Off-base: Baseball's waning attendance and viewing figures

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Pitching a change

With a game as storied as baseball, where strategies have been honed and optimized over many years (see: Moneyball), any rule-changes are a big deal. Indeed, the sport has often been renowned for its reluctance to change. Some of the biggest teams of the day — the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers — once feared the impact of radio on attendance, clubbing together for a five-year ban on live play-by-play broadcasts in the 1930s. Fans erupted in protest when the Chicago Cubs introduced lights at Wrigley Field in 1988, shattering the tradition of exclusively daytime games, and even the adoption of electronic balls and strike calls by umpires has been met with resistance.

But, seeing dwindling attendance and viewer figures — only 11.8 million people tuned in to watch the Houston Astros triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies in last year's World Series, down from a peak of 44 million in the 70s — has spurred the powers that be to make some changes.

The data is the problem

Although we love data here at Chartr, in baseball’s case, its use has arguably made the game more dull — as analysis found that defensive, safer plays were generally the optimal move. So, in a bid to reinvigorate the sport in an era of shrinking attention spans, Major League Baseball has implemented three major changes: reduced time allotted to pitchers, bigger base sizes and an outright ban on the “dullest” defensive plays.

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