Ratings for the MLB All-Star Game were up this year, but does that really tell the whole story?
Television ratings are a funny thing. The spin that can come out of the numbers can drive reports in wildly divergent directions. In sports, ratings can be spun to say that the popularity of a given league or club is high or low, depending on those feeding the information. Of course, leagues and clubs love to tout growth, while detractors can spin numbers negatively. For Major League Baseball, ratings have been used to show that the game’s popularity is on the rise, while others have pounded keys to say that it’s a “dying sport.”
So, which one is it? As is often the case in data analysis, the truth can lie in the middle. Before we get started, let’s give a quick primer on what the ratings numbers mean.
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Ten years later, we look back at the tied 2002 All-Star Game.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
On July 9, 2002, the All-Star Game ended in a tie. Joe Sheehan, often a critic of Bug Selig, agreed with the way Selig handled the situation (if not the decisions that allowed it to happen) in the piece reprinted below, which originally ran as a "Daily Prospectus" column on July 16.
Tim Raines has his case re-examined, and the remainder of the Hall ballot gets a look.
We all have our pet projects. With the graduations of Bert Blyleven and Ron Santo to the Hall of Fame, mine is now Tim Raines. During his 23-year major-league career, Raines combined the virtues of a keen batting eye, dazzling speed, and all-around athleticism with a cerebral approach that made him an electrifying performer and a dangerous offensive weapon. Yet in four years on the ballot, he's reached just 37.5 percent of the vote, exactly half of what he needs to reach Cooperstown.
In his fifth Asian Equation column, Michael looks at the relievers who have enjoyed modest success--and failure--making the move from Japan to America.
The last group in my analysis of the player’s who have migrated to MLB from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) are the relievers, the least appreciated members of a successful baseball team. Yet, of all NPB imports, they have been the most numerous (explaining the length of this article, for which I apologize in advance) and the cheapest. Diminished quality is the most obvious reason for these extremes, since starters who don’t meet MLB standards get shifted to the bullpen, and lesser talents also keep salaries down. Additionally, the typical NPB pitcher’s arsenal matches well with an MLB reliever’s skillset.
As I discussed in my last Asian Equation article, NPB is a breaking ball league, which translates better to relief than starting. A good breaking ball might fool major league hitters the first or second time they see it in a game, but it probably won’t the third or fourth time. As an illustration, here’s how batter OPS rises against two of the biggest NPB starting-pitcher busts as compared with three current MLB pitchers: the best, the most mediocre, and an old junkballer. While MLB batters’ performance improves against each pitcher the more times they see him in a game, the change is far more dramatic with Matsuzaka and Kawakami.
Wrapping up the Fall Classic with some quick hits about the Giants and Rangers.
The 2010 World Series is in the books with the Giants having won their first world championship since 1954, back when they called Upper Manhattan's Polo Grounds home and no major-league team played ball west of the Mississippi River or south of the Ohio River. While the series certainly provided a handful of memorable moments that shone the spotlight on deserving superstars, unlikely heroes, and freaks with ill-considered beards, this fall classic didn't exactly fall into the “classic” category. For the sixth time in the past seven years and the ninth time in a baker's dozen, the series was over before a Game Six could be played. The team that scored first won every game after Game One, and in fact not a single lead changed hands after the fifth inning in any game. While the match-up may have meant the world to the long-suffering fans of both the Giants and the Rangers (who'd never even won a playoff series before this fall), to those of us without a dog in the hunt, it was notable mostly as the last oasis of baseball for the next three-and-a-half months.
As technology changes, so do election patterns for the Midsummer Classic.
