May 23, 2019

"Baseball’s timeless appeal is predicated upon an equilibrium between pitching and hitting, and in the past, when that equilibrium has been thrown off..."

"... the game has always managed, either organically or through small tweaks, to return to an acceptable balance. But there is growing evidence that essential equilibrium has been distorted by the increasing number of pitchers able to throw the ball harder and faster... It’s one thing to identify velocity as the root cause of baseball’s inaction problem, but another thing to police it. You can’t legislate that pitchers can no longer throw above 95 mph.... The mound was placed at its current distance of 60 feet 6 inches from home plate in 1893.... [A] proposed rule [will] be tested in the independent Atlantic League... the mound will be moved back by two feet, to 62 feet 6 inches. The
thinking is that the added distance will give hitters more time to react to faster fastballs.... In 1893, when the mound was moved back 10 feet to its current distance, the change resulted in a 35-point jump in batting average and a 34-percent drop in strikeouts. By comparison, lowering the mound from 15 inches to 10 inches in 1969 resulted in more modest changes: an 11-point rise in batting average and a 2-percent drop in strikeouts. Some observers believe the hitter’s extra two feet of reaction time against fastballs would be offset by the additional distance for breaking balls to curve, drop or dart at the end of their trajectories — actually making it more difficult to hit, and thus giving baseball the opposite result of what it is looking for."

From "Velocity is strangling baseball — and its grip keeps tightening" by Dave Sheinin (WaPo).

95 comments:

gspencer said...

"So if baseball has a velocity problem that can’t be slowed down, what else can be done to address its effects?"

In addition to increasing the distance from home plate, lower the hill. Maybe even make it on the same plane as home plate.

bleh said...

If you want to help batters, you can make the strike zone smaller. You can limit pitching changes. It's not rocket science.

Nonapod said...

Maybe increasing the length and diameter of the bat could help too.

Bay Area Guy said...

Have you recently watched a baseball game on tv -- not your team?

It is impossible.

I've been a diehard baseball fan for 44 years. I played it, my kids played it, I coached them, I loved it.

I love the A's, but it's hard to follow the game. It's so slow and tedious. The players get paid so much, to do so little. I can share with you exuberant details of the 1978 season, but it's hard to even read the sports page in 2019.

Are the Yankees still dominant?

Maybe, I'm just getting older and grouchy. Maybe, I should break out my old glove and play some catch with one of my kids....

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Allow the batters to use steroids, while still prohibiting it for pitchers.

Expat(ish) said...

@Bay Area -

Or you can find another, smaller sport. I switched to Disc Golf. I can watch matches on YouTube in 30 minutes for free, play a round for free (well, absent lost discs), and be done with an entire game in <2 hours.

The highest paid guy in Disc Golf is making $2M for four years contract and it is still stunning the sport.

-XC

PS - A friend of mine has switched from the NBA to Women's College Basketball - he says it moves pretty slowly and they can really run plays.

Ice Nine said...

Or, since it is action you want, you could always watch football, basketball or tennis. Or curling...

Ken B said...

It's the long ball that is killing baseball. It's now all about waiting for for the homer.

AJ Lynch said...

Two feet is too much I think.

PM said...

They can raise or lower the mound as they have in the past.
Any other change (distance, bat size, 4 strikes. batter's eye patch) is bullshit.

Ann Althouse said...

From the Wikipedia article on the Atlantic League:

-------------------

In March 2019, the Atlantic League and Major League Baseball reached agreement to test multiple rule changes during the 2019 Atlantic League season:

Use of a radar tracking system to assist umpires in calling balls and strikes
Reducing the time between half innings by 20 seconds, from 2 minutes 5 seconds to 1:45
Requiring pitchers to face at least three batters
Exceptions: side is retired, or injury
Banning mound visits
Exceptions: pitching change, or for medical issues
Restricting infield shifts
Two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base
Increasing the size of bases from 15 inches (38 cm) to 18 inches (46 cm)
The size of home plate is not altered
Moving the pitching rubber on the pitcher's mound back 24 inches (61 cm)
This change would have taken effect in the second half of the season

In April 2019, implementation of two of the changes was delayed:

The tracking system for calling balls and strikes "will be implemented gradually over the course of the 2019 season"
Moving the pitching rubber back will not occur until the second half of the 2020 Atlantic League season

Rory said...

