Witten returns from retirement


Staff & Wire Reports



FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2018, file photo, former NFL player Jason Witten and broadcaster is recognized by the Dallas Cowboys before the first half of an NFL football game between the Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans in Arlington, Texas. Witten is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst.  The Cowboys announced Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, that the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end had agreed to a one-year contract. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2018, file photo, former NFL player Jason Witten and broadcaster is recognized by the Dallas Cowboys before the first half of an NFL football game between the Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans in Arlington, Texas. Witten is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst. The Cowboys announced Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, that the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end had agreed to a one-year contract. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)


FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2010, file photo, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten holds the ball up as he scores a 4-yard touchdown against the New York Giants during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas. Witten is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst. The Cowboys announced Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, that the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end had agreed to a one-year contract. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)


Jason Witten rejoining Cowboys after year as broadcaster

By SCHUYLER DIXON

AP Pro Football Writer

Friday, March 1

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Jason Witten said the hardest thing about deciding to retire nine months ago was leaving football without winning a Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys.

The 36-year-old tight end is giving it another shot.

Witten announced Thursday he is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst. The 11-time Pro Bowler will play on a one-year contract worth about $5 million.

“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” Witten said. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it.”

The closest Witten came to shedding a tear during an emotional farewell ceremony last May was when he turned to owner Jerry Jones and said, “The hardest part of this decision was knowing that I would never be able to hand you that Lombardi Trophy.”

In one year as the lead analyst for “Monday Night Football,” Witten must have seen enough in the Cowboys — mostly from afar — to think he can make good on his wish for the man who is now his boss again.

Quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott are coming off their first playoff victory, which came two years after losing their postseason debuts as rookie sensations in the divisional round against Green Bay, a loss that had the distinction of being Witten’s final playoff game — so far.

Prescott, the 2016 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and the two-time league rushing champion Elliott helped Dallas recover from a slow start this past season to win the NFC East and beat Seattle in the wild-card round.

The Cowboys lost a divisional game at the Los Angeles Rams, making it 23 consecutive seasons without even reaching the NFC championship game since the last of the franchise’s five Super Bowl titles following the 1995 season.

Witten has been around for well more than half of that lengthy drought, sharing a franchise record of 15 seasons in Dallas with three others who also spent their entire careers with the Cowboys.

A 16th season will add to a list of club records that includes games, starts, catches and yards receiving. And he’s returning with the Twitter blessing of 40-year-old Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki , who just set an NBA record with his 21st season with the same franchise.

Witten’s decision to join ESPN’s crew came a year after quarterback Tony Romo, his longtime teammate and best friend, made the same move with CBS. But their receptions were dramatically different.

Romo was praised from the beginning two seasons ago for his ability to see what was going to happen before the snap, and the delivery resonated with fans. His reputation grew further during the AFC championship game in January.

Witten’s transition wasn’t nearly as smooth , and he was frequently criticized. Most notably, Witten was grilled for saying Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers pulled “another rabbit out of his head” with a tying touchdown pass late in a 33-30 overtime win against San Francisco.

“We thank Jason for his many contributions to ‘Monday Night Football’ and to ESPN over the past year and wish him continued success,” the network said in a statement. “We have seen many former coaches and players go into broadcasting before eventually returning to the game they love, so we understand Jason’s desire to return to the Dallas Cowboys.”

Dallas struggled at tight end without Witten. Geoff Swaim was the most productive before his season ended with a broken wrist after 10 games. Blake Jarwin tied a club record for touchdown catches by a tight end in a game with three in the regular-season finale against the New York Giants. Those were all three of Jarwin’s touchdowns as he had 27 catches for 307 yards. Swaim had 26 catches for 242 yards with one TD.

Swaim got the bulk of the playing time before his injury because of his ability as a blocker, whereas the Cowboys believed Jarwin needed to work on that part of his game. With Witten, the Cowboys get back someone coach Jason Garrett believes is one of the best two-way tight ends in NFL history.

Witten had four 1,000-yard seasons, mostly recently with 1,039 yards in 2012 when he set an NFL record for tight ends with 110 catches. Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz topped that with 116 this past season.

In 2017, Witten broke Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s club record of 11,904 yards receiving, finishing with 12,448 to go with 1,152 catches. He is the Dallas leader in receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 68.

