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Sunday, April 06, 2014

Bill Madden: Unprecedented rise in strikeouts is sapping power and fun out of game

Bill Madden probably hasn’t been this upset since the untimely death of Oscar Randolph Fladmark Jr.!

If you’re among the ever-dwindling Mets fan base grown weary of watching your Flushing lads striking out in record numbers while killing rally after rally in what has too often been unwatchable baseball, there is this consolation: You are not entirely alone.

In fact, what we are seeing in baseball — the huge spike in strikeouts accompanied by an alarming, steady decline in runs and homers — has become an epidemic that is only going to get worse. It’s an unfortunate proven fact that never was the game more popular than at the height of the steroid era in the late 1990s, when home runs were flying out of ballparks in bunches. Offense sells, at the same time there is nothing more boring than watching your team strike out 10 times in a game and score two or fewer runs. (In the Mets’ case, of course, all the strikeouts by their hitters might be somewhat more palatable if not compounded by continually bad bullpen work and shoddy defense.)

...Again, advantage pitchers — which, as baseball concluded in 1968, the “Year of the Pitcher,” in which the average major-league ERA was 2.98 — and runs per game had dipped to 6.84, the lowest since 6.77 in 1908 — isn’t good for business. As a result, the honchos enacted radical changes, lowering the pitcher’s mound from 15 inches to 10 in 1969 and then introducing the designated hitter in the American League in 1973. MLB is facing a similar crisis now — in which too many games across both leagues are going to resemble those dreadfully boring Mets-Marlins affairs of last summer — and baseball’s popularity will suffer.

Unfortunately, there may not be a solution this time, as most hitters in the game is conditioned to striking out and there is no longer any stigma attached to it. The pure hitter — such as Joe DiMaggio, who struck out 13 times in his great 1941 season in which he hit safely in 56 straight games and led the league with 125 RBI; Yogi Berra, who just three times in 19 seasons had more than 30 strikeouts; or Ted Kluszewski, the hulking 6-2, 225-pound Cincinnati Reds slugger who led the NL with 49 homers and 141 RBI in 1954 and struck out just 35 times — has become a dinosaur. The closest we’ve got is Albert Pujols, who never topped 65 strikeouts from 2003-09 when he was consistently hitting 40-plus homers and knocking in 100-plus runs for the Cardinals.

It’s kind of a sad commentary, isn’t it, that teams routinely striking out 1,200-1,300 times a season is looked upon as no big deal, just as players striking out 150 or more times has become acceptable. You just wonder, with runs and homers decreasing the way they are, how long the fans are going to find this kind of baseball acceptable?

Repoz Posted: April 06, 2014 at 05:39 AM | 123 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. LionoftheSenate (Brewers v A's World Series) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 06:43 AM (#4680194)
This complaining about offense in baseball is sounding like global warming alarmists. "This" being, juiced baseball bad and decreased scoring also bad. All outcomes are bad all the time.
   2. zachtoma Posted: April 06, 2014 at 07:31 AM (#4680200)
I think the rise in strikeouts has become a little ridiculous (mainly because watching hitters like Dan Uggla and BJ Upton is so painful), but I expect that the pendulum will start to swing the other way as hitters/coaches change their approaches to adapt. It's hard to imagine that game events could tilt any more heavily to the TTO than they already have. Contrary to the current conventional wisdom, putting the ball in play has value even if you make an out, you might hit into a double play, but you can also advance runners and create opportunities for the defense to make mistakes. Maybe teams will starting putting a premium on players who can reliably put the ball in play to balance out their lineups - a guy with the same hitting line as 2013 BJ Upton but with only half the strikeouts is probably worth a few runs. Maybe middle infielders will realize it's not 1999 and they can't all hit 20 homeruns anymore.
   3. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 08:03 AM (#4680205)
I wonder how long it will take for hitters to change their approaches. These are guys who grew up in a world where swinging for the fences was absolutely the right way to hit. They've probably been doing it since they were kids. <i>And/i> it's not as though it's 1968; there are a lot of guys for whom that is still the right approach. How long is it going to take for guys to start shortening up with two strikes, punching the ball the opposite way, etc? Do we just need an entire generation of different hitters to mature into the game?
   4. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 06, 2014 at 08:52 AM (#4680210)
It's not just the strikeouts, it's how pathetic so many of them look. The hitters often look like oafs, swinging at pitches nowhere near the plate.

Not everyone can just stand there waiting for a pitch exactly in their "zone" and expect to produce. Most of the league isn't able to take hittable pitches and be effective.
   5. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 06, 2014 at 08:58 AM (#4680213)
#1- Well, I personally prefer a game in which there is a lot going on the base-paths, speed is the most important skill, and there are tons of fielding plays to watch. So the current spike in strike outs has made the game less watchable. We need Rickey Henderson to become the commissioner to figure how to get these things back in the game. Andrelton Simmons is a good beginning.

I do think offenses will adapt to this, but I do wonder how considering how many pitchers throw really hard these days and the over-specialization of pitching staffs.
   6. Cowboy Popup Posted: April 06, 2014 at 09:09 AM (#4680218)
The closest we’ve got is Albert Pujols, who never topped 65 strikeouts from 2003-09 when he was consistently hitting 40-plus homers and knocking in 100-plus runs for the Cardinals.

Edwin Encarnacion was pretty "pure" last year, 36 HRs, 62 Ks (84 BBS).
   7. bfan Posted: April 06, 2014 at 09:11 AM (#4680219)

I do think offenses will adapt to this, but I do wonder how considering how many pitchers throw really hard these days and the over-specialization of pitching staffs.


This. Hitters don't look like oafs swinging at pitches nowhere near the plate because they want to hit a home run on that pitch; the ball is coming 2 to 3 mph faster now, giving them less time to trigger. The extra mph is making the swing decision that much earlier (it only takes a fraction of a time), so they have not yet recognized the slider/change-up/curve-whatever it is that is breaking outside, and making them look foolish.

Guys are swinging harder also not because of HRs, but because the fielders are much better; you have to drive the baseball to get it past the infield or so it can drop into an outfield with lots of speed (please, no snarky Mark Trumbo references-the coming of detailed study of defensive metrics is putting fast guys in left and right field that would have spent their careers as 7th inning replacements, before now). Fielders are also placed better; the growth and sophistication of shifts has made it all the harder to get a hit, and choking up and punching it with 2 strikes will just change a strike-out and rare hit for a weak grounder.

You cannot put the fast-ball genie back into the bottle; moving the mound back is the only solution I can see. That, or making the fielders start each pitch in a set place. Both frighten and disgust traditionalists, but both, I think, put more balls and plays and more hits on the board.
   8. DL from MN Posted: April 06, 2014 at 09:20 AM (#4680223)
I thought the groupthink here was the high strike is getting called now due to PitchFX.
   9. SoCalDemon Posted: April 06, 2014 at 09:27 AM (#4680225)
I though that last year runs/game were right around historical averages for the live ball era? And isn't the ball still put in play just under 70% of the time; that's still a lot. This seems like a lot of panic in search of a problem. Personally, I might have bat handle minimums, but I am not seeing a huge problem with the game today. And with regards to speed...SB/ game are down from the 80s, but way, way, way above the 50s; this is not station to station baseball. And a big reason they are down is because runners are making smarter decisions; SB% is at an all time high. I look at the defensive and baserunning game today, and I see faster. more capable defenders, and smarter baserunners (at least compared with the 90s). There are a few tweaks I could see making, but I am actually a big fan of today's game.
   10. JE (Jason) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 09:39 AM (#4680228)
I fail to see what's so boring about a strikeout. Now, a batter stepping out of the box after each pitch he sees is boring. A pitcher wandering around the mound after each pitch he delivers is boring. Six pickoff throws during a plate appearance is boring.
It’s kind of a sad commentary, isn’t it, that teams routinely striking out 1,200-1,300 times a season is looked upon as no big deal, just as players striking out 150 or more times has become acceptable. You just wonder, with runs and homers decreasing the way they are, how long the fans are going to find this kind of baseball acceptable?

