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Caveat Emperor
05-04-2010, 04:35 PM
Tom Verducci checks in with an interesting piece on how the modern approach to hitting and pitching is resulting in a trend towards fewer and fewer balls being actually put into play:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/tom_verducci/05/04/contact.pitches/index.html?eref=sihp

In April, 28 percent of all major league plate appearances ended in a walk or a strikeout, continuing what has been virtually an unchecked increase in such non-contact plate appearances since the game was invented. Ten years ago, for instance, the rate of plate appearances without the ball being put into play was 26 percent; 20 years ago it was 24 percent; 30 years ago it was 21 percent . . . all the way back to 15 percent in 1920.

Baseball has become a game of catch between the pitcher and catcher more than ever before. That game between Oakland and New York, played April 20, was an extreme example of what is going on. Only 43 of the 79 hitters put the ball in play. There were 36 walks and strikeouts and only 13 hits.

With the gains that have been made in hitting, and the fact that most lineups feature guys 1-8 (or 1-9 in the AL) with the capability of hitting the ball out of the ballpark, I don't see this trend changing absent a major restructuring in how the game is played.

oneupper
05-04-2010, 05:21 PM
Regardless of whether it's a good strategy or not, the "ball in play" is usually more entertaining.

lollipopcurve
05-04-2010, 05:25 PM
This is a problem for baseball.

Brutus
05-04-2010, 05:51 PM
This is a problem for baseball.

I agree. I do appreciate patience and working the count. But as a baseball purist, I enjoy the part of the game that happens between the lines, and not just in the batter's box.

As with anything, there's always the possibility you reach an extreme and it starts trending back toward the other direction. It wouldn't surprise me if that happens down the road, though probably not anytime soon.

bucksfan2
05-04-2010, 05:56 PM
I had convinced myself a year or so ago that we had seen the last of the great average hitter. Players are more focused on working the count and taking walks more than ever before. I have a feeling that the .350-.370 hitters are a figment of the past and unlikely to come back anytime soon.

Bumstead
05-04-2010, 06:03 PM
I had convinced myself a year or so ago that we had seen the last of the great average hitter. Players are more focused on working the count and taking walks more than ever before. I have a feeling that the .350-.370 hitters are a figment of the past and unlikely to come back anytime soon.

Part of working the count is to get better pitches to hit...This should raise a players average if he's not swinging at stuff outside the strike-zone. I believe a lot of this is the result of a smarter hitting approach and a watered down group of MLB pitchers due to the expanded # of teams. It could also be the pitcher's reaction to the "steroid era" where they tried to keep the ball out of the hitting zones; it could be the smaller ballparks...can't be grooving pitches in the "bandboxes" right? In the end, it is probably a combination of all of the above plus other factors. It starts with the pitchers throwing strike 1 to every hitter.

Bum

nate
05-04-2010, 06:51 PM
I had convinced myself a year or so ago that we had seen the last of the great average hitter. Players are more focused on working the count and taking walks more than ever before. I have a feeling that the .350-.370 hitters are a figment of the past and unlikely to come back anytime soon.

I dunno. Last year, 10 guys did it. In the last 20 years, there have only been 5 seasons without a single .350 hitter. In the 20 years before that, there were 7 seasons without one. In the 20 before that, 11.

oneupper
05-04-2010, 07:26 PM
I dunno. Last year, 10 guys did it. In the last 20 years, there have only been 5 seasons without a single .350 hitter. In the 20 years before that, there were 7 seasons without one. In the 20 before that, 11.

That was 10 guys in binary, right? Mauer and Suzuki? :D

nate
05-04-2010, 07:37 PM
That was 10 guys in binary, right? Mauer and Suzuki? :D

EXACTLY!

:cool:

RedsManRick
05-04-2010, 08:59 PM
I agree with Verducci 100%. What's good for the team isn't necessarily what's good for the fan. As a sabermertrcian, I want my players taking walks when the pitcher isn't throwing strikes and generally looking for a pitch they can crush. But as a fan, a ball in play in that results in an out can be more enjoyable than a walk. The essence of the game is about the batter hitting the ball and despite the changes over the past 150 years, that remains where the "fun" lies.

I also agree with his proposed solution, more strikes. It's been well documented recently that umps don't call the top and bottom of the zone, particularly on outside pitches. I have little doubt that MLB umpires are the best there is and pretty much call balls & strikes as well is as humanly possible. And I truly believe that if the real strike zone were called, there would be more strikes and thus more swings and fewer walks.

So for me, there is a necessary evolution just begging to be made -- remove the responsibility of making ball & strike determinations from the umpire. The technology is there and could undoubtedly be further improved if resources were dedicated to doing so. And the transition could be virtually seamless; se ump would imply give home plate umps a hand held device with 6 small indicators: Strike / Ball and then High, Low, Outside, Inside. The ump would still be responsible for announcing the call and all of his other current responsibilities and would be given discretion to make the call himself if/when the device malfunctions.

As a way of introduction, umpires could be given the devices for a year in advance of the change along with the promise of an objective study to confirm the approach's superior accuracy.