Witten and Tony Gonzalez are the only NFL tight ends with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards receiving. Gonzalez was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first try this year. Witten is postponing consideration of his date with Canton.

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Bryce is Right: Harper, Phils agree to record $330M deal

By DAN GELSTON

AP Sports Writer

Friday, March 1

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bryce Harper is kind of a big deal in Philly.

No, not just with his colossal contract — Harper and the Phillies agreed Thursday to a $330 million, 13-year deal that is the largest contract in baseball history.

But as an attraction.

Harper zipped to the top of the list as the city’s most popular athlete, adding a dash of star power while raising payroll, projections and prices to a franchise that has lagged in popularity in the shared sports complex behind Super Bowl champions, a Process and a mascot.

“One of the best players in baseball,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said.

With Harper set to take his cuts in Philly, the question is raised: Are the Phillies the team to beat in the NL East?

That’s a clown question, bro.

The betting odds shifted faster than the Astros’ infield once Harper landed in Philly. The Phillies’ odds at winning the division went from 2-1 to 5-4; the pennant from 7-1 to 4-1 and the World Series from 12-1 to 8-1.

After leading their division in early August, the Phillies went 16-33 over the final 49 games of last season and at 80-82 finished with a losing record for the sixth straight season.

The Phillies haven’t been a playoff threat since the 2007-11 heyday when Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley anchored five postseason teams, back-to-back NL pennants and the 2008 World Series championship. The Phillies ballpark was a hotter summer attraction than the Jersey shore and the franchise set an NL record with 257 straight sellouts from 2009-2012.

Last year? Tickets could be had on the secondary market for the price of a ballpark hot dog at first pitch and all the bells and whistles of added fan-friendly attractions couldn’t generate enthusiasm. Ticket prices on StubHub skyrocketed faster than a Harper homer on Thursday once tweets of his impending arrival hit the city — the cheap seats start at $100 for opening day. Phillies fans went old school and left work early to hit ticket windows and score face value tickets on the cheap (if not resell at a tidy profit) for his debut.

Just wait until his jersey goes on sale.

Harper wore No. 34 in Washington but that number hasn’t been worn by a Phillies player since Hall of Famer Roy Halladay died piloting a plane in 2017.

Harper, who makes the short list with Pete Rose, Jim Thome and Cliff Lee as biggest free-agent signings in franchise history, is one of the few pay-to-watch players in baseball. And Phillies fans — who cheered fellow free-agent Manny Machado during the team’s public flirtation with the San Diego Padres star — will pay stupid money for their seats. But he’s not the only new face in Philly worth watching.

“I certainly think that the city of Philadelphia would embrace Bryce Harper,” Kapler said. “I think he would be very happy in this city because our fans care deeply about winning. Their care about winning was evidenced throughout this entire offseason, obviously paying close attention to every move that (general manager) Matt (Klentak) made, and we made a lot of moves to get ready for this spring training.”

A 26-year-old All-Star who had spent his entire big league career with the Washington Nationals, Harper topped the $325 million, 13-year agreement outfielder Giancarlo Stanton reached before the 2015 season with the Miami Marlins.

Harper isn’t even the only MVP and All-Star added to the lineup this season. The Phillies were trending toward a playoff team before Harper signed as the fattened the roster with the additions of 2013 NL MVP Andrew McCutchen for $50 million over three years and 2011 All-Star reliever David Robertson for $23 million over two years, and acquiring 2018 NL All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and two-time All-Star shortstop Jean Segura.

Harper, Realmuto and Segura were All-Stars last season.

“We thought we were a complete team. Now, we’re even more of a complete team,” McCutchen said. “It’s going to be fun.”

There’s tons of fun on the Philly sports scene these days and Harper was added to a city roster brimming with stars; Carson Wentz, Gritty, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and even Flyers rookie sensation Carter Hart have the most pessimistic of fans pumped for the decade ahead.

Or maybe the next 13 years.

Phillies kids club members will start paying off student loans by the time Harper’s contract is finished — one the franchise can only hope pays off with a few more World Series banners added to their meager total.

