Sports Economics: Current Research

By John Fizel; Elizabeth Gustafson et al. | Go to book overview

8
Technological Change and Transition in the Winning Function for Major League Baseball

Thomas H. Bruggink


INTRODUCTION

Successful competitors acquire strategic resources ahead of their rivals. This behavior is most telling when the business environment changes. Major League Baseball (MLB) provides an opportunity to observe this response to change. With this research we will examine the golden age of baseball, from 1901 to 1940, when the playing style of baseball changed from emphasizing speed and defense to emphasizing power hitting. Changes in rules, stadium configurations, and the physical composition of the ball during these two eras had substantive effects on what it takes to win ball games. This study attempts to measure the changes in the team winning function due to policy changes that affect the technical aspects of the game.

In most industries, the lack of detailed data on different qualities of inputs limits the study of the adjustment to change. However, the statistics available in MLB allow a more complete specification of input-output relationship. Therefore the diffusion process can be unraveled.

Modern professional baseball began with the new century. After decades of shortlived leagues and high turnover of teams and players on those teams, the American and National Leagues emerged in 1901 to form the cartel that exists to this day. Prior to this time, the baseball rules and equipment underwent several transformations. By 1901, the major conditions of the game, such as the length between bases, the length of the pitcher's mound to home plate, number of strikes for an out, and so on, had been settled. Nonetheless, other aspects of the game remain dynamic. For example, as the second and third decades of modern baseball unfolded, several small but substantive opportunities for changes in the winning function occurred: (1) the liveliness of the ball, 1 (2) legal pitching practices, 2 (3) the distance from home plate to the outfield wall in each stadium. 3

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