A Modest Proposal: Making Second Base Optional

Look, I don’t want you to think me unserious. I very well could be, quite possibly I am, but I don’t want you to think it. So you should know I debated with myself over writing this article. And I won that debate. So here I am. Here we are. Because it’s January. And we ain’t got nothing to do.

I asked myself this question a while ago: how do you improve the structure of baseball? We’ve been so focused on fixing small bits here and there, forcing a pitcher to do this little thing, or the batter to keep his foot there, but how do you take the general rules of the game and make it more interesting? Do you make pitchers throw with their opposite hands. No. Do you add little spikes to the ball? No. Do you put each base at the top of a small flight of stairs? Well… I’ll get back to you on that one. Otherwise, though, all of the above are ridiculous suggestions. They might be funny (or not), but you couldn’t implement them because they’re too silly and too painful.

However, there is one way you could change the game and create, at the same time, grounds for more strategy — as opposed to more injuries. The answer is, you eliminate one of the bases. Think about it. There are four bases. There could be two, or three, but for some reason, there are four. I’ll blame Old Hoss Radbourn. It’s odd to think about, but it takes forever to get around the bases and baseball, as baseball itself acknowledges, takes too long. What baseball needs is an HOV lane, an express lane, and a way to add some choice. Let’s give players options and watch them make mistakes!

You can’t get rid of home plate. That’s right out. The game is centered on it, and also, what would umpires wipe off with those cute little brushes? You can’t get rid of first base, either — not without restructuring the entire right side of the field. Also, once the ball is in play, the game centers on first base. Also also, removing first base would be plain old mean to larger batters who need a quick respite after the stress of hitting. For the same reasons you can’t get rid of third base, either. Well, you could, but again you’d reshape the baseball field and that’s too radical. There’s only one base left and it’s the only base you could reasonably lose: second base. So let’s lose second base!

Well, not lose it entirely. I propose leaving it there. Removing it entirely would be unpleasing to the eye. Instead, we should make second base optional. Let runners make the decision for themselves after reaching first. They can travel the 90 feet from first base to second base, or they can live a little, take a chance for once in their lives, and go straight across. The distance from first base to third base is 127 feet. That’s an additional 37 feet — or, if you prefer percentages, 141% of the regular 90-foot distance between bases. Also, there’s the pitcher’s mound to negotiate, a lump of dirt that could throw off the fastest base runner, a bit like adding a Tal’s Hill to the baseline. (Note to self: add a Tal’s Hill to the baseline!)

Let’s play this out. The batter smacks one into the gap and takes off towards first. The center fielder takes a long angle and manages to cut the ball off, but he’s known to have a weak arm. The way the game is currently structured, our runner has two choices: he can stay at first or he can go to second. And really, there is only one choice here, unless the batter-runner is dealing with chronic leg injuries. He has to go to second base. Most of the time this is the case. Mostly, we see the ball off the bat and know immediately where the batter will end up. There isn’t much suspense. Sometimes there’s a close play at second, but it’s rare. If it looks like it’ll be a close play, mostly the batter will play it safe and remain at first.

But let’s play it out again, only this time with the new rule allowing the runner to skip second base if he wants to. The batter smacks one into the gap. The center fielder takes a deep angle and cuts it off. Now, before the batter reaches first base, he has to consider his options. He can stop there, he can continue going from first to second, or he can take a much sharper turn and head for third! Now we’ve got some excitement on our hands.

The batter has to break down the options quickly. Second is further from home plate than third base, but closer to first base, so the chances of making it safely are increased, but the payoff for the effort is lessened. Alternatively, the runner can go from first directly to third base. That will take longer and so there’s an increased risk of being thrown out, but the payout is much higher, or at least higher depending on the players coming up and the game state.

What is the point of all this? It creates excitement, opportunity, and risk in an area of the game where, beforehand, it was mostly rote. It allows the game to play up for speed by giving fast runners a chance to make a bigger impact. It turns the repetitive nature of outfield defense into a thinking man’s game (“Do I throw to second and take the chance of giving up third, or do I throw to third and take the chance of giving up second?”).