"It's so slow and tedious. The players get paid so much, to do so little."

Just requiring a pitcher to throw the ball within 15 seconds would reduce average velocity by a bit. Pitchers, especially relievers, are consciously slowing things down so as to deliver maximum effort on each pitch.

gspencer said...

What's been happening to baseball can be compared to what's been happening to so, so many retail locations. Being abandoned but not knowing what to do with the old structure.

rehajm said...

Baseball Almanac says the league batting average last was .248, the lowest since 1972, but not really out of line with historic norms. Maybe you're just more fidgety?

rehajm said...

Playoff hockey is still going and it's exciting. Watch to see if Boston breaks the 100+ day drought of championships.

Fen said...

I love the A's, but it's hard to follow the game. It's so slow and tedious.

Agreed. I've only enjoyed baseball when I'm there in the stadium. It's the atmosphere. My father and I are catching up on life, having hot dogs and beer, to the occasional CRACK! of a bat in the background. Baseball is the lovely orchestra at the fancy restaurant. You go for the atmosphere.

I don't know how they can even afford to be on TV with this generation's low attention span.

Achilles said...

It is hard to decide which is more uninteresting to watch: basketball or baseball.

Fen said...

And each team plays 162 games per season. How can you get excited about one game? Hockey has the same problem. The Caps are boring in the regular season and just phoning it in. It doesn't really get exciting till the playoffs.

rcocean said...

Why not just make a "walk" 3 balls instead of 4. That would give pitchers the incentive to put the ball over the plate.

Fen said...

It is hard to decide which is more uninteresting to watch: basketball or baseball.

Basketball. I can predict the next game played. Seriously.

Quick google search says NBA: Raptors VS Bucks at 8pm. Never heard of them.

I predict the last team to shoot will win by a 3 point margin or less.

Anyone want to counter? It will be fun.

rcocean said...

"Requiring pitchers to face at least three batters"

Or no more than 3-4 pitcher changes per game. It'b be like timeouts in Football.

Phil said...

Of those proposed rule changes, I really like requiring the pitchers to face three batters; I wouldn't ban mound visits, but I'd reduce them; but if you want to beat the shift, teach your batters to lay down bunts for fuck's sake. Station to station baseball is out of favor, and a bright GM would recognize that because of that, it's where the value in the player's market is to be found.

rcocean said...

NBA basketball has become the dullest sport ever. 82 games over 6 months. Result: 16 team playoff that goes on 7 weeks. The stars are dull and we get the same team winning almost every year. Oh, and lots of 3 pointers.

tim maguire said...

Try comparing the number of complete games to league batting average.

No need to move things around or heighten or shorten, just limit pitching changes. Like, barring injury, require the starter to pitch at least 7 innings or limit pitching changes to 1 or 2 per game.

Per Ken's comment, years ago I heard a suggestion I hated at the time, but would support now--eliminate home runs. If you hit the ball out of the park, you're out. In most sports, the power game is the worst part. Small ball is much better baseball.

Henry said...

In addition to increasing the distance from home plate, lower the hill. Maybe even make it on the same plane as home plate.

I totally agree with this.

Henry said...

Lots of talk among baseball insiders that the current ball has more elasticity.

Jim at said...

Leave the game alone.

nob490 said...

I've been watching/playing baseball since I was a kid. Almost 50 years now. I love it. But anymore I find the games just too slow to watch. I find it is much better on the radio on a long drive, or when I'm doing something else, like washing the car.

Batters and pitchers both take way too long between pitches. It is like watching paint dry. And this is from someone who loves the game. That, to me, is what needs to be fixed - the standing around.

