For those who aren’t aware, my favorite sport – and one of my favorite recreational activities – is following Major League Baseball, or MLB. My favorite team is the Detroit Tigers.
Like virtually everything else in the world, baseball’s 2020 season was affected by COVID-19. Instead of playing the standard 162 game season, MLB created a 60 game schedule. As a trade off, the playoff score extended so many more teams were added to the postseason in hopes of reaching the World Series. Due to social distancing and COVID-19 protocols, no fans were in attendance for the regular season; but fans were allowed to attend the later stages of the postseason, which were held in “bubble“ locations.
This season, Major league Baseball is attempting to return to pre-Covid “business as usual“. Teams are playing their standard 162 game season. Right now, crowds are limited, although some teams are slowly making plans to re-open stadiums to full capacity. While all of that is par for the course in 2021, there are things happening on the field, to the game itself, that are very unusual.
The league batting average is the lowest it has ever been in the 150 year history of the game. Thus far, there are already been six no-hitter‘s throne league wide, and we’re only about six weeks into the season. Hitters are not hitting. They are not reaching base safely. And probably more than ever before, the game is being dominated by pitching. I would like to address some of the theories behind this and possible solutions:
1. The “all or nothing“ approach to hitting. A popular theory among sans and analysts is at hitters today are taught to swing for homeruns at all costs. But he say that heaters are no longer hitting for batting average or even trying to simply get on base as much as they are simply trying to put the ball over the fence. The belief is that professional players are told by agents that the only way to make serious money in the game is to hit homeruns. And more often than that, players aren’t hitting the homeruns and they’re not making contact altogether.
2. Pitchers are throwing harder than ever. I think almost as much as heaters are being told that homeruns are everything, the game is being dominated by power pitching right now. Pitching has become more of a specialty over the last 20 to 30 years in particular. Pictures simply don’t pitch complete games anymore unless they’re throwing a shut out… Or the aforementioned no-hitter. Openers, middleman, long-term relief, set up man and closers are slowly taking the place of the war horses and throw complete games. And since pictures are pitching less, they are able to throw harder. They don’t have to worry so much about finesse and I was thinking hitters if they can throw straight heat past them.
3. The death of the art of hitting. Ted Williams, called by man the greatest hitter who ever lived once said that hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in sports. I imagine “the kid“ must be rolling over in his grave right now. As I mentioned earlier in point number one, small ball, that is the strategy used to simply get on base or to hit for average moving runners from one base to the next and thereby manufacturing runs, is a lost art. Bunting, likewise, is virtually nonexistent today. Stolen bases, a tactic which was elevated to an art form in the 1980s, he’s on life-support itself. And it seems like no batters are able to hit to the “opposite field“ anymore heading to the opposite side of the field from which they are batting. It has gotten so pervasive, that many teams will employ “the shift“ while they are in the field. This is a tactic where they will move fielders from one side of the field over to the other based on the players hearing patterns. A lot of fans are decrying the shift, arguing that it should be banned from the game.
All of this has added up to a epidemic of bad hitting, which makes it already slow paced game even more difficult to watch. Here are some possible remedies and my opinion in them:
1. Moving the pitchers mound further from home plate. This idea is already being experimented with in some of the minor leagues. My problem with this is I believe it moving the pitchers mound back would fundamentally alter the course of the game. Batting averages would skyrocket and pictures would be worth harder than ever before. I think we would see if she can become even more of a specialized position and those two changes might cancel each other out putting us back where we started.
2. Ending “The Shift“. I personally don’t care for this idea because I don’t really like anything that really tells the players where they have to stand in the field. If hitters want to really negate the shift, they should learn how to get to the opposite field again left-handed hitter is hitting toward the left field side of the diamond and right handed hitters hitting to the right hand inside of the diamond
3. The universal designated hitter (DH) I am 100% in support of this idea. Are used to consider myself something of a baseball purest and thought that the pure form of the game was one more picture is actually bad it. My issue with the use of the designated hitter as it stands in baseball today is it essentially creates a different type of game for the American league and the national league. Personally, I don’t care which way they go on this ruling, but I would like an all or nothing rule, one way or the other, either have all the pictures bat, or none of the pictures bat.
4. Adapt or die. As I mentioned before, hitters need to learn how to hit to the opposite field once again. I think they need to bring back the yard of “small ball“ bonding, walking, getting runners on base and moving them around the diamond to manufacture runs. Pitching has adapted over the course of the last 30 to 40 seasons, it’s time that hitters do the same.
4. Return to the construction of the major league baseball as it was during the 2020 season. Rawlings, the manufacturer of official game used baseballs has admitted that there were changes made to the ball in order to “deaden“ it during this past off-season. I think the results are pretty obvious. No, the construction of the baseball doesn’t explain the number of strikeouts; but hitters who are making contact are often grounding out or flying out when they otherwise would reach base safely or hit homeruns. Altering the construction of the baseball has undoubtedly played a role in the decline of offense in the gagame.
5. Expand the number of teams in MLB. I haven’t really heard this idea floated around, this is one that I just came up with myself. But I remember during the two most recent rounds of expansion, namely 1993 and 1998, there were a lot of complaints of an offense of explosion in the game. Many people attributed this to the rampant use of steroids in the game, which is pretty obvious. However, a lot of people also attributed the explosion of offense of the late 1990s to the fact that the talent pool in the game was diluted by virtue of the fact that more teams were added to the game and more jobs were available to players. Granted, this is only a temporary fix, because…
6. Leave it alone and let the game correct itself. Baseball is a sport of ebbs and flows. Teams play 162 game season; during which, they have ups and downs streaks and slopes. The game itself is no difference. This, I believe, is an aberration that will correct itself overtime. Hitters will adapt.
They have to, don’t they?