Perhaps the biggest drawback to baseball as a sport is that its rigidity doesn’t cultivate as many quick decisions. Baseball doesn’t possess the flow of hockey or basketball, and it never will. It’s not that kind of sport. But the sport should encourage instances where that kind of athleticism is encouraged and rewarded. There are some, but they don’t come around too often. Making second base optional forces both the runners and the fielders to be aware of and prepared for both options and then to think on their feet in the course of a play, reacting to what the other will do instead of doing what everyone in the ballpark knows they have to do.

Wouldn’t you love to see Billy Hamilton shoot across the diamond, or Mike Trout turn what would have been a stand-up double into a sliding triple? I would. So make second base optional!

Or maybe give the players jetpacks? Eh, let me get back to you on that one.



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Noah Baron
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Noah Baron
4 months 12 days ago

What even is this article

KrunchyGoodness
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Member
4 months 12 days ago

Art

Bobby Ayala
Member
Member
4 months 12 days ago

The injury risk increases dramatically when you ask baserunners to make a 135 degree turn at first, run over a mound, past fielders who are getting into position to back up a base, etc. But whatever, you’ve supplied free content and I’ve wasted my time commenting on it…

dtpollitt
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Member
dtpollitt
4 months 12 days ago

#NOTGRAPHSLIVES

Embiggens Papiamentu
Member
4 months 12 days ago

:-)

tz
Member
tz
4 months 12 days ago

“Do you put each base at the top of a small flight of stairs? Well… I’ll get back to you on that one.”

Apparently, ramped basepaths have been done before….

http://www.fangraphs.com/not/an-island-where-a-baseball-like-sport-is-played/#more-63928

gnomez
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gnomez
4 months 12 days ago

How did you manage to still post as “#KeepNotGraphs?”

aaronsteindler
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aaronsteindler
4 months 12 days ago

#NOTGRAPHSLIVESMATTER

aaronsteindler
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aaronsteindler
4 months 12 days ago

Um… no.

Brent Henry
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Brent Henry
4 months 12 days ago

?

free-range turducken
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free-range turducken
4 months 12 days ago

Imagine if this was an option when ARod was in his prime and Dallas Braden was still playing.

YABooble
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YABooble
4 months 12 days ago

Could a pitcher be called for interference for blocking the basepaths?

majnun
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majnun
4 months 12 days ago

That’s the second worst Modest Proposal I’ve ever heard!

JeffMathisCera
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JeffMathisCera
4 months 12 days ago

This post reminds me of a college girlfriend.

God I miss her.

John Elway
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4 months 12 days ago

LMHAO!!!!!!!!!

raygu
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4 months 12 days ago

perhaps the greatest response ever. really.

Phillies113
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Member
4 months 12 days ago

I agree completely. It IS January, and there’s nothing to do.

Pitchers and catchers can’t report soon enough :(

WinOneForBobKipper
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WinOneForBobKipper
4 months 12 days ago

What does this do to double plays? If the runner breaks for 3rd instead of 2nd, could he still be forced at 2nd if he hasn’t yet reached 3rd? (I’m taking this far too seriously, aren’t I?)

jianadaren
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jianadaren
4 months 11 days ago

Yes. Forced out at second if didn’t reach third. Also, batter-runner would be out for passing the runner if the batter-runner touches 2nd before the runner touches 3rd.

dragbunter
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dragbunter
4 months 12 days ago

I had a teammate in college that skipped 2nd base all the time whenever he was the trailing baserunner. It always worked because we didn’t have enough umpires to watch all the bases.

majnun
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majnun
4 months 12 days ago

Oh man that is hiliarious

The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
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The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
4 months 12 days ago

“Skipped” like ran straight from 1st to 3rd or “skipped” by barely missing the bag? First scenario would be a better story! LOL

failed mathematician
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failed mathematician
4 months 12 days ago

Boring comment about something no one cares about or one of the most brilliant inuendoes ever. Why would anyone write this if its the former and the sloppy seconds reference is glaring. If I could only work out the umpire part in a way that is aesthetically pleasing I would be much happier.

majnun
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majnun
4 months 12 days ago

failed commenter

evo34
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evo34
4 months 11 days ago

Registered sex offender, I presume.

