The Corner

Baseball Reform Gains Momentum

In response to No Vacancy?!

Jay, I’m glad you’re a convert! Your mother is right.

Baseball games took on average about two-and-a-half hours to play in 1950; now they are over three hours, even though scoring has gone down recently.

According to this analysis, since 1914, there have been on average almost 200 games a season played in under two hours; now the under-two-hour-game has almost ceased to exist. 

Some of this is unavoidable — longer time for commercials, for instance — but a lot of it is pitchers holding the balls longer and batters dilly-dallying. The Boston Globe did a long analysis, focused on the elaborate rituals that have grown up around batters, and looked back at an old game for comparison:

Watch a game from 1969, as the Globe did, and there is no walkup music. There is no preening (and there are no batting gloves). The look-at-me showmanship doesn’t exist.

It is like watching a current game on 1.5 speed, which makes sense, because the 1969 game, a complete-game win for Orioles pitcher Mike Cuellar, took just 2 hours, 21 minutes to play. There are still mound conferences. Trainers still come out to look at hit batsmen. It just all happens faster.

It’s not that the batters stay in the box after every pitch. But they do after some of them. The twitches — where they exist — consist mostly of a few kicks of the dirt, a few swings of the bat. When he walks to the plate, Carl Yastrzemski rubs a little dirt on his palms. That’s all.

Baseball is now a worse game because of the way it has changed, and Major League Baseball should be very aggressive in squeezing out all of the pointless nonsense. 

As for Nick’s point on the verticality of the strike zone, I think you could just set what the parameters of the zone are going to be for each player based on his stance, etc., at the beginning of the season, and leave it that. The home-plate umpire guild is going to be very upset, but so be it.

 

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