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Monday, March 15, 2021

The Mound Is Too Damn Close

The rationale for moving the mound back is simple: Modern pitchers are much taller and throw far harder than 19th-century pitchers. Thus, their pitches are being released closer to home plate and flying faster toward their targets, which means that today’s hitters have less time to react. Four years ago, 29-year-old Buster Posey—then baseball’s best-hitting catcher—remarked on an influx of flamethrowing pitchers capable of touching triple digits. “I’m about ready to move the mound back a little bit,” he joked. Posey was responding to a significant increase in average pitch speeds even in the fairly short time since his 2009 big league debut. From 2008 to 2020—the period covered by MLB’s PITCHf/x and Statcast pitch-tracking systems—the average speeds of four-seam fastballs, all fastballs combined, all breaking balls combined, and all off-speed pitches combined all rose by roughly 1.5 to 2 miles per hour.

That’s just the latest spurt of speed increases. Pitch data recorded by Baseball Info Solutions video scouts from 2002 to 2007 shows an uptick of another 1-2 mph over that span for most pitch types. And while the public pitch-velo trail goes cold there, information from a Reds scouting database analyzed by The Ringer in 2019 suggests that speeds rose substantially over the preceding decade, too. Those leaked Reds records don’t begin until almost a century after the rubber took up station at 60 feet, 6 inches, which means we can only speculate about the full extent of the speed increase since 1893—a period that encompasses a great growth of athletic talent, fueled by a massive expansion in the pool of potential pitchers, increasingly rigorous approaches to scouting and player development, and an explosion in the financial incentive to pursue playing baseball professionally.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 15, 2021 at 03:27 PM | 56 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Walt Davis Posted: March 15, 2021 at 03:44 PM (#6008677)
1. Have those velo changes been adjusted for different measuring points (mid-pitch, release point, etc.)?

2. How do you transition? In the extreme example, a guy like Verlander has been throwing from 60-6 for about 25 years. Push it back and just wait for the caterwauling when the first star pitcher gets hurt. I won't say it's impossible the union will agree with a change like this (a lot of their members are hitters after all) but it's a big ask.

3. But if those velo changes are real then it's likely to just keep going up and eventually you'll have to do something.
   2. Karl from NY Posted: March 15, 2021 at 03:52 PM (#6008679)
I wonder what the other half of the picture looks like too - bat velocity. The average hitter has probably added as much musclature and leverage as the pitchers have too, plus everyone uses lighter bats now. That's also gotta be part of the true-outcomes polarization.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: March 15, 2021 at 04:01 PM (#6008682)

I wonder what the other half of the picture looks like too - bat velocity. The average hitter has probably added as much musclature and leverage as the pitchers have too, plus everyone uses lighter bats now. That's also gotta be part of the true-outcomes polarization.



Hitters are a very big part of the TTOization of the sport. I think the idea of moving the mound back a bit is worth exploring, but I doubt it has the effect on balls in play that we're looking for.
   4. Jay Seaver Posted: March 15, 2021 at 04:09 PM (#6008685)
3. But if those velo changes are real then it's likely to just keep going up and eventually you'll have to do something.


Well, there's probably a limit to what the human body can manage, though I'm not sure how close pitchers are to it right now.
   5. John Northey Posted: March 15, 2021 at 04:29 PM (#6008687)
I think the easiest solution is the ball - make it a bit deader and everything changes. More resistance and it would slow down both from the mound and off the bat. Thus cutting down the TTO's quickly. With no visible change to the game.
   6. Buck Coats Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:53 PM (#6008703)
I think the even easier solution is a strict ban on the foreign substances that the umps look the other way on these days - the pitchers wouldn't be able to throw as hard (or at least not without losing their commmand)
   7. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: March 15, 2021 at 05:54 PM (#6008704)
I think the easiest solution is the ball - make it a bit deader and everything changes.