Hagar said...

Baseball testifies to the essential inscrutability of the American people.

James K said...

Baseball Almanac says the league batting average last was .248, the lowest since 1972, but not really out of line with historic norms. Maybe you're just more fidgety?

The problem not the lack of offense, but that HRs and strikeouts have gone up a lot. The fraction of balls in play is at an all-time low. That makes the game less interesting. Note that it hit a local low in the late 60s, after which they lowered the mound and shrank the strike zone, and it went up again, but peaked around 1980.

DAN said...

Eliminate one position. Make the pitcher pitch from second base.

ga6 said...

Easy two rule changers: pitchers have to release the ball withing 20 seconds of receiving it and the hitter has to be ready at all times, he steps out, falls down, rubs his eyes, tough the pitch is coming, he is supposed to be a pro and should perform like one.

Pitchers can study the performances of Mark Buehrle All Star from the Chicago White Sox now retired. If he was pitching you could plan on being in and out of the ball park in less than three hours, usually 2.5 or less on a good day.

James K said...

Easy two rule changers: pitchers have to release the ball withing 20 seconds of receiving it and the hitter has to be ready at all times

Not quite so easy: If there are runners on base, especially first base, the pitcher has to be able to throw over there, and it's hard to put a limit on that without basically giving the runner a stolen base.

When I was growing up, it wasn't unusual for games to finish in under two hours.

CWJ said...

"It's the long ball that is killing baseball. It's now all about waiting for for the homer."

Agreed!

robother said...

How much of increased average velocity is a function of Tommy John surgery? If that is the culprit, ban it like steroids. Restore the normal pattern of young pitchers coming in with heat, then losing it after a few years, but leave the few naturals like Big Train to their careers, a match for the natural hitters like The Babe.

Also, wouldn't the lower average BA be the statistically expected result of the Three True Outcomes Bill James nerd takeover of baseball? They want more walks and they want more extra base hits (rather than "cheap" singles), so batters are rewarded even if they strike out more as the price of those extra base hits.

Bay Area Guy said...

@Fen,

Agreed. I've only enjoyed baseball when I'm there in the stadium. It's the atmosphere. My father and I are catching up on life, having hot dogs and beer, to the occasional CRACK! of a bat in the background. Baseball is the lovely orchestra at the fancy restaurant. You go for the atmosphere.

Yes, a family outing to the stadium is still great. I took the family to a Washington Nationals game last year in DC, and it was genuinely fun. It costs $200-300, but that's a separate issue.

I used to listen to the A's on the radio while doing yard work - and that was grand. Maybe, I need to revive that.

Rick.T. said...

Nonapod said...

"Maybe increasing the length and diameter of the bat could help too."

I can't do the physics but it seems like this would slow down a swing, making the problem worse.

bagoh20 said...

Make the pitcher wear a parka and sandals.

The real problem with baseball, as with all things, is the lack of gender equality and representation by LGBTQ players.... and the price of beer.

bagoh20 said...

Maybe put the batter on a high mound and pitch up hill.

AJ Lynch said...

It's the video generation too - they want action action we want action.

AJ Lynch said...

A creative and kooky friend of mine once proposed to let the batter choose to run to 1st or 3rd base after he hits the ball. That might make things more interesting though he did not have a solution if runners were already on base.

iowan2 said...

Reducing the roster seems like a simple rule that does not change the traditions of the game. That would reduce the bull pens, forcing pitchers to throw more pitches per game. That forces them to take something off the speed, throw more change ups, curves, and work the corners. Like all good experiments, change one variable at a time.

Joe said...

Recently watched a YouTube video which basically argued that it's as much "spin" as velocity; as they've better understood the physics of spin, they've been able to train for it (in the sense of improving what a pitcher has, not creating a good pitcher out of nothing.)

(BTW, I agree on a "pitch clock"; what little baseball I watch is made worse by the batters who continually delay with their nonsense.)

Joe said...

