No Strikes for You: Why the MLB Wants to Shrink the Strike Zone
Rob Manfred has already shown his willingness to step up to the plate, so to speak, and discuss making alterations that he believes would be in the best interest of Major League Baseball. It started with defensive shifts, but it doesn’t stop there.
According to Yahoo Sports, the MLB feels that it’s now time to take a look at the strike zone and consider making a change to its official definition. With strike outs hitting a record high, and offensive output at a major decline, shrinking the current strike zone feels like a logical solution. Interestingly enough, the new commissioner in an interview with ESPN.com, praised the way umpires have been calling the strike zone.
“We don’t think about umpiring as a source of altering the game,” said Manfred. “What we try to do with our umpires is always driven by one thing, and that’s to get the calls right within the current confines of the rules. In the area of the strike zone, I think they’ve done a great job of getting a far more uniform strike zone. I think that’s a good thing.”
The umpires are doing their best to stick within the confines of the currently outlined strike zone, but it has clearly expanded too much, leaving the game of baseball lacking the offensive firepower that it so desperately needs. And that needs to be rectified.
Baseball’s strike zone has been expanding ever since 2009. And at this point, it has gotten out of control says The Hardball Times writer Jon Roegele. His research has shown that since that time, the strike zone has increased some 40 square inches. What was once at 435 square inches, has increased to 475 square inches in 2014. The major area of concern during this period of expansion revolves around the lower end of the zone.
It’s no surprise that batters tend to have difficulty hitting the low stuff. Unfortunately for the hitter, umpires have been expanding their strike zone to pitches below the hollow of the kneecap. The intention was never to go below the hollow of the knee, but that has become an unintended consequence of using pitch-tracking technology. The umpires have found consistency behind the plate, but the run production has decreased as a result. This has created a less exciting game. And if the game is less entertaining, then people are less likely to buy tickets. Runs equal dollars. End of story. But is this really what’s best of the game as a whole?
Any changes to the strike zone wouldn’t be able to happen overnight. The rule would have to be formally adopted by the Playing Rules Committee before it can be officially implemented. And they’ll use this upcoming season to determine if a change is a necessity. So no alterations would be made until 2016. That might not be such a bad thing.
One of the major complaints about baseball is the glacial pace of the game — and if the offense increases, then so does the duration of the game. So you have to ask yourself, what is more important? The league is certainly going to be walking a tightrope on this issue, but in all fairness, we’re not so sure that fans would mind a longer game if it meant getting to witness more production from the plate. Either way, it’s safe to say that 2015 will be a big year for Major League Baseball.