Didn't the Korean league make their ball slightly larger? I thought I read they did this and it had the desired affect of reducing HR and having more balls in play? I'm old and lazy so can't remember and too busy to look it up....
   8. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: March 15, 2021 at 06:27 PM (#6008708)
It's time to think outside the box: move the mound to the side.
   9. McCoy Posted: March 15, 2021 at 06:35 PM (#6008710)
I told you all!
   10. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: March 15, 2021 at 06:50 PM (#6008712)
Copying this over from the other thread, I would like to see them experiment with flattening the seams before messing with the mound distance. I don't think major league hitters have undue trouble getting around on a mid-high 90s pitch. I think you can probably get the desired result (fewer strikeouts) by reducing pitch movement, rather than pitch velocity, without requiring quite so fundamental a change in pitching mechanics.

Deadening the ball, by itself, would suck. You'd just trade a bunch of home runs for routine flyouts, mostly, while strikeouts remain the same.
   11. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 15, 2021 at 06:55 PM (#6008713)

I wonder what the other half of the picture looks like too - bat velocity.


Increase the minimum bat weight by a half-ounce a season until you get to 36 or 37 ounces. (Yes, I know that bat size isn't actually measured simply by weight, but you get the drift).
   12. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: March 15, 2021 at 06:58 PM (#6008715)
I think the even easier solution is a strict ban on the foreign substances that the umps look the other way on these days - the pitchers wouldn't be able to throw as hard (or at least not without losing their commmand)


From my recollection, when this has come up in the past, a lot of batters have responded to that with, "Please don't take those substances away. I value my life." I think that some of these problems could be solved if pitchers simply didn't throw max effort on every single pitch, but that's not what's asked of them.

I'd be curious to see what the effects would be of moving the mound back. Some have speculated that it wouldn't help; we might see hitters tee off even more on fastballs, but strike out even more on breaking balls that now break even further, and see more walks due to a loss in control that comes from having to throw a farther distance. TTO baseball might increase even more. But I think it's worth a shot. I do think the mound is too close given how hard pitchers throw. It also has the side effect of giving the pitcher a split second longer to react to shots up the middle.
   13. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 15, 2021 at 07:25 PM (#6008720)

I wonder how much the extra 5-10 seconds that pitchers take between pitches these days has to do with their increased velocity.
   14. JJ1986 Posted: March 15, 2021 at 07:39 PM (#6008721)
Maybe I'm too much of a traditionalist, and I would eventually consider this, but there are a lot of other things I'd try first starting with the ball, stricter roster limits on pitchers, the height of the mound, and other equipment (bats/gloves) and probably the automated strike zone (though that may have the opposite effect).
   15. McCoy Posted: March 15, 2021 at 08:59 PM (#6008729)
For me it is this. Anyone who has played softball with balls at various CORs and actual soft balls can tell you that deadened balls won't just keep the ball in the park. It's going to slow down every hit pitch which means a bunch more balls in play are going to turn into outs.
   16. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:12 PM (#6008732)
I wonder how much the extra 5-10 seconds that pitchers take between pitches these days has to do with their increased velocity.


Pitch clock is one solution to SO MANY PROBLEMS and MLB is just determined to pretend not to know that.
   17. Lowry Seasoning Salt Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:19 PM (#6008733)
Pitch clock is one solution to SO MANY PROBLEMS and MLB is just determined to pretend not to know that.


And Manfred could have instituted one without MLBPA approval. MLB proposed 18 seconds with bases empty, 20 with runners on, MLBPA said no, and Manfred has been playing games with other rules ever since rather than just implement a system.
   18. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: March 15, 2021 at 09:25 PM (#6008734)
Is reducing scoring actually such a bad thing? Turning home runs into fly outs and encouraging easy 6-3 POs is going to shorten games. Of course pitch clocks are much better, but MLB seems intent on never enforcing that one.
   19. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:29 PM (#6008735)
Pitch clock is one solution to SO MANY PROBLEMS


Go to robo umps for balls and strikes, real guys around the bases and have them just enforce a 15 second rule. WHY? Why do we need an effing pitch clock when there are 4 effing umps on the field, someone, SOMEONE can count to 15 and be responsible for this.