As long as their team is winning more than 50 percent of their games?
   11. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 06, 2014 at 09:50 AM (#4680232)
I fail to see what's so boring about a strikeout. Now, a batter stepping out of the box after each pitch he sees is boring. A pitcher wandering around the mound after each pitch he delivers is boring. Six pickoff throws during a plate appearance is boring.


Because it precludes the possibility of so many other things happening out in the field. To each his own, I guess, but I think it's pretty clear why a lot of strikeouts (mind you, not the occasional one in a dramatic situation) are boring.
   12. SoCalDemon Posted: April 06, 2014 at 10:03 AM (#4680239)
I am not sure what is so exciting about a routine groundball to SS (non-Jeter division), or a routine fly ball to right. 90% or so of BIP are less exciting to me than a "routine" SO. Now, that last 10% can be all kinds of awesome, but it doesn't seem to me that there are fewer exciting plays in the field than 10 or 20 years ago.
   13. JE (Jason) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4680242)
Someone ought to let Mike & Mike know about this bump in strikeouts: Just last week, Greenberg was kvetching that the strike zone was too small.
   14. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 06, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4680244)
I am not sure what is so exciting about a routine groundball to SS (non-Jeter division)

It's aesthetically pleasing to watch a major league shortstop make a play on a GB in person, even a routine one. Far more so than watching a guy flail at a pitch two feet out of the strike zone after taking two hittable strikes.
   15. Bourbon Samurai Posted: April 06, 2014 at 10:38 AM (#4680245)
I have zero problems with less offense but the strikeouts are starting to get real old
   16. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 06, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4680247)
Significantly lower swung at strikes % since 1989, far more swinging strikeouts since 1989.(*) (At least in the AL.)

The flailing, oafish strikeout is simply far more common today than ever before, and it's far more the result of changing hitting approaches and incompetent hitting, than it is more competent pitching.

(*) Fewer than 9000 in 1989, over 13000 in 2013. I'm too lazy to divide by team numbers.



   17. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 11:06 AM (#4680248)
So if we really wanted to reduce TTO baseball, what are the likely possibilities?

Move back the mound?
Deader ball?
Smaller glove size?
Reduce length between the bases to 88 feet?
   18. JE (Jason) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 11:13 AM (#4680250)
Far more so than watching a guy flail at a pitch two feet out of the strike zone after taking two hittable strikes.

I seriously doubt what you describe happens *that* often.
   19. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: April 06, 2014 at 11:17 AM (#4680253)
Strikeouts are really boring. IT is a problem.
   20. JE (Jason) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 11:22 AM (#4680254)
So if we really wanted to reduce TTO baseball, what are the likely possibilities?

I'm not sure I accept the premise: If walks and home runs are down, how has "TTO baseball" become a scourge? There may be fewer balls being put in play but that's the result of the higher K totals.
   21. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: April 06, 2014 at 11:38 AM (#4680256)
17--I've been complaining for years about the high K-rate, believing it will continue to rise higher and higher in the upcoming years, making baseball less and less appealing to fans.

My suggestions to curb it:

1) Limit pickoff attempts--maybe give pitchers one "free" pickoff attempt per plate appearance, with all ensuing unsuccessful attempts being treated as pitches that went out of the strike zone. (Also, requiring left-handed pitchers to step off the rubber with their left foot before attempting a pickoff at first base). This will create more stolen bases (which incentivizes teams to give more playing time to little guys who can run over big guys who just hit homers and strike out), and also reduces the amount of double play opportunities (which will reward players for just putting the ball in play).

2) Allow baserunners to get a running start on tag-up (sacrifice fly) situations. MLB passed a rule banning this practice in the 1950s, but I think it'd be great to bring it back. (Basically, with a runner on third and 0 outs, batter hits a fly ball to shallow right, the base-runner moves AWAY from home down the third base line, then gets a running start, so by the time the fielder catches the ball and the runner touches third base, he's already at full speed.) Batters would get another incentive to simply put the ball in play, as a greater percent of their fly-outs will allow runners to advance on the bases.

3) I do think some rules should go in place limiting the size of players' gloves, but have no earthly idea how this could be instituted.
   22. BDC Posted: April 06, 2014 at 11:42 AM (#4680258)
One purely narrative problem with strikeouts in the 2010s as opposed to the 1970s is that they're being achieved by a crew of pitchers in each game. Back when I was a kid, stayed off lawns, and watched Tom Seaver face Steve Carlton, you had hopes of a really high-K individual game.

From 2010 through 2013, there were nine 15+ strikeout games, and in only two of them did the achiever go nine innings. From 1970 through 1973, there were twenty-six, and in only three did the achiever fail to go nine (once because Sam McDowell lost a road walkoff CG in the ninth).

It's pure theatre, as I said, but there was something about watching a really dominant starter rack up those totals that isn't quite the same as seeing some guy fan ten through six and his three little friends collect another six in relief.
   23. nick swisher hygiene Posted: April 06, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4680300)
Strikeouts are no big deal if you are watching at home while ####### around on the internet; but at some point, the game goes too far in the direction of "mildly entertaining sporadic background for whatever else I'm doing". I would love, love, baseball to be able to really sustain my attention, to be compelling rather than mildly diverting--and all the unncessary pauses in the game don't help.

And when you're AT the game--no. When you're at the game, you wanna see fielding and hittting. Sitting where my wallet puts me, the art of pitching is not fully appreciable; and the pauses get filled with various forms of horrible crap dreamed up by marketing talent...
   24. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 06, 2014 at 01:04 PM (#4680315)
It's an interesting theory that SBB offers, laying the problem mainly on hitting approach, but I do think increased pitching ability and velocity is playing a big part here. The increase in swinging third strikes is telling. I remember listening to Kevin Goldstein and Tim Parks' podcast last year and they had a bunch of discussions about how scouts put more stock in pitchers who got swinging strikes rather than called third strikes, and what it said about the prospect pitcher's skillset.
   25. DL from MN Posted: April 06, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4680320)
You don't need dramatic changes. Just shrink the zone.
   26. Dan Posted: April 06, 2014 at 01:40 PM (#4680336)
Going to a computer called strike zone would be the first change that should help the situation. When umpires are calling balls 6 inches outside strikes, which no one can hit with any authority, it is contributing to the problem. If it's still a problem, move the mound back 2 or 3 feet to counteract the effect of the increased velocity from pitchers over the last decade.

