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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Frank Deford: It’s Time To Shrink Home Plate

Day by day it grows! Science is baffled! And so is Frank Deford!

It’s time to make home plate smaller. I know: That’s heresy; that’s sacrilegious. But there are simply too many strikeouts in baseball now, and that hurts the game, because if the ball isn’t in play, it’s boring.

The size of home plate was not decreed by God. Back when it was an iron plate — where the name came from — it was, in fact, round. It became rubber and a square, 12 inches to a side, but its present distinctive shape was established in 1900 — a full 17 inches across.

That’s too broad for the pitchers today, especially when so many strikes are on the corners, or even “on the black,” the small fringe that frames the plate. If you cut, say, an inch and a half off each side, pitchers would have a 14-inch target. Batters would have a more reasonable chance to try to connect. They’d swing more, put more balls in play. It’d be more fun, a better game both to play and to watch.

Repoz Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:01 PM | 84 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:11 PM (#4663089)
Frank at one point was a pretty sharp guy and a good writer. Those days appear to be long gone.
   2. DL from MN Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:26 PM (#4663099)
There is nothing wrong with baseball. The difference has been calling the high strike. If they want more runs they can lower the top of the strikezone again.
   3. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:29 PM (#4663104)
I thought they were recently calling the low strike rather than the high strike.
   4. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:30 PM (#4663105)
An idea kind of born out of craziness. Sure 3 inches doesn't sound like much, but it represents nearly a 20% reduction...that's kind of huge.

Though I do like the ball being in play and forcing the defense to work consistently has merit as a good strategy which can lead to many unearned or manufactured type of runs, this is not the way to go about it.
   5. jdennis Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:31 PM (#4663107)
If they shrunk the plate, the hitters would swing less.
   6. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:34 PM (#4663109)
Yeah, strikeouts strip activity out of baseball so the ideal solution is to shoot walks through the roof. What a brilliant plan.

The solution is to make the hitters swing heavier bats.
   7. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4663113)
Easy enough. We'll send Joe West and crew down to Florida a few days early and we'll have this in place by opening day. No problem.

The only way to decrease strikeouts is to make strikeouts hurt more. Once teams figured out that strikeouts weren't that bad - it only took 100 or so years - the present situation was a given. Make a strikeout a yellow card, two in one game, you sit out the next game. I'm only half kidding.
   8. Jeltzandini Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:43 PM (#4663117)
Guesses as to what this would do run scoring, assuming accurate enforcement? Last year NL was an even 4.00 R/G, AL 4.33. I'm thinking it adds two full runs to each.

   9. John Northey Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:47 PM (#4663122)
Lots of ways to reduce strikeouts - easiest is to make it harder to hit home runs, thus the 'grip and rip' becomes less useful. Can be done via many methods, from increasing park size (expensive) to changes in the ball from stitching to weight to humidor type stuff (ala Colorado but stronger and everywhere) to what is in the core of the ball. Bat weight, bat handle thickness, etc. can also be put into place.
   10. nick swisher hygiene Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:49 PM (#4663124)
"lots of strikeouts" can indeed be boring, but this does not mean "lots of balls in play" is exciting: so many balls in play now are routine. you can't incentivize it without REALLY changing the game, and this won't do it.

####, I'd prefer shrinking gloves to Deford's idea......
   11. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:49 PM (#4663125)
My god what a completely stupid idea
   12. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:50 PM (#4663126)
Bat handle thickness seems like the easiest way to reduce offense. Everything else seems awfully invasive, I'd hate to make something like the conditions under which a team stores the day's baseballs be a potentially confounding factor. You can test any bat with a 99 cent tape measure.
   13. Ken Griffey's Grotesquely Swollen Jaw Posted: February 26, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4663132)
Knowing how good Deford used to be, it's really incredible how poorly-thought-out most of his NPR pieces are.
   14. zack Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:10 PM (#4663140)
####, I'd prefer shrinking gloves to Deford's idea......

I've thought for awhile that removing gloves entirely would be a good idea. The crux of the issue is you want to increase balls in play, that's the easiest way I can think of to drastically increase the value of putting wood on it without screwing something else up worse.

Pitchers and catchers can keep their gloves. Maybe first basemen. Kind of hard to implement in less than a generation, of course...
   15. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:14 PM (#4663142)
Bat handle thickness seems like the easiest way to reduce offense.


There's no need to reduce offense, just the Three True Outcomes, and the strikeouts and walks in particular. In fact I personally think 1920s baseball would be the most entertaining brand of baseball.

I think baseball games routinely decided by scores like 8-6 would be perfectly exciting if you took out a lot of the strikeouts and walks.