The entire thing is just inane.
   20. John Northey Posted: March 15, 2021 at 10:48 PM (#6008739)
Roboump for balls/strikes would help with a lot of things - fewer complaints from the dugout on ball/strike calls (can't argue with a computer), fewer umps tossing out guys over that (which always eats a stack of time and since Earl Weaver and Billy Martin retired it isn't as fun to watch). The deader balls would slow pitches down, thus more in play. More in play = more defensive gems (always more fun than a K). Deader also would slow the throw from catcher to 2B on stolen bases thus more steals (always fun to watch). To avoid unintended consequences limit throws to bases as well (no more than 2 during an AB for example). I'd love to see someone steal 100 bases again.
   21. Astroenteritis Posted: March 15, 2021 at 11:07 PM (#6008741)
Pitch clock is one solution to SO MANY PROBLEMS and MLB is just determined to pretend not to know that.


Completely agree. This one action would be such a big help. As for all the other dubious changes being made or contemplated, it appears the attempts to repair the problems with baseball will continue until the game is broken.
   22. Buck Coats Posted: March 16, 2021 at 12:50 AM (#6008753)
From my recollection, when this has come up in the past, a lot of batters have responded to that with, "Please don't take those substances away. I value my life."


I've seen Pitching Coaches claim this, but I've never actually seen a hitter say that himself.
   23. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 16, 2021 at 06:42 AM (#6008762)

For me it is this. Anyone who has played softball with balls at various CORs and actual soft balls can tell you that deadened balls won't just keep the ball in the park. It's going to slow down every hit pitch which means a bunch more balls in play are going to turn into outs.


Some of us love deadball...

Bring back the 'walk, bunt, steal, sac fly, ground out' one-run inning!
   24. Jose Is An Absurd Balladeer Posted: March 16, 2021 at 09:43 AM (#6008769)
Pitch clock is one solution to SO MANY PROBLEMS and MLB is just determined to pretend not to know that.


Seriously. Every other rule change should be on hold until this gets done.
   25. winnipegwhip Posted: March 16, 2021 at 09:45 AM (#6008770)
Lowering the mound should have a similar effect (probably not as radical as mound distance though) and there is historical precedent to justify this action.

It may take some velocity away but it would certainly reduce the downward plane of pitches and with the flattened plane it may result in a reduction in the drop and drive or elevate and celebrate type of swings.
   26. sanny manguillen Posted: March 16, 2021 at 09:46 AM (#6008771)
In the extreme example, a guy like Verlander has been throwing from 60-6 for about 25 years.


They could experiment with multiple rubbers, with veteran players grandfathered in at 60'6", rookies throwing from 62. Or maybe any reliever who enters the game after the fifth inning throws from 62.
   27. SoSH U at work Posted: March 16, 2021 at 09:51 AM (#6008772)
Or maybe any reliever who enters the game after the fifth inning throws from 62.


Every new pitcher has to throw from one foot further back would definitely discourage the parade of relievers.
   28. Baldrick Posted: March 16, 2021 at 11:59 AM (#6008789)
Every new pitcher has to throw from one foot further back would definitely discourage the parade of relievers.

This is my new favorite rule change. Well, second favorite, behind enforcing the damn pitch clock.
   29. McCoy Posted: March 16, 2021 at 12:15 PM (#6008792)
Re 23. Sure if that happened once every inning.


   30. nick swisher hygiene Posted: March 16, 2021 at 12:15 PM (#6008793)
Has anybody read good journalism about this that isn’t just masturbating about Cool Ideas? I mean, something hardnosed about what it might take to get buy-in from the necessary parties? If everybody knows the pitch clock would do the trick, then I wanna read a really detailed analysis of why it’s not happening. Is the problem just misaligned incentives?
   31. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: March 16, 2021 at 12:59 PM (#6008798)
Is the problem just misaligned incentives?