It's an interesting theory that SBB offers, laying the problem mainly on hitting approach


Sure it's interesting if by "interesting" you mean completely wrong-headed. It's almost entirely due to pitchers having better stuff now than they had even 10 years ago, never mind 20 or 30 years ago. The average middle reliever now throws harder than the fireballing closers of the 80s did. The shift due to hitting approach mostly happened 5-15 years ago, the strikeout problem is a problem mainly of the last 5 years. Pitchers aren't throwing harder because hitters are more selective.
   27. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 01:52 PM (#4680341)
If walks and home runs are down, how has "TTO baseball" become a scourge? There may be fewer balls being put in play but that's the result of the higher K totals.


Strikeouts are one of the three true outcomes. If there are fewer balls in play, the TTO are more common, by definition.
   28. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4680344)

3) I do think some rules should go in place limiting the size of players' gloves, but have no earthly idea how this could be instituted.


There are already rules on glove size, so it can clearly be instituted.
   29. puck Posted: April 06, 2014 at 01:56 PM (#4680350)
Maybe he's watching the Mets too often. They've struck out in 29.8% of their PA's through their first 5 games.
   30. JE (Jason) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4680359)
Strikeouts are one of the three true outcomes. If there are fewer balls in play, the TTO are more common, by definition.

I didn't say TTOs weren't increasing, just that they're the result of only one of the three components.
   31. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 06, 2014 at 02:37 PM (#4680386)
Going to a computer called strike zone would be the first change that should help the situation. When umpires are calling balls 6 inches outside strikes, which no one can hit with any authority, it is contributing to the problem. If it's still a problem, move the mound back 2 or 3 feet to counteract the effect of the increased velocity from pitchers over the last decade.
Only if you think umpires are much worse over the past 20 years than in the decades before.

   32. Sunday silence Posted: April 06, 2014 at 02:40 PM (#4680389)
I really look forward to baseball in the coming decade with little "x"s on the field where fielders have to stand, and running tag ups, and a mound that is 70 feet away and bases 88 feet apart. And with two less strikeouts per game.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: April 06, 2014 at 03:36 PM (#4680446)
AL 2014 to date

BA on-contact 324
ISO on-contact 180

AL 1994-2013 (quite consistent)

BA on-contact 326
ISO on-contact 193

This has very little to do with batter approach and what exactly is gained by batters changing their approach. Over the course of 5 games or so, how does offense increase by trading away 21 Ks, 1 HR and 2 doubles for 24 ground balls producing 7 singles and 1 DP?

Of course if you could turn Ks into BIP while keeping everything else the same, scoring would go up. But the approach required to turn Ks into BIP also turns HRs and doubles into weaker contact.

Shortening up with 2 strikes? I looked at count-dependent production sometime last year I think it was -- one of the major changes is that batters today do a lot more damage with 2 strikes than they used to.

If you want Ks down and offense up, the easiest solution is to shrink the zone. If you want Ks down but offense stable or lower, that you can achieve by magically transforming the hitters' approach.
   34. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 06, 2014 at 04:08 PM (#4680468)
Shortening up with 2 strikes? I looked at count-dependent production sometime last year I think it was -- one of the major changes is that batters today do a lot more damage with 2 strikes than they used to.

They better. If they didn't, the rip and flail strategy would not only be aesthetically displeasing, it would be abjectly stupid.

   35. bobm Posted: April 06, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4680546)
                                                                            
Rk         Split Year   BA BAtot    %    PA    SO  OBP  SLG  OPS BAbip tOPS+
1    Two Strikes 1988 .184  .254 72.4 66180 22997 .248 .266 .514  .277    48
2    Two Strikes 1989 .182  .254 71.7 65593 22962 .249 .260 .508  .279    47
3    Two Strikes 1990 .183  .258 70.9 62073 21919 .252 .268 .520  .280    47
4    Two Strikes 1991 .184  .256 71.9 69701 24390 .253 .269 .522  .281    48
5    Two Strikes 1992 .187  .256 73.0 69035 23531 .257 .270 .526  .282    51
6    Two Strikes 1993 .189  .265 71.3 72198 25416 .261 .278 .539  .288    48
7    Two Strikes 1994 .195  .270 72.2 52359 18912 .268 .297 .565  .301    49
8    Two Strikes 1995 .188  .267 70.4 64751 23757 .264 .285 .549  .292    46
9    Two Strikes 1996 .190  .270 70.4 71049 26313 .265 .293 .558  .296    47
10   Two Strikes 1997 .187  .267 70.0 73537 27793 .261 .286 .547  .297    46
11   Two Strikes 1998 .190  .266 71.4 87751 31893 .261 .289 .551  .292    47
12   Two Strikes 1999 .192  .271 70.8 85879 31118 .268 .298 .566  .295    46
13   Two Strikes 2000 .192  .270 71.1 86064 31356 .270 .299 .569  .297    47
14   Two Strikes 2001 .185  .264 70.1 86635 32404 .258 .291 .549  .288    46
15   Two Strikes 2002 .186  .261 71.3 86047 31394 .258 .285 .543  .286    46
16   Two Strikes 2003 .187  .264 70.8 86337 30801 .260 .288 .548  .284    46
17   Two Strikes 2004 .191  .266 71.8 87456 31828 .262 .298 .560  .292    48
18   Two Strikes 2005 .192  .264 72.7 86167 30644 .261 .293 .554  .291    49
19   Two Strikes 2006 .194  .269 72.1 87708 31655 .264 .300 .564  .296    48
20   Two Strikes 2007 .192  .268 71.6 88587 32189 .263 .293 .556  .296    48
21   Two Strikes 2008 .190  .264 72.0 89521 32884 .261 .288 .549  .296    48
22   Two Strikes 2009 .186  .262 71.0 90166 33591 .259 .283 .541  .293    46
23   Two Strikes 2010 .181  .257 70.4 90054 34306 .251 .275 .526  .288    46
24   Two Strikes 2011 .180  .255 70.6 90440 34488 .247 .272 .519  .287    45
25   Two Strikes 2012 .178  .255 69.8 91520 36426 .244 .273 .517  .291    44
26   Two Strikes 2013 .178  .253 70.4 92597 36709 .246 .268 .514  .293    45
27   Two Strikes 2014 .177  .247 71.7  3191  1295 .251 .262 .513  .301    47
   36. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 06, 2014 at 06:58 PM (#4680549)
You don't need dramatic changes. Just shrink the zone.


That's a very dramatic change. Also one that will cause walks to shoot through the ceiling, and they're even more boring than strikeouts.

Deaden the ball a tad, make the bat handles thicker, and lower the mound an inch or two.
   37. boteman Posted: April 06, 2014 at 07:17 PM (#4680570)
Clearly the solution to this problem is to require each starting pitcher to consume 3 martinis before each game. Hell, a pitcher of martini for each pitcher.
   38. zachtoma Posted: April 06, 2014 at 07:26 PM (#4680574)
I still think this has more to do with strategy than rule changes, teams will adjust when they realize how badly all the .220 hitters with 15 HR and 120 K's in their lineups are killing them (or maybe I'm projecting my bottomless hatred of Dan Uggla onto all of MLB - let's be clear then, Dan Uggla would suck no matter how he tried to hit, because he sucks, it's just what he does. Dan Uggla sucks. Really, really bad).
   39. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: April 06, 2014 at 07:27 PM (#4680576)
That's a very dramatic change. Also one that will cause walks to shoot through the ceiling, and they're even more boring than strikeouts.

