Rob Manfred sat down with USA Today recently to discuss the state of MLB and to float a few major changes he is considering.
Major League Baseball, alarmed by the game’s lack of action this season is considering making the most radical changes to the game in more than a century.
First off, what the fuck do you mean lack of action? Offense is through the roof, home runs are being hit at a record pace, and pitcher’s ERA continue to rise. Not to mention that pitchers are continuing to throw harder and harder, and strikeouts are rising as batters are swinging for the fences at an alarming rate.
Commissioner Rob Manfred said that baseball is contemplating everything from altering the strike zone to limiting the number of pitching changes in a game, to curtailing the number of shifts, to even installing 20-second time clocks for pitchers.
These are a lot of massive changes. We have already heard that the strike zone will be shrinking next year, a change that will further hamper pitchers, especially pitchers who specialize in getting batters to hit the ball on the ground. Additionally MLB has been playing around with shot clocks, err I mean pitch clocks in the minor leagues. I’m sure the Red Sox and Yankees, two teams notorious for taking a ridiculous amount of time on both sides of the ball will be thrilled for those changes.
Additionally, while I’m not a fan of managers trotting out a new pitcher every other batter, I don’t see how you could possibly enforce a limited number of pitchers allowed to enter a game. What happens when you are down 10-1 and pitcher after pitcher is getting lit up? Are you saying that managers will be forced to keep a guy in who is getting rocked because you used up your allotted number of pitchers too early? I’m sure the MLBPA will love that when some pitcher sees his era triple in a contract year, or someone blows their arm out requiring their second Tommy John surgery because MLB rules prevented him from leaving in a timely manner. Or maybe you think it’s good to force a pitcher to throw X number of pitches before he’s allowed to leave. That will sure speed the game up.
The last change mentioned is possibly the most interesting and will likely be the most hotly debated. Limiting the number of shifts. How exactly do you propose to do this? What do you define as a shift? Does it require the short stop and second baseman to be on a specific side of the field? What about moving in for a bunt? What about shifting the outfield for a left handed hitter? What about the double play, or playing no doubles defense? Why the fuck can’t a guy like Chris Davis or Mark Teixeira just learn to hit the ball to the left side of the field? Part of the beauty of the game is it’s long, rich, history. Trends come and go. Defenses make adjustments, and offenses then adjust to those adjustments, and back and forth. Batters will learn in time to hit the ball to the opposite side to counter the shift. And defenses will stop shifting. Why do we need a stupid rule to force this?
Certainly, the pitching numbers are dizzying. There were average of 27 pitchers employed by clubs last season, compared to just 17 in 1988. There is now an average of 7.77 pitchers used in nine-inning games, throwing 288.7 pitches, with a record 3.87 per plate-appearance.
True, but aren’t we also a lot more cautious with our pitchers than ever before? Pitches are counted, and limits are applied. Not just to starters but to relievers. Players are playing more games than before and with more money invested, more care and caution is taken. By limiting the number of pitchers allowed to enter the game, you are actually increasing the risk of injury. How is that good for the game?
If we’re going to see any instant change, Manfred acknowledged, it will be altering the strike zone. Shrinking the strike zone is the easiest solution to enhancing the offense, without altering the height of the mound.
And that’s really the crux of the conversation. The thing Manfred really cares about. More runs to keep the new generation of attention deficit kids from changing the channel to the latest YouTube video.