I've thought for awhile that removing gloves entirely would be a good idea.


I like that idea too--why should Grady Sizemore and Nick Johnson be the only ones going on the DL several times a year? Let's let everybody do it! I'm sure the MLBPA will have no problem with this plan.

Disengaging sarcasm mode, in theory I would be in favor of much smaller gloves that protect fielders' hand and that's it, but you're more likely to see flying ponies. There is no way to implement that kind of change across all of organized baseball (Little League to the major leagues) and players would never accept it.

The same problem besets mandating thicker bat handles, which I am certain is the correct solution to the Three True Outcomes problem.
   16. ursus arctos Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:15 PM (#4663143)
Or you could import cricketers wholesale.
   17. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:17 PM (#4663146)
The solution is to make the hitters swing heavier bats.
Heh. My solution is to make fielders wear smaller gloves!
   18. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:20 PM (#4663149)
Deford is onto something, but he's going in the wrong direction. Making the plate wider is probably going to have the effect he is looking for more than shrinking it. It will get guys up there swinging because working the count will be appreciably harder.

I'm not saying it's a GOOD idea, but if Deford wants more "action" widening the plate is going to be more useful than shrinking it.

   19. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:30 PM (#4663155)
Not really. Widening the plate is just going to jack strikeouts up and walks down without any corresponding increase in circuit clouts or BABIP. The action level will stay about the same while run scoring plummets.
   20. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:34 PM (#4663161)
I've thought for awhile that removing gloves entirely would be a good idea.


Can fielders catch balls with their hats?
   21. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:46 PM (#4663163)
The only way to decrease strikeouts is to make strikeouts hurt more. Once teams figured out that strikeouts weren't that bad - it only took 100 or so years - the present situation was a given. Make a strikeout a yellow card, two in one game, you sit out the next game. I'm only half kidding.

You'd never get players to agree to anything like that, but I'd half like to see minor tweaks like awarding an automatic extra base for a successful drag bunt, which might encourage a few free swinging speedsters to put a little more variety into their batting approach. Another such tweak might be awarding two runs for a successful steal of home. Since both of these ideas would be geared towards rewards rather than punishment, there might be less instinctive resistance to their adoption, and it would encourage two of the most exciting plays in baseball that don't involve brute strength.

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

There's no need to reduce offense, just the Three True Outcomes, and the strikeouts and walks in particular. In fact I personally think 1920s baseball would be the most entertaining brand of baseball.

I think baseball games routinely decided by scores like 8-6 would be perfectly exciting if you took out a lot of the strikeouts and walks.


The highest scoring game in American League history was played in the lively ball era, with 36 runs, 34 hits, 21 walks and 3 mid-inning pitching changes. It was played in June and BTW it was also televised.

This record holding game took all of 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete. It's amazing how quickly games can be played when hitters and pitchers don't dawdle between pitches.
   22. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4663164)
It’s time to make home plate smaller. I know: That’s heresy; that’s sacrilegious. But there are simply too many strikeouts in baseball now, and that hurts the game, because if the ball isn’t in play, it’s boring.


I really hate to say this but he's kind of right, totally wrong solution of course, but kind of right.

K's are really really high
average fastball velocity is up

move the mound back 5 feet.

   23. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: February 26, 2014 at 05:53 PM (#4663169)
move the mound back 5 feet.

Damn, just logged in to post this one.

If you want to reduce k's, you need to improve contact rates. Making bats heavier is dumb, it does the opposite. The other possible way of increasing contact rates, is tinkering with the ball. Either make it bigger/heavier, or reduce the seams so the ball breaks less.
   24. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:05 PM (#4663180)
Can fielders catch balls with their hats?
Of course!

Actually: Could players do that in the 19th century? Did they?
   25. ursus arctos Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:08 PM (#4663183)
It's expressly barred in cricket, so my guess is that they didn't.
   26. cardsfanboy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:12 PM (#4663185)
####, I'd prefer shrinking gloves to Deford's idea......


I like that idea, it incentivizes putting the ball in play more.

Disengaging sarcasm mode, in theory I would be in favor of much smaller gloves that protect fielders' hand and that's it, but you're more likely to see flying ponies. There is no way to implement that kind of change across all of organized baseball (Little League to the major leagues) and players would never accept it.


The average second baseman's glove is fine, just make that the maximum. (if you want a number, no more than 2" longer than the fingers. or something to that effect)
   27. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:13 PM (#4663186)
Baseball isn't broken. People ought to quit trying to fix it.
   28. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:19 PM (#4663192)

Can fielders catch balls with their hats?


No.

Rule 7.05:

Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance --

(b) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril
   29. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:30 PM (#4663196)
Baseball isn't broken. People ought to quit trying to fix it.