Aaron Nola, who finished third in last year’s NL Cy Young voting, and a healthy Jake Arrieta should form a stout 1-2 top of the rotation and Zach Efflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez all need to take a step forward this season for the Phillies to contend. Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez return to give the Phillies one of the best top-to-bottom lineups in the National League.

Kapler said Harper would likely hit third or fourth in the lineup, and the analytics say he should thrive in hitter-friendly Philly. Harper has batted .268 with 14 home runs, 32 RBIs, a .365 on-base percentage, a .564 slugging percentage, a .930 OPS and 48 hits in 50 career games at Citizens Bank Park.

Washington took him with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft and called him up to the majors less than two years later at age 19. He would go on to become the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year for a Nationals club that won its first division title and made its postseason debut. Last year, he hit 34 homers and produced a career-high 100 RBIs while walking 130 times, although his batting average dipped to .249. He started more than a third of his games in center field instead of his usual spot in right because of injuries to teammates.

Before Harper gets too comfy in Philly, a visit with an old friend. Harper and the Phillies play April 2-3 against Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg at Nationals Park.

It’s a chance to wave goodbye to the only baseball city he’s called home — before the brash Harper gets set to mash in Philly.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

FiveThirtyEight

Sports

Relievers Have Broken Baseball. We Have A Plan To Fix It.

Feb. 25, 2019

By Nate Silver

The Yankees might have the best bullpen in baseball — and the team’s use of its relievers is part of MLB’s biggest problem.

Earlier this month, Major League Baseball said it was considering a rule change to require pitchers to face at least three batters per appearance — or finish an inning — as part of a series of initiatives to improve the pace of play. I don’t hate this; I’ve always been a fan of relief pitchers working longer outings. But I think the MLB proposal misses the real problem.

The issue isn’t really with relievers who face just one hitter at a time. In fact, LOOGYs — Left-handed One-Out Guys — are already fading in popularity as teams realize that if a pitcher isn’t good enough to face multiple hitters in a row, he may not belong in the bullpen pecking order at all.

Instead, the problem concerns teams that use a parade of relievers who enter the game from the sixth inning onward and throw the hell out of the ball, knowing they’ll probably max out at one inning at a time. (The Yankee bullpen is a prime example.) You might call these pitchers OMGs: One-inning Max-effort Guys. They can be incredibly, game-changing effective, but they aren’t necessarily all that skilled.

In fact, the whole problem is that OMGs are a renewable resource, with no real constraints on supply. Teams can take failed starters with two decent pitches and, after some weeding out, turn them into OMGs who will strike out 25 or 30 percent of the batters they face, provided they only have to throw one inning every second or third day. It also yields rosters that are grossly imbalanced relative to the amount of value that these relievers generate. According to FanGraphs, relief pitchers accounted for only about 9 percent of the value (in wins above replacement) that all position players and pitchers created last year. And yet, they occupy about 25 percent of roster slots.

And to a larger degree than you probably realize, these OMGs bear responsibility for the ever-increasing rate of strikeouts in baseball — something that was easier to shrug off until MLB attendance started to decline.

More relievers means more strikeouts

Strikeouts have been increasing for more or less the entirety of baseball history. Here’s the trajectory from 19081 up until last year — when, for the first time, more plate appearances ended with strikeouts than with base hits.

There are a couple of peaks marking the end of the Deadball Era in the late 1910s and then another pitchers’ era in the mid-to-late 1960s, but overall the trend is very steady. Over this period, the correlation between the year and the strikeout rate is 0.91.

One other baseball trend has been equally if not more relentless, however: As time has passed, teams have relied more and more on their bullpens. As a result, both starting pitchers and relievers have seen increasingly shorter stints. Thus, the number of pitchers per team per game has steadily increased, from 1.4 in 1908 to around 4.4 now.

The correlation is stronger still if you look at the number of pitchers used relative to the number of plate appearances in a typical game.2 For instance, if you take the number of pitchers used per 38 plate appearances3 — over the long run, MLB teams average about 38 plate appearances per game — you get this:

That looks a lot like the previous graph showing the strikeout rate — the correlation is 0.96 — including a dip in both pitchers used and strikeouts at the end of the Deadball Era in the late 1910s and again at the end of the Second Deadball Era in the early 1970s, and then an especially steep acceleration in both strikeouts and pitchers used over the past few years.

