LET’S SEE ACTION

OR A WALK IS NOT AS GOOD AS A HIT

I came across the item below when looking through a baseball book from my childhood, a review of the 1960 baseball season. The fact that this was one of the first baseball books that I remember—and the imprint it made on my young mind—is a narrative for another time. What caught my eye, though, was this snippet in the book referencing the longest 9-inning game at that time—a whopping 3 hours and 52 minutes.

Today, 4-hour games are remarkable, not because there are so few of them, but because there are so many, especially if you are a Red Sox fan. The average MLB game time is now about 3 hours long. In the 2019 World Series a 4+ hour 9-inning game occurred where the teams scored only five runs.

baseball-reference.com

Pace of play in baseball is a widely acknowledged issue. Part of this problem can be fixed with a pitch clock. But I have the following two proposals which would add further elements of strategy to the game, increase the importance of individual pitches, and allow for the possibility of fewer pitches to be thrown per game (and for more balls put in play).

First, because there has been a growing tendency for batters take so many pitches, thus not putting the ball in play, I suggest that if a batter takes the first two pitches as strikes, then that is a strikeout. This would place a premium on the decision whether to take the second pitch, especially if the pitch is close.

Similarly, if a pitcher throws three straight balls to start an at bat, without a strike, then that is a walk. If a pitcher is trying to paint the corners, it places pressure on him to get the third pitch in for a strike. If he has no intention of throwing a pitch a hitter can hit, then it saves time on the fourth pitch.

Baseball is a game of mounting tension. The modern batter, through Moneyball analytics, has been programmed to take more pitches, the least exciting play in baseball. If batters are not induced, somehow, to swing the bat and put the ball in play, then the least we can do is get them back to the bench or get them to first base quicker so we can get to the next guy up and move the game along.

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