Baseball isn't perfect. People ought to quit claiming it is and refusing to entertain the idea of improving it.

move the mound back 5 feet.


Damn, just logged in to post this one.


Never ever going to happen, with pitchers having carefully developed their deliveries at 60.5 feet. In a world where anything is possible I would like expanding the strike zone a little and moving the mound back, along with making the bat handles thicker. Strikeouts, walks and circuit clouts would all sharply decrease, and that's fine with me. Smaller fielding gloves would be grand also. Let there be balls in play by the bucketloads; you'll get to see more awesome fielding plays that way. Great fielding plays get more applause at the park than anything other than a walk-off hit or a circuit clout.
   30. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:35 PM (#4663200)
The average second baseman's glove is fine, just make that the maximum. (if you want a number, no more than 2" longer than the fingers. or something to that effect)
First basemen today are just ####### incredible at digging balls out of the dirt.

Now, I'm a younger fan (I started watching baseball in 1996), but

1) Has this always been the case? and

2) If they've gotten better, how much of that improvement can we assume is due to first basemen using bigger gloves?
   31. dejarouehg Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4663202)
A good man who has been through hell. I feel sad when I see him on TV or read something like this. It's like an ad for ageism.

Maybe Frank has no idea just how difficult pitching at that level is, not to mention that luck needed to stay healthy long enough to succeed in any level of professional baseball.

Baseball isn't perfect, but it is pretty damn good. If the 12-second rule were enforced and batters were forced to stay in the box, that would be great.
   32. dejarouehg Posted: February 26, 2014 at 06:51 PM (#4663204)
First basemen today are just ####### incredible at digging balls out of the dirt.

Now, I'm a younger fan (I started watching baseball in 1996), but

1) Has this always been the case? and

2) If they've gotten better, how much of that improvement can we assume is due to first basemen using bigger gloves?


There have always been a few 1B who are good at this, just never, IMO, so many as in the last 10-15 years. Being in NY, Hernandez and Mattingly were both terrific at this. Hernandez being the best I've ever seen. Grace was really good at this.

1B used to be where bad fielders with power went to die, a la Dave Kingman. Not sure who realized that defense at 1B was critical but what a difference than it was in the 60s & 70's.

   33. cardsfanboy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:03 PM (#4663205)
2) If they've gotten better, how much of that improvement can we assume is due to first basemen using bigger gloves?


The gloves do have a regulations and players have been pushing that regulation for years (Brett Butler clearly played with an illegal glove) I don't think that players are any better at fielding balls out of the dirt than in the past though. I think field conditions have improved enough that there is more consistency there, but it was also there on the astro-turf fields.

1B used to be where bad fielders with power went to die, a la Dave Kingman. Not sure who realized that defense at 1B was critical but what a difference than it was in the 60s & 70's.


My comment is in regards to 80's and 90's...
   34. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:08 PM (#4663206)
Never ever going to happen, with pitchers having carefully developed their deliveries at 60.5 feet.


Never ever is a mighty long time :-)

The mound went from 50 feet to 55.5 feet (1887) to 60.5 feet (1893)...

Imagine if they kept it at 55.5 feet? I think we'd have seen 7.7k/9 as average by the 1930s...
   35. cardsfanboy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:15 PM (#4663209)
Baseball isn't perfect. People ought to quit claiming it is and refusing to entertain the idea of improving it.


Agree..but oftentimes the solution is much worse than the actual problem. Or just stupid. (such as again...1 pitch intentional walks, hard salary cap, hard salary floor, fighting against instant replay, instead of working for the best replay system possible, radical solutions such as changing the width of the plate or the pitching distance etc.)

I have no problem with someone saying "here is a problem that I have with the game, which I like." and then listing what their dislike, why they dislike it, and what they propose. Too often those that are proposing "solutions" to the sport are people who don't like the sport. I can't take any proposal from that group seriously. That would be me trying to propose a solution for professional grass growing..I mean soccer. Why in the heck would my opinion matter on it anyway?

And of course when the solution is already in the rule books, then it's ridiculous to worry about extra solutions when "just follow the rules as written." would be sufficient.
   36. AndrewJ Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:44 PM (#4663219)
It’s time to make home plate smaller. I know: That’s heresy; that’s sacrilegious.


Where's his evidence for this assertion? Where are the hordes taking to the streets and organizing the hunger strikes and candlelight vigils to keep home plate the exact same size?

The size of home plate was not decreed by God.


Again, I don't hear anybody saying it was.