It’s not just a coincidence that relief pitcher usage and strikeout rate are correlated in this way. When you take a starter and use him in relief — especially in a short stint that typically lasts only an inning or so — his strikeout rate will be usually be higher, and sometimes a lot higher. You can also expect him to throw harder and to use a more dangerous repertoire consisting of more fastballs and sliders.

Here’s the tale of the tape. Using data from FanGraphs, I looked at all pitchers who worked both as starters and relievers between 2016 and 2018, providing for a direct, head-to-head comparison of how the pitchers performed in each role. These pitchers’ strikeout rates were about 12 percent higher when they came on in relief than when they started. They also threw about a mile per hour harder in relief.4

Starters supercharge their K rate when working in relief

Statistics for MLB pitchers who worked as both starters and relievers, 2016-18

As starter As reliever

Strikeout rate 18.4% 20.6%

Fastball velocity 91.6 mph 92.5 mph

Share fastballs 54.1% 55.1%

Share sliders 13.9% 15.0%

Observations are weighted by the lesser of the number of batters a pitcher faced as a starter and in relief from 2016 to 2018. For example, a pitcher who threw to 500 batters as a starter and 200 batters as a reliever would receive a weight of 200. Pitchers who averaged fewer than 15 batters faced per start, i.e. who served as “openers” or tandem starters, are excluded from the analysis.

Source: Fangraphs

Those are meaningful gains, but the really big differences come when you use pitchers in short stints that are roughly one inning long. In the next table, I’ve assigned the pitchers who worked both as starters and relievers into three groups: first, those who averaged five or fewer batters faced per relief appearance (these are guys who usually threw just one inning at a time — the OMGs); second, those who averaged more than five but fewer than eight batters faced (a mix of one-inning and multi-inning appearances); and third, those who averaged eight or more batters faced (mostly multi-inning appearances).

It’s much easier to throw an inning at a time

Statistics for MLB pitchers who worked as both starters and relievers, 2016-18, by how many batters faced per relief appearance

Five or fewer batters

As starter As reliever

Strikeout rate 19.9% 23.9%

Fastball velocity 91.7 mph 93.6 mph

Share fastballs 53.6% 56.9%

Share sliders 17.7% 19.4%

Between five and eight batters

As starter As reliever

Strikeout rate 18.7% 20.6%

Fastball velocity 91.5 mph 92.3 mph

Share fastballs 53.6% 54.0%

Share sliders 12.6% 13.6%

Eight or more batters

As starter As reliever

Strikeout rate 16.7% 17.7%

Fastball velocity 91.6 mph 92.2 mph

Share fastballs 55.6% 55.8%

Share sliders 13.4% 13.9%

Observations are weighted by the lesser of the number of batters a pitcher faced as a starter and in relief from 2016 to 2018. For example, a pitcher who threw to 500 batters as a starter and 200 batters as a reliever would receive a weight of 200. Pitchers who averaged fewer than 15 batters faced per start, i.e. who served as “openers” or tandem starters, are excluded from the analysis.

Source: Fangraphs

The first group — the OMGs — got a massive, 20 percent boost to their strikeout rate as relievers. They also gained about 2 mph worth of fastball velocity. And they were able to throw fastballs or sliders — the pitches that seem to be at the core of increasing K rates — 76 percent of the time in relief as compared with 71 percent of the time as starters.

Conversely, the third group — the long relievers who routinely worked multi-inning stints — got only a 6 percent gain in their strikeout rates relative to the ones they had as starters, and they added only 0.6 mph to their fastballs.

LOOGYs aren’t really the problem

The MLB proposal would effectively kill off the LOOGY, along with its much rarer companion, the ROOGY. So it’s worth asking: If relief pitchers are especially effective when they’re limited to only one inning of work, does it follow that they do even better when limited to just one or two hitters? That is to say, could MLB’s proposal to require that pitchers face at least three batters cause an especially large reduction in strikeout rates?

