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What Really Gives Left-Handed Pitchers Their Edge?

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Left-handed pitching has long been one of the most prized commodities in professional baseball. Teams strive to obtain lefty pitchers, and southpaws recognize their competitive edge. Two-sport athlete Tom Glavine explained his career choice this way: “I love both sports, but the deciding factor was, being a left-handed pitcher, I had a huge advantage in baseball because of that, and I didn’t have that type of advantage in hockey.” Even a century ago, Tris Speaker expressed the sport’s reverence for southpaws — if falling short as a trade analyst — when he reportedly opined that “taking the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things I ever heard.”1

MLB rosters reflect this preference for lefties today. Although just 10 percent of American males throw with their left hand, fully 28 percent of innings thrown by MLB pitchers in the past decade2 — and 29 percent of starts — came from the left side. Remarkably, lefty pitchers make it to the big leagues about three times as frequently as righties, given their share of the general population. What accounts for this huge surplus of southpaws?

The traditional explanation has pinned responsibility on baseball’s platoon advantage, in which hitters perform better in opposite-hand matchups while pitchers have the edge in same-handed contests. Since left-handed hitters have the platoon edge much more often than right-handed hitters, they have an edge in the competition for MLB jobs and end up overrepresented on offense. In response, the story goes, teams then stock up on left-handed pitchers to counter the advantage offenses gain from their excess of left-handed hitters.

The first half of this story is generally correct. When a batter hits with the platoon advantage, his on-base plus slugging percentage is more than 80 points higher than when he faces a same-handed pitcher, and left-handed batters enjoy this advantage far more often (73 percent of plate appearances) than right-handed hitters do (29 percent).3 The result is that over 40 percent of MLB plate appearances are taken from the left side.

The pitching component of this narrative, however, does not withstand scrutiny. It’s true that pitchers face left-handed hitters more frequently than they would in the general population, but that isn’t the relevant factor in the competition for pitching jobs. On the field, what matters is that left-handed pitchers (LHPs) only enjoy the platoon advantage 29 percent of the time, far less than the 53 percent rate for right-handed pitchers (RHPs).4 Southpaws actually pay a severe “platoon penalty,” and would allow fewer runs — about 0.20 runs per game, by our estimate — if they held the platoon advantage as often as right-handed pitchers do.

Far from helping to explain the southpaw surplus, the platoon effect must actually suppress the number of left-handed pitchers. So the question remains: Why are there so many left-handed pitchers in Major League Baseball? They should be nearly extinct, but in fact they thrive. What’s going on?

We believe that left-handed pitchers have a hidden advantage that has nothing to do with their ability to throw a baseball, based solely on the fact that they throw with their left hand. This “southpaw advantage” is substantial enough to generate a large surplus of lefty pitchers on rosters and shape the game in profound ways. Indeed, our analysis suggests that a substantial majority of MLB left-handed pitchers could not survive in the majors if they threw right-handed but had otherwise identical talent.

If you are skeptical, well, so were we. But as the kids say, we have receipts.

Southpaws are inferior (except at getting batters out)

At the heart of the mystery of handedness and pitching lies a crucial but underappreciated distinction: outcomes vs. pitch quality. MLB left-handers are just as successful as right-handers at retiring batters, but they are not truly peers when it comes to throwing a baseball. In terms of the quality of the pitches they make — as measured by observable factors such as velocity and movement — southpaws are simply not in the same league as righties.

For this analysis, we used data from Pitch Info published by FanGraphs to look at all players who pitched at least 100 innings from 2007 through 2019, a total of 300 LHPs (143,168 IP) and 839 RHPs (379,347 IP). As you can see from the table below, the lefties and righties had virtually equal outcomes. Not only do they surrender the same number of runs5 — 4.34 and 4.37 per nine innings, respectively — but they arrive at this result via the same path, posting virtually identical strikeout, walk and home run rates.

Per nine innings
Pitchers Runs Strikeouts Walks Home runs BABIP FIP
Left-handers 4.34 7.7 3.2 1.0 .296 4.07
Right-handers 4.37 7.6 3.1 1.1 .293 4.09

For pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched.

Source: FanGraphs

However, pitch quality metrics — which remove the pitcher-hitter interaction — paint a very different picture. Velocity is the single most important pitcher skill, and LHPs consistently throw slower pitches than RHPs. From 2007 to 2019, left-handers registered a substantially lower velocity for every type of pitch tracked, including not only higher-velocity pitches like fastballs and sinkers, but also sliders, changeups and curves. Southpaws were much less likely than RHPs to average 93 mph or more on their fastball (27 percent vs. 54 percent), and the ratio is even more extreme at the 94 mph threshold (14 percent vs. 38 percent).

Pitchers Four-Seam Sinker Cutter Slider Change Curve
Left-handers 91.8 90.7 86.6 82.8 82.5 76.7
Right-handers 93.3 92.0 88.7 84.7 84.2 78.6
Difference -1.5 -1.3 -2.1 -1.9 -1.7 -1.9

For pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched.

Source: FanGraphs

Still, it is widely believed that “crafty” lefties have other skills not captured by a radar gun. Perhaps southpaws offset their speed handicap with superior movement on their pitches? To answer that question, we turned to Statcast data, found at Baseball Savant.

As a matter of physics, rotation is required to produce horizontal or physical movement on pitches. Therefore, if southpaws are achieving superior movement, that should show up in the rate of spin on their pitches. However, we found that6 LHPs generally have had lower spin rates on their pitches, both fastballs and off-speed pitches. The only exception is changeups, on which LHPs display a higher spin rate.

Pitchers Four-seam Sinker Cutter Slider Change Curve
Left-handers 2241 2124 2236 2343 1836 2420
Right-handers 2281 2157 2400 2421 1758 2537
Difference -40 -33 -164 -78 +78 -117

For pitchers with at least 50 pitches thrown in a given season.

Source: Baseball Savant

Pitchers can differ in their ability to convert spin into movement that helps get batters out. Theoretically, if LHPs harness their spin rate more effectively than RHPs, they could achieve better results from the same velocity. There is no indication, however, that southpaws produce superior movement, even partially, to offset their velocity deficit. We found that five types of break are strongly associated with pitcher success: fastball vertical break, sinker vertical break, slider horizontal break, changeup vertical break and curveball horizontal break. RHPs achieve more break on every key dimension, even after controlling for their higher velocity. Pitch movement is just another arena of right-handed pitcher superiority.

The performance metrics all point to the same conclusion: When a left-hander is on the mound, the quality of pitches suffers considerably. This skills gap makes perfect sense given lefties’ overrepresentation relative to their share of the general population. Professional baseball dips much deeper into the left-handed talent pool, so logically it should be enlisting players with lesser throwing ability. However, the parity of outcomes must mean that some hidden factor gives southpaws a substantial advantage over right-handed pitchers that offsets that skill gap.

Southpaws’ hidden advantage: the unfamiliarity bonus

We believe the source of southpaws’ “extra” success against hitters — beyond what the quality of their pitches can explain — is hitters’ relative lack of familiarity with the look of pitches coming from the left side. As young hitters first learn their craft, they face LHPs far less often than RHPs. This lack of familiarity reduces hitters’ ability to react quickly and effectively when incoming pitches come from the south side.

Paradoxically, it is the very scarcity of lefties that creates the surplus. Or as famous left-handed hitter Yogi Berra would perhaps have expressed it, “I wouldn’t have to hit against lefties so much if there were more of them.”

A review of the lefty advantage in other sports — both where it manifests, and where it doesn’t — generally supports this familiarity explanation. A study of university students in 2000 found that those involved in competitive sports were considerably more likely to be left-handed than non-sporting students. Significantly, though, this surplus of lefties was not found in all sports: Left-handers were prevalent in “interactive or confrontational sports,” such as basketball, football, volleyball and boxing, but not in “noninteractive or nonconfrontational sports,” such as running, gymnastics, skiing and swimming. In those sports, the researchers found, “left-handers occur about as frequently as they do in the nonsporting population.”