And as for Deford's larger claim that baseball is "hidebound" to tradition -- it's nowhere near as tradition-oriented as golf and tennis.
   37. BDC Posted: February 26, 2014 at 07:55 PM (#4663220)
Wow, I heard about this opinion word-of-mouth this afternoon, presented as an idea to speed up baseball, and could only think that it would slow it down. Weird.
   38. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:00 PM (#4663224)
CFB is right, the only thing that needs to happen to speed up the pace of the game is for the batters to be told to stay in the damned box.
   39. Bunny Vincennes Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:00 PM (#4663225)
1B used to be where bad fielders with power went to die, a la Dave Kingman. Not sure who realized that defense at 1B was critical but what a difference than it was in the 60s & 70's.


Well now, at least in the AL you can stash that person at DH.

Where's his evidence for this assertion? Where are the hordes taking to the streets and organizing the hunger strikes and candlelight vigils to keep home plate the exact same size?


Because no one in the last 100 odd years has ever had a problem with the size of home plate before Frank Deford?

   40. cardsfanboy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:03 PM (#4663229)
Again, I don't hear anybody saying it was.


You mean people are making strawman arguments on an issue? Never thought I would see that anywhere.

It may not be decreed from god, but it does make a strong amount of sense, I guess you can argue for an inch or two, but this seems to be working pretty good with the size of the bats we have and the other dimensions.
   41. Walt Davis Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4663230)
Digging throws out of the dirt at 1B is not particularly difficult. You simply have to have the flexibility* to stretch far enough and get low enough to turn it into a short hop. If there's been an improvement, it's probably in more emphasis on flexibility training. In my days as a mean-picking 12-inch softball machine, I did a lot of stretching exercises, quasi-yoga and was at a point where I could basically do the splits if I had to. (I couldn't get up from the splits -- I wasn't James Brown -- but I could throw it out there).

The guys who are great at picking throws are the guys who can play the in-between hop which is rarely necessary if you're flexible enough. I hated in-between hops but was surprisingly good at bad hops.

Personally I found glove size not particularly useful at picking throws -- in fact, in softball, I played with a regular OF glove. Occasionally I'd wish the glove was a bit longer but then it's harder, from my experience, to really control the ball at the end of the glove so I'm not sure I would have caught that many of those anyway.

Of course MLB and rec league 12-inch softball possibly aren't that comparable. :-)

* and hand-eye coordination but I'm pretty sure they all have that.

On the plate -- DeFord's being a bit weird but replace "reduce the plate" to "reduce the strike zone" and it makes more sense. I can't find it but there was a recent article using PitchF/X data from 2013 and sometime earlier to show the changes in pitches being called strikes. The change was substantial and it was primarily below the knees. That is consistent with Ks up and walks down and therefore offense down. Placing an even greater reward on keeping the ball down probably will also reduce the FB (and thereby HR) rate. To reduce Ks and boost offense, get rid of these lower strikes. (If the study is correct of course.)

Presumably there's some breaking point where batters moving towards contact and away from rake-and-take will make sense in terms of increasing scoring but the batters don't seem to think we've reached that point yet. Increasing BIP may increase "action" but I doubt it would increase scoring (fewer Ks but fewer HRs, fewer BBs). That's fine for those who loved 80s MLB.

But I think the aesthetic impact of the increased K-rate has been overblown. Versus 2010 we're talking about 1 extra K per 9 or 2 per game. That's not the difference between boring and delight. Compared to 10 years ago it's about 3 per game.
   42. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:25 PM (#4663241)
I suspect better infield surfaces would be a factor in better scooping abilities.
   43. DL from MN Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:27 PM (#4663242)
I'm not sure what the problem is. Run scoring is fine and strikeouts are awesome but then I like watching pitchers.
   44. smileyy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:40 PM (#4663245)
Proposal: If a pitcher strikes a batter out, the batter starts with an 0-1 count in his next AB, if that pitcher is still in the game.
   45. PreservedFish Posted: February 26, 2014 at 08:59 PM (#4663255)
Can someone explain the thicker bat handle to me? Is the idea that with a heavier bat, players will be forced to take more defensive swings and will opt towards soft contact more often?
   46. boteman Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:08 PM (#4663262)
Stephen Strasburg and Jose Fernandez think the strike zone is just fine the way it is, thank you very much.
   47. Cblau Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:29 PM (#4663271)
Here's a little known fact: home plate isn't 17 inches wide. It is 16.97 inches wide.
   48. Dale Sams Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:33 PM (#4663272)
This is your alls fault for arguing that SO's for the batter are barely worse than any other kind of out...and topping that off with a specious argument about DP's.
   49. cardsfanboy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:33 PM (#4663273)
The guys who are great at picking throws are the guys who can play the in-between hop which is rarely necessary if you're flexible enough. I hated in-between hops but was surprisingly good at bad hops.


