Gallagher’s experiment

Author Todd Gallagher responded to several questions about the Revolution’s experiment with Dave Flood (pictured above) this spring. He admits the experiment turned into more of a publicity stunt than he wanted. And he explained how the experiment failed to generate the amount of data he needed.
The following is from an e-mail I received this morning. It’s my first e-mail of the day to reference Enrico Pallazzo, but oddly enough not the first Pallazzo reference I’ve heard this week.
Weird, huh?

1. What is the baseball value in having a little person bat?
Obviously the application is as a way to draw walks. As to the value relative to a roster spot used by another player, that’s determined by at what rate he can get on base. It seems to be that if he can walk around 50% of the time that he’d be as effective as any other player. If you get into the 75% range or so I think you’re talking all-star value.
Great statistical breakdown by Tangotiger.
2. Several fans have posted that the move looked desperate and silly. Do you have any proof to support the theory that a roster spot would be wisely spent on a player who would appear at the plate — at the most — just once a game and perhaps earn a walk half the time?
I think a lot of the reaction comes from the presentation. That is to say, the statistical analysis from the book was not really presented when the idea was brought up, nor was the interest from MLB teams. Most of the focus seemed to be on Flood’s radio background, which from my perspective was not relevant to the baseball side of it. What interested major league teams was the work done by Baseball Prospectus. See the above link for further evidence also.
3. Why not pick a little person that was more athletic or at least a little closer in age to his teammates?
Why, if his sole purpose was to draw a walk?
4. Flood struck out three times and complained about the calls. He never played baseball as an adult or even in high school. Can his definition/opinion of a strike be trusted?
Dave’s definition/opinion of the strike zone is 100% meaningless. What is meaningful is the video. I can tell you from what we’ve seen so far that he’s pretty on the money though. There were many pitches that were clearly at or above his head that were called strikes.
5. Before the experiment, you stated that one real problem could be umpires. They could make the strike zone larger if they did not feel Flood was a legitimate player. From what you’ve heard and/or seen, do you feel they made the correct calls?
From what we’ve seen, there were some incredibly bad calls made. If that was done because they didn’t feel he was a “legitimate player” then that’s certainly unprofessional, bordering on immoral. Hopefully on the major league level those kinds of problems wouldn’t exist. It does go to show the amount of power an umpire can have in a game and how he can control a game any way he wants. Just look at the Eric Gregg and Enrico Pallazzo debacles for evidence of that.
6. Why is MLB against this? What’s their reasoning?
When I tried to talk to them they wouldn’t comment but Selig is quoted in the NY Times as saying he wouldn’t allow it. I don’t know, I would have to think letting players use pink bats and trying to put Spiderman logos on the base paths would be more of a problem than letting short people play.
It could be that they’d have to confront the issue of how suspect the definition of the strike zone is in the first place.
7. Why has it taken so long since Gaedel for this to be attempted again?
I would guess a large part of it is MLB’s stance.
8. If Flood struck out three out of four times in the Atlantic League — including once against a non-professional town ball pitcher — can anyone expect this to work in the minors on a full-time basis?
I think it would depend on the professionalism of the league and the umpires. If they were diligent about making sure he got a fair shake then I certainly think it would work. Joe Nathan, K-Rod, many pitchers I talked to spoke of the difficulty in hitting a zone that small.
We did an exhibition the year before with the St. Paul Saints with an umpire who, even after reviewing the tape, we found to have made mostly correct calls. The short players were highly successful in that scenario. If you’re talking about umps who have predetermined they’re going to strike a guy out though and a league that allows it, then that would be tough for a player of any height.
9. Can a player whose only role is a pinch hitter — someone who never goes in the field for BP or infield — be expected to fit in with professional ballplayers?
I think anyone who can help win a game would be accepted. If not, you have to question the motivations of the guys playing, no?
10. Has this experiment been a failure? Would you like to try again? What would you change?
The experiment actually turned into much more of a publicity stunt than I had hoped for simply because there wasn’t much “experimenting” going on. I was told Dave would get 30 to 40 real and simulated plate appearances during the week in games, practice, BP, bullpen sessions, etc. He only had 4 at bats the entire week, all in games. In that respect, we didn’t get the amount of data to really learn anything more than that there was some really terrible umpiring in a couple of his at bats.
I didn’t really care if he did well or poorly, I just wanted to know if it would work. Because of all of the variables, what I needed was a solid amount of data to look at versus a variety of pitchers. We still don’t have that. I would try it again but I’d need some kind of written assurance that this would happen. If we were only going to get the guy 4 at bats, I could have just found a team that would have done that in one game and not taken a week out of Dave Flood‘s life or spent the money flying him in and hiring a camera crew to document at bats. Oh well, that’s life.

About Jim Seip

Jim Seip wore a cookie monster costume to help close out the Spectrum on Oct. 31, 2009.
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