I would say walks are slightly less boring than strikeouts. Things get interesting when more people are on base.
   40. ptodd Posted: April 06, 2014 at 10:08 PM (#4680653)
The problem is the strike zone. Its expanded so much players are now conditioned to swinging at balls which results in weaker contact.

What has motivated MLB to expand it is a puzzle.
   41. DL from MN Posted: April 06, 2014 at 11:06 PM (#4680672)
Deaden the ball a tad, make the bat handles thicker, and lower the mound an inch or two.


I agree with lowering the mound having an impact by making the ball easier to hit. The other two wouldn't affect the swing-and-miss but would take away power.

Taking away the top inch would set things back to pretty much the zone that was called before Questec.
   42. starving to death with a full STEAGLES Posted: April 07, 2014 at 02:12 AM (#4680724)
Taking away the top inch would set things back to pretty much the zone that was called before Questec.
why does anyone want to take away the top of the strike zone?
if you get rid of the low strike, pitchers will have to work higher up in the zone, which means you'll get more hanging breaking balls and hanging sinkers for hitters to punish. and you'll get rid of a lot of mediocre sinkerballers, which will make it more fun to watch both hitters hit and pitchers pitch.

other ideas:
not sure about lowering the mound.
100% against moving the mound back. that is a seriously terrible idea (no offense to anyone who's mentioned it).
100% for making LHPs step off for pickoffs at 1B.
75% against moving the bases.
75% against a running start for baserunners
75% against reducing glove size
hate the idea of lowering the strike zone in any way.


   43. vivaelpujols Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:40 AM (#4680734)
Sure it's interesting if by "interesting" you mean completely wrong-headed. It's almost entirely due to pitchers having better stuff now than they had even 10 years ago, never mind 20 or 30 years ago. The average middle reliever now throws harder than the fireballing closers of the 80s did. The shift due to hitting approach mostly happened 5-15 years ago, the strikeout problem is a problem mainly of the last 5 years. Pitchers aren't throwing harder because hitters are more selective.


It's both. Pitchers have better stuff and value strikeouts more for obvious reasons, and hitters realized a long time ago that strikeouts are just as bad as groudouts and strikeouts are generally correlated with home runs. Bill Madden conveniently ignores that strikeouts have pretty much been on a constant rise - the steroid era saw the most strikeouts up till that point.

I'm not sure how I feel. On one hand I usually pay more attention to pitchers than hitters, so it's nice seeing them go on rolls and strike out a lot of guys. But on the other hand when everyone and his mother are striking out 7+ guys per 9, they lose some of their appeal. I definitely don't agree with the premise by some that balls in play are inherently more interesting than strikeouts - those are probably the same guys that think the DH automatically makes for more enjoyable baseball.

Lowering the mound would be the best way to reduce strikeouts as it would be effective and has precedent. Changing any of the dimensions would be idiotic. Changing glove size is an interesting idea, but it seems kind of roundabout.

Reliever substitution limitations would also reduce strikeouts I believe and would generally make for a less boring game (say you were required to have each reliever face at least 3 batters). Is there any precedent for that? I don't anyone has a problem watching a starter who is on a roll mow down hitters. It's when relievers come in throwing 97 MPH and always have the platoon advantage that things get ridiculous.
   44. zachtoma Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:14 AM (#4680739)
I think something like you're only allowed one mid-inning reliever change (when that reliever hasn't given up a run) per game would be a relatively unobtrusive rule change that would do wonders for the pace of play.
   45. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: April 07, 2014 at 08:11 AM (#4680761)
I still think this has more to do with strategy than rule changes, teams will adjust when they realize how badly all the .220 hitters with 15 HR and 120 K's in their lineups are killing them (or maybe I'm projecting my bottomless hatred of Dan Uggla onto all of MLB - let's be clear then, Dan Uggla would suck no matter how he tried to hit, because he sucks, it's just what he does. Dan Uggla sucks. Really, really bad).


Teams already realize how bad Dan Uggla is. Why do you think the Braves haven't found some sucker to trade for him yet?
   46. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 07, 2014 at 08:41 AM (#4680768)
I agree with lowering the mound having an impact by making the ball easier to hit. The other two wouldn't affect the swing-and-miss but would take away power.


Taking away power will fairly quickly cause most hitters to trade off power for more contact, because they can't consistently reach the fences anymore.

It is possible, as some here have suggested, that defense has gotten so good that if we do that run scoring will sharply drop. The only way to be sure is to try it. We may be able to somewhat mitigate the effect by regulating (and shrinking) fielders' gloves.
   47. JE (Jason) Posted: April 07, 2014 at 09:33 AM (#4680786)
The problem is the strike zone. Its expanded so much players are now conditioned to swinging at balls which results in weaker contact.

What has motivated MLB to expand it is a puzzle.

You're kidding, right? For the past quarter-century or more, we have been hearing non-stop kvetching over umpires refusing to call the high strike.
   48. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 07, 2014 at 10:28 AM (#4680830)
if the strike zone was called as defined strikeouts would, at least for some amount of time, spike considerably as hitters would experience an adjustment phase.

there are lots of factors that are pushing strikeouts up as a percentage of outs being made but the single biggest driving force is bullpen usage. a typical reliever I believe strikes out 25 percent of the hitters he faces in today's game. that's up a lot from just 10 years ago (trying to force my memory to work) and I know it's up dramatically from 20 years ago.

do you fight specialization with specialization or some other means?

personally, I think increased specialization, while a sensible tactic, is ultimately a negative on the overall game. it was good for football to move away from players playing both offense/defense. it's bad, at least for me, to have players being rotated in and out constantly from play to play. same with baseball.

anyway, that's my two cents
   49. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 07, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4680928)
there are lots of factors that are pushing strikeouts up as a percentage of outs being made but the single biggest driving force is bullpen usage. a typical reliever I believe strikes out 25 percent of the hitters he faces in today's game. that's up a lot from just 10 years ago (trying to force my memory to work) and I know it's up dramatically from 20 years ago.

as usual, Harvey is dead-on correct. I looked at the number of "extreme" strikeout seasons for pitchers (defined as >10K/9 IP, which granted, isn't THAT extreme, but you gotta start somewhere)

for relievers with >40 IP and >10K/9

1981-1990: 26
1991-2000: 97
2001-2010: 213
and there have already been 103 over the last 3 years, which extrapolates to >300 for the decade.

for starters, such seasons increased since the 1980's but have completely flattened out:
1981-1990: 4
1991-2000: 21
2001-2010: 21
and there have been 6 in the last 3 years, which would be 20 for the decade.
   50. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 07, 2014 at 12:03 PM (#4680935)
jmac

thanks for checking. I know I noticed it when sifting through baseballreference but could not recall if someone else had written about it or not. so credit to whomever if someone knows. I doubt I recognized this on my own

anyway, the strikeout rates by relievers these days are crazy good.
   51. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 07, 2014 at 12:34 PM (#4680980)
My two pet solutions for making the game more exciting and increasing the offense a bit:

1 Award a second base for a successful drag bunt. That would give free swinging hitters without much home run power lots of incentive to learn a new and exciting skill. It'd be the baseball equivalent of the three point shot, and it could very well become a key tool in a team's offense.

2. Award a second run for a successful steal of home. It might only happen a few times a year, but I'd love to see a team come from behind with a walkoff steal of home.
   52. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: April 07, 2014 at 12:40 PM (#4680989)
anyway, the strikeout rates by relievers these days are crazy good.

