Major League Baseball believes that they have a problem on their hands with where the game has been heading for years now: Pitchers are simply too good at missing bats. With strikeouts on the rise over the last decade plus, the game has reached a tipping point where there simply isn’t enough contact being made and with less contact, and more home runs on contact than ever, there’s so much less “action” than ever before. That has turned away more than a few fans and Major League Baseball is hoping to fix that.

On solution they’ve tried at the big league level was to change the baseball this season. If you haven’t been following along – we already know that they screwed that up. They didn’t actually test the ball in the field – they simply plugged in numbers on a computer with the assumption that the numbers were correct and those numbers spit out data that said “this” would happen. Problem was the numbers they input weren’t correct. What we’ve seen is that exit velocity is up. While fly balls are indeed traveling slightly less, line drives are traveling further. Oh, and the baseball changes have also led to an increase in spin rate for pitchers – and as we know, the higher the spin rate, the more likely a hitter is to not make contact with a pitch. It’s been a disaster.

The Washington Post’s Jacob Bogage and Chelsea James reported this morning that Major League Baseball is going to move the mound back as an experiment in the Atlantic League this summer. The first half of the season will be at the normal 60′ 6″ from home plate, but in the second half that will change to 61′ 6″.

This is an idea that I’ve seen many support – even some in the game. Mark me on the other side of this. If the idea is to create more action on the field by cutting down on strikeouts and having more contact, it’s a tough sell to me. Pitches will now move more than they do now. Gravity and spin over another foot is going to cause more break, and more “sink” on every single pitch thrown. The velocity likely decreases slightly with this move, which could help a little bit, but without seeing it in action that feels like it’s not going to be enough (we’re talking about maybe 0.5 MPH, if that, in velocity dropping off over the distance change) to counteract the difference in movement – especially with offspeed stuff, which is thrown today more than ever (fastballs were thrown 61% of the time across MLB in 2004. Today it’s at 50%.).

With a move in the mound, pitchers are going to have to train themselves to do things that are different than they’ve done for their entire lives. Knowing where your pitch goes at 60′ 6″ is something you’ve been doing since you are 12-13-14 years old. Now that same pitch is going to wind up somewhere else. Expect walks to be up because of this – which is not what MLB wants to happen.

As a former pitcher, the part that worries me more is injuries. Again, this is the distance guys have trained to throw at since they were in middle school. Now the slider you throw that lands at the bottom of the zone, thrown from 61′ 6″ lands on top of the plate. If you want that pitch to land at the bottom of the zone, you’ve got to throw it harder and place more stress on your arm.

Perhaps this is mostly incorrect and I’m not giving pitchers enough credit here. These guys are pretty athletic (duh). But it just seems like an off-the-cuff idea that they decided to go with without really thinking it out and what the issues that could be there as a result would be. Still, I guess it’s something worth experimenting with. You do have to feel bad for the guys that have to make the adjustment, though – who are trying to get back into affiliated baseball and now have to deal with stuff like this.

Another rule that is being used in the Atlantic League this year is the designated hitter “double hook” rule. As we all know, the American League has a designated hitter and the National League does not. For some stupid reason they just can’t give the National League the designated hitter – something the American League has had for 50 literal seasons now. For the entire Atlantic League season the designated hitter will exist for the starting pitchers spot in the lineup, but once the starting pitcher is removed from the game, the team must either send the relievers to the plate to hit for themselves or send a pinch hitter up to the plate.

If we assume that this new DH rule is aimed at the National League, rather than the American League, then we’ve got another issue at hand: American League teams can continue to use an “opener” if they want to. National League teams technically could, but they won’t because it means they are going to lose the benefit of the DH after the 1st or 2nd inning. That’s not something that the American League needs to worry about.

Rules changes for trying to improve the game, or to try and improve the likeability of the game from a fan perspective happens in all sports. How defenses can be played in the NBA has changed multiple times in my lifetime. The NFL has changed defensive rules and we’ve seen an explosion in offense over the last 15 years because of it. There’s nothing wrong with trying to change the rules. These rules just don’t seem to be thought out very well at all in this specific writers opinion. Your mileage may vary.

12 Responses

  1. AJ

    I don’t see the sense in either rule proposed here. Backing the mound up a foot seems to do nothing but increase the risk of injury to the pitcher. Which should be something MLB doesn’t want to see. I think every real fan is in agreement that post season ball is better when healthy arms are in play.

    Secondly, it makes no literal sense that the DH was not kept universal. If a team chooses to bat a pitcher like the Reds do Lorenzen, that would be up to the team. This wouldn’t take the bat out of Ohtani hands, but it doesn’t stress a person who has been a PO since they were in middle school to risk some sort of oblique injury because they don’t want to let their team down.

    Once again MLB has stated out these ways to make the game “better” without listening to the fans. It is getting out of hand.

  2. Billy

    Personally, I want to see what happens when they move the mound back. I don’t think guys will be putting more stress on their arm trying to throw harder. They’re already trying to throw as hard as they can in many cases. I know when I pitched, that’s what I was trying to do. (Granted, even that wasn’t very hard.) I think the injury concerns are slightly overblown.

    I say “slightly” because there is one thing that concerns me about this plan. The idea that they’re going to make this change in mid-season is nonsensical to me. Why not start the season that way (possibly next season)? Give the pitchers an offseason to prepare for it. And if the logic is that it’s the Atlantic League and pitchers only go there once affiliated options have dried up, so they’d still prepare for the regular distance, well, I don’t know what to say. Maybe the Atlantic League isn’t the place to try it out in that case.

    I was a big fan of moving the mound back a year or two ago. Now, I’m not so sure. Pitchers have gotten so good with pitch tunneling, that I fear the extra distance will really play to their advantage. I do wonder if the caliber of pitcher in the Atlantic League will be good enough to reveal how top pitchers will take advantage of the extra distance. It could be the kind of thing where it hurts the average pitcher but helps the elite pitcher, and I’m not sure that would be ideal. I’d still like to see what happens.

  3. Tony S

    How about keeping the mound distant the same but lowering the mound?

    • Broseph

      I like this approach better. Takes away the leverage and makes the drop of offspeed pitches less drastic.

      I don’t think a foot back hurts either. As others mentioned , most pitchers go between 80-100% effort now. It’s more a matter of changing their release point, which is always the issue with controlling the zone, but now they just have to train to release a little earlier.

  4. MK

    What is next, can only throw three breaking balls or change ups per inning. Guys have spent year perfecting their breaking ball for 60’6”. Instead of creating more contact this will create more base on balls.Every née rule seems to hurt the pitcher. Maybe after 5 K’s in any three consecutive innings the pitcher has to be replaced. That idea is as stupid as this years proposed changes.

  5. Stock

    I don’t like it but it should not cause more injuries. Maybe less if you consider they have 1 more foot of reaction time on comebackers to the mound.

    I think it will increase walks. I also think it may increase strikeouts. You see so much break after the ball crosses the plate. If a pitcher can keep it near the zone it will be difficult to hit.

    You want more offense? 4 strikes vs. 3 strikes

    You want a lot more offense? 4 strikes and 3 balls.

    But I agree with a comment above. Lowering the pitchers mound in 1968 did wonders for hitters.

    Pitching has become a science and baseball has failed to adjust.

    • Billy

      Oddly enough, I believe that lowering the mound would increase injuries. I don’t recall the study, but I vaguely remember there being one that showed that the forces on the body decrease when throwing off a mound vs. throwