Following up: Reduced capacity, flipping innings, 3,000 hits

Now that there’s an affirmative answer to the big question — will the city of Chicago allow fans at ballparks to open the 2021 season? — a bunch of smaller questions have bubbled up.

Over at The Athletic, Jon Greenberg wrote a helpful FAQ-style explainer for fans rich in money (“I’m rich. Will private clubs be open?”) and rich in spirit (“Can I still get drunk?”).

Assuming the new biggest question is “How can I get tickets?”, the answer is that tickets will be sold for only small chunks of the calendar at a time. Season-ticket holders will have first access, although the reduction to 20-percent capacity means most won’t have their original seats.

The Sox are only putting their first homestand (April 8-15) on sale and they will start with their most loyal customers.

“Season-ticket holders, some of which who have had their money in an account with us for 18 months, are going to go first,” Boyer said. “We will offer our season-ticket holders the option to purchase all seven games of our first homestand … Season-ticket holders will have the ability to purchase individual game tickets and then if there’s anything left after that, we will go on sale to the general public.”

The White Sox have a detailed guide answering other topics, like ballpark entry, food service, and promotions. By and large, it’s going to be as app-reliant, touchless and line-free as possible in order to reduce congregations outside of seating pods.

* * * * * * * * *

Tony La Russa had a noble point about his aversion to flipping innings. If you’re not familiar with the new lingo, with fewer bodies around the facilities during spring training this year, managers have a right to end innings (“flip” them) after a certain pitch count, rather than extend the services of a pitcher beyond his program, or require the services of an extra arm.

It makes sense, prioritizing health during games that don’t matter. Also, I’ve been to a number of spring games where a fringe pitcher is forced to wear it, and the collective misery is palpable — the embarrassment of the pitcher, the players who want their day of work to be over, the coaching staff that doesn’t want to pencil a new name on its scorecard and schedule, the fans who are probably sunburned and can’t buy more food and drink.

But those situations tended to arise in later innings with underqualified pitchers, after the outcome of the game was well in hand and the stars had already exited with their bat bags over their shoulders. It’s a little different when José Abreu doesn’t get a chance to do his thing with the bases loaded. Either way, failure builds character, or failing that, at least a distaste of failure. Sometimes it even creates an opportunity.

Regulation or not, that was the spirit of La Russa’s argument when he voiced displeasure at the idea of abbreviating innings last week.

“There’s all kinds of professional reasons why it makes sense,” La Russa said. “But fans are paying to come in games. I know they were disappointed, they voiced it several times, so from the White Sox side, we’re going to do everything we can to avoid doing it. And the way you do it, we’re going to try to get enough protection in an inning where we can maybe bring somebody, maybe from the minicamp, so we can finish the inning and the other team can score as much as they can. It’s purely the correct thing to do for fans.”

La Russa has yet to be rewarded for this integrity. Last Wednesday, Tyler Johnson and Jacob Lindgren walked six consecutive batters with two outs. On Monday, Mike Wright opened his start with a flyout, then had the next five batters reach before La Russa pulled him.

Then again, La Russa might point to Kyle Kubat entering the game with a high number (No. 91) and no name on his back, and retiring the two batters he faced to bring the inning to a miserable end. He probably wouldn’t want to point to the White Sox offense going scoreless in each of the last two games and removing the decision from the table for the other dugout.

* * * * * * * * *

Nick Madrigal took the field as a whole person for the first time this spring on Monday, going 0-for-2 over five innings as he finishes recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. His face had already been plenty visible, what with teammates wearing t-shirts with his likeness photoshopped on the movie poster for “Mr. 3000.” It’s gentle ball-busting for Madrigal saying 3,000 hits was “very reachable” on Chuck Garfien’s podcast back in January, even though he’s a mere 2,965 hits away.

Madrigal took the joshing in stride, adding that he wasn’t quite as serious as the viral quote made him sound.

‘‘The whole ‘Mr. 3,000’ and [podcast] interview and stuff kind of got taken out of context a little bit,’’ Madrigal said Monday. ‘‘During the interview, a lot of people thought I was saying it’s easy to do, something like that. But there are a very few amount of people [32] that have reached that milestone. I’m a confident person, but I know that’s out there to even say something like that.’’

As somebody who tries to be in the context game, I went back to the podcast to listen to how it originated, because NBC Sports Chicago’s stories only reference this quote:

“I’ve seen a lot of great hitters in this league growing up and watching guys. The 3,000 mark is not easy at all, there’s very few people that do it. But I feel like that’s very reachable,” he said. “I know that’s throwing a big statement out there, but I believe in myself and I know what it takes to play this game and I feel confident I can do that.

“I haven’t broke it down exactly by season, but I know it’s going to take a lot of getting on base.”

What’s left out is that 3,000 hits arose because Chuck Garfien likened Madrigal’s game to that of Nellie Fox, and detailed Fox’s Hall of Fame accomplishments. Madrigal said it all sounded good, but “I might want some more hits than 2,600.” Garfien asked if Madrigal wanted 3,000. Madrigal added “at least.”

