Baseball has a density problem. The ratio of “minutes of action” over “total minutes played” is low. Consider for example, the “no-hitter” pitched by Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies. Not a single opposing player was able to reach first base because of his performance. Baseball is essentially a duel between pitcher and batter. If there was a way to trade out some of the pitching duel for more field play, baseball would be less boring.
For this month’s LAB, let’s apply the corporate innovation method, SIT, to find potential improvements to the game of baseball. The method is based on five patterns inherent in many innovative products. By extracting and applying those patterns, we can innovate anything. For baseball, we will apply Attribute Dependency tool. Here is how it works.
We start with a list of attributes (variables) of the game of baseball. Then we create combinations of those attributes with an eye towards creating a correlation between them. As one attribute changes, so does the other. This becomes our hypothetical solution to which we work backwards to see if it solves a problem or adds value. In the case where there is already a dependency between attributes, we artificially break it and see what benefit it might deliver. For example, there is no dependency between runs scored and the inning played. We would change this by creating a new dependency where the value of a run changes as the inning changes. For example, a team earns two runs for crossing home plate instead of one, but only in the ninth inning.
Here are several ideas that make the game “dense” with more action and make it faster. These ideas are based on breaking and as well as forming dependencies between attributes.
1. Don’t Look: Batters are assessed two strikes if they take a pitch over the plate without swinging at it (called “taking a strike”). This idea comes from breaking the dependency between actual strikes and the strike count. The benefit is batters will be much more motivated to swing at pitches. Likewise, pitchers will be much more motivated to throw strikes. This should cause more balls to be hit into play causing more action. It should also speed up play.
2. Keep Walking: If a batter is walked, the batter can walk to the furthest base that is open. So if there is no one on base, the walked batter can take third base. This should make pitchers even more motivated to throw strikes. It will limit the number of intentional walks, and it should speed things up.
3. Double Down: If a batter hits a home run with men on base, the base runners get to stay on base. Their point total still counts (so if two men were on base when the home run is hit, the team earns three runs). This rewards home runs even more, thus increasing the pressure on the pitcher to strike out batters.
4. Stranded Hurts: If a team leaves runners on base when the side retires, they lose the same number of points (runs) as the number of stranded runners (not below zero).
5. Out For Good: If a player is ejected from a game for fighting or arguing with the umpire, the team loses that player in the lineup and on the field. In other words, the team plays with eight players on the field instead of nine. This should cause a big disincentive to get thrown out.
6. Pop Up Running: Instead of players having to retain their base in case of a fly ball, runners are now allowed to run during fly balls. This increases scoring and game action.
7. Derby Time: There are no extra innings in the event of a tie. Instead, teams participate in a home run derby to settle a tie (much like hockey does with the “shoot out” format).
8. Leg Up: In the ninth inning, the team that is behind in the score starts the inning with a man on first base. This puts some much needed tension into the game and adds density.