"A creative and kooky friend of mine once proposed to let the batter choose to run to 1st or 3rd base after he hits the ball."

If the bases are empty. Otherwise, the order is what the first batter on base selected.

Michael said...

I was at the final game of the 1980 World Series. Length of the game from first pitch to final out was 2 hours 20 minutes. Today most games aren't out of the 6th in that amount of time.

James K said...

Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, with all his antics, frequently had games that lasted under two hours. It helped that he hardly walked anyone and didn't strike out that many people either. Just a lot of ground ball outs.

Jim at said...

Reducing the roster seems like a simple rule that does not change the traditions of the game.

No way the strongest union in professional sports - the MLBPA - would allow that to happen.

Pete the Streak said...

Velocity is not the issue at all. Any major league hitter will eventually time a fastball; it is movement, location and change of speeds that makes hitting difficult. That, and specialization: long relief, short relief, setup guys and closers. The latter two are relatively recent developments.
I just finished a great book, "K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches", by Tyler Kepner. Great insight into pitching and hitting from the 19th century through the 21st. I highly recommend it for serious baseball types.

Bay Area Guy said...

Little league baseball is fun, but only if your kid is in it.

Have you ever watched a little league game of other people's kids? It is like Chinese water torture.

daskol said...

It's not always that much when it's your own kid. I shuttle between my young son's team--tough to watch--and my slightly older daughter's softball team, and I definitely have more fun at the latter.

rhhardin said...

Mnemonic for top and bottom of the inning - it's like undressing a girl. First the top, then the bottom.

Yancey Ward said...

I would shrink the roster to 20 players. That will eliminate the vast increase in pitching changes. Of course, the players union would never agree to this.

Yancey Ward said...

"Have you ever watched a little league game of other people's kids? It is like Chinese water torture."

This is a good way to end up on the local pervert list.

Poboy said...

I think the game slowed down a lot starting with Nomar. He took forever to dig in. Too many others followed his routine. One conundrum for MLB, fans like scoring but it makes the game longer. When pitchers dominate, the game shortens but gets boring for many.

Yancey Ward said...

"Mnemonic for top and bottom of the inning - it's like undressing a girl. First the top, then the bottom."

What if she is wearing a hat and socks?

HoodlumDoodlum said...

nob490 said...
Batters and pitchers both take way too long between pitches. It is like watching paint dry. And this is from someone who loves the game. That, to me, is what needs to be fixed - the standing around.


I wish I could remember which Braves announcer it was but it's been several years now--I remember an epic rant about batters that was kicked off after one of the opposing players repeatedly stepped out of the box to adjust his gloves, wrist guard, helmet, and belt...after watching a pitch/not even taking a swing!
I haven't watched a game on TV (outside of glancing up at a bar, maybe) in many years. I've been to a few games and for a while I listened on the radio pretty regularly, but with TV it just doesn't work. The 100s of commercial breaks kill a game, if nothing else.

Nobody said...

I can't do the physics but it seems like this would slow down a swing, making the problem worse.

Don’t allow the catcher to wear a mit.

Jeff said...

Computerize the calling of balls and strikes. Then you can tweak the strike zone to get the game you want.

Nobody said...

Use a cricket bat.

sean said...

Limit the number of pitchers a team can carry. Start with 12, then maybe go down to 10. That will reduce the number of flamethrowing relievers per game, which will speed things up and probably help the batters, since they will see more of each pitcher. Also, with more roster space available for pinch hitters, there will be more offense.

Wa St Blogger said...

And yet Cody Bellinger is hitting .400. THe first player to flirt with the chance to end the season at that mark Since Ichiro got a .372 in 2004. Of course there were other close calls since, but nothing that high. Speaking of Nomar, he reached .372 as well, along with Larry walker in 2000. Tony Gwynn and Walker both were in the .360's .370s through the later 1990's-early 2000's.

