QUESTION: Why wouldn’t a Whiteyball approach work these days — particularly when teams haven’t faced that style of play in thirty years? Wouldn’t that kind of game keep opposing players off-balance?
GOOLD: It could, for sure. Several players here at the All-Star Game — including Alex Bregman of Houston — talked about how they see the game changing. Verlander brought that up. That it's going to cycle into another direction as players adjust and pitching has to adjust and contact maybe takes over. Several players brought up how Houston and Boston won the past two World Series championships, and they were hitting for power, sure, but they were contact and go, create action, create havoc teams. Whiteyball? Well, not quite. But ... as close as we get in the modern game.
There are some obvious factors working against Whiteyball. First of all, it would take a really athletic team. And while there probably has never been more athletes seeking out baseball — skilled, top flight athletes, I mean — that's still a lot to ask for a game that prioritizes the power, the slugger.
And that's the second part of this. Power pays. Contact is nice. And we're seeing analytics value the all-around game more and more. But players are going to chase what gets them paid. That's why relievers wanted to be closers — saves pay. That's why some players sellout for power — the chance to hit homers is a better investment in big salaries than a strikeout is costly for a low salary. The market dictates a lot of what the game becomes, and we're in the process of things changing for relievers (Andrew Miller helped that) and some thought Jason Heyward's deal would be a watershed moment for the Defensive Value of a player. Hasn't been.
But we're going to see some players who don't have the huge power, who don't have the blinding OPS, but have a well-balanced, even nuanced game that will get paid because of their high WAR, for example, and when that kind of player gets paid, then the game shifts again. I see where you're coming from — especially in the newness to it — but I think we're seeing some teams play Whiteyball 2.0 and do well with it.