This is very true; however, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems is that no one really cares about these relievers. Ya know? It seems like every team has 2-3 guys in their pen who can get 10 K/9, but they're all so fungible, it's hard to really care too much about any individual guy--teams just churn through them so quickly. For every one Craig Kimbrel--someone who's really excited, who fans know and recognize--there are a dozen Charlie Furbushes and Rich Hills who no one gives a damn about...but they're all striking out insane number of very good hitters!
   53. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 07, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4681018)
Since bullpens evolved to combat the strategy of taking pitches to get to bullpens, the evolutionary response should be an approach where teams don't take pitches against crappy starters, but instead swing early at strikes, in the hopes of not getting to the bullpen (or being ahead 6-2 when the bullpen is called upon.)

That would, of course, require two different hitting approaches -- or two different hitters -- depending on the quality of the starter you're facig. Probably too much to hope for with 3-man benches.
   54. DL from MN Posted: April 07, 2014 at 01:11 PM (#4681037)
Another thing that would probably muddy the waters is MLB expansion. Add two teams and see what happens to run scoring.
   55. nick swisher hygiene Posted: April 07, 2014 at 02:04 PM (#4681128)
do you fight specialization with specialization or some other means?


the problem with counter-specialization is, you don't have any roster spots for it: they're all occupied by one-inning guys who throw 95.
though it would be fun if one team decided that the return of the platoon could justify keeping only 9 relievers on staff at any given time.

you'd have to completely rethink your staff concept, obviously.
.....and watching that team in the late innings would be irritating as hell!

[edited to remove annoying faux-newspaper single-line paragraphs]
   56. nick swisher hygiene Posted: April 07, 2014 at 02:09 PM (#4681137)
actually, reading 52....you know, it'd be fun to legislate those guys out of existence.
I mean, they aren't good enough to succeed as starters or closers, which means that ultimately they're not very good.
yet a quirk of the rule structure means that having the best group of 6 of these not very good guys is hugely important!

what if you cap total number of guys who can be on a roster over the course of a season?
base it on some seasonable "average number of injuries data"; if a team is very unlucky, allow them to apply for additional slots?

or set MINIMUM seasonal innings #s for everybody who makes an appearance?
guy doesn't pitch the minimum, you lose organizational control over him!

#wackystuff #obvthiswontwork
   57. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 07, 2014 at 02:24 PM (#4681149)
I'd do away with the mid-inning pitching change except for the starter. You can take a guy out if he's "injured" or injured but if you do, he has to go on the 15-day DL. You can also take a guy out if he gives up 5 earned runs.

This simple rule change would help greatly with pace of play and the scourge of specialization, at no real cost. Most games now grind to a halt in around the 7th inning while a parade of fungible no names enter for the final acts. That wasn't how the sport was designed to be played, and it shouldn't be played that way.

   58. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 07, 2014 at 02:38 PM (#4681165)
It seems like every team has 2-3 guys in their pen who can get 10 K/9, but they're all so fungible, it's hard to really care too much about any individual guy-

the numbers come out to be more like two relievers per team who average >9 per 9

(last 4 years = 236 such seasons = 59 per season). But they are NOT evenly distributed among teams--the White Sox (!!) had 11 such seasons in the last 4, and the Bravos had 10, but the Clevelands only had 4 and that Cardinals only had 3 (!!)
   59. thetailor Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:09 PM (#4681200)
The benefit of putting a ball in play has gone down. Defense has been emphasized, so faster, more athletic defenders are scooping up more of the choppers and flares than ever before.

When I was a kid, a third baseman who could make the running, bare-hand throw to first on a squibber was rare. Now, every third baseman has to be able to do it.

Between that, and the fact that pitchers who would ordinarily be out of baseball are being resurrected through TJ ... is all the evidence that you need that hitters are losing the war, even without anecdotal reference to the strike zone.
   60. thetailor Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:10 PM (#4681201)
I'd do away with the mid-inning pitching change except for the starter. You can take a guy out if he's "injured" or injured but if you do, he has to go on the 15-day DL. You can also take a guy out if he gives up 5 earned runs.

This is a little extreme. Why not limit the size of teams bullpens? Force them to go back to a shorter pen, and they'll govern themselves.
   61. Flynn Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:13 PM (#4681204)
I'm all for a war on relievers. How about increasing the pace of the game too? It's a lot easier to throw 98 with every pitch if you take 30 seconds between pitches, which a lot of relievers do.
   62. 'zop sympathizes with the wrong ####### people Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4681228)
Between that, and the fact that pitchers who would ordinarily be out of baseball are being resurrected through TJ ... is all the evidence that you need that hitters are losing the war, even without anecdotal reference to the strike zone.


This. Frankly, I've always been puzzled why offense hasn't been crashing even harder. If ~25% of pitchers on MLB rosters are TJ survivors, that means either (a) the pool of MLB-caliber pitchers has expanded by 25% since the 70's or (b) pitchers have a new arsenal of pitches that is more effective but exposes them to UCL injury. Either way, that should be a HUGE advantage for pitchers. It made no sense that offense was skyrocketing as TJ became widespread and the current trend is far more logical.

I agree with the war on relievers. I like the idea of a minimum appearance of the shorter of 1 IP or 6 BF.
   63. thetailor Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:38 PM (#4681231)
I like the idea of a minimum appearance of the shorter of 1 IP or 6 BF.

How about just limiting the size of the bullpen? Make a coach announce his bullpen each night, and he cant go outside the announced players unless there are extra innings or an injury. If he wants an extra guy in his bullpen, he'll need to be a man short on the bench.

It can be like hockey where you get to decide which defensemen get to dress for a game. You can cart around 8 relievers with you, but don't expect to have the right to play any more than five of them. Choose wisely.
   64. zenbitz Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:42 PM (#4681234)
the evolutionary response should be an approach where teams don't take pitches against crappy starters


Uh, you don't need a strategy against crappy starters. They're crappy.
   65. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 07, 2014 at 03:59 PM (#4681255)
So after a bunch of cutting and pasting of data from BBRef, and then doing some calculations from the data, I found a couple of interesting things:

1. Despite popular perception, IP/start hasn't really changed much over the past 35 years - from 6.21 in the '80s to 5.94 in the '10's (up slightly from 5.88 in the '00s), or less than 1 out/game. However,...

2. While pitching only one more out/game, there are, on average, (almost exactly) 3 relievers per game instead of (just under)2. The "one inning specialist" and "loogy" do seem to be the norms now. But...

3. Greater use of relievers may be part of the reason for higher K rates, but only a very small part. Relievers' K/9 have risen from 5.93 to 8.2 (38%), but starters' have also risen - 5.25 to 7.03 (34%).

4. For all of the wailing about "incompetent hitting", the difference in base hits today compared to the '80's is miniscule - 19 hits/162 games (take out the outlier '87 season, and it drops to 14.5 hits/162). However...

5. Most of that difference, and more, is probably due to much better defense. In the '80's, there was a ROE every 59 BIP (AB-HR-K); today, that's down to one every 74.59. The raw numbers - in the '80s there were 19,181 ROE in 1,131,780 BIP while in the '00s there were 1080 fewer ROE in 164,000 more BIP (and the rate is even higher in the '10s).

