Baltimore Orioles: Manfred shouldn’t tug on Superman’s cape
My personal hope is that Rob Manfred succeeds as MLB commissioner. However I’m personally not onboard with his most recent idea which involves changing the strike zone. One thing I find interesting is that part of the reason why they’re considering this is due to the fact that the low strike is getting called more and more. Baltimore Orioles’ hitters will attest to that, however perhaps as opposed to actually changing the zone we should ask for it to be redefined as it is right now.
What many umpires are now calling the low or high strike isn’t really a strike – and it never was intended to be. However I wouldn’t want to see the strike zone literally redefined to the point that it actually shrunk by definition. Where does that leave the likes of Chris Tillman and so forth?
As a society, we’re enthralled by offense. However baseball purists such as myself appreciate pitching. Making the strike zone smaller lessens the impact of pitching on the game – starting pitching, at least. I would submit that if the strike zone became smaller we’d see a higher emphasis on relievers. But that aside, it would certainly add more offense to the game given the fact that we’d see walks go up, and thus more baserunners.
Courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
However I would also say that the game is what it is. And the American public still embraces it. Attendance is up league-wide, and people follow the sport as much as they ever have. My point in saying that is because the idea of trying to add more scoring is a move to catch the hearts and minds of the casual fan. But where does that leave “the base” – meaning the die hards? It would seem to me that you should market mainly to your base so as to keep them happy – basically, manage according to the rule, not the exception.
The ironic thing is part of the reason that offense is down is due to MLB’s PED testing. So if anything the game is starting to get back to where it really should have been all along. However baseball is also cyclical in terms of whether pitchers or hitters are favored. Throughout the 1950’s and ’60’s, I feel like there were more great hitters such as DiMaggio, Williams, Mays, etc., than there were great pitchers to balance out. In the 70’s and 80’s I would submit that the likes of Sutton, Palmer, etc. had the upper hand.
Moving into the 90’s and 2000’s, you had much better hitters, however that also goes into the steroid era. But now I believe we’re getting back to dominant pitchers ruling the day, with the likes of Kershaw, Scherzer, etc. That’s a matter of opinion, however the point is that the game self-adjusts. When we’ve seen a string of time where pitchers have seemingly dominated, teams will start to put more emphasis on drafting and developing sluggers. Then the opposite will be true at a certain point.
As a purist of sorts, I would say that Commissioner Manfred should avoide messing with the strike zone, short of expunging the high and low strike (which really aren’t strikes as it is). But if he chooses to do so, time will tell if that was the right decision.