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Slow and Steady the Course for Success

Posted By Stephanie Geosits On Apr 17 2010 @ 8:28 am In New York Yankees | No Comments

The Yankees followed up a 2-1 series with the Angels with a rain-shortened win to open the three-game Texas matchup, showing signs that it’s business as usual in the Bronx.

In my last post I mentioned that I had a few ideas about the length of games and specifically why the Yankees play such long ones. Let me know what you think:

I think the longer games saga began with expansion and the phenomenon of situational relief, which seemed to show up around the same time, perhaps out of necessity.

With the addition of new teams, came the need for new players – specifically arms. Pitchers who would still be in the minors in the past are now on major league rosters (barely) and the only place managers can put them is in middle relief. It would make sense that figuring out what these middle relievers did best (if it became clear that they would never crack the rotation or ascend to the role of closer) seems logical, too, so if there were only a handful of batters they could work well against and a manager can shield them from facing others, why not?

So, how does this all affect the length of games, specifically Yankees games?

Starting in the mid-90s the Yankees added some very disciplined hitters to their lineup including Wade Boggs and Paul O’Neill. With the introduction of the Joe Torre era, and a bit more of a National League style – taking pitches, stealing bases, hitting and running – hitters became far more selective at the plate. More pitches equal longer games in general, but that’s not all.

The current Yankees lineup can score runs without a problem, and the hitters know that if they are facing a tough starter, they can wear him down by working the count until that bullpen door opens, and then, quite literally, it’s a whole new ballgame.

If the Bombers can tap into the relief corps of mediocre to bad bullpens, they can turn a game around in very little time. And let’s face it, when a pitcher is in trouble, he takes more time and stalls, hoping that there is someone behind him to back him up. Struggling pitchers also lead to multiple visits to the mound by coaches and managers and, eventually, more pitching changes – all of which take time.

So yes, Yankees games do take long, but that’s part of the strategy of a great offense.

Do they take too long? If MLB were truly concerned, and I’m not sure the league is, it would look at the umpires first, because if anyone can try to control the tempo of the game, they might be capable of doing so. I would suggest a rule change (which would never fly) but would work: any reliever who enters a game must pitch to a minimum of three batters unless he ends an inning. This stops the pitching change per batter drag, but because so many careers depend on the middle relief roles, it’s doubtful this would ever happen.

What do you think?

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