Maybe the game would be more "esthetically pleasing" if we just banned gloves altogether.
   66. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2014 at 04:10 PM (#4681264)
Maybe the game would be more "esthetically pleasing" if we just banned gloves altogether.


Another thread suggest smaller gloves. I would fully support that. Allow first baseman and catchers to keep their gloves, but reduce the size of outfielder gloves to similar size as a shortstops, or go all the way to second baseman sized gloves.

I despise all the suggestions on bullpen limits. Uggh.
   67. DL from MN Posted: April 07, 2014 at 04:30 PM (#4681301)
in the '80s there were 19,181 ROE in 1,131,780 BIP while in the '00s there were 1080 fewer ROE in 164,000 more BIP


So you're saying we should rip up the grass and go back to artificial turf?
   68. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 07, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4681304)
Reached on Error is very, very subjective, making cross-era comparisons highly suspect.
   69. thetailor Posted: April 07, 2014 at 04:45 PM (#4681328)
Reached on Error is very, very subjective, making cross-era comparisons highly suspect.

Perhaps true, but I'd be inclined to think it's another factor that would tend toward there being significantly better defense today. Players are getting called for errors today on plays that would have been scored hits in the past because our expectations for defense are higher today.
   70. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 07, 2014 at 04:57 PM (#4681347)
So you're saying we should rip up the grass and go back to artificial turf?
Good lord no. I'm only using ROE as a proxy for defensive ability; if there's fewer errors, it must mean fielders are making more plays (and I'm also assuming 12% more errors on 12% fewer chances** is very significant, especially over a decade's worth of games). And being snarky. Always snarky.
Reached on Error is very, very subjective, making cross-era comparisons highly suspect.
But we're talking about huge differences; a ROE is only about 75% as likely today as in the '80s. Is there any reason to think that scorers are much more likely to score something a hit today than 30 years ago?

**'10s vs. '80s. The '10s are even more error-free than the '00s (1 ROE every 74.6 BIP vs. 1 every 71.6 BIP).
   71. Moeball Posted: April 07, 2014 at 05:00 PM (#4681351)
Players are getting called for errors today on plays that would have been scored hits in the past because our expectations for defense are higher today.


Possibly, and I don't doubt for a second that fielders, in general, are much better today than in past generations.

But I also see plays just about every single game that get called "infield hit" when someone clearly made an error on the play. Home official scorers like to give credit to batters for hits wherever possible and, unless the fielder kicked the ball 3 times on the play, errors often are called hits instead.
   72. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 07, 2014 at 05:31 PM (#4681395)
Players are getting called for errors today on plays that would have been scored hits in the past because our expectations for defense are higher today.

without researching I would suspect just the opposite. official scorers take a very restrained approach on scoring errors relative to 20 or more years ago.

doesn't post 70 show that pretty clearly?
   73. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2014 at 05:52 PM (#4681419)
official scorers take a very restrained approach on scoring errors relative to 20 or more years ago.

That's very strongly my impression, too.
   74. thetailor Posted: April 07, 2014 at 05:52 PM (#4681421)
doesn't post 70 show that pretty clearly?

That less plays are being ruled errors? No, it doesn't. The absolute number of errors being awarded doesn't speak to how liberal the scorers are being.

Say for argument's sake that players today cover 10% more ground than their predecessors did in 1980. They're also more surehanded than their predecessors in 1980 on the balls they do reach. The absolute # of errors might still go down while the defensive standard expectation goes up.

I mean, I have no idea. Just thinking out loud.
   75. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:01 PM (#4681431)
Players are getting called for errors today on plays that would have been scored hits in the past because our expectations for defense are higher today.

without researching I would suspect just the opposite. official scorers take a very restrained approach on scoring errors relative to 20 or more years ago.

doesn't post 70 show that pretty clearly?
Actually, I don't think it shows that at all (in that, there's nothing in the numbers that supports the position); however, I think #65 and #70 do directly refute #71, or at least the idea that #71 is more prevalent today than in years past.

And that doesn't jibe with #65, that there are the same hits/9, but far more BIP - if scorers were more "restrained", I'd think you'd see an increase in H/9, and especially in H/BIP, to go with the drop in ROE.

I think what all the numbers show when you put them together is that teams don't care about K because hitters overall are better, and that hitters really need to wait for a good pitch to hit (accepting walks and strikeouts) because fielders are so much better.

And since they're my numbers, my opinion counts most!

   76. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:07 PM (#4681436)
Perhaps true, but I'd be inclined to think it's another factor that would tend toward there being significantly better defense today. Players are getting called for errors today on plays that would have been scored hits in the past because our expectations for defense are higher today.


Is there anyone, anywhere that actually thinks this? I'm fairly certain the consensus is that errors are being called less and that what used to be called an error is now being called a base hit.

Of course as far as defense is concerned, all you really need to go by is defensive efficiency and I'm pretty sure that it has improved over the years. It doesn't care about errors or any of that other noise.

Edit: after looking at it for the past 30 years, it seems that defense efficiency hasn't improved, in fact it's gotten worse as the eras became more about power.
   77. Steve Treder Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:14 PM (#4681438)
all you really need to go by is defensive efficiency and I'm pretty sure that it has improved over the years

No, it hasn't. It's declined.

IMO that's mostly a function of harder-hit balls (when they'e hit), but it's also my impression that fielders, while surer-handed, are just so much bulkier today than they used to be that they don't cover as much ground. Those skinny dorks in colorful double-knits back in the day weren't strong, but they were quick.
   78. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:18 PM (#4681443)
But we're talking about huge differences; a ROE is only about 75% as likely today as in the '80s. Is there any reason to think that scorers are much more likely to score something a hit today than 30 years ago?

Sure. Standards have fallen in baseball as they've fallen elsewhere in the culture and people are more squeamish about enforcing standards as they're more squeamish throughout the culture.

Errors are "negative." Hits are "positive." And we don't want to be "negative" when we can be "positive," no sirree ....

   79. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:21 PM (#4681446)
No, it hasn't. It's declined.


Yep, I was looking it up..edited my comment to reflect my discoveries.

Def Eff
2013---.692
2012---.691
2011---.694
2010---.691
2009---.690
2008---.689
2007---.686
2006---.687
2005---.693
2004---.691
2003---.694
2002---.695
2001---.691
2000---.687
1999---.685
1998---.688
1997---.686
1996---.685
1995---.689
1994---.687
1993---.693
1992---.703
1991---.702
1990---.700
1989---.703
1988---.705
1987---.697
1986---.699
1985---.704
1984---.699
1983---.700
1982---.702
1981---.708
   80. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 07, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4681472)
Sure. Standards have fallen in baseball as they've fallen elsewhere in the culture and people are more squeamish about enforcing standards as they're more squeamish throughout the culture.

Errors are "negative." Hits are "positive." And we don't want to be "negative" when we can be "positive," no sirree ....
Good gravy.

I sure hope you're either (1) trolling or (2) working on your stand-up routine because only the saddest, get-off-my-lawnest people out there actually believe this.
   81. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 07, 2014 at 07:26 PM (#4681493)
IMO that's mostly a function of harder-hit balls (when they'e hit)
More fun from my cutting, pasting, and Exceling:

There have been many more XBH recently; in fact, from '82-'93, only the '86-87 spike had more than 4 XBH/G (and even '86 rounds up to just 4.01) while since '96** no season had fewer than 4.85. 2B are up 30% since '82** and HR are up 38% (2B are down from their '06-08 peak; HRs down from the '98-06 run). 14 of the top 17 seasons in XBH/gm are seasons since the turn of the century (in fact, 18 seasons of '97-13 are the top 18).