StroShow
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4 months 12 days ago

While we’re at it, why not give players who are at 1B the ability to steal Left Field?

If, when they steal a base, they can run past 2B and all the way into Left Field, that part of the field then belongs to the batting team and no fielder can start there – they have to start over by the CF and run to LF after the ball is hit. The runner obviously risks getting thrown out as he’s running around the field, but hey, that would be fun right? Watching people scramble all over the place?

free-range turducken
Member
free-range turducken
4 months 12 days ago

So that’s what David Dejesus was thinking!

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-worst-active-base-stealer/

StroShow
Member
4 months 12 days ago

Oh oh oh I have another one!
Why not give runners the choice of which way to go? Instead of running to 1B after hitting, they can go backwards and go to 3B right away, and then they have to run the wrong way. This would create great situations where the runner on 3B and the runner on 1B both have to go to 2B but they can’t both stay there so they have to either cross, or one guy has to wait and then they can switch later!

Hey, is Fangraphs hiring? I can do this all day if you pay me.

tz
Member
tz
4 months 12 days ago

Let’s just generalize the whole rule like this – you get a run every time you touch 1st, 2nd, 3rd and home in any order (not counting if you touch home on your way to first after hitting the ball).

And, you can keep running the bases as many times as you like, until you’re out or you end up at home plate at the end of a play (can’t be standing on home while the pitcher’s trying to pitch there.)

JohnThacker
Member
JohnThacker
4 months 12 days ago

And if you end up at home plate at the end of the play, you get to bat again. Oh, and get rid of foul territory, everything is in play.

Eventually we’ll succeed in making it cricket.

Sn0wman
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Sn0wman
4 months 9 days ago

This makes me imagine something that I can only describe as Chinese checkers baseball.

nickolai
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Member
nickolai
4 months 12 days ago

This smacks of grade-school jungle-ball, and I love it.

A parallel proposal — move the outfield fences back another 100 or 200 feet. The majority of homers would still be homers, but they would need to be earned by the hitter sprinting around the bases before the OF’ers can chase down and relay in the ball from the extended outfield depths.

And let the home-run hitter start another circuit around the bases as a ‘bonus’ to hitting the ball so damn far.

boringdan
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boringdan
4 months 12 days ago

wait, the majority of home runs, you’re positing, travel somewhere around 450-600 feet?

Anon21
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Anon21
4 months 12 days ago

He’s positing that the majority of what are currently over-the-fence home runs will go far enough that the batter-runner can make home running all out while the fielder tries to track it down. But it would essentially destroy the careers of sluggers with bad legs.

nickolai
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Member
nickolai
4 months 12 days ago

Yes, probably would force-retire early the Mark McGwires, Frank Thomases, and Adam Dunns. On the flip side, the OF’s would have to play so deep on those guys that more shallow bloops and gappers would fall in.

That, plus seeing all-out sprinting from the big lugs instead of leisurely home run trots would make it worth it!

Luy
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Luy
4 months 12 days ago

What is it about the internet that almost forces people to assume other commenters are making the dumbest possible version of their comment?
Is it just that most folks don’t read past the first comma in the second sentence and then comment.
Or is there something about the internet that compels people to not stop and try to understand something before pouncing?

There has to be some psych study on this, right?

wily mo
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4 months 11 days ago

well, it was a guy called boring dan

ElJosharino
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ElJosharino
4 months 12 days ago

This for some reason reminded me of Pesapallo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pes%C3%A4pallo), which, one of my favorite things about Pesapallo is that if one hits a triple, then one gets credited with a run scored AND gets to stay at third base and attempt to score again.

tz
Member
tz
4 months 11 days ago

Clicked the link on Pesapallo myself, and it looks like they put first base halfway up the third base line. Also cool.