The answer is: not really. If you further break down our sample of pitchers and look at those who threw very short stints in relief,5 they actually had fewer strikeouts than those who averaged around an inning per appearance.6 A lot of this is selection bias: Guys who are brought in to face only one or two hitters at a time are usually mediocre pitchers with big platoon splits. Left-handers who became LOOGYs are generally worse as starting pitchers than the rest of the sample; indeed, they’re quite a bit better in relief than in their starting roles. Nonetheless, they’re not all that effective in relief — much less effective than the OMGs — and because they throw so few innings, they don’t affect the bottom line that much in terms of baseball’s strikeout rate.

And because LOOGYs are fading in popularity, they don’t necessarily contribute all that much to slowing down the game. Of the roughly 16,000 pitching changes in 2018, only about 5,000 occured in the middle of the inning, according to data provided to FiveThirtyEight by David Smith of Retrosheet. These midinning changes are indeed time-consuming — adding about 3 minutes and 15 seconds worth of game time, Smith estimates. (Pitching changes between innings add only about 15 seconds, by contrast.) But they aren’t all that common.

How to bring balance back to bullpens

There’s a better idea than the MLB minimum batters proposal, one that would also speed up the game but that would yield more interesting strategy and — most importantly, from my point of view — cut down on the number of strikeouts, perhaps substantially. The core of my proposal is simple: Each team should be limited to carrying 10 pitchers on its 25-man active roster, plus an Emergency Pitcher.

Like it? Hate it? Well, let me give you some of the details first:

What’s an Emergency Pitcher? He’s a pitcher who could be signed either on a game-by-game basis — in the way that emergency goalies are used in the NHL — or for any length of time up to a full season. The Emergency Pitcher couldn’t be a member of a team’s 40-man roster, although — just for fun — he could be a member of a team’s coaching staff.7 Emergency Pitchers could enter the game only under certain circumstances:

If the starting pitcher left the game because of injury;

If one team led by at least 10 runs;

If it were the 11th inning or later; or

If it were the second game of a doubleheader.

Position players could still pitch, but they wouldn’t be allowed to pitch to a greater number of batters than the number of plate appearances they’d recorded so far on the season as hitters. A backup catcher with 100 plate appearances could face up to 100 batters as a pitcher, for instance (which works out to roughly 20 or 25 innings). With this rule, teams could use position players to pitch on an emergency basis basically whenever they wanted, but they couldn’t designate pitchers as position players just to circumvent the 10-pitcher requirement. Brooks Kieschnick types would need to have their innings and plate appearances monitored carefully.8

After the roster expanded to 40 players in September, minor league call-ups who were not on the 10-pitcher list could start games, subject to a requirement that they threw at least 60 pitches or five innings or — a mercy rule — gave up at least five runs. They could not appear in relief, however.

Relief pitchers, especially the OMGs, aren’t going to like this, so the restrictions could be phased in over several years. For instance, you could start with a 12-pitcher limit beginning in 2020, then ratchet it down to 11 pitchers in 2022 and 10 pitchers in 2024 as teams adapted to the new requirements.

As you can see, the goal here is to be fairly strict: While we want to provide for a bit of flexibility, we mostly want to force teams to stick to the 10 players they designate as pitchers as much as possible. For that matter, we’d probably also want to tighten rules surrounding the injured list and minor-league call-ups, which teams regularly use and abuse to add de facto roster slots — but that’s not a part of this proposal per se.

Toward a new equilibrium

So how would teams use their pitching staffs under these rules? That’s anyone’s guess, and part of the fun would be in seeing the different strategies that teams adopted. But my guess is that the average team would do something like this to fill the roughly 1,450 innings that major league teams pitch in each regular season:

What a 10-man pitching staff might look like

Role Games Pitched Games Started Innings Pitched

Ace starter 34 34 230

No. 2 starter 33 33 210

No. 3 starter 33 33 195

No. 4 starter 32 32 180

No. 5 starter 30 22 150

Long reliever/spot starter 40 3 100

Durable middle reliever 55 0 90

RH set-up 60 0 85

LH set-up 70 0 75

Closer 60 0 80

Role Games Pitched Games Started Innings Pitched

Emergency Pitchers 10 0 20

September call-up starters 5 5 25

Position players 5 0 10

Games Pitched Games Started Innings Pitched

Total 467 162 1,450

This strategy envisions that starting pitchers would throw 6.0 innings per start, up from 5.4 innings per start in 2018 but a bit less than the 6.2 innings per start that pitchers averaged in the 1980s. Relievers would average around 1.6 innings per appearance, meanwhile — considerably up from 2018 (1.1 inning per appearance) and about the same as in the 1980s.

