As Major League Baseball continues to look for ways to speed the pace of play, there were reports last week the MLB Competition Committee has voted to raise the bottom of the strike zone to the top of hitter’s knees, instead of just below them.
The thought is with pitches being raised in the strike zone, it will create more balls in play and in turn speed up the pace of play. Never mind the notion that more balls in play can lead to more offense, longer innings, and games going well over three hours.
“They hate pitchers don’t they,” laughed Adam Wainwright when he learned of the proposal. “If they want the games to go faster, making the strike zone more appealable to the hitters is going to make for longer games and they did that already by making the umpires tighten up a little bit before.”
According to an AP report, the pace of game for the first 79 games this season was 3 hours and four minutes–just under three minutes longer than the average of the first 79 games from 2015.
But not mentioned is the amount of runs being scored this season. In May of 2015, teams combined to score 3487 runs. Heading into tonight’s final games for May this season, teams have already scored 3726 runs. That’s an additional 239 runs in May alone–and all of those required the time to be scored.
“They need to stop messing with the game,” continued Wainwright. “The game is perfect–the game is just how it needs to be and they need to stop messing with it.”
The strike zone was expanded to below the knees in 1996 and with the top of the zone at about the armpits or still described by rule as the “area over home plate the upper limit of which is a horizontal line at the midpoint between the top of the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants.”
It is that area of the midpoint to the upper limit which is rarely called in today’s game.
“I was watching an old game the other day on ESPN Classic or something,” shared Wainwright. “A fastball got called a strike just under the armpit. If that was called a strike nowadays, man, you’d have some people really complaining. No, I think it’s a horrible idea. Obviously, as a pitcher I’m going to say that but if the idea is to quicken the games, don’t raise the strike zone and shorten it some other way–leave it like it is.”
For either of the two proposed changes to go into effect, they must be approved by the Playing Rules Committee, but do not fall under terms of the CBA so the MLBPA does not have to sign off.
“I guess we won’t know until we see how it’s applied–just how much they’re raising it,” offered Mike Matheny. “There’s always a group of umpires too that want to take whatever rule it is and take it to even another level and pretty soon thigh-high pitches are called low. I don’t know how it’s going to translate, how hard it’s going to be to change what they’ve taught themselves all this time. It could be interesting. We’re still going to have to pitch to the bottom of the zone, now we’ll have to redefine what the bottom of the zone will look like.”
photo credit: Rick Osentoski, Geoff Burke, Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports