Table of Contents

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A late look at the new CBA

The Major League Baseball logo.Image via WikipediaJust some thoughts on the new CBA, going item by item.

Astros move to the AL West, Interleague all season long.

I'm sort of "meh" on this.  I think Interleague is tremendously overrated by MLB.  Aside from the big ticket match-ups (Mets/Yankees, Cubs/ChiSox, ...  dare I say Cleveland/Cincinnati?), most of the series are no better attended than any other.  As a pure fan, though, I generally enjoy interleague.  I like seeing new teams and players throughout the year.  I do not like facing the Astros 18 times per season.  I haven't checked it, but my hope is for a more balanced schedule within the league with the addition of interleague.  Something tells me that's not what they have in mind, unfortunately, as that would mean less Yankees/Red Sox games.

From an analyst's point of view, one thing I always like about interleague is that it serves as a good way to weight the leagues against one another.  The AL has been dominant since roughly 2005 (before that, the leagues were close to even), and despite the constant protests to the contrary by the excuse-makers, I think it serves as the best measure of the league disparity that we have.

Also, I'm sorry for the Astros fans.  They're already a bad team.  This is not going to go well for them.

Expanded Wild Card system, both teams play in a 1-game playoff for access to the postseason.

I love this.  Love love love it.  I like the extra team in the playoff, though that's not the main point.  What I love about it is that this puts a huge premium on winning your division.  Previously, the wild card was essentially equivalent to winning a division.  Sure, you don't get home team advantage, but you aren't assured that anyway if you win your division.  Now, if you don't win the division, and you capture a wild card, you are subjected to an crazy, single-game playoff that determines whether you get to play in the real postseason.  This is far more of a wild card, and a far worse option than it previously had been.

Furthermore, despite the massively increased uncertainty that goes with a wild card, it also puts the wild card teams at a considerable disadvantage.  Most of the time, you would expect that the teams will have to throw their best starting pitcher in that single-game playoff.  This means that a wild card team, like, say, the Cardinals, won't be able to throw their ace as often in the next series.  In a five-game division series, we might be talking only one appearance.  That's a major disadvantage.

No more type A and type B free agent.  Now, compensation requires teams to offer a salary equal to the average of the top 125 players in the prior season.  

This is great.  First, the type-A/B system used on an absolutely horrible ranking system.  It was based, for example, on things like RBI's, stolen bases, etc, and varied by position.  That it goes away is a great thing.

Second, it removes a substantial penalty for signing mid-tier free agents.  A team like the Reds was unlikely to sign a free agent that would result in only a small upgrade but required compensation, as you might lose more out of your lost pick than you gain by signing a player.  This is good for signing teams, and is also good for the players themselves.  Some legitimately good players (Orlando Hudson a few years ago comes to mind) haven't been able to get a decent contract because part of signing them requires a team to give up draft picks.

Third, it still offers protection to small market teams who lose big money players.  When Joey Votto walks a few years from now (assuming they don't trade him), the Reds can still get compensation for his departure if they offer him a halfway decent contract.  This is the main point of free agent compensation, and my feeling is that this new system will work far better.  And there's still protection for top-10 picks, which means that teams in the bottom third the prior year have a slight advantage when it comes to signing top-tier free agents, in that they won't lose their first round pick.  That's great.

Teams that go over slot in the amateur draft will encounter a taxation system, based on the degree to which they go over slot.  And no major league contracts will be offered.

This is stupid.  Stupid stupid stupid.  The amateur draft, even after the rise in singing bonuses we've seen the lats few years, is still a drop in the bucket compared to other expenses of a major league team.  What this new adjustment fixes is that it reduces the degree to which the draft can be leveraged by small market teams as a means of procuring talent.  Going over slot, offering major league contracts, etc, are all ways that small market teams can add extra talent in an economically advantageous manner.

What this basically means is that, for the same amount spent in the draft last year, amateur players will get less money and poorer contracts next year.  That means that more players will opt to go to college, or pursue another sport, because the incentives aren't as good for baseball as they once were.  I see the main effect of this change a reduction in the talent coming into MLB.  I really don't understand how that can be good for the game.

MLB minimum salary goes from 411k to 500k.

It's a small thing, but it's almost certainly the case that 500k is still too little.  From the player's standpoint, this is a gross underpayment for services rendered.  But as the fan of a small market team, the fact that minimum salaries are still "only" a half of a million dollars means that the Reds have a shot at a contention against richer teams.  I'm reluctant to see that change for selfish reasons.

Instant Replay includes home run calls (as before), fair/foul calls, and trapped ball calls

Yay.  I'd like to see it expanded further, but these are baby steps.  We just need a tv/tablet viewable on the field, though...this running into the dugout thing is awkward.  Some of those umpires really should not run on camera.

Blood testing for hGH

As far as I can tell, this is a complete waste of time, money, and privacy (can privacy be wasted?  It makes sense to me).  I've yet to see a credible scientific study demonstrating that hGH has meaningful performance enhancing effects.  In fact, in acromegaly, which is caused by pathologically elevated hGH levels in adults, we actually see a weakening of muscles.  The data just aren't there--it seems to essentially be an extremely expensive placebo.  And the more expensive a placebo is, the more "effective" it will be.  If you want to ban it, fine--if nothing else, taking it is probably unhealthy.  But until there's scientific evidence that it actually has performance-enhancing effects, I don't see a reason to test for it.