In between hops are easy once you get used to them. I hated them with a passion but they are much easier once you get over your "reflexes" on them.

Personally I found glove size not particularly useful at picking throws -- in fact, in softball, I played with a regular OF glove. Occasionally I'd wish the glove was a bit longer but then it's harder, from my experience, to really control the ball at the end of the glove so I'm not sure I would have caught that many of those anyway.


I played second so I preferred the smaller gloves, I liked the quick transfer aspect over any added range. But I can see how the longer glove can help there. I don't think anyone would have a problem with first baseman keeping their gloves. Nobody is arguing for more errors, they are proposing a way to reduce the TTO (and even there it's just the K's and walks that they want a reduction in, not many are complaining about homeruns)

I'm really starting to like this concept of arguing for a smaller glove. Right now it's not effective as a hitter to shorten up your swing, as the percentage of balls in play is just not worth what you lose, but if the percentage of balls in play that becomes a hit goes up, it might be worth the "in play at all cost on two strikes" argument that people keep pretending should be there.


Can someone explain the thicker bat handle to me? Is the idea that with a heavier bat, players will be forced to take more defensive swings and will opt towards soft contact more often?


Not sure where the person who proposed that was going with that, but I guess the argument is that it slows the bat speed down, even with a swing for the fence mentality, that it might be better to use the better mass to drive the ball to the outfield/hard hit ground ball. Honestly I don't know what that is going for there, I think they have made the obvious changes with the bats that they were going to make and I think it's pretty obvious that it helped lead to the reduction of offense it was going for.
   50. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 26, 2014 at 09:51 PM (#4663278)
Proposal: If a pitcher strikes a batter out, the batter starts with an 0-1 count in his next AB, if that pitcher is still in the game.


Because you love strikeouts and want to see even more of them?

Can someone explain the thicker bat handle to me? Is the idea that with a heavier bat, players will be forced to take more defensive swings and will opt towards soft contact more often?


The slower the bat moves through the zone, the more time the bat spends in the zone, the more likely it is that contact will be made with the ball. As bat speed increases power obviously increases, but contact rate decreases. The extreme illustration of this is bunting; when you just hold the bat in the zone it's (relatively) very easy to make contact with the ball.

The difference between modern bats and the bats of the 1960s is startling--the handles of modern bats are much thinner, allowing the batter to whip the head of the bat through the zone. If you make the handles thicker again bats will slow down, and you'll get fewer home runs and fewer strikeouts. And incidentally, you'd get a lot fewer broken bats.
   51. cardsfanboy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 10:10 PM (#4663280)
In 2009 they did a pretty good job of identifying the problems with the bat breakage and reduced it's occurance by a pretty good amount. Coincendently that is roughly when the drop in offense started happening (a full six years after testing started)


2010 new bat rules implemented...

Major league offense per year based upon runs per game...
2013 4.17
2012 4.32
2011 4.28
2010 4.38
----------new bat regulations take effect.
2009 4.61
2008 4.65
2007 4.80
2006 4.86
2005 4.59
2004 4.81
2003 4.73
--------testing started
2002 4.62
2001 4.78
2000 5.14
1999 5.08
1998 4.79
1997 4.77
1996 5.04
1995 4.85
   52. PreservedFish Posted: February 26, 2014 at 10:19 PM (#4663283)
The slower the bat moves through the zone, the more time the bat spends in the zone, the more likely it is that contact will be made with the ball.


How many misses are due to being too high or low, and how many are due to timing? I never thought about this.
   53. cardsfanboy Posted: February 26, 2014 at 10:25 PM (#4663285)
How many misses are due to being too high or low, and how many are due to timing? I never thought about this.


Slower bat gives you more time to adjust mid swing, changing a full miss into a slight contact(sure a lot of those will be fouled, but it still can give you another chance) Of course the adjustment we are talking about is probably 1/4" so it's not going to help a struggling Jim Edmonds, but still I imagine that it could make a difference on an appreciable number of plate appearances.

(one of my arguments on the validity of a corked bat isn't that it makes the ball go far, but it helps the batter square up on the ball more frequently because it allows for very small adjustments during the swing to ensure that....people argue that it's not really possible to do that... I think it is for a world class athlete)
   54. boteman Posted: February 26, 2014 at 11:42 PM (#4663311)
Slower bat gives you more time to adjust mid swing

p = m * v^2

As the mass of the bat increases so does its momentum, so it takes a correspondingly larger force to change the direction or position of the bat mid-swing. Weaker hitters might not be able to make this adjustment, so it does not automatically follow that bigger bats = higher contact rates.