AngelsLakersFan
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AngelsLakersFan
4 months 12 days ago

This is not dissimilar to how the game was played in the early days.

The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
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The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
4 months 12 days ago

A “majority” of homers? Do you have any idea how far the “majority” of home runs travel? Hint, it’s not 450-600 feet.

nickolai
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Member
nickolai
4 months 12 days ago

read anon’s comment above.

Luy
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Luy
4 months 12 days ago

“they would need to be earned by the hitter sprinting around the bases before the OF’ers can chase down and relay in the ball from the extended outfield depths.”

So…in your VERY poor reading of the comment, are the outfielders chasing the ball into the stands? If the ball was hit 600 ft over a fence, why are the baserunners sprinting?
Do you have any idea what the original comment was saying? Hint, no, you didn’t. Hint, you chose to play ‘gotcha’ and lost embarassingly.

wily mo
Member
4 months 11 days ago

i’ve been saying for years that there should be one park like this. with just no outfield fences at all. do it someplace famous for being flat wide open spaces, like minnesota or kansas city or st louis. have a couple of trees out there, maybe a lake. it would be simultaneously peaceful, exciting, and beautiful.

TommyLasordid
Member
TommyLasordid
4 months 12 days ago

One of the independent leagues should catch on to this idea. Another option I would add would be a baserunner on second going directly to home on a ball in play, a wild pitch, etc. Same issues of extra distance, that pesky mound, and so on.

jd0505
Member
jd0505
4 months 12 days ago

If this happened, I would actually watch baseball games on tv instead of reading fangraphs and building MLB DFS lineups while watching the NBA playoffs.

bbdawgrex
Member
bbdawgrex
4 months 12 days ago

If you’re hitting to right field/right center, there would be very little downside to going straight for 3rd since the defenders throw is so much longer. Could make lefty hitters much more valuable – gotta watch for those side effects.

That reason alone, and no other reason, is why I think this idea is unfeasible.

The Real McNulty
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The Real McNulty
4 months 12 days ago

it would only apply to the batter-runner. A small wrinkle, but not a complete overhaul of the game.

attgig
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attgig
4 months 12 days ago

or better yet, put pits, crocodiles, and trees with vines so runners can get past them.

pitfall baseball!

ABQSOX
Member
ABQSOX
4 months 12 days ago

I like this proposal because it made me remember 45-45-90 triangles and I don’t think I’ve thought about that since geometry class way back in the day. 90*(2)^(1/2), math is useful!

Tulkas
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Tulkas
4 months 12 days ago

I like Calvinball too!

sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo
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sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo
4 months 12 days ago

Is is still a “triple” if the baserunner only touches 2 bases (1B and 3B)?

The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
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The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
4 months 12 days ago

Driple.

ghl
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ghl
4 months 12 days ago

Sounds like trouble to me.

Brian Reinhart
Member
Member
4 months 12 days ago

Does a player have to touch all four bases to get an inside-the-park home run?

Dogfish Pride
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Dogfish Pride
4 months 12 days ago

Hey, Houston. Don’t throw away your Tal’s Hill. We might want to use it.

Mr. Patient
Member
Mr. Patient
4 months 12 days ago

The 1890s Orioles beat you to this idea.

Doug Lampert
Member
Member
Doug Lampert
4 months 12 days ago

If running straight from first to third, and the ball goes to third, am I illegally leaving the base-path to avoid a tag if I divert to second? Can we end up with a rundown in which the target player can go to any of three bases and is standing in the middle of the infield?

Llewdor
Member
Llewdor
4 months 12 days ago

This is the question that immediately occurred to me, as well. The risk of heading for third is much smaller if diverting to second is an option. And given that we already permit runners to run in arcs between the bases, I suggest we would have to allow it.