Anyway, players are learning to adjust to the speed. They practice on a velo machine that send balls to the plate at 100+ so the can get the timing down. Averages might be going down due to the constant shifting going on. Once players start bunting again, things might adjust.

Jim at said...

I think the game slowed down a lot starting with Nomar.

Mike Hargrove ('70s/early '80s) puts Nomar to shame. There's a reason he was called The Human Rain Delay.

iowan2 said...

"Reducing the roster seems like a simple rule that does not change the traditions of the game."

No way the strongest union in professional sports - the MLBPA - would allow that to happen.


Yes the push back would be the prohibiting factor.

The truth is, there are a finite number of persons with the skill set to play at that level. By having twenty pitchers, there are not enough hitters in the population to create offense.

Be refusing some simple corrections for what they say they want to fix, I conclude, in fact, there is no problem.

Sebastian said...

"NBA basketball has become the dullest sport ever . . . we get the same team winning almost every year"

Apologies to baseball aficionados, but -- Why? NBA basketball is going through a revolution, making small players much more important, requiring big men to develop new skills, emphasizing movement over position play. The "same team" may win again, but had to accomplish amazing feats to do so, at times without 3 of its best 6 players. (And who complained about the dullness of MJ winning repeatedly in the 90s?) For the first time in years, the East is competitive, very competitive, with some closely matched teams and rising stars. Next year, most top teams will look different, due a reshuffling of talent, further increasing competition. Sure, if you prefer seeing Shaq or Duncan play in the post, the new game looks dull; for the rest of us, the game has rarely been better. Even some of the "bad" teams (Atlanta, anyone?) can be fun to watch.

gilbar said...

bleh said...
If you want to help batters, you can make the strike zone smaller. You can limit pitching changes.


My solution of ALL OF LIFE'S PROBLEMS remains the same.
Follow the Rules!
1.01Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, not 40
so;
If you stop play to change a player; that player has to go on the disabled list.
Want to (Need to) put in a new pitcher? In the Middle of an inning? 7 day disabled list

This would take care of time delays; this would take care of over dominate pitching, this would take care of boredom (WILL this pitcher make it through Another Complete Inning? Or will the manager take him out NOW?)

This sounds like a cure-all; BECAUSE IT IS!

stever said...

There is considerable emphasis on metrics and that downgrades batting average versus the alphabet soup of things like BABIP and fWAR up to the idea there are only three true outcomes in baseball: walk, strikeout and home run. plus this

"Some observers believe the hitter’s extra two feet of reaction time against fastballs would be offset by the additional distance for breaking balls to curve, drop or dart at the end of their trajectories — actually making it more difficult to hit, and thus giving baseball the opposite result of what it is looking for."

Hari said...

How to write fake news: start with a premise and declare it to be true (global warming will kill us all, we're in a constitutional crisis, baseball's appeal depends on equality between pitching and hitting) spend zero effort defending the premise. Just assume you're right and keep going.

daskol said...

Launch angle: it helped Max Muncy, but the elevated launch angles have a cost in batting average.

Roger Sweeny said...

The three dullest plays in baseball are

1. called third strike
2. nobody on base, infield ground out
3. fly ball to an outfielder who doesn't even move.

But given "charting" of where balls are hit and the sabermetric truth that going for homers and striking out a lot scores more runs than other strategies, we're going to get more and more of them. It's starting to feel like a virtual certainty that a hit ball which doesn't go over the wall will be an out. I think baseball needs a change like basketball's three point shot--which was a response to players getting bigger and stronger and crowding the interior. My suggestion: limit fielders to eight, who can play anywhere. "Hitting them where they ain't" will become more possible--and players will try to do that more. More will get on base. And the base running will be more exciting. It will also provide endless arguments about where the manager should place his fielders: one less infielder? one less outfielder? Some sort of hybrid?

rcocean said...

Sure, if you prefer seeing Shaq or Duncan play in the post, the new game looks dull; for the rest of us, the game has rarely been better. Even some of the "bad" teams (Atlanta, anyone?) can be fun to watch.

There is no "new game". Its just the same old game with people who can shoot a lot of 3 Pointers. And in a country of 340 million, you can find someone who will like anything. If 95% think the NBA is boring, that still means 17 million think its great. Right now, the NBA playoffs are getting about a 4 rating. The finals should have the typical 10 rating.

rcocean said...

Put the outfielders in leg irons. that should increase scoring!

CWJ said...

"What if she is wearing a hat and socks?"

You can leave your hat on.

Rory said...

"How much of increased average velocity is a function of Tommy John surgery?"

Obviously, better health mean better pitchers. The main problem, is that pitchers are sort of becoming commoditized: big guys who would have been offensive linemen or power forwards 40 years ago are instead going to the mound. They don't have to be real skilled, just throw in the upper 90s and have one passable breaking pitch. Blow everyone away for an inning, then the next guy comes in and does it again.

CWJ said...

And then there were the '14-'15 Royals who showed that winning contact baseball was still possible in the midst of all this so-called pitcher dominence. Now THERE was modern baseball worth watching. Complaining of pitcher dominance when batters are taught to play for all or nothing is misidentifying the "problem." Frankly, addressing the balance "problem" would require enlarging the outfield, not hamstringing the pitchers. But of course, that would be next to impossible compared to the ease of dicking around with the position of the pitcher's mound; particularly when the newest stadiums deliberately built in home run friendly features.

gadfly said...

Rumor has it that Donald talked to Vlad and they have decided that the answer is to make baseball subject to taxation and to appoint a Russian oligarch as Commissioner of Baseball. Baseball revenues will be routed first through Russian banks and then to Deutsche Bank to insure that the transactions are appropriately laundered.

Pitching mound heights and distances will be variable on an winning bid basis; conditions might change when a manager starts a righty or southpaw or when a manager wants to buy a combination matching his starting line-up. Fans will vote online to help the home team and teams will spend lots of money buying changes during the MLB playoffs. The GRU will monitor everything electronically and sell intel to designated team czars.

alanc709 said...

The problem isn't pitchers throwing harder- by and large, they aren't. It's hitters not being willing to go the opposite way with a pitch, or hit down at a pitch instead of uppercutting everything. Sabrnetrics has changed hitting attitudes, where everyone looks for a home run, no team steals bases consistently because they're afraid they'll "run out of an inning". Triples are at an all time low per at bat, because speed isn't considered a major asset anymore.

James Graham said...

Play naked.

Wa St Blogger said...

Play naked.

...Or, how to make a female baseball league viable.

Ken said...

Interesting that no one seems to remember the curious case of Sidd Finch. George Plimpton wrote a fake piece for Sports Illustrated and followed it up with a novel exactly on the topic of what happens when a pitcher throws the balance out of whack.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

AJ Lynch said...

A creative and kooky friend of mine once proposed to let the batter choose to run to 1st or 3rd base after he hits the ball. That might make things more interesting though he did not have a solution if runners were already on base.

Back in the 70's Al Jaffee did a bit for Mad Magazine about livening up baseball, it was called Basebrawl. Players wore batting helmets with football face guards, heavy padding and the batter was allowed to keep the bat as he ran the bases.

Sebastian said...

"There is no "new game". Its just the same old game with people who can shoot a lot of 3 Pointers"

There's nothing new except for the things that have never been done before. Got it.

traditionalguy said...

Trump was a baseball star in Military Academy. Ask him to fix it and he probably will make a deal. Seriously, the hitters ‘ brains will fix it without any help. It is still a guessing game about when the one hittable pitch will come.

Fen said...

"Mnemonic for top and bottom of the inning - it's like undressing a girl. First the top, then the bottom."

Not following you. Maybe if you went over it again with a model?

EDH said...

Glad to see somebody else remembered Al Jaffe’s Basebrawl.

Martin said...

Pitcher dominance today is nothing like 1968, when Bob Gibson had an ERA of 1.12.

Lots of things you could do, separately or in combination.

