The percentages do not, however, militate against all tight baseball. In fact, Cook's figures say that the odds for successfully stealing bases are very much in favor of the offensive team, and that both the steal and the hit-and-run should be employed a great deal more than they are now. If he is successful only 60% of the time, a base stealer will still do better than he would by holding his base while the batter hits away. Having a base runner going with the pitch is so advantageous that in many cases, even if the man on first is so slow that his chances of stealing are zero, it is still worth trying the hit-and-run.
2) Use the so-called " Bobby Bragan Lineup." Bragan, the incumbent Milwaukee manager, experimented with this lineup briefly while he was at Pittsburgh with a last-place team. The idea is painfully simple: just bat your hitters in order of their excellence, with your best hitter first—rather than third, as is traditional—your second-best hitter second and so on. This will produce 11 extra runs a year.
3) Properly evaluate and play your eight most productive hitters. In other words, use the scoring index and do not platoon; stay with your best. If you have worked out refined scoring indexes for specific situations, such as how certain players perform against right-or left-handed pitchers, platooning may be utilized. The point, Cook says, is that platooning is too often the product of pure whimsy or a manifestation of the manager's attempt to demonstrate his personal genius. Present devil-may-care platooning costs a team up to 125 runs a season. The average is 75.
4) Platoon your pitchers. This is Cook's most controversial point but it also is the most important. It can result in 113 additional runs a year, and all that it requires is that pitchers be used in a different order from the one followed at present. It would also force the admission that the complete game is an anachronism and no longer worth striving for. As it is now, three out of four starting pitchers not only do not finish the game, but they do not last over six innings.
Under Cook's plan, nothing would change except the rotation. A "relief" pitcher would start and go the first two or three innings, leaving the game the first time he is scheduled to bat. The second pitcher would go the longest stretch, about five innings, being permitted to hit once for himself if his team is more than two runs ahead (49.7% of all games are decided by two runs or less). Except for the five or six exceptionally good-hitting pitchers, no pitcher would be allowed to bat more than once. "The laws of chance require that he will have to be removed anyway when it is less expedient—in the middle of an inning," Cook says. Late in the game no pitcher ever would be allowed to hit. "It is absolutely criminal," Wendell Garner says, "to permit any pitcher to bat after the fifth inning."
"This plan of rotation," Cook explains, "gets more of the better hitters in the game, and it takes pitchers out of the game before they are forced out." Cook has a schedule for a 10-man staff to refute those who think that this plan would impose an impossible burden on human arms, even if it is mathematically sound. Garner is even less disturbed by such a complaint. "You can get two good relievers in trade for a good starter anyway. A whole staff of relievers—Baldschun, Miller, Wilhelm and so on—would not only be a good staff, but it would be tremendously flexible."
Take the 113 runs you get from changing the pitching rotation. Add it to the 50 for not sacrificing, 11 for Bragan's lineup and 75 for not platooning without proper player evaluation. The total is 249 runs. Now, do you have a favorite team? Take those 249 runs and add them to the number of runs your team scored last season. Divide that total by the number of runs made against your team by the opponents. You are figuring out what Cook calls a Scoring Ratio. Finally, divide the scoring ratio in half. This will give you the percentage of victories your team should have for 1964, if it performs the same way it did last year in every detail except that it plays true percentage baseball. Is this last figure .626 or over? If it is, you should have a pennant winner.
It is not Cook's intention to ridicule the game or show up the managers. Without any condescension he merely states that managers have never had access to the true percentage figures, so they cannot be faulted for not playing by them. But he hopes they do soon because he is a lifelong and dedicated fan.
It therefore disturbed him when he discovered something odd about the baseball itself. A lot of people have talked about the baseball for 40 years, weighing it and dropping it and squeezing it and ripping it all to pieces to examine it. But it never, apparently, occurred to anyone but Earnshaw Cook that a baseball might be lopsided. One day, simply out of curiosity, Cook floated a batch of official baseballs in a bowl of mercury, and sure enough, on each baseball a heavy side rotated to the bottom. Each one was lopsided to the same significant degree. Cook—good, loyal, steadfast fan that he is—reported his findings to the commissioner's office. The commissioner's office took the matter under advisement—which is where the matter stands now.
Someday the office will straighten out all its baseballs. And someday too, Cook dreams, a team will stop sacrificing and will rotate pitchers the proper way and use the scoring index and the base-scoring equations...and it will win a pennant. Then, of course, every major league team will try it. And so, finally, Earnshaw Cook will have made baseball a better game, which is all in the world that he really wants to do.