Yes, in that most people who complain about it will continue to watch. The players seem to be against it and the teams have other issues they want to prioritize.
   32. Space Force fan Posted: March 16, 2021 at 01:02 PM (#6008800)
Has anybody read good journalism about this that isn’t just masturbating about Cool Ideas? I mean, something hardnosed about what it might take to get buy-in from the necessary parties? If everybody knows the pitch clock would do the trick, then I wanna read a really detailed analysis of why it’s not happening. Is the problem just misaligned incentives?


Second this suggestion. Especially since the minors have had a pitch clock since 2015 and the vast majority of pitchers and hitters have played with one. Why the resistance?

They could experiment with multiple rubbers, with veteran players grandfathered in at 60'6", rookies throwing from 62. Or maybe any reliever who enters the game after the fifth inning throws from 62.


I don't think that this could work. The first rubber would likely get in the way of at least some of the pitchers using the second rubber. Also, the mound is designed so that your landing foot comes down at a certain slope and angle in the front part of the mound. No matter how you designed it, the pitchers using one of the rubbers would have a far different slope and angle on the landing. I guess that this would present an injury risk.
   33. McCoy Posted: March 16, 2021 at 01:27 PM (#6008806)
Movable mounds. They already exist
   34. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 16, 2021 at 01:27 PM (#6008807)

To be clear, my #13 was just a suggestion that maybe pitchers taking more rest between pitches allows them to throw harder. I don't think it's the only factor -- shorter outings, taller pitchers, foreign substances, a change in approach by pitchers may all play some role as well.

Don't get me wrong -- the pitch clock, whether it's an actual clock or just enforcement of the existing rule by the umpires, is an obvious solution to some of baseball's problems. Just not necessarily the one that TFA is trying to address.
   35. Walt Davis Posted: March 16, 2021 at 05:08 PM (#6008853)
On those time-eating ejections ... it seems 2019 had the most ejections in 12 years at a whopping 215. At 2,430 games, that's one ejection every 11 games or so, obviously not all on ball/strike arguments. Reducing those is gonna be a real time-saver.

That said, the Australian Open played entirely without linesmen this year (for covid). Players were (for some reason) allowed to ask for a replay of a close call but of course all that did was give the same result. It was nice to get rid of challenges and it greatly reduced between-serve grumbling. Robo-umps on balls/strikes might speed the game up mainly through that reduced grumbling ... no point for the pitcher to stomp aggravatingly around the mound or the batter to step out of the box to glare at the robo-ump or have his polite say. That's probably also trivial.

Of course there is a serve clock in tennis now -- apparently 25 seconds. I don't know the stats but I have the impression it has sped things up a bit in those crucial moments and big matches at least.
   36. bunyon Posted: March 16, 2021 at 05:16 PM (#6008855)
Every new pitcher has to throw from one foot further back would definitely discourage the parade of relievers.

This is my new favorite rule change. Well, second favorite, behind enforcing the damn pitch clock.


Strong concur.


I don't see how moving the mound back reduces TTO play. It would just exchange one O (Ks) for two others (HR and BB). Harder to throw strikes from farther away. And with just a hair longer to recogize pitch and location, guys swinging for the fences will be more successful.

   37. Walt Davis Posted: March 16, 2021 at 05:26 PM (#6008858)
On reduced scoring ... it would be hard to state with much confidence even with a proper study but it certainly seems as though fans prefer runs and if scoring drops too far, they stop showing up (and presumably stop watching). Of course at this point we have almost no examples over the last 25+ years and the last "clear" examples are over 50 years old when baseball attendance was quite low by today's standards regardless.

The recent example is the 2014 (and first half 2015) slowdown. Attendance did drop between 2013 and 2014 but not massively so -- an average of a bit over 100 per game, less than 300,000 total. It was then flat for 2015 which saw a big jump in offense in the 2nd half although I don't know what effect that had on attendance. Obviously there's no way to isolate the effect of the drop in scoring relative to any other stuff going on. It wasn't a huge impact but then average scoring was still over 4 R/G per team. Texas and Philly were the big losers and they certainly weren't high-scorers but they weren't the worst and they had substantial drops in overall quality.