Lower the mound.
Only allow 9 pitchers on the active roster and limit ability to move pitchers on and off the roster (maybe require 2 or 3 playing days to pass).
Limit pitcher substitutions in some other way; say, each pitcher has to face a minimum number of batters or throw a minimum number of pitches.
Reduce allowed time between pitches.
Hop up the ball.
Shrink the strike zone, vertically &/or horizontally.
Allow aluminum bats.
Bring in the fences.
Sacrilege, but shorten the distance between bases, or just the distance from home to 1st base.
Shorten &/or restrict mound visits.

That's just off the top of my head.

Martin said...

Per above, restricting number of pitchers and substitutions will mean each pitcher will on average have to throw more pitches and they will have to learn what their parents and grandparents did--you have to hold back a bit or you'll wreck your arm in only a season or two. Now, the starter goes out there and fires 100 pitches at max velocity, then is relieved even if he has a shutout. Fewer relievers and the manager will want to get, say, 110 or 120 pitches out of the starter and that will make a difference in the way the pitchers plan their careers, and even if it doesn't, the middle innings will get more interesting.

Lower mound, obvious.

Tighter strike zone will value control more, at expense of velocity.

and so on.

Rory said...

Pitching changes aren't a problem if the game isn't already pointed at 3 hours.

Static Ping said...

In the 19th century, baseball was constantly changing the rules to try to get a good balance between offense and defense. The number of pitches for a walk went from 9 to the eventual 4, the number of pitches for a strikeout was tinkered with going to 4 at one point, pitchers were only allowed to throw underhand then sidearm was legalized and finally overhand, the shape of the mound and home plate changed more than once, the mound was moved back, and in the early 20th century the foul strike was implemented. In addition, equipment was changing regularly with fielders getting gloves, causing error rates to drop dramatically, and catchers getting their gear which let them squat behind home plate rather than standing 20 feet behind the batter. The physical baseball changed multiple times. The balk rule changed so many times that I don't understand what the heck it meant in some years. It was really chaotic.

What baseball is experiencing right now is not new. When the mound was moved back in 1894 offense skyrocketed. The foul strike rule brought about the "dead ball" era with low offense. A new baseball and the banning of spitballs and the like increased offense dramatically. The tinkering with the strike zone after Maris hit 61 home runs caused a second dead ball era, and lowering the mound brought the offense back to the fore. Baseball has always adjusted.

I suppose this could be the time when it cannot adjust, but I doubt it.

mccullough said...

I agree the games are too long. Too many pitching changes, and batters and pitchers are taking too much time in between pitches.

Strikeouts and home runs are up. There are good contact hitters like Michael Brantley and Andretti’s Simmons who dont strike out much. Then there are the Khris Davis types. Lot of strikeouts and homers. Albert Pujols has still never struck out 100 times (or more) in a season.

Guys like Trout and Betts are at the point where their walks (plus hbps) are about even or slightly more than their strikeouts.

In 1968 baseball had problems it doesn’t have now. Mickey Mantle retired in 1968 and Mays and Aaron were a lot older then. Same with Frank Robinson. Williams and Musial had been retired since the early 1960s.

There were no great hitters in the late 1960s. The pitchers were dominant but the Schmidts and Bretts were still a few years away and the greats were in their mid to late 30s.

That’s not a problem today. Trout, Betts, Arenado, Goldschmidt, Freeman, Bryant, Martinez, Bregman, Lindor, and Yelich are really good hitters. Definitely hitting is down as far as contact rates and batting average. In 1941, when Ted Williams was the last hitter to hit .400 (he hit .406), the MLB batting average was .283. It’s about .250 today. Hitting .375 in 2019 would be like hitting .406 in 1941.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

The people saying there's no more "small ball" in baseball have a ridiculously short memory. Our local KC Royals won the 2015 World Series -- and came within 90 ft in Game 7 of 2014 -- almost completely with "small ball". "Keep the train moving" they called it, and they were consistently beating their opponents with opposite-field hits, bunts, stolen bases, and sequential singles.