Not every hitter is built like Pete Vukovich in Major League. Keep bats warm, hit ball very much.
   55. Dale Sams Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:19 AM (#4663325)
Crazy theory: Choke up on the bat more and protect the plate.
   56. The Yankee Clapper Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:49 AM (#4663333)
It's Time To Shrink Home Plate

Thank God Bob Feller didn't live to hear such nonsense.
   57. bobm Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:57 AM (#4663335)
Here's a little known fact: home plate isn't 17 inches wide. It is 16.97 inches wide.

The size of home plate was not decreed by God. Back when it was an iron plate — where the name came from — it was, in fact, round. It became rubber and a square, 12 inches to a side, but its present distinctive shape was established in 1900 — a full 17 inches across.


12 * (2^(1/2)) = 16.97

IOW, 17 (or 16.97) inches is the length of the diagonal line connecting two opposite corners of a square 12" on each side. Orient one corner of the square along the path from the mound to home by rotating the plate and there's your modern day plate width. Substitute a pentagon for easier calling of the strike zone.
   58. DFA Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:02 AM (#4663336)
Frank Deford works at NPR just to annoy liberal primates.
   59. Squash Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:57 AM (#4663341)
As the mass of the bat increases so does its momentum, so it takes a correspondingly larger force to change the direction or position of the bat mid-swing. Weaker hitters might not be able to make this adjustment, so it does not automatically follow that bigger bats = higher contact rates.

Yeah, the bat being in the zone longer isn't really how it works. Thicker handles means it's harder to grip and rip (i.e. swing really hard) - the reason thicker handles theoretically turn into more balls in play is because it's harder/less effective to swing really hard as you can't generate as much batspeed, so hitters shy away from full all-or-nothing swings and go for a more contact-oriented approach. It's the change in strategy more than the change in physics. Imagine swinging a tree trunk and how that would change how you swing the bat.

I would say with thicker handles but no other changes you would move toward a uglier game - the pitchers would still be out there throwing fireballs but the batters would be making much weaker contact. Lots of soft grounders and short fly balls. You could hurt them both by moving the mound back and requiring thicker handles, which I think would definitely move the game toward a more contact-oriented sport. I personally would not want to see those kind of drastic changes.

Changing the height of the mound might be a better option - the mound has been raised and lowered before (with drastic results) so I think baseball is more prepared to make that kind of change.
   60. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: February 27, 2014 at 05:29 AM (#4663349)
The highest scoring game in American League history was played in the lively ball era, with 36 runs, 34 hits, 21 walks and 3 mid-inning pitching changes. It was played in June and BTW it was also televised.


Just imagine if this was a Yankees-Red Sox Sunday night game on ESPN! Or a playoff game. Let's see...it would start at 8:35pm, and end...

...never, actually.
   61. bfan Posted: February 27, 2014 at 07:04 AM (#4663351)
Move the mound back to 62 feet. If the average fast ball is increasing, then this gives the batters more time. It reduces strike-outs, which increases action.
   62. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: February 27, 2014 at 07:29 AM (#4663353)
frank deford doesn't have a clue about horseracing these days either. my wife loves to listen to npr in the morning and while I work to be busy elsewhere I have an annoying knack of stumbling across frank share wildly incorrect horseracing information to the listeners.

   63. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: February 27, 2014 at 07:52 AM (#4663355)
p = m * v^2

#54: actually p = m*v (not v squared). It is energy (the integral of momentum wrt velocity) that is proportional to the square of v (with a 1/2 multiplier from the integration).

Also momentum is a vector, not a scalar - it has a direction as well as a size - so a batter is swinging a bat through the zone in a horizontal plane the force needed to move it up and down perpendicular to the direction of travel is independent of bat speed.

This doesn't affect your argument - a heavier bat is indeed harder to move - but your original equation seemed to imply that a lighter bat moving more quickly would take more force to deflect, which isn't the case.
   64. Rusty Priske Posted: February 27, 2014 at 09:53 AM (#4663432)
I disagree with the premise that strikeouts are boring.
   65. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:05 AM (#4663460)
Dear Mr. Commissioner,

There are too many bases these days. Please eliminate two.

P.S. I am NOT a crackpot.
   66. The District Attorney Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:12 AM (#4663468)
Bill James in his mailbag:
It's heart surgery. Messing with the size of the plate is heart surgery. There are less dramatic and less dangerous routes to accomplish the objective.
   67. Moeball Posted: February 27, 2014 at 11:54 AM (#4663559)
Once teams figured out that strikeouts weren't that bad - it only took 100 or so years - the present situation was a given.