Overall, this plan would entail using 2.9 pitchers per team per game, which is close to where baseball was in the late 1980s. But we could balance out the workload more effectively than teams did back then. As you can see in the table, we could get the necessary innings from a 10-man staff without having to ask starters to throw 270 or 280 innings, as ace starters sometimes did in the 1980s, and without having to ask closers to throw 140 innings a year, as sometimes happened too. Starters would have to work through the third time in the order a bit more often, but there would still be plenty of room for discretion on the part of the manager.

The most consequential change would be that we’d cut down on the number of OMG innings. There would still be plenty of them, to be sure. But if you went overboard, it would come with a lot of trade-offs. If a team tried to employ five relievers who each worked 70 appearances of one inning each, for instance, its five starters would have to average about 6.5 innings per start, so they’d be working through the third time in the lineup a lot more often.

And if you did want to use a pitcher to face only one or two batters, you could still do it, but it would be more costly still — with a 10-man pitching staff, someone else is always going to have to pick up the slack.

This would also relieve (pun somewhat intended) the monotony of the OMGs. We wouldn’t be removing any spots from the 25-man roster. (In fact, we’d essentially be adding one for the Emergency Pitcher.) But we’d be requiring at least 15 of them to be used on position players. Pinch runners, pinch hitters, platoon players, defensive replacements and third catchers — all of whom have become endangered species as teams use every marginal roster slot on an OMG — would begin to roam the baseball field freely again.

I’m reluctant to estimate the overall amount by which my rule change would reduce strikeouts or improve pace of play. That’s because baseball strategy is a dynamic system, and our goal is to change teams’ overall attitudes toward pitcher usage. Pitching to contact might become more common again, for instance, as starters would need to throw longer outings. Keep in mind that if starters are only expected to work through the order two or two-and-a-half times, tossing perhaps five or six innings, they can also throw at relatively high effort. So we wouldn’t just be reducing strikeouts by exchanging some OMGs for multi-inning relievers; starters would also have to pace themselves more, too.

But if relief-pitcher usage has as close a relationship with strikeout rates as I think it does, the net effects could be substantial. This rule would essentially roll relief-pitcher usage back to what it was in the late 1980s or early 1990s and could bring strikeouts back toward what they were back then too, when pitchers struck out about 15 percent of the batters they faced instead of the 22 percent they do now.

That’s probably too optimistic; at least some of the increase in strikeout rate undoubtedly has to do with pitchers being bigger and stronger and throwing harder than ever before.9 But some kind of intervention is needed. The OMG-dominated equilibrium of today may be ruthlessly efficient, but it isn’t making for an aesthetically or strategically rewarding form of baseball.

Nate Silver is the founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight. @natesilver538

FILE – In this Nov. 5, 2018, file photo, former NFL player Jason Witten and broadcaster is recognized by the Dallas Cowboys before the first half of an NFL football game between the Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans in Arlington, Texas. Witten is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst. The Cowboys announced Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, that the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end had agreed to a one-year contract. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122419903-5a2d077fe79b454bbf2e569e3097c5aa.jpgFILE – In this Nov. 5, 2018, file photo, former NFL player Jason Witten and broadcaster is recognized by the Dallas Cowboys before the first half of an NFL football game between the Cowboys and the Tennessee Titans in Arlington, Texas. Witten is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst. The Cowboys announced Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, that the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end had agreed to a one-year contract. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 25, 2010, file photo, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten holds the ball up as he scores a 4-yard touchdown against the New York Giants during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas. Witten is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst. The Cowboys announced Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, that the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end had agreed to a one-year contract. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/03/web1_122419903-bb07c1c443c24253955e167ef3efd5ca.jpgFILE – In this Oct. 25, 2010, file photo, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten holds the ball up as he scores a 4-yard touchdown against the New York Giants during the first quarter of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas. Witten is coming out of retirement and rejoining the Cowboys after one season as a television analyst. The Cowboys announced Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, that the 11-time Pro Bowl tight end had agreed to a one-year contract. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

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