Friday, March 31, 2023

Diamondbacks Displeased with Dodger Power Output

Dodger Stadium got new LED lights this offseason. They're brighter, they're designed to reduce glare and improve quality, and now they can incorporate color. And the Diamondbacks aren't happy about it.

“I wasn’t too pleased about that,” [Diamondbacks manager Torey] Lovullo said. “It’s the first game for everybody. Hopefully they figure it out. I’ll definitely bring it up with my group here in the front office here and just see what they think about doing. I don’t think anything was done maliciously. I just think they hit the wrong button at the wrong time and they need to be better at that.”

My first game of the year will be a day game, so I won't be able to see the light show in action. I did notice, in watching highlights of Game 1's 8-2 victory, that the light effects seemed to be a little aggressive.

I suppose the biggest remedy for this, from the Diamondbacks' perspective, is to allow fewer Dodger runs. But by the same token, I'd prefer to be able to watch the game as well, rather than see runners take an extra-base hit under strobe effects. Let's have the light guy keep it in the pants a bit.

Faster Baseball Games Means Less Time To Drink (And Pour) Beer

graph courtesy New York Times Upshot

We all saw this coming, but now it's here: major league baseball games are a heck of a lot faster, with the pitch clock implementation of 2023. Spring training was a key indication, with games shortening by 26 minutes (from 3:03 average time to 2:35. And having attended a Dodgers Spring Training game in Camelback this year, I have to tell you, it's a different experience as a spectator and fan. Tim Kurkjian over at ESPN had warned me that his first time watching the game, he couldn't take his eyes off the field because he was afraid of missing something. And that's how it felt, watching Dustin May deliver pitches to the plate so quickly even with men on base.

Pitchers are probably going to have the biggest adjustment to this new rule, which turns baseball into more of a momentum game like volleyball or basketball--you can't get a sideout or take a timeout to stop a coming snowball from accumulating mass and speed. And along with the shorter game time, that same NYT Upshot piece also found that the average hits per hour had a sharp increase as well, now 6.1 hits per hour from 5.3 last year.

So what does this mean for fans?

Less time to drink beer. Yep, this is going to lead to some serious binge drinking at the ballpark, especially if they continue to cut off beer sales at the end of the seventh inning. The Dodgers-Diamondbacks game last night lasted only 2:35 and that's with 10 runs scored; we had two games go as short as 2:14 in duration on Opening Day 2023. Thankfully, Dodger Stadium recently implemented beer sales at one's seat. Those vendors are going to have to be as fleet footed as the batboys and ballboys will need to be under these new 2023 rules.

Does this mean that we'll have the travesty of foamy beer pours in the aisles, from flustered mobile beer vendors looking to increase their throughput time? Let's hope not (and I prefer to pour my own beer, anyway). But who speaks for the beer drinker, when everyone is just speaking for the casual baseball fan? Beer drinkers have rights, too!

I'll be at the Stadium Sunday afternoon to see this in action. Will report back.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Opening Series Thread (Games 1-4): Mar 30 - Apr 2 vs. Diamondbacks

Thur Mar 30 7p: Julio Urias vs. Gallen
Fri Mar 31 7p: Dustin May vs. Kelly
Sat Apr 1 6p: Clayton Kershaw vs. Bumgarner
Sun Apr 2 1p: Noah Syndergaard vs. Davies

For the first time in a long time, the Dodgers enter this season without a groundswell of optimism, thanks to a largely somnambulent offseason where the Dodgers lost more WAR than any other team, driving them to a overall net WAR loss of -11.5. As states, this has driven many projection models and pundits to sound the alarm bells for the Dodgers, and though they have the highest uncertainty in 2023 win projections, some (like ESPN's Buster Olney) pick the Dodgers to not even finish on top of the division at year's end (Olney picked the Padres to win the 2023 World Series).

It's also not clear how all of MLB's rule changes will affect the Dodgers (let alone any other team in baseball). The pitch clock should help Dodgers pitching, most of whom tend to be quick operators. Banning the shift should help lift Max Muncy's batting average, not to mention highlight the defensive skill sets of new pickup Miguel Rojas (our starting shortstop, since Gavin Lux is out for the season) and rookie Miguel Vargas (who couldn't swing the bat for most of spring training due to an injured hand). And I'm still on the fence on whether the larger bases will really drive more stolen bases--the risk of injury to a runner is still a pretty major deterrent individually, even if teams or their statisticians may want it--but figure the bigger bases might be a benefit to the run-happy Dodgers (9th in the MLB last year for team SB), even with the departure of speedsters like Trea Turner and Cody Bellinger.

But let's get back to that WAR calculation with just some pure math. Sharpen your pencils! The Dodgers won 111 games last year, so with a net loss of -11.5 WAR, so that puts us as 99 wins for 2023. The Padres won 89 games last year, and even with their vaunted lineup of Juan Soto, Xander Boegarts, Manny Machado, and the eventual return of PED-user Fernando Tatis Jr.--they also had a net WAR loss of -0.6, which would put them at 88 games for 2023. 99 > 88. Dodgers still win the NL West.

I was debating this issue with SoSG Dusty Baker at this past weekend's spring training game @ Camelback Ranch, and I still think a 22-game gap (from 2022) will be difficult to close in one season. The math says that we'll see half that gap close, but it's still an 11-game lead. Not to mention, I'm sure Dodgers GM Andrew Friedman has some tricks up his sleeve, should the Dodgers get out to a solid start in 2023.

And that 2023 start commences today. Let's go, Dodgers. I'll be there Sunday afternoon (along with SoSG Alex Cora), when it would be great if we were able to watch Thor complete a series sweep of the Snakes.