It initially sounded like Madrigal adding a hint of knowing absurdity to his known brand of extreme confidence, but Garfien encouraged him by saying, “That’s just not a throwaway line. You actually believe — you want to do that,” and that’s when Madrigal headed down the path of “very reachable.”

Madrigal’s probably saying Nellie Fox is the context. I’d say the context is that Madrigal was presented with the idea of not achieving something, and he couldn’t bring himself to abide it. It’s harmless either way.

Imagine two people five beers in discussing their childhoods. Nobody had phones or Netflix, you pretty much had to go to Blockbuster and play mini-golf. Mini-golf was awesome. Or it used to be. Why are so many mini-golf courses lame? How hard can it be to set up a good one? Some carpet, landscaping rocks, a little bit of elevation changes. PVC pipes are cheap and easy to cut to size. Water pumps aren’t expensive for small jobs. Keeping the water algae free and mosquitos are the bigger problem with that kind of stuff, but you can probably YouTube it. The equipment’s cheap. It’s not like they’re using Odyssey putters. What if we got Odyssey putters? You could probably go to Play It Again and get a bunch of them used. Not for kids, but if the adults want to work on their short games, you’d get them in there, too. Man, I can totally see it. We could make a ton of money. At least seasonally. You might have to do something else for the winter, like…

Would they be held to the idea of reinventing mini-golf months later? No, but they might be teased about googling the price per square foot of Astroturf and who to email about zoning permits. That’s where we’re at. For now. Even though it’s a good idea and still pretty doable.

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ParisSox

Wait. Mini golf is passé already? I’m old.

XOinChargeofRadishes

The mini golf tangent reminds me of my daily internal dialogue about Japanese strategy RPGs, knowing nothing about development. Anyway, aim high Nick.

texag10

How do I invest in this mini golf enterprise you speak of?

asinwreck

Assuming the new biggest question is “How can I get tickets?”, the answer is that tickets will be sold for only small chunks of the calendar at a time.

At least to start. It’s possible the Sox are using the first homestand as a cautious rollout as they see how April goes in the park (and in Chicago). Everything seems very much a work in progress.

As White Sox senior vice-president of sales and marketing Brooks Boyer said Monday: “Until the final I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed, which happened today, we weren’t certain 100 percent what the direction would be.”

Last edited 2 years ago by asinwreck
joewho112

Hopefully this means dispensing with much of the security theater at the gates

mikeyb

What, you didn’t enjoy waiting in line for an hour in 35 degree weather to get into the stadium on opening day the past few years?

tommytwonines

I’m not a fan of flipping innings, but I hadn’t considered the horror of a coaching staff having to pencil in a new name on its scorecard.

Now I’m on the fence.

Sophist

Luckily for the White Sox, their scorecard game will be well above replacement, if Narrone has anything to do with it.

HallofFrank

I like Nick’s confidence. Just for fun I did the math and he’d need to pick up the pace a bit. In AA, AAA, & MLB so far, he’s averages .3 H/PA. Estimating 550 PA per season over 16 seasons (through age 39 season), that pace would land him at 2,675 hits.

He could get that 550 number up over 600 if he stays healthy, but hitting 9th won’t help. Being on this Sox team could work against him because it’s difficult to see a place for him at the top of the order in the next 3-5 years. But a lot could change!

texag10

Even going from 550 to 600, it’s not a huge difference (~16 hits/season). That’s not nothing but assuming he’s getting 190ish hits/season, he wouldn’t be able to shave a year off until his 12th season so he either needs to be able to play pretty much every game in a season (doubtful just given the importance of days off in today’s game), move to the top of the order (Tim runs a pace of about 625 PAs/season), or play for a really long time.

HallofFrank

But that is a huge difference! An average of 600 PA puts him at 2,915 hits going into his age 40 season. Still, I think you’re right about his path: hit at the top of the order and stay very healthy.

Which has me thinking… I assume no member of the 3,000 hit club has ever done it hitting mostly from the bottom of the order? That would be quite an accomplishment on top of an accomplishment.

LuBob DuRob

Ohhh, Mr. 3000… I thought Tim said Mission. Think I’m partial to Mission.

The innings flipping makes sense overall early in this ST specifically, but that one game seemed extreme with low twenties cutoffs.

joewho112

I didn’t realize they were flipping innings. That seems silly. I thought they were just cutting games short. I see the logic of saying you have fewer arms so you can fill out a whole game if there is a lot of offense. Not sure why that means the second inning needs to get cut short.

MrStealYoBase

I got into a bit of an argument the other day as to whether Madrigal should bat 9th (my position) or leadoff (the other guy’s argument). The difference between batting 9th or 1st is ~140-150 plate appearances over the course of a full season. I maintain that batting him 9th provides all the benefits of a high OBP in front of the best hitters in the lineup, without taking 150 plate appearances away from said best hitters and giving them to a guy who looks like he would be lucky to hit 30 XBH.