Question - does anybody have data on what % of strikeouts are swinging strike 3s as opposed to called strike 3s?

My guess would be that once batters figured out it was better to be patient at the plate - better opportunities to force those good hitters counts like 3-1 or to increase chances of getting a walk - the "take and rake" mentality probably also meant more taking of pitches with 2-strike counts (especially when the count is 3-2) and thus an increase in called strike 3s. But is there any verification that called strike 3s have increased in percentage over time?

I guess what I'm really wondering is this - with the increase in strikeouts in recent years, is it the called strike 3s increasing that represents most of the overall increase?
   68. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4663567)
Question - does anybody have data on what % of strikeouts are swinging strike 3s as opposed to called strike 3s?

I can tell you that 19 players have struck out to end a World Series, and that 17 of them went down swinging.

I realize this information does not help you in any way whatsoever.
   69. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: February 27, 2014 at 12:37 PM (#4663599)
There are too many bases these days. Please eliminate two.
Done.
   70. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4663647)
Were players allowed to catch balls using their hats back in the 19th century? I am aware they cannot do so now.
   71. Nasty Nate Posted: February 27, 2014 at 01:47 PM (#4663680)
Rule 7.05:

Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance --

(b) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril


I assume a fielder couldn't intercept a would-be home run with a thrown hat and hold the batter to third?
   72. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:55 PM (#4663766)
I assume a fielder couldn't intercept a would-be home run with a thrown hat and hold the batter to third?

Yeah, the rule right before that one:

7.05
Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance --
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire?s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;
   73. Sunday silence Posted: February 27, 2014 at 03:58 PM (#4663768)
speaking of the last out, here is a video showing the last pitch of the last 25 world series:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoSkj3XQYgA
   74. Repoz Posted: February 27, 2014 at 04:05 PM (#4663775)
John Thorn sends this over...

"FB friend Nicholas Frame wrote: "If the diameter of the circular plate was 12" originally then isn't it true that the plate was 12" across at that time (since the diameter of a circle is the straight line distance across the circle through its center)? Then it was changed to ~17" when it was replaced by a square (due to the orientation of the square plate)?" to which I replied, Nicholas, you are correct. I have made an unwarranted inference from this language: "Section 3. The bases. The bases must be four in number, placed at equal distances from each other, and securely fastened upon the four corners of a square whose sides are respectively thirty yards. They must be so constructed as to be distinctly seen by the umpire, and must cover a space equal to one square foot of surface. The first, second, and third bases shall be canvas bags, painted white, and filled with sand or sawdust; the home base and pitcher's points to be each marked with a flat circular iron plate, painted or enameled white." One might as easily view the home plate as a squared circle, absent the corners, which would give you a nearly 17" home base. The same might be said of the post-1900 pentagonal plate, which is merely a square on point with its imaginary upper corners "filled in."
   75. The District Attorney Posted: February 27, 2014 at 06:20 PM (#4663844)
Poz:
all the incentives these days point toward strikeouts. Pitchers — facing hitters who hit the ball farther and harder than they ever have — need to get strikeouts.* And so they pitch for the strikeout (rather than the old “put the ball in play” philosophy). Hitters, meanwhile, don’t really have the same incentive to avoid strikeouts. On-base percentage sand slugging percentages — not batting average — plays a much bigger role in baseball now and both of those can be HELPED by side-effects of strikeouts. The more pitches a batter sees, the more likely he will draw walks. The harder a hitter swings, the more likely he is to get extra bases when he connects.

Strikeouts are simply going to keep rising as long as the incentives of the game push it in that direction...

I’m surprised someone as thoughtful and brilliant as Frank Deford would come up with such a lumbering and clumsy solution. It reeks of the old John Lowenstein joke that they should move first base a foot closer to the plate to eliminate close plays...

some time after the 2000 season, in an effort to slow down the insane run scoring of 1999 and 2000, umpires were encouraged to start calling the strike zone a bit more consistently with the rulebook. Runs dropped about .4 per game — the average team scored 65 or so fewer runs in a season which is a pretty big deal. That was for just the slightest adjustment.

A 20% reduction in plate size? Here’s what would happen: Walks would skyrocket — Bill James wonders if teams might walk seven more times PER TEAM PER GAME... someone would hit 80 home runs in a season within five years. And one hundred homers in a season would be in play... I think Frank has it wrong. Pitchers have not improved more than hitters have. My guess is that it’s the other way around... If you cut down the strike zone — especially by that much — I really believe, the game would go haywire...

I posed this to Bill [James] and his answer is succinct and interesting: “Reduce power. Deaden the baseball’s 1% per year; see what happens. The strikeouts are a consequence of everybody trying to hit homers. If you take a few homers away, the odds swing in favor of hitting singles.”