Triples are all over the place. While the 4 highest per games are in the '80s, 7 of the next 8 are between '99 and '09. '13 is the lowest full season, but the next 5 are all between '88 and '96.

**The 3 strike/lockout seasons seem to have depressed offense. Both '81 and '94 saw big dips in run scoring compared to previous years, and even '95 wasn't fully recovered yet.
   82. An Athletic in Powderhorn™ Posted: April 07, 2014 at 07:40 PM (#4681505)
1. Despite popular perception, IP/start hasn't really changed much over the past 35 years - from 6.21 in the '80s to 5.94 in the '10's (up slightly from 5.88 in the '00s), or less than 1 out/game.
Reasonable people can disagree about this, but to me that's a big change. Between that and teams now choosing to give their best starters 2 or 3 fewer starts the league leaders in innings now get about 30 innings fewer per season in the '80s.* That seems like... well, not a big deal, exactly. But a significant change. (I cheerfully admit that I'm biased in favor of the pitcher usage patterns of my childhood.)

I too am opposed to the number of strikeouts per game of the past few seasons. It's partly due to finding ~8 Ks per game slightly less interesting to watch than 6.5 or so. But the majority of my opposition is statistically based. Strikeouts have gone up every year since 2006. Each of the last 6 years has broken the previous record for strikeouts per game. Comparing strikeout rates across eras has become increasingly difficult, and somehow K+ has not taken off as a stat. If someone were to tell me that's a dumb reason to be bothered I probably wouldn't argue too much. But historical outliers like this do bother me a bit.

Like everyone else I have a few suggestions for rule changes. None of them are drastic. A lot of these are more conservative versions of ideas others have suggested here. I'd prefer a few small changes over 1 or 2 major ones. And I'm fine with the current amount of power in the game.

1. Each reliever must pitch to at least 2 batters.
2. Teams may carry no more than 12 pitchers on the major league roster at a time (or 18 in September).
3. Pitchers get 3 unsuccessful pickoff attempts per batter. Any unsuccessful attempt after that is a ball.
4. Lower the mound an inch. (9 is more of a baseball number than 10 anyway.)
5. Make fielders' gloves slightly smaller.

I'd love to try all of those things for a couple of seasons, see what happens, and adjust from there as needed.

*270.3 vs 241.4, not pro-rated for the strike.
   83. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 07, 2014 at 07:41 PM (#4681507)
TDF: This is why I propose deadening the ball a bit and making the bat handles thicker (slowing down the bats), alongside lowering the mound and standardizing a strike zone that includes the high strike. I'd like to see a game with significantly fewer strikeouts and walks and significantly more singles, trading off some home runs and deep doubles. It would take some experimentation to get the balance right, but it could be done.

There is a serious problem, though, which is that you don't want to damage the public perception of your sport's credibility. Fifty years ago you could have instituted these changes without even telling anyone, and no one would know it had happened. Now that's impossible and you're going to set twitter afire.
   84. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2014 at 08:35 PM (#4681532)
The bats have already been deadened, that is the single biggest change in offense in the past decade, was after they changed the requirements following the 2009 season on bats. No reason to deaden the bats some more.
   85. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: April 07, 2014 at 08:43 PM (#4681535)
Sure. Standards have fallen in baseball as they've fallen elsewhere in the culture and people are more squeamish about enforcing standards as they're more squeamish throughout the culture.


Sudden thought: When did sugar diabetes become plain old diabetes?
   86. zenbitz Posted: April 07, 2014 at 08:48 PM (#4681537)
For some reason I am reminded of my sons last 4th grade little league game. In which one team struck out 16 times in 4 innings with 0 bip (scoring 1), and the other scored 15 runs (capped at 5) on 4 "hits" (bip) and 20 walks.
   87. TDF, situational idiot Posted: April 07, 2014 at 08:54 PM (#4681538)
I guess I don't understand what's broken that needs fixed.

Scoring is down a little, but fans don't seem to care much - attendance averaged 30K/game twice ever before '04 but hasn't been below 30K/game since, and people are paying much more per ticket than ever before. Further, millions are watching on TV that never did before - every game for most (all?) teams is broadcast regionally or nationally.

If the game offends your good taste (for at least one poster here, that seems to be the case) too bad. The way the game has continuously changed over the past 140 years, and it will continue to do so. I'm sure "purists" hated to see Ruth hit so many HRs, or the advent of relievers, or the disappearance of SB, or the surge of SB, or any other of a number of changes that came about not by changes in rules but in changes in how teams thought they could win.

You may not like it, but so what? I don't like Maroon 5 but as long as they sell albums/downloads and fill stadiums they aren't changing a thing.

   88. cardsfanboy Posted: April 07, 2014 at 08:58 PM (#4681540)

Like everyone else I have a few suggestions for rule changes. None of them are drastic. A lot of these are more conservative versions of ideas others have suggested here. I'd prefer a few small changes over 1 or 2 major ones. And I'm fine with the current amount of power in the game.

1. Each reliever must pitch to at least 2 batters.
2. Teams may carry no more than 12 pitchers on the major league roster at a time (or 18 in September).
3. Pitchers get 3 unsuccessful pickoff attempts per batter. Any unsuccessful attempt after that is a ball.
4. Lower the mound an inch. (9 is more of a baseball number than 10 anyway.)
5. Make fielders' gloves slightly smaller.


1. Drastic, and hate it.
2. Drastic, and hate it.
3. EXTREMELY DRASTIC and utterly ridiculous.
4. Drastic....not sure if it's a good idea or not.
5. moderate, excellent idea.

I do not, for the life of me get making whole sale changes to how the game is played. Modify the equipment, modify the field, but don't touch the fundamentals of the game, and the whole locking in teams into a set lineup is way too footbally for me. Let football enjoy a totalitarian regime, baseball is america's game where freedom rules, while everyone knows football is a communist / fascist hybrid.

I fully support making changes to the glove, there is nothing I see wrong with it, and I'm in favor of expanding rosters for the simple fact that the increase in pitching percentage of the rosters has driven out specialists and we are stuck with too many utility guys while fewer Billy Hamilton or Matt Stairs types...but dictating what positions they are, just rubs me the wrong way.



Of course my recommendations has almost always been in regards to just call the rules as written. I imagine a lot of the issues that is happening can be fixed with better umpiring.

But if you want to reduce the strikeout rate, you need to approach the problem as "why is the strikeout rate so high?" and it's fairly simple, 1. power pitcher* 2. relievers 3. players have learned that strike outs is hardly less damaging than other outs. It used to be the batters focused on putting the ball in play in hopes that something will happen, and over the past 20 or so years, they have realized that a weak hit ball isn't worth the loss in performance by swinging away. If you want to fix that problem, you need to increase the odds that a weak hit ball will result in a hit, which is why the smaller glove idea is a fairly obvious and simple fix.

Lowering the mound isn't really a fix, as people have been clamoring for years a reduced offense, and right now the offense is probably at a level everyone likes, it's just the aesthetic of the game that seem to be bothering people.

