Living large in York, Pa.

The York Revolution, of the independent Atlantic League, have invited 3'2" Dave Flood to spring training. Can Flood help the club?

    [Todd] Gallagher has been doing research on the topic for a few years. Dana Kiecker, former Red Sox rookie of the year, faced a team of short hitters coached by Gallagher two summers ago and was so worn out after one inning that he had to be removed from the game. It was his opinion that a little person could make an impact in the majors. "Look, if they're going up there one after another, a pitcher might be able to strike some guys out by getting in a rhythm, but even then it's going to be tough," said Kiecker. "If you just sprung one on a pitcher, forget it. That's too hard a slot to hit." Similarly, Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan and single season save leader Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez believe it's a plan that has real potential. Said Rodriguez: "First of all, I'm not going to be able to throw strikes. No way. My target for the hitter is very different so my approach would be completely messed up. He's going to get a walk immediately. I'd rather face Barry Bonds in the bottom of the ninth."
    This is a strategy that Gallagher, who is an on-camera contributor at ESPN and television producer, has been pursuing since the release of the successful book. "It's a brilliant strategy and one that's supported by the data and research. I'm thrilled that the Revolution are willing to embrace basic logic and give equal opportunity to a player who can help their team."

    Revolution Director of Baseball Operations Adam Gladstone agrees that the idea has tremendous potential. "Certainly I would think a player like that would have value. This forces our baseball staff to devise a strategy on how to best utilize his skills to help our ballclub. But is a guy with a high on-base percentage attractive? Heck yeah. We just need to determine how to best use him."

The Book's Tangotiger weighs in:

    How good would a player who would only get walks have to be? A walk is worth about +.030 wins and an out is -.027 wins. If you can get a .475 OBP, you'd be a league-average hitter, which, for a guy who can't field (presumably) would be the replacment-level. If we're looking for a 1 WAR per 162G (700PA) player as our threshhold, our guy needs to have a .500 OBP. He would be an average player if he could get a .530 OBP.
    Seeing that MLB pitchers throw ball 4 on 3-0 counts 35% of the time, I can certainly believe that MLB pitchers may have a tough time with the pin-point control they need.

    A short American playing in MLB should be as much a non-story as a tall Chinese playing in the NBA.

Esthetically, I suppose the argument might be, "But he can't run or field or throw."
Yeah, well neither could Calvin Pickering. And he got his shot.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever seriously challenged Major League Baseball's freedom to determine who can and cannot play. The last time this became an issue was, I believe, in 1990 when the Miami Miracle wanted to sign Minnie Minoso; MLB rejected the idea (since then, Minoso has appeared twice with the independent St. Paul Saints).

A couple of practical questions:

1. Could a club justify devoting a roster spot to someone who can do nothing except walk and strike out?


2. Would the pitchers really have a tough time throwing strikes?

I think the answer to Question 1 is probably not ... until September, when every club has gobs of roster space that doesn't even get used; nobody employs the maximum 40 players when the rosters are expanded. And wouldn't every contender have some use for a pinch-hitter (or pinch-hitters) with a .500 on-base percentage?

I think the answer to Question 2 is also probably not. True, they may be throwing Ball 4 on 3-0 counts 35 percent of the time ... but that ignores two facts. One, there's at least some small fear on 3-0 that might prevent the pitcher from just throwing a BP fastball down the middle, and sometimes they're actually not trying to throw a strike (leading to the so-called intentional unintentional walk). And two, even if the pitcher is trying to lay the ball over the plate when the count is 3-0, he has not been doing that earlier in the plate appearance; earlier he's been trying to make good, not particularly hittable pitches.

My guess is that a .500 OBP would be a tall order for a (particularly) short hitter. At least in the majors.