Tom Tango’s idea is similar: “One way to change the balance for the hitter: move fences back 20-30 feet. Now the HR is not so attainable. Now they will think more about making contact.”

But then Tom asks the pertinent question: “Is the cure worse than the disease?”...

I do believe that shrinking the strike zone is just about the worst baseball idea I’ve heard for a while.
   76. Zach Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:21 PM (#4663882)
The contact hitter has gone to the same place as the all-glove shortstop: to the bench, or to the minor leagues. Make it harder to hit home runs, and other styles of generating offense will return.
   77. Zach Posted: February 27, 2014 at 08:24 PM (#4663884)
The current style in pitching is to throw strikes early in the count to get ahead of hitters. Sooner or later, hitters without home run power are going to start making contact earlier in the count.
   78. bobm Posted: February 28, 2014 at 08:34 AM (#4663973)
[74] The origins of home plate appeared in Peter Morris' excellent book Game of Inches

CS Monitor
Baseball history at your fingertips in "A Game of Inches"

"A Game of Inches" by Peter Morris explains the origin and evolution of the sport's many innovations and rules.

By Ross Atkin / March 31, 2011 [...]

For instance, a search for “home plate” focuses on the origins of the name, which has nothing to do with dinner plates. Au contraire, home bases of mid-1800s were marked by circular iron plates. A one-square-foot shape was eventually adopted, then rotated so that a corner pointed toward the pitcher. This served to widen the strike zone.Over time, the rules specified the plate to be made of rubber and have beveled edges. By 1899, the five-sided plate that is standard today was adopted. It essentially fuses the shape and orientation of earlier incarnations into a plate that makes it easier for umpires to gauge the strike zone while maintaining the tradition of at least one pointed corner.


http://www.csmonitor.com/Books/2011/0331/Baseball-history-at-your-fingertips-in-A-Game-of-Inches
   79. bfan Posted: February 28, 2014 at 09:11 PM (#4664374)
Tom Tango’s idea is similar: “One way to change the balance for the hitter: move fences back 20-30 feet. Now the HR is not so attainable. Now they will think more about making contact.”


You could have the same effect by moving the fences in by 20-30 feet. There wouldn't be the same need to swing from the heels, because a well-struck ball with a mere hard swing would be enough to get the ball out of the park. Thus, more contact, if that is what people want.
   80. cardsfanboy Posted: February 28, 2014 at 10:48 PM (#4664390)
You could have the same effect by moving the fences in by 20-30 feet. There wouldn't be the same need to swing from the heels, because a well-struck ball with a mere hard swing would be enough to get the ball out of the park. Thus, more contact, if that is what people want.


Drawback, in moving the fence in, means less area for the ball to land in, so it would reduce BABIP, which is sorta the opposite of what I think people are going for here.
   81. The District Attorney Posted: March 02, 2014 at 01:07 PM (#4664892)
Rob Neyer thinks Bill James' suggestion of thicker/heavier bats might hurt offense too much.¹ He suggests lowering the mound, combined with simultaneously deadening the ball.

¹ It's interesting to note that James himself, when asked by Poz, didn't offer this suggestion.
   82. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 02, 2014 at 02:03 PM (#4664916)
Lowering the mound is going to yield a large increase in both circuit clouts and BABIP, in addition to decreasing strikeouts. It would be very easy to produce an offensive explosion that way.

I think most interested fans would attest that ideally we'd want to decrease strikeouts while maintaining around the same level of offense--which would require a solution that decreases walks and home runs also. A threefold modification to the game--very slight modifications, all of them--working together would accomplish this: Lower the mound, call a larger strike zone, thicken the bat handles (or move the fences back, but is that practical in every park?)

In actual fact I notice with interest that the complaining about there being too many strikeouts has only begun in the past year or two. Strikeouts continue to vastly increase, but ten years ago there were an awful lot of them and nobody cared--but scoring is significantly down since then. I suspect that what a lot of fans really want is more scoring. In which case, by all means, lower the mound and leave everything else alone.
   83. Dr. Vaux Posted: March 02, 2014 at 02:12 PM (#4664922)
I understand why young fans might miss the type of game they grew up with, but the game in the '90s and '00s had tons of strikeouts, so the desire to reduce strikeouts must be from fans who pine for the game of the '70s and '80s. That game had less offense than the '90s and '00s, so it seems likely that most of the calls for reduced strikeouts aren't also calls to raise offense. They want to reduce strikeouts without raising general offense.
   84. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: March 02, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4664925)
I pine for the game of the 1920s, myself, though I'm fully aware it's a pipe dream.

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