More recent research finds that the left-handers are particularly overrepresented in ball sports where reaction times are very short, such as table tennis, cricket (bowlers), and baseball (pitchers).

Scientists believe this pattern reflects a “negative perceptual frequency effect,” meaning that because athletes confront left-handed opponents much less often, their ability to perceive, interpret and react to these opponents’ movements is less developed. This has been borne out by further experimental research: A 2009 study found that tennis players were better at predicting the direction and distance of shots made by a right-handed opponent than by a left-handed opponent. And a 2012 paper found that left-handed volleyball players’ actions were significantly less accurately predicted than the outcome of right-handed players’ attacks.

With extensive training and practice, athletes facing off against left-handers may be able to overcome this disadvantage in some sports. However, in a team sport like baseball, regular practice against left-handed opponents is not a realistic option for most young players. An exception who proves the rule was switch hitter Mickey Mantle, who as a boy hit frequently against his southpaw grandfather and went on to post a remarkable career OPS of 1.000 against LHPs (compared to “just” .965 against RHPs.).

For hitters, this unfamiliarity effect translates to greater discomfort when facing a southpaw, or a (mis)perception of greater pitch break. Indeed, the persistent myth of the “crafty” lefty who disrupts hitters with nasty pitch movement — though not substantiated by scientific measurements — likely has its roots in this unfamiliarity effect.

How large is the southpaw advantage?

We turn now to estimating the size of the “southpaw advantage,” which we define as the overall advantage a pitcher gains solely from being left-handed, as compared to a right-handed pitcher with equal pitch quality. If we can identify a subset of LHPs who display similar underlying pitch quality as the right-handed population of pitchers, then any difference in their outcomes against hitters should reflect the southpaw advantage.

As we stated earlier, southpaws have pitched 28 percent of major league innings in recent years, despite representing just 10 percent of the male population. So that means in an alternate universe without any southpaw advantage, about 36 percent of current LHPs would be good enough to pitch in the major leagues. And in that scenario, today’s RHPs would comprise the best 80 percent of all RHPs (the other 20 percent consisting of lesser RHPs replacing demoted lefties).

Taking all that together, we hypothesize that the best 30 percent of current LHPs should have a pitch quality equal to the average for all RHPs.7 And a corollary of that proposition is that the remaining 70 percent of today’s LHPs will display less underlying skill than even the weakest RHPs.

Does the data support this rather dramatic prediction? Returning to our sample of pitchers from 2007 through 2019,8 we sorted them into three groups for each pitching hand based on regressed runs allowed per nine innings (RA9), giving us the top 30 percent, the middle 40 percent and the bottom 30 percent.9

First, we see that LHPs demonstrate markedly lower pitch quality than RHPs at every performance level. It is also apparent that more successful pitchers tend to throw at higher velocities. Velocity is by no means the entire story — the difference in runs allowed between adjacent tiers is larger than velocity alone can explain — but it’s clearly a strong signal of differences in talent.

Overall, the velocity data fits our hypothesis quite well. The best southpaws (top 30 percent) throw their four-seam fastballs and sinkers at about the same velocity as the average or median right-handed pitcher (actually a tick slower). The gap is a bit larger on changeups and curveballs, with the best lefties’ velocity lower than the average righties’.

Note that these top LHPs allow just 3.75 regressed runs per nine innings, fully 0.62 better than the average RHP. To be conservative, we’ll ignore that the top lefties are actually a little worse than the righties they’re being compared against, and we’ll round down. Our best estimate of the overall southpaw advantage, based on this data, is 0.60 RA9.

