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Thread: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

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    Titanic Struggles Caveat Emperor's Avatar
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    The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    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/201...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.
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    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Regardless of whether it's a good strategy or not, the "ball in play" is usually more entertaining.
    "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."

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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    This is a problem for baseball.
    "Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini

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    Et tu, Brutus? Brutus's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Quote Originally Posted by lollipopcurve View Post
    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.
    "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference." ~Tommy Lasorda

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    Waitin til next year bucksfan2's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    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.

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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Quote Originally Posted by bucksfan2 View Post
    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.

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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Quote Originally Posted by bucksfan2 View Post
    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.
    "Bring on Rod Stupid!"

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    Danger is my business! oneupper's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Quote Originally Posted by nate View Post
    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?
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    High five! nate's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Quote Originally Posted by oneupper View Post
    That was 10 guys in binary, right? Mauer and Suzuki?
    EXACTLY!

    "Bring on Rod Stupid!"

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    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.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    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

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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    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.
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Quote Originally Posted by traderumor View Post
    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.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    Hence why all the assist records are from the 20's or 70s/80's, both eras were awash with balls in play

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    Member membengal's Avatar
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    Re: The Mystery of the Disappearing Ball In Play

    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?


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