Baseball has become a pitchers’ game, and MLB needs to fix that
With strikeouts on the rise, MLB should consider moving the mound back.
By Fred Bowen,
Jason Miller Getty Images
Since the beginning of Major League Baseball (MLB), the game has been a contest between the pitcher and the batter. These days the pitchers are winning.
In April, MLB batters hit for a combined batting average of .232. That’s less than one hit for every four times at bat. It’s also down — way down — from the 2019 season, when MLB batters hit for a combined batting average of .252.
Batters are striking out more. MLB batters are on a pace to set a record for most strikeouts per game for the 13th consecutive full season.
As any kid who has played baseball or softball knows, hitting is hard and it never feels good to strike out. But hitting is really hard in the major leagues.
The pitcher stands on the pitcher’s mound, 60 feet 6 inches away from the batter. When an MLB hurler throws a 90-mile-per-hour fastball, the baseball takes only four-tenths of a second to reach home plate.
The batter has only half that time — two-tenths of a second — to decide where the ball is going and whether to swing. Two-tenths of a second to decide whether the pitch is a ball or a strike. Whether it is a fastball, curve or some other kind of pitch.
In 1968, pitchers such as the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson were so good that the average MLB hitter batted .237. The next season, leagues lowered the pitcher’s mound and made the strike zone smaller. Batters hit .254 two seasons later.
The batter can’t see the ball for the last 13 to 15 feet before it reaches the plate. (Eye muscles can’t react that quickly.)
MLB pitchers are throwing harder. The average major league fastball was clocked at 93.1 miles per hour during the 2019 season. So batters have even less time to decide to swing.
Maybe it’s time to give the batters help. It has happened before.
In the early days of baseball, the pitcher stood about 50 feet from the batter. But the balls of hard-throwing pitchers such as Cy Young were too difficult to hit. In 1893, the National League moved the pitcher’s mound to 60 feet 6 inches.
Baseball fans call the 1968 MLB season “the year of the pitcher” because pitchers dominated the hitters. Denny McLain won 31 games for the Detroit Tigers. Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals had an earned run average of 1.12 (he allowed a little more than one run a game) for the entire season.
In 1968, the average MLB hitter batted only .237 (still 5 points higher than MLB hitters batted this April).
The next season the National and American leagues lowered the pitcher’s mound and made the strike zone smaller. Two seasons later batters were hitting .254.
This August, the Atlantic League, a minor league on the East Coast, will experiment with moving the pitching mound back one foot.
MLB better do something to help the hitters. No hits in baseball means no fun.
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