Velocity (in mph)
Pitchers FOUR-seam Sinker Cutter Curve RA9
Top 30% of lefties 93.1 91.7 87.9 77.3 3.75
All righties 93.3 92.0 88.7 78.6 4.37

Source: FanGraphs

As theorized, the bottom 70 percent of LHPs throw slower pitches than even the weakest group of RHPs on each pitch type. If we compare the middle 40 percent of LHP to the bottom tier of RHPs, we see substantially lower velocity on fastballs (91.6 vs. 92.7), sinkers (90.9 vs. 91.5), cutters (86.1 vs. 87.6) and curves 76.8 vs. 77.8). The bottom performance tier of lefties, unsurprisingly, trails even further behind.

Could we be missing other differences in pitch quality that would narrow this large gap between LHPs’ skill and outcomes? To check, we ran a regression using 28 Statcast “skill” variables — velocity, spin, horizontal movement and vertical movement for seven different pitch types — to predict pitchers’ success against hitters using expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). This gave us a total pitch quality score for every pitcher, combining all speed and movement variables and weighted by their relative importance.

The results closely mirror our velocity-based analysis. Once again, the top 30 percent of left-handed pitchers have virtually the same pitch quality (velocity, spin, and movement corresponding to a 4.20 RA9) as right-handed pitchers overall (4.15). And the remaining 70 percent of southpaws again display lesser pitch quality than the weakest RHPs. Different methods confirm our core thesis: The top tier of LHPs are peers of the average RHPs in terms of pitch quality, with the unfamiliarity factor explaining their disparate outcomes.

Is it really plausible that MLB southpaws could be 0.60 runs per nine innings worse than their right-handed teammates, in terms of underlying pitching skill? We believe it is.

Research in 2010 by Mike Fast (now with the Atlanta Braves as special assistant to the general manager), demonstrated that a loss of 1 mph of fastball velocity increases runs allowed by 0.28 runs per nine innings on average. So the fastball velocity differences that we found would alone create a LHP/RHP skills gap of about 0.40 runs. In addition to velocity, RHPs are also superior on spin and many forms of pitch break, which must further widen the gap. As further research makes more skill dimensions available as data, our estimate of 0.60 runs per game could even prove conservative.

As large as this 0.60 skills/outcomes disparity is, the unfamiliarity advantage enjoyed by lefty pitchers is even larger still. Remember, our measurement represents the combined net impact of the unfamiliarity bonus (a positive for LHPs) and the platoon penalty from facing more opposite-hand hitters (a negative). As mentioned earlier, we estimate that this platoon penalty increases RA9 of LHPs by about 0.20 relative to RHPs. Adding this to our pitch quality-based estimate, we believe that left-handed pitchers’ “unfamiliarity bonus” is a remarkable 0.80 runs per nine innings.

Conclusion

It seems fair to say that the southpaw advantage has shaped the game we know in fundamental ways. Obviously, an advantage of 0.60 in runs allowed per nine innings constitutes an enormous performance difference in the major leagues. That’s the difference between excellent (David Price, 3.63) and merely good (Chris Archer, 4.28), or between an average starting pitcher and a fifth starter struggling to keep a spot in the rotation.

Without southpaws’ hidden advantage, about two out of three left-handed starters would likely be toiling in the bullpen, or in the minor leagues. It’s safe to say that Chris Sale and Clayton Kershaw would still have jobs, but pitchers like Jon Lester and Dallas Keuchel would likely be average starters at best, rather than stars. You would be able to count all the lefty pitchers in the Hall of Fame on your fingers, and every few years we might debate whether a southpaw will ever win the Cy Young Award again.

Back in our world, though, lefties get to enjoy a hidden advantage perhaps more powerful than any PED. Southpaws have long had to endure being stereotyped as “weird” or “wacky,” but they should be grateful for their perceived strangeness. As it turns out, there really is “one weird trick” that vastly improves pitching performance: being born left-handed.

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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home

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On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”

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Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.

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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment

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The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.

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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls

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With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast

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