If the analysis done with pitchf/x data are correct, we will see more strikes, resulting in fewer walks and more balls in play. This will both speed up the game and make it more exciting -- a win-win.

Tony Cloninger
05-04-2010, 10:57 PM
I agree with you RMR. Have been saying this for the last 10 years.

Of course...I have been told to produce the technology and device to do so...and I always tell people it is sitting next to my time machine.

Seriously...get it done

traderumor
05-04-2010, 11:11 PM
I'm fine with the electronic balls and strikes, but having a professional umpire make the hand signals? That is sort of like asking Eric Davis to be one of the ball boys. It would be an insult.

camisadelgolf
05-04-2010, 11:58 PM
I'm fine with the electronic balls and strikes, but having a professional umpire make the hand signals? That is sort of like asking Eric Davis to be one of the ball boys. It would be an insult.
I don't think it would be even close to the most insulting thing an umpire goes through on a daily basis.

westofyou
05-05-2010, 12:23 AM
Hence why all the assist records are from the 20's or 70s/80's, both eras were awash with balls in play

membengal
05-05-2010, 07:13 AM
The 2010 Reds put a LOT of balls in play. A lot of them on the first pitch they see in an at-bat. Is it more fun to watch?

Ltlabner
05-05-2010, 08:00 AM
The 2010 Reds put a LOT of balls in play. A lot of them on the first pitch they see in an at-bat. Is it more fun to watch?

Stop it will all this wacky thought of yours.

bucksfan2
05-05-2010, 09:41 AM
I agree with Verducci 100%. What's good for the team isn't necessarily what's good for the fan. As a sabermertrcian, I want my players taking walks when the pitcher isn't throwing strikes and generally looking for a pitch they can crush. But as a fan, a ball in play in that results in an out can be more enjoyable than a walk. The essence of the game is about the batter hitting the ball and despite the changes over the past 150 years, that remains where the "fun" lies.

I also agree with his proposed solution, more strikes. It's been well documented recently that umps don't call the top and bottom of the zone, particularly on outside pitches. I have little doubt that MLB umpires are the best there is and pretty much call balls & strikes as well is as humanly possible. And I truly believe that if the real strike zone were called, there would be more strikes and thus more swings and fewer walks.

So for me, there is a necessary evolution just begging to be made -- remove the responsibility of making ball & strike determinations from the umpire. The technology is there and could undoubtedly be further improved if resources were dedicated to doing so. And the transition could be virtually seamless; se ump would imply give home plate umps a hand held device with 6 small indicators: Strike / Ball and then High, Low, Outside, Inside. The ump would still be responsible for announcing the call and all of his other current responsibilities and would be given discretion to make the call himself if/when the device malfunctions.

As a way of introduction, umpires could be given the devices for a year in advance of the change along with the promise of an objective study to confirm the approach's superior accuracy.

If the analysis done with pitchf/x data are correct, we will see more strikes, resulting in fewer walks and more balls in play. This will both speed up the game and make it more exciting -- a win-win.

Couldn't disagree more with adding a robot or systematic strike caller. To be honest I don't think in my lifetime baseball will go that route.

But I do agree with your premises about umpires. They are the best in the business. But I also think that an edict to call more strikes made from the commissioner's office and made public would help. Most umps call a particular strike zone. Some have a high zone, some a low, some give the corners, some have a very tight zone. If you tell the umps to expand that zone in order to call more strikes you could help solve this problem. There would be a learning curve, umps getting used to calling a bigger zone, but after a while they should normalize into calling a bigger strike zone.

You could also, gasp, expand the dimensions of home plate a tad.

RedsManRick
05-05-2010, 12:39 PM
Couldn't disagree more with adding a robot or systematic strike caller. To be honest I don't think in my lifetime baseball will go that route.

But I do agree with your premises about umpires. They are the best in the business. But I also think that an edict to call more strikes made from the commissioner's office and made public would help. Most umps call a particular strike zone. Some have a high zone, some a low, some give the corners, some have a very tight zone. If you tell the umps to expand that zone in order to call more strikes you could help solve this problem. There would be a learning curve, umps getting used to calling a bigger zone, but after a while they should normalize into calling a bigger strike zone.

You could also, gasp, expand the dimensions of home plate a tad.

The commissioners office has already passed this edict. Umpires were told to call high strikes. My premise is not just that the strike zone is not being called. It's that human umpires are not physically capable of calling the full strike zone. You have a tiny object going 90 mph passing through an invisible 3-D space which is often also filled with a swinging bat and/or obscured by a catcher's helmet.

If I felt that umpires could do a better job, I'd be all for maxing out the edits and training. I don't believe they can. Telling umps to expand their zones will just result in more inconsistency and less alignment with the real strike zone -- as umpires can tell in-out and much better than up-down.

I'm curious. Presuming that an automated system can be put in place that is more accurate than the umps, what is the basis for the disagreement. It this the standard "human element" argument or something different? Personally, I want games to be won and lost by the competitors, not as a result of variable rule enforcement.