In America’s pastime, as in its politics, democracy is a wonderful but fragile thing. Ten years after Major League Baseball first gave its fans the option to vote for the starting lineups in the All-Star Game, Commissioner Ford Frick took it away again after 1957, when Cincinnati fans stuffed the ballot boxes to elect all but one Reds' starter. This was not even a spontaneous upsurge of local pride: through the late spring, the Cincinnati Enquirer had printed ballots to distribute them easily to fans, and local bars even required customers to fill out ballots before they would be served. Not until 1970 were the fans put back in charge of picking the starters, but it’s been in their hands ever since—even surviving another sabotage attempt when Massachusetts hacker Chris Nandor was able to create a program that voted for Nomar Garciaparra nearly 40,000 times to edge out Derek Jeter.
Can the All-Star Game fulfill any element of its proposition to a serious skeptic?
I'll admit, I've been an All-Star skeptic for a long, long, long time. When I was blessed with the absolute certainty of youth, I would derisively laugh off the All-Star Game as merely a baseball-flavored entertainment. I haven't watched any portion of an All-Star Game since seeing Bo Jackson turn Rick Reuschel into the All-Star Game's answer to Craig Ehlo back in 1989*, usually treating the break as just that, a time to relax and review, what had happened and what could be coming, both before and after the launch of Baseball Prospectus for 1996.
That didn't change even now that the contest “counts,” a product of Czarist pique and union tractability after the embarrassment of the tie of 2002. It's not a worse idea than the previous method of letting World Series home-field advantage be alternated annually, but as someone who figures that home-field advantage should simply belong to the team with the best record—especially if we're going to have interleague play—it isn't exactly the sort of thing that makes you settle into your seat, intent on the outcome because of what's at stake.
Despite jocularity in press conferences, both teams know that there are a few things at stake in tonight's contest.
St. LOUIS-For some segment of the audience, Bob Costas became the conscience of baseball somewhere along the line, but on Monday, the marquee talent on the fledgling MLB Network took a step back from that weighty role and became the wise-cracking host of the All-Star Game press conference, in which both managers revealed their lineups for tonight's game at Busch Stadium. When it came time to announce the starting pitcher for the American League, Costas said, "representing, at least for the moment, the Toronto Blue Jays, Roy Halladay." Halladay shot back, "Not looking forward to this part of it."
Wrapping up the JAWS rankings for this year's Hall of Fame eligibles.
Finally, we come to the pitchers on the BBWAA ballot for the Hall of Fame, a mercifully short list this time around, featuring four holdovers and three newcomers. Among this group, Bert Blyleven is the standout, and while he's certainly no lock to gain election this time around, he jumped to nearly 62 percent in last year's vote, suggesting that the work done by statheads here and elsewhere to boost his candidacy is finally getting through to the voters.
The head of Seattle's new Department of Statistical Research elaborates on the ins and outs and evolution of baseball analysis.
A new era of Mariners baseball began when Seattle hired Jack Zduriencik as their general manager following the 2008 season, an era that will include an increased emphasis on statistical analysis. Helping to lead that charge will be Tony Blengino, who previously served as Milwaukee's assistant director of amateur scouting under Zduriencik, and now holds the title of special assistant to the general manager, baseball operations. A chief financial officer and author of the book Future Stars, before joining organized baseball in 2003, Blengino will head Seattle's newly created Department of Statistical Research. Blengino talked about his new role, and how the Mariners hope to build a championship-caliber team through a perfect marriage between traditional scouting and statistical analysis.
The Mets wrestle with their options down the stretch, the Astros don't stop believing, and news from around the majors.
For those who do not believe that things can change in a hurry in baseball, we present the New York Mets. The Mets were in a full-fledged panic at the beginning of the week when they dropped an ugly 7-5 decision to the Pirates at Shea Stadium. The Mets had led 5-1 after six innings, and then watched their bullpen (sans injured closer Billy Wagner) give up three runs in the seventh inning and three more in the ninth. A day later, interim manager Jerry Manuel said he would seriously consider resorting to drastic measures by moving one of his starting pitchers (left-hander Oliver Perez or right-handers John Maine and Mike Pelfrey) to the pen to serve as the interim closer, and subsequently as the primary set-up man once Wagner returned. "It's a pennant race, and you do everything you can to stay in a pennant race," Manuel said.