Grrr ... I was gonna look at the 60s and early 70s which is the source of the fear (paranoia) of reduced scoring but b-r (for some reason) doesn't provide its convenient year-over-year attendance table for those years. Somebody else can download those and do it by hand. Anyway, as we know, MLB was so concerned they lowered the mound in 69 and the AL was still so concerned they added the DH in 73.

Anyway, I am pretty confident that fans do not want high-K, low-scoring, low-HR ball. That's fast-pitch softball which struggles even to hold onto its Olympic spot.
   38. Moeball Posted: March 16, 2021 at 06:30 PM (#6008865)
BITD I heard Tony Gwynn talk about the nightmare of a left handed batter trying to hit against Randy Johnson. T said that because Randy was so tall he had extraordinarily long arms and legs. So first you had that long stride off the mound and then that long arm whipping around which made the release point several feet closer to the batter than 60 feet. On top of that Randy would often drop the arm down into a sidearm motion which made the throw look like it was coming from first base. So it was really difficult to pick up the pitch in time to react. This is the sort of thing hitters are dealing with. I can see how they might want the mound moved back.
   39. Walt Davis Posted: March 16, 2021 at 08:29 PM (#6008885)
Before anybody brings up Larry Walker switching sides of the plate against Johnson in the AS game, he put up a line of 393/485/571 (in just 33 PA) against Johnson. Gwynn was 1 for 12 with 4 Ks.
   40. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: March 16, 2021 at 08:54 PM (#6008887)
which struggles even to hold onto its Olympic spot


tbf, so does baseball
   41. Ron J Posted: March 16, 2021 at 09:13 PM (#6008890)
#37 I attempted to tease this out many years ago. Best I can tell local effects trump league wide effects and local fans in any market care that a team is winning and don't care why.

The best thing for league wide attendance (and revenue) isn't style of play, it's successful teams in the large markets. At least in the short term. Probably the mid term.

But it probably wouldn't be a good thing in the long run to create a structure where only a handful of teams win.
   42. Cblau Posted: March 16, 2021 at 09:24 PM (#6008891)
How about enforcing the rule that requires the pitcher to have his foot on the rubber when he delivers the pitch?
   43. bfan Posted: March 17, 2021 at 07:50 AM (#6008904)
I have thought this was the simplest solution to 3 true outcomes for some time now. More time to watch and adjust to the pitch has to change contact percentage, I believe.

Has anyone mentioned pitcher safety? It allows a longer reaction time to balls batted back up the middle for a pitcher. Yes, that is measured in fractions of a second, but fractions of a second are the difference between getting knocked on the forehead and getting your head moved by 6 inches and out of harms way.
   44. TomH Posted: March 17, 2021 at 09:36 AM (#6008913)
Should we be careful about possible unintended consequences of major moves? Sure. That doesn't mean we freeze and do nothing.

In 2022, plan to move the mound to 60 ft 7 inches. After that, another inch every year until we see we broke something.

To help the pitchers offset this, you could either
a) mandate thicker bat handles and/or
b) move the batters box line back off the plate a fraction of an inch each year and/or
c) deaden the ball a bit

Cumulatively which should lead to less TTO, and thus more emphasis on speed, defense, contact, control pitchers.

Oh, and YES on enforcing the 20 sec rule.
   45. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 17, 2021 at 10:27 AM (#6008920)
Oh, and YES on enforcing the 20 sec rule.
The rule is actually 12 seconds. Enforce that. If you must throw a concession to the union, raise it to 15 with runners on base.
   46. Lassus Posted: March 17, 2021 at 12:45 PM (#6008947)
Pitch clock is one solution to SO MANY PROBLEMS and MLB is just determined to pretend not to know that.
Seriously. Every other rule change should be on hold until this gets done.


