The American League's radical decision to adopt a designated pinch-hitter rule (page 26) has excited a lot of speculation and comment, some of it reasoned and perceptive, some of it hurried and emotional. The possible side effects—on pitching, for example—are fascinating to contemplate, but what statistical impact will the new rule actually have on hitting?
A nuclear engineer and computer scientist named Arthur V. Peterson Jr. thinks he knows. Using a technique called computer simulation, Peterson ran 50 seasons of baseball through a computer, first in the old-fashioned (or National League) way, then with a designated pinch hitter in place of the pitcher. His findings are complex but, boiled down, here are some of the things his study predicts. First, he assumes designated hitters will bat an average of 84 points higher than the pitchers they replace. This means team batting averages will rise nine points, a welcome jump in a declining market. Team on-base averages will go up even more, about 12 points, and slugging averages about 22 points. There will be fewer shutouts (about 22% fewer), and the number of games in which a team is held to one, two or three runs will decline 8.5%. Concomitantly, the number of games in which a team scores four or more runs will go up 12%.
Most important, American League teams should increase their scoring by an average of 70 runs apiece this season, or more than 800 runs for the league, which would bring it to parity with the harder-hitting National.
THE INK IS RED
New Orleans is in the process of building a domed stadium. Seattle and a few other cities have similar domed arenas in the planning stage. But is a domed stadium worth the cost and effort? The experience of Houston's Astrodome, the only existing domed stadium in the U.S. at the moment indicates it is not.
The city of Houston moved recently to pluck an extra $385,000 a year in taxes from the Houston Sports Association, which rents the Astrodome and uses it, among other things, as a playground for the baseball Astros. Officials of the association paled and hurriedly presented financial data that showed the ball club had lost $569,000 in 1971. Astrodome rental is $750,000 a year, highest in major league baseball, and maintenance costs are on top of that. To break even, the HSA said, the stadium would have to be used 250 days a year. In 1972, even including all the days the Astros occupied it, the figure was only 134 days. And that was a record. The city decided not to impose the additional tax.
The question remains. If Houston can't make ends meet in a stadium that cost a modest $31.5 million to build, how can cities who expect to pay double and triple that for newer domed arenas possibly avoid the financial glooms?
CAN BENCH OUTSWIM LAVER?
A Florida development corporation is sponsoring a wild 10-event sports competition in February which, even though it is a promotional thing for a new resort complex, sounds fascinating. Ten top pro athletes will meet in a variety of sports for prizes totaling $122,000, plus a $25,000 bonus for the all-round champion. The 10 are Johnny Bench (baseball), Joe Frazier (boxing), Elvin Hayes (basketball), Jean-Claude Killy (skiing), Rod Laver (tennis), Stan Mikita (hockey), Gary Player (golf), Peter Revson (auto racing), Jim Stefanich (bowling) and Johnny Unitas (football). The 10 events are: 100-yard dash, 880-yard run, 100-meter swim, two-mile bicycle race, nine-hole golf tournament, one-set tennis tournament, one-game Ping-Pong tournament, bowling, weight lifting and baseball hitting. Each man enters seven of the 10 events, although he can't pick one that is his own specialty. Laver will not play tennis or Player golf, and Bench will not hit baseballs. Laver, however, will play Ping-Pong.