation of point-shaving by an NBA referee was underway. Preventing a team from beating the spread is an ambiguous way of fixing games. The person or persons involved in the deception don't want a team to lose a game, just not win by very much, so in theory, bottom line won-lost records shouldn't be altered by point-shaving, just the stats of individual players. That's very different from the Black Sox scandal of 1919, when baseball players actually played to lose the World Series. People involved in point-shaving might feel they're not really hurting anyone, since the actual outcome of the game should remain the same.

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July 18, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Whose Commissioner?

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David Pinto

The Age of Bud won't last forever. What do we do when it ends?

In a recent post at my blog on Mark Cuban's interest in buying the Cubs, this comment caught my attention:

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The television ratings for the All-Star Game have been in decline for a quarter-century.

The All-Star Game first made its way to nighttime television in 1967. In the first 15 years of the broadcast, the game was a ratings juggernaut--from 1967 to 1982, the stars consistently pulled a rating around 25, meaning one quarter of households with televisions watched the game. Of the televisions on in that time frame, the share was steady in the mid-40s, sometimes as high as 50. Since 1982, however, ratings and shares have steadily declined. Why did the decline happen, and what can be done to raise them again?

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June 27, 2007 12:00 am

The Big Picture: Competitive Sharing

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David Pinto

Dave suggests changes to the CBA that would give teams an incentive to draw on the road.

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