Lindbergh: Baseball has a red-zone channel

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on August 29, 2016, with mention of SABR member Dan Hirsch:

No successful sports league publicly apologizes for its play as often as Major League Baseball. Almost weekly, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred reaffirms his commitment to trimming the fat from the game: less time between pitches, less time between innings, and fewer pitching changes; maybe not fewer innings, but fine, fewer games. Baseball is the big eater who’s living large but perpetually promising that a diet is about to begin.

Many devoted fans don’t care if baseball cuts back; for them, the attraction remains strong, even if the sport has put on a few pounds. But the impulse to appeal to potential fans by curbing the sport’s excesses is sound. As the only American megasport not governed by a clock, baseball tends toward entropy. Last year, the league instituted several time-saving measures and sliced several minutes from its inflated 2014 game times. This year, without rolling back the new rules, MLB has given back half of those gains, which makes it more likely that the pitch clock successfully installed at Double-A and Triple-A in 2015 will soon be coming to a big league ballpark near you.


Last year, Dan Brooks of the pitch-tracking site Brooks Baseball wrote a simple script that he called MLB.TV Redzone, a nod to the popular NFL RedZone channel that cuts to live action whenever a team enters scoring range. The Redzone script made each user’s MLB.TV seem almost sentient, turning it into a suspense-seeking missile. Relying on a constant stream of stats and scores from MLB’s “Gameday” data feed, Redzone calculated every game’s leverage index — a measure of how critical (and thus, how pressure-packed) any scenario in a given game is — in real time. When the leverage index of another game exceeded that of the game the viewer was watching, Redzone instructed MLB.TV to switch to the higher-LI event.

Redzone was exciting but bare-bones, single-minded in its pursuit of high stakes. Earlier this season, Dan Hirsch, proprietor of historical stats and analysis site The Baseball Gauge, built on Brooks’s concept and assembled a more fully featured script, which he recently renamed the “MLB.TV Game Changer.” (Get it?) I tried Game Changer for a few days last week, which was enough to make me a convert, although your mileage may vary depending on the way you watch the sport.

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Originally published: August 29, 2016. Last Updated: August 29, 2016.