Earnshaw Cook has written a book utterly detrimental to baseball (Baseball is Played All Wrong, March 23). If all the teams used his proposed system, each coach would know exactly what the other team was about to do, the peanut vendors would start selling completed box scores before the game started and baseball would lose all its color and fascination.
If baseball adopts this system, I'm for a rousing, unpredictable game of chess!
There seems to me to be an obvious flaw in Earnshaw Cook's "Chances of Scoring" table. It is based, he says, on "750,000 actual situations that occurred over 10 years of major league play." But these situations included the very tactics he now would eliminate, such as the sacrifice bunt, the standard batting order and the go-as-far-as-you-can pitcher. Eliminate them and the scoring table is bound to change.
Beverly Hills, Calif.
Mr. Cook's theory could lead to a very interesting paradox. What would happen if every major league team did away with the sacrifice bunt? When a player reached base the logical thing for the infielders to do would be to play deep and look for a double play. With the infield back, the sensible thing for the batter to do (especially if he is a speed merchant such as Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Luis Aparicio or Al Weis) would be to bunt.
Thus by eliminating the bunt Earnshaw Cook is creating a situation where the bunt would become popular. The bunt is here to stay.
I heartily approve of Mr. Cook's approach to baseball theory and strategy. I do find one major fallacy in his analysis, however, i.e., platooning the pitchers. It appears that Mr. Cook has overlooked the fact that there are two basic ways to win baseball games: 1) to score more runs than the opposition (the offensive approach that Mr. Cook's theory is based upon) and 2) to allow the opposition fewer runs than you score (the defensive approach, a la the '63 Dodgers).
Thus Mr. Cook's statistical argument for platooning pitchers in order to score 113 more runs per year does not attempt to account for the number of extra runs the opposition will score when the percentage-playing manager has to take out Sandy Kou-fax in the third inning after he has struck out nine straight men.
I can just see the want ad of the future: "Immediate opening for baseball manager. Must have experience in analogue and digital computer systems. Will participate in a computer program project. Will assume complete responsibility for team-guidance system of second-division major league team. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an ambitious man wishing to move to Boston."
R. W. CANAVAN
The whole idea is nutty. To think any percentage can apply, whether the batter is Mickey Mantle or Gino Cimoli, whether the pitcher is Sandy Koufax or Jim Duckworth, is asinine. The chances of getting a runner home from third are greatly altered when the pitcher has a cold or the batter had an all-night argument with his wife.
Thank goodness the game of baseball can never be reduced to adding-machine accuracy. It's much more fun this way.