*shorthand for starting pitchers today know they aren't going 9 innings so can put more into each pitch, instead of trying to save something for the last two innings.
   89. Sunday silence Posted: April 07, 2014 at 10:46 PM (#4681584)
what if we put weights around the ankles of fielders? Not heavy weights, just say 1.5 lbs. This way we could decrease fielding range and the batters would try to put the ball in play. Oh and if a pitcher gets a hit any hit its an automatic HR.
   90. Mendo Posted: April 07, 2014 at 10:51 PM (#4681587)
Modify the equipment, modify the field, but don't touch the fundamentals of the game


I tend to think this way, too, although I'm sure people would disagree about what exactly is "fundamental." But yeah, modifying the equipment seems much more kosher than modifying on-field rules like pick-off attempts or instituting a minimum number of batters faced.

Modifying the field seems somewhere in between. I don't really like the idea of moving the mound back a foot, but I bet I'd get used to it really quickly. Maybe it's just because 60'6" to home plate or 90' between the bases seems much more iconic than a 13" limit on glove size.
   91. Bhaakon Posted: April 07, 2014 at 11:54 PM (#4681613)
IMO that's mostly a function of harder-hit balls (when they'e hit), but it's also my impression that fielders, while surer-handed, are just so much bulkier today than they used to be that they don't cover as much ground. Those skinny dorks in colorful double-knits back in the day weren't strong, but they were quick.


The decline in bunting and drastic reduction in foul territory during the latest round of ballpark construction accounts for a lot of it, I think. Maybe the near elimination of artificial turf, as well. I'm not really sure how astroturf interacts with DER.
   92. Dan Posted: April 08, 2014 at 01:44 AM (#4681636)
TDF: This is why I propose deadening the ball a bit and making the bat handles thicker (slowing down the bats), alongside lowering the mound and standardizing a strike zone that includes the high strike. I'd like to see a game with significantly fewer strikeouts and walks and significantly more singles, trading off some home runs and deep doubles. It would take some experimentation to get the balance right, but it could be done.


Wouldn't making the bat handles thicker and reducing bat speed increase strikeouts? A slower bat means less time to react to pitches and more swinging and missing. And adding more high strikes that hitters can't catch up to is also going to increase strikeouts. But you then go on to say you want to see fewer strikeouts.
   93. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 08, 2014 at 07:32 AM (#4681656)
Dan: No. We've had this discussion before; less bat speed will mean more but weaker contact. A slower bat will spend more time in the contact zone. You'll get more routine groundouts and popouts, and more Texas Leaguer singles and infield singles. You'll also get significantly fewer home runs, because the strength required to swing the bat fast enough to consistently hit the ball that hard will increase. As such, many players who today (rightly) swing for the fences knowing they'll hit 15 or 20 home runs a year will alter their approaches to swing for singles and doubles.

It's possible that I'm underestimating the effect of pitchers throwing harder today than ever before and a lot of current major league players just won't be able to get around on 95 MPH heat anymore, but I doubt it.
   94. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 08, 2014 at 08:06 AM (#4681663)
fundamentally i think it makes for a more interesting game if more players are involved in the action. and balls in play by definition require more players take part in the action

not that strikeouts are fascist.
   95. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 08, 2014 at 09:07 AM (#4681683)
I agree with you, Harveys, but I think we're in the minority of ticket/TV package/jersey buyers. All evidence is that chicks (read: casual fans) really do dig the long ball, and I doubt MLB is interested in taking any measures that would reduce home runs (as most strikeout-reducing measures would).

If you want to reduce strikeouts, your options are either fewer home runs or skyrocketing run scoring.
   96. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 08, 2014 at 09:38 AM (#4681710)
zeth

fans like runs being scored. that generates attendance bumps. I think folks conflate runs scoring with homers since they do often tie together but are not absolute

but that is likely too much nuance for the powers that be of baseball. just easier to encourage homers

   97. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 08, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4681713)
I personally would be heartily in favor of returning to the baseball of the 1920s and 1930s, where most of the league hits .300 and games are frequently decided 8-6 and yet are played in two hours.
   98. Eddo Posted: April 08, 2014 at 11:00 AM (#4681814)
[T]he whole locking in teams into a set lineup is way too footbally for me. Let football enjoy a totalitarian regime, baseball is america's game where freedom rules, while everyone knows football is a communist / fascist hybrid.

I fully support making changes to the glove, there is nothing I see wrong with it, and I'm in favor of expanding rosters for the simple fact that the increase in pitching percentage of the rosters has driven out specialists and we are stuck with too many utility guys while fewer Billy Hamilton or Matt Stairs types...but dictating what positions they are, just rubs me the wrong way.

I'm with you on not touching the fundamentals of the game (though I'd argue mound height isn't fundamental, but that's a matter of degree).

But I guess I take some issue with the quoted excerpt. As to your first paragraph, baseball is the sport with the more rigid roster rules: once you leave the game, you're out for good. Heck, all you have to do is be announced as entering the game, and it's official.

And your second paragraph describes football. Football is all about specialization (though the rules don't dictate that it has to be). If you want more specialized players and fewer utility guys in baseball, then it becomes more like football.

I'm not saying one is better than the other, just that your argument seems inconsistent.
   99. cardsfanboy Posted: April 08, 2014 at 11:18 AM (#4681839)
But I guess I take some issue with the quoted excerpt. As to your first paragraph, baseball is the sport with the more rigid roster rules: once you leave the game, you're out for good. Heck, all you have to do is be announced as entering the game, and it's official.


But it's not rigid construction. You aren't being told you can only have 12 pitchers on the roster. You aren't being told who can play where (Baseball literally has no definition in the rules for any position other than first, catcher and pitcher and has no rules saying where you can position any player other than catcher and pitcher) In the NFL there are rules on the number of quarterbacks you can have, who can be on the line, who can be in motion etc. I do not think that is a necessary rules for baseball. Your manager has 25 man roster, he can fill it anyway he wants. He can position the players anywhere he wants, I like that freedom.

And your second paragraph describes football. Football is all about specialization (though the rules don't dictate that it has to be). If you want more specialized players and fewer utility guys in baseball, then it becomes more like football.


In baseball you have a bench, a bench is about specialization, it adds to the enjoyment for a team to put a specialist in, but unlike football and other sports, its a limited one use bullet. I personally like a larger roster because I want to see more offensive player options, the rise of the reliever has limited the bench, some can argue that it's still the managers choice how they make up the roster, but I just would like to return a little to the past where you have a little more flexibility on the bench, teams have lost roughly 2 roster spots with the rise of the relievers, let's get those back without losing the freedom of creating your own roster.
   100. nick swisher hygiene Posted: April 08, 2014 at 11:27 AM (#4681859)
I personally like a larger roster because I want to see more offensive player options, the rise of the reliever has limited the bench, some can argue that it's still the managers choice how they make up the roster, but I just would like to return a little to the past where you have a little more flexibility on the bench, teams have lost roughly 2 roster spots with the rise of the relievers, let's get those back without losing the freedom of creating your own roster.

but strategy can also involve choosing the best way to deal with constraints.
I don't wanna see 30 guys available, because they will all get used,
and that will produce boring intervals of dead time.

I would ####### LOVE to see a "game day roster" of something like 18 guys.
give the OF who pitched well in college real value; give the best infield UT gloves real value.
etc....
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