Another interesting thought exercise, if a working automated ball-strike calling system were already in place, would we even consider having a human umpire take over as a was to improve the game?

bucksfan2
05-05-2010, 01:09 PM
The commissioners office has already passed this edict. Umpires were told to call high strikes. My premise is not just that the strike zone is not being called. It's that human umpires are not physically capable of calling the full strike zone. You have a tiny object going 90 mph passing through an invisible 3-D space which is often also filled with a swinging bat and/or obscured by a catcher's helmet.

If I felt that umpires could do a better job, I'd be all for maxing out the edits and training. I don't believe they can. Telling umps to expand their zones will just result in more inconsistency and less alignment with the real strike zone -- as umpires can tell in-out and much better than up-down.

I'm curious. Presuming that an automated system can be put in place that is more accurate than the umps, what is the basis for the disagreement. It this the standard "human element" argument or something different? Personally, I want games to be won and lost by the competitors, not as a result of variable rule enforcement.

Another interesting thought exercise, if a working automated ball-strike calling system were already in place, would we even consider having a human umpire take over as a was to improve the game?

Never have liked the idea of automation in calling balls and strikes. I in no way shape or form want the human element taken out of the game.

If you take umpires out of the game you take a certain element out of the game. Every umpire has a different zone and it is clearly. It takes adjustments made by both hitter and pitcher during the game due to the types of balls and strikes that are being called. I don't want that adjustment taken out of the game. I for one like the difference in strike zones between umpires. One is not necessarily more right or less right, just a different interpretation of the strike zone.

George Anderson
05-05-2010, 01:10 PM
To the best of my knowledge there isn't anyone even working on an automated ball/strike system. This tells me we won't be seeing anything like this any time soon if ever.

Roy Tucker
05-05-2010, 01:21 PM
Maybe the Reds could reinstitute the DanO have-to-take-a-strike rule.

That worked so well the first time around.

flyer85
05-05-2010, 01:23 PM
it is why so many games have become very long

flyer85
05-05-2010, 01:24 PM
To the best of my knowledge there isn't anyone even working on an automated ball/strike system. This tells me we won't be seeing anything like this any time soon if ever.
I'm not sure it would change anything. Hitters have become more selective (unless you're a Red) and when they do swing they aren't looking to get a single.

Brutus
05-05-2010, 01:29 PM
I'm not sure it would change anything. Hitters have become more selective (unless you're a Red) and when they do swing they aren't looking to get a single.

If the actual strikezone that is described in the rules were called by umpires, there would be fewer balls called and fewer pitches seen. Hitters would not be able to be quite as selective as they are now.

oneupper
05-05-2010, 02:18 PM
To the best of my knowledge there isn't anyone even working on an automated ball/strike system. This tells me we won't be seeing anything like this any time soon if ever.

If you look up the patent databases, there are dozens of these. However, no one is going to put up the $$$ to develop a working prototype without some sort of commitment that the product will be used/purchased. That's where MLB needs to step up.

Get someone like Raytheon involved. They'd get this done in a couple of years.

George Anderson
05-05-2010, 02:23 PM
If you look up the patent databases, there are dozens of these. However, no one is going to put up the $$$ to develop a working prototype without some sort of commitment that the product will be used/purchased. That's where MLB needs to step up.

Get someone like Raytheon involved. They'd get this done in a couple of years.

I'd say your still many, many years off before you would ever see this implemented. It would have to start in the very low rungs of minor league baseball and actually work before it would ever be considered in MLB.

I can't see it in my lifetime.

RedsManRick
05-05-2010, 02:55 PM
I'd say your still many, many years off before you would ever see this implemented. It would have to start in the very low rungs of minor league baseball and actually work before it would ever be considered in MLB.

I can't see it in my lifetime.

The technology likely wouldn't make sense fiscally at the minor league level. The initial use would be as a guide for umpires to have on the field with them for training purposes without any requirement to use it nor publication of the data.

The raw data is already there with pitchf/x. The issue is getting it to the umpires in real time.

Obviously, you would do copious study before launching it to ensure it actually is a step up. But perhaps the most likely benefit would simply be as a training device for umpires. It's difficult to overstate the importance of real-time feedback in training of all forms. Even if we keep the ultimate responsibility for making the call in the hands of the umpires, a tool like this would help them develop a better feel for the edges of the zone.

George Anderson
05-05-2010, 03:04 PM
The technology likely wouldn't make sense fiscally at the minor league level. The initial use would be as a guide for umpires to have on the field with them for training purposes without any requirement to use it nor publication of the data.

The raw data is already there with pitchf/x. The issue is getting it to the umpires in real time.

Obviously, you would do copious study before launching it to ensure it actually is a step up. But perhaps the most likely benefit would simply be as a training device for umpires. It's difficult to overstate the importance of real-time feedback in training of all forms. Even if we keep the ultimate responsibility for making the call in the hands of the umpires, a tool like this would help them develop a better feel for the edges of the zone.

I think using this system for training purposes is a good idea. I justy can't fathom how you could actually use the system to actually call a game. I mean I would love to see it at the HS and College level because I can just sit back and let the system call the game and receive zero grief for a pitch I missed but again I just don't see it happening anytime soon.

One thing for sure, even if there was a computerized system that could one day accurately call a game you still would have coaches, players, fans etc.. complaining about the strike zone. No doubt about it.