I can totally see a world where it makes sense to bat him leadoff, but that involves either 1. a much weaker overall lineup (hopefully in the distant future) or 2. Madrigal turning into a guy who reliably has an ISO above .100. Even then, I have to admit that the lizard part of my brain is going to be hard to keep in check if he’s hitting .350+ from the 9th spot. 200 hit seasons are pretty fun to watch, and nobody on the Sox has done it since Albert Belle in 1998.

Last edited 2 years ago by MrStealYoBase
GrinnellSteve

For most of the history of baseball, Madrigal would be a team’s #2 hitter. With less emphasis on stolen bases and hit and runs, his skills are less married to that spot.

Considering that our manager has been managing for most of baseball’s history, I think he’ll eventually slot Nicky there.

HallofFrank

For now, I agree with you that Madrigal should hit 9th, but let’s play devil’s advocate:

Madrigal led the team in OBP last season. His ISO, SLG, & wRC+ lag behind, but we should weight OBP more in the leadoff spot. The leadoff batter is most likely to hit without runners on base and most likely to hit before big run producers, so a high OBP is more important than, for instance, a high SLG for the leadoff batter. If he continues to run an OBP above .375 and lead the team, hitting him 9th diminishes his effectiveness.

mikeyb

I’m also interested to see if the new baseball changes anything over the course of this season or the next few years. As of now, I’m of the mind that you want guys who can hit the ball out of the park getting as many PAs as possible; the past few postseasons, we’ve seen time and again the teams that hit more home runs are dominating. But as strategies (and baseballs) change, it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m also all of a sudden calling for Madrigal to move to the top of the order.

Of course, I’m also still a bit concerned that MLB pitchers will figure out how to get him out more easily if he doesn’t add more gap power, and then this all becomes a moot point anyway.

shaggy65

Fair point, but considering the Sox’ alternatives–if we can bat a guy at #1 or #2 who gets on base at a .350 clip and has 3x the chance to hit himself to 2nd base and 15x the chance of driving himself in… That more powerful hitter is going to produce more runs, even in the first inning. And he’s absolutely going to produce more runs in subsequent innings when there could be people on base in front of him.

Old school managers worried about “wasting” home runs with no one on base. Perhaps that made sense when only 2 or 3 guys in the lineup could reliably hit home runs, but it certainly doesn’t make sense now. It’s more accurate to say that you’re “wasting” an at-bat by giving it to a player who won’t hit a homer.

Hopefully Madrigal develops some surprising pop, as players like Leury and Eaton have done, and renders this whole argument moot.

HallofFrank

It’s an interesting question. In theory, the OBP leader is an obvious candidate for lead off, but in practice the question is: can Madrigal being on base more in front of the boppers offset the runs you lose having everyone else bat one slot down in the order? I’m not sure what the answer is.

karkovice squad

If you were optimizing the lineup you wouldn’t drop everyone else down the order. You’d just bump Anderson into the bottom half.

HallofFrank

Maybe, or you just hit him 2nd. It’s hard to imagine Anderson hitting 7th again after these last 2 years. At least until he shows something different, he’s gotta be in the top 4-5.

MrStealYoBase

No doubt that hitting him 9th makes him less effective. The argument is that hitting him 1st diminishes *everyone else’s* effectiveness collectively more than it improves Madrigal’s.

karkovice squad

I think there’s a case that all the contact he makes actually makes him a good, though non-traditional candidate for batting 5-7.

He’s less likely to strikeout and strand a runner in scoring position. He’s speedy, reducing the likelihood of GIDP. He did most of his work against righties last year which makes him an outlier on the team.

The caveat is that you’d like him to drive the ball a bit more so that outfielders can’t cheat in and prevent guys from taking the extra base. That might give back some of the gains.

tommytwonines

Madrigal less likely to hit into GDPs? That’s a new one.

karkovice squad

Recall that he played last year with a messed up shoulder that he had surgically repaired. I wouldn’t take last season’s performance as predictive on that measure.

Last edited 2 years ago by karkovice squad
HallofFrank

I had the same thought as Tommy. Even ‘20 aside, Madrigal’s profile suggests he’d hit into a lot of DPs. He’s got decent speed, but he’s a slap hitter with almost no power. He makes his living in finding holes in the infield, but when he doesn’t find them the result is usually a soft ground ball.

MarketMaker

I feel attacked. I might have had this exact conversation at some point, but you could swap in any number of subjects and be referring to virtually every night out I’ve ever had.

Imagine two people five beers in discussing their childhoods. Nobody had phones or Netflix, you pretty much had to go to Blockbuster and play mini-golf. Mini-golf was awesome. Or it used to be. Why are so many mini-golf courses lame? How hard can it be to set up a good one? Some carpet, landscaping rocks, a little bit of elevation changes. PVC pipes are cheap and easy to cut to size. Water pumps aren’t expensive for small jobs. Keeping the water algae free and mosquitos are the bigger problem with that kind of stuff, but you can probably YouTube it. The equipment’s cheap. It’s not like they’re using Odyssey putters. What if we got Odyssey putters? You could probably go to Play It Again and get a bunch of them used. Not for kids, but if the adults want to work on their short games, you’d get them in there, too. Man, I can totally see it. We could make a ton of money. At least seasonally. You might have to do something else for the winter, like…