Hitting For The Cycle: Unwritten Rules, Plate Collisions, Diminished Offense, and Mapping Fans

Single: Grading the Unwritten Rules: Jed Lowrie and Bunting With a Big Lead by Grant Brisbee (SB Nation)

One of my biggest pet peeves in baseball is the preponderance of baseball’s so-called “unwritten rules”. No one knows what exactly these unwritten rules are, just that they exist and that no one has taken the time to crowd-source the baseball literati and codify them – except for Jason Turbow. People like Brian McCann decide to make up their own stipulations that only they can enforce, such as blocking home plate on a home run.

Last week, Former Nationals Great and current Astros manager Bo Porter took it upon himself to pick a fight with Jed Lowrie and the rest of the Oakland A’s roster over a simple bunt. Let me set the scenario for you, the A’s (predictably) busted open a first inning lead over the lowly Astros at which point the Astros had just a 3% chance of winning the game, per FanGraphs. Still in the first inning, Jed Lowrie came up for the second time, and Bo Porter’s defense decided to shift into their Lowrie Position and Lowrie proceeded to try to bunt for a hit. Though he was thrown out to end the inning, Bo Porter took umbrage with the fact that he was bunting for a hit up seven runs in the first, despite the fact that he was shifting his defense.

I’m a big Porter fan, but he was way off base in getting his pitcher to intentionally throw at Lowrie his next time up – thrice. The point stands that these unwritten rules are way out of hand, and someone should plunk everyone that tries to enforce them.

Quote: “If you’re still trying, so is the other team. That’s an unwritten rule for you. Stop being so sensitive, baseball people.”

Double: The Battle Over the Battle Over Home Plate is Worth Fighting by Rob Neyer (Fox Sports)

Any frequent Nats Talk On The Go listener knows that Joe and I both hated the “new” MLB Plate Collision rule which, in fact, didn’t change anything at all. As we have seen throughout the first month of the season, MLB has already changed its “new interpretation” of the transfer rule, and it’s time we see a change in the Plate Collision rule.

Neyer goes on to show that, once again, a rule that was meant to help make umpires jobs easier is actually making their jobs harder while wasting time during already prolonged games. Brilliantly, he sums up exactly what the problem was in the first place – a change in rule to protect the catchers is not meant to do that at all and if player safety is really the issue in the first place than just ban collisions in general.

Quote: “You see the problem? Yes, the catcher may block the plate when he’s got the ball. But here he’s blocking the plate before he’s got the ball. Yes, you might argue that he’s not blocking the plate … because you’re not in the act of blocking the plate unless there’s someone to block.”

Triple: Slump City: Why Does the 2014 MLB Season Suddenly Feel Like 1968? by Jonah Keri (Grantland)

In last week’s Hitting for the Cycle, I touched briefly on the drastic decline in offense in the post-PED era, and in this piece, Keri brings out the hard facts. Take, for example, that the .248 MLB Batting Average through last week would be the lowest of the new millennium – actually it’s the worst since 1972, which was the year before the American League introduced the Designated Hitter.

There is a fantastic discussion on episode 431 of Baseball Prospectus’ daily podcast Effectively Wild going over many of these facts and figures.

What other reasons could there possibly be for this collapse in offense: PEDs, Strikeouts, Defensive Shifts, etc. This piece does a great job trying to define all of the possible explanations for baseball going from the greatest offensive period in history to one of the worst seemingly overnight. If this continues, don’t be shocked if MLB changes the structure of baseballs, lowers the mound, or expands the strike zone in the coming offseason.

Quote: “One way or another, the batting average decline will likely stop as well.”

Home Run: A Map of Baseball Nation by The New York Times

This is not an article. Sorry. But it’s really freaking cool.

About a month ago, Facebook released a map of data featuring territories of MLB fandom throughout the United States. The New York Times actually took that simplified data and sorted through the information based on US zip codes and ranked each one with their top three favorite MLB teams based on percentage. Go through the map, find your hometown, find your birth town, and then find something silly – not even Oakland likes the A’s!

About Craig MacHenry

Writer for The Nats Blog and co-host of Nats Talk On The Go podcast