But with no predetermined destination, this does effectively eliminate forceouts for runners leaving first. Double plays could now only occur if there were runners on first and second at the start of the play, with possible forces at first (for the batter), third (for the runner on second), or home (for the runner on third when there were also runners on first and second).

John DiFool2
Member
John DiFool2
4 months 12 days ago

I’ll just point out, because the mound is closer to home than 2nd, and that runners from first will have arced out towards center as they make their turn, that the mound won’t typically be any sort of obstacle.

Snarfle
Member
Member
4 months 12 days ago

Damnit sheeple, can’t you see that the real answer is to allow the batter, once the ball is struck, to select blindfolds on or blindfolds off. If on, every fielder and all runners must put on a blindfold for the duration of the play. Obviously the ball would occasionally emit a piercing cry that could be heard over the roar of the fans.

Anonymous
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Anonymous
4 months 10 days ago

Not sure if Calvinball or Quiddich

yowlz
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yowlz
4 months 12 days ago

Maybe FG could make publishing Matthew Kory’s posts optional?

gnomez
Member
gnomez
4 months 12 days ago

#KeepTal’sHill

MikeS
Member
MikeS
4 months 12 days ago

Gives the first base coach something other to do than just yell “back, Back, BACK!!!”

njguy73
Member
njguy73
4 months 12 days ago

Dear Mr. Commissioner:

There are too many bases.

Please eliminate one.

I am not a crackpot.

Anonymous
Member
Anonymous
4 months 10 days ago

Three bases illuminati confirmed

Paul22
Member
Paul22
4 months 12 days ago

I like the idea. But add another element. If a batter tries to go direct to 3rd from 1st, he can be tackled for an out by the catcher. If he gets by the catcher and beats the throw he saves a base.

Runners can also steal 3B directly from 1B if they can steal the pitchers hat from him on the way. The runner who grabs the hat is automatically safe at 3B. Pitchers will be allowed to punch and kick to prevent that happening.

tz
Member
tz
4 months 11 days ago

Lol, not sure who I’d rather see pitching on a steal of third: Kyle Farnsworth or Adrian Beltre.

RWinUT
Member
RWinUT
4 months 11 days ago

The HOV lane would HAVE to curve around the mound. There’s too much money involved to introduce the significant injury risk of running over the mound. Injuries are problematic enough, too often taking down teams that are otherwise strong contenders or even locks for post-season play.

Otherwise, it’s not the worst idea. The point about the advantage of added element of suspense is a good one. It would, of course, destroy the continuity of statistics for historical comparison, but it wouldn’t be the first time. Heck, the entire steroids era confounds historical comparison…

Anonymous
Member
Anonymous
4 months 10 days ago

This article is entertaining, but it’s going the wrong way. Baseball needs to reduce complexity to become more accessible and entertaining to new prospective fans, not add complexity.

Get rid of the Infield Fly, standardize ground rules, and reduce the myriad substitutions that bog down the game. Strategic depth is the anathema of accessibility.

Sn0wman
Member
Sn0wman
4 months 9 days ago

I’ve never understood why so many want to get rid of the infield fly rule. Without it, virtually 100% of all infield flies would be double plays, instead of virtually 100% single outs as they are now.

bluejaysstatsgeek
Member
4 months 9 days ago

…and make the dirt cutout of the pictures mound his territory to defend, so he could tackle or otherwise assault the runner. Imagine Papelbon pitching and Harper doing the 1st to 3rd shortcut.

One additional rule, however: All other players must stay out of the square box defined by the baselines. This has to be a mano-a-mano winner-takes-all, last-man-standing event!

bluejaysstatsgeek
Member
4 months 9 days ago

Proofreading helps: Pitcher’s mound, not pictures. Although I would want pictures of Papelbon & Harper going at it!

stud gerbil
Member
stud gerbil
4 months 6 days ago

How about making over-the-fence home runs count as ground rule doubles?

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