I know this has been gone over a bazillion million times, but has any reason why they're NOT doing this been given? Whining pitchers/players/union I guess?
   47. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 17, 2021 at 01:05 PM (#6008949)
has any reason why they're NOT doing this been given? Whining pitchers/players/union I guess?
Yep. That and a total lack of feck on Manfred’s part.
   48. Powderhorn™, moonstruck rascal Posted: March 17, 2021 at 02:28 PM (#6008960)
Adding to #47, the umps don't like enforcing pace-of-play rules. IIRC, umps didn't express any strong dislike of it, just that they prefer not to. Manfred seems to have taken this mildly-stated distaste to mean that their minds are made up and there is no point to discussing the issue with them.
   49. Walt Davis Posted: March 17, 2021 at 04:25 PM (#6008988)
A pitch clock is I think harder to enforce than folks give it credit for. (1) an ump has to decide when the clock starts ticking; (2) what counts as the "start of the motion" or the "moment of release" (whatever is used to stop the clock) is decided by an umpire (watching pretty much nothing but the pitcher); (3) presumably the pitch is still potentially live (as a balk is); (4) Surely no loud horn so the ump is responsible for checking the clock at the moment of release; (5) are the clock starting (no!) and stopping points reviewable?

Per 48, what you want is an automated system that is out of the umps' hands. They don't have to get on the batters to get in the box, they don't have to force pitchers to speed up, they don't have to have arguments about whether the ball was released a 1/4 second before the clock ran out or a 1/4 second after. We essentially already don't trust them on close tag plays, don't really trust them on balls and strikes and now we want them to determine micro-second pitch clock violations?
   50. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 17, 2021 at 04:50 PM (#6008991)
How is it enforced in the minors?

I’ve long advocated for enforcement by wolverines and/or lions, which would take it out of the umpires’ hands, but the idea hasn’t seemed to gain much traction.
   51. Buck Coats Posted: March 17, 2021 at 04:56 PM (#6008993)
Exactly, they've been using it in the minors for years now, most of the players in MLB have played under it, presumably they've worked out the kinks on how exactly it works by now.
   52. Baldrick Posted: March 17, 2021 at 05:06 PM (#6008994)
A pitch clock is I think harder to enforce than folks give it credit for. (1) an ump has to decide when the clock starts ticking; (2) what counts as the "start of the motion" or the "moment of release" (whatever is used to stop the clock) is decided by an umpire (watching pretty much nothing but the pitcher); (3) presumably the pitch is still potentially live (as a balk is); (4) Surely no loud horn so the ump is responsible for checking the clock at the moment of release; (5) are the clock starting (no!) and stopping points reviewable?

1) When the pitcher receives the ball 2) the same moment that a pitcher becomes obligated to go home in order to avoid a balk, or the moment the ball is released, or the moment the windup starts 3) what is the problem here? 4) the umpire says 'time' and adds a ball to the count 5) no.

That wasn't very hard.
   53. Baldrick Posted: March 17, 2021 at 05:08 PM (#6008995)
FWIW, I would be 1000% fine with a system where the umpire just uses their discretion and is perfectly happy to let the occasional 20 second pause happen without effect so long as the pace in general is good. Yes, there would be minor issues with fairness and evenness of application. So what.
   54. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 17, 2021 at 05:43 PM (#6009000)
1) When the pitcher receives the ball
No, it needs to start when the catcher receives the previous pitch, otherwise the catcher will just hold the ball and futz around for a while before throwing it back to the pitcher.
   55. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: March 17, 2021 at 10:13 PM (#6009040)
Of course there is a serve clock in tennis now -- apparently 25 seconds. I don't know the stats but I have the impression it has sped things up a bit in those crucial moments and big matches at least.

My understanding is that the serve clock has not actually increased the pace of play at the Slams, largely due to poor implementation; the chair umpire doesn't start the clock until the crowd shuts up, which can take a WHILE (and even longer at important points in the match). The solution to this seems simple (start the clock right away, then pause it if the crowd takes an unusually long time to shut up); who knows if they will actually do it.
   56. Baldrick Posted: March 17, 2021 at 11:23 PM (#6009048)
No, it needs to start when the catcher receives the previous pitch, otherwise the catcher will just hold the ball and futz around for a while before throwing it back to the pitcher.

I will happily accept this amendment.

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