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:
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.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.