That, and a dominant bullpen. At one point the Royals were 54-1 when leading after 6 innings. Exciting enough baseball that a small-market team like the Royals had -- and retain -- a huge national following. All those Royals fans in the opponents' AL parks ... they did not travel there from KC.

It helps that Ned Yost is a NL coach/manager. KC is in rebuilding mode right now, but Yost and Moore are doing the same thing they've done since Yost arrived in late 2010: fantastic scouting, excellent player development (because they know they can't compete financially when Free Agency hits), and building a competitive team on "small ball". The Royals are consistently near the top of all MLB for stolen bases. Few Royals ever hit 25 HRs in a season, in part because Kaufmann Stadium is huge ... a true "pitchers' park".

Challenges and video-review have certainly helped the game, but they do slow it down. The way to deal with extreme shifts is for batters to go opposite-field a few times, turning a routine ground-out into a double. Or a bunt.

Moving the mound back is just plain silly. A 90 mph pitch moves at 132 ft/sec, so moving the mound back 2 ft will give the batter an whole extra 0.015 sec of reaction time. The one change I'd really like to see is for the AL and NL to develop consistent rules, in particular have a DH, but force pitchers to bat. IOW *ten* batters. Making pitchers bat leads to better strategy and more small ball.

And every so often you get an Otani ...

Michael said...

The game is great, it’s the between innings that I find unbearable. The noise! The idiotic games, the blaring rap music. Even college baseball. Gone are the days when you could hear the players chatter, hear the balls snapping into gloves. It was beautiful. Was.

JAORE said...

I was one of those kids that snuck a transistor radio into grade school, earpiece cord snaked through my sleeve to listen to the World Series. I recall my Dad showing me how to "score" the game with arcane symbols. I once saw Whitey (an obsolete nickname if ever there was one) Ford, Roger Maris and the Mick play my beloved KC A's.

Can't get my youngest to watch. He grew upon video games with instant action. Too long, too boring, no action. And the beauty of a "pitcher's duel", painful.

Oddly enough he played soccer. Boring? Low scoring? Sometimes. But he was a Keeper on a team with a weak defense other than John.

Sadly I've come around to his viewpoint. EVERY freakin' batter holds up his hand to go through a ritual. Every pitcher takes forever to deliver the ball.

Roger Sweeny said...

The problem isn't pitchers throwing harder- by and large, they aren't. It's hitters not being willing to go the opposite way with a pitch, or hit down at a pitch instead of uppercutting everything. Sabrnetrics has changed hitting attitudes, where everyone looks for a home run, no team steals bases consistently because they're afraid they'll "run out of an inning". Triples are at an all time low per at bat, because speed isn't considered a major asset anymore.

And they're never going to be willing if that is less likely to score runs. ("Don't blame the player. Blame the game.") Thus, the need for one less fielder to open things up.

Nobody said...

Nomah Gahseeah Paaah!

Best Boston sports name ever.

Bricap said...

The current rage in baseball is the "three true outcome" model, with the three true outcomes for a given plate appearance being strikeout, walk, or homer. League-wide stats by year here.

Looking at the stats since 2012, you'll see that OBP has remained steady, BA is down, homers are up, walks are up, and strikeouts are up. Nowadays we hear talk about launch angle. Players are less interested in average now.

I was unable to locate up to date stats on pitches thrown per game by year. My hypothesis is that in a three true outcome model, it makes for more drawn out at bats. After 1968, the strike zone shrank. Mound height wasn't the only concession made to hitters. the strike zone changed, also. Add to that the "unofficial" strike zone that we heard so much about over the years, ie letter high strikes are rarer than ever.

Anyway, it would seem to me that going back to the 1968 strike zone would cut down on this three true outcome model. Make batters swing at pitches more often. There's the added benefit of easing the burden on pitchers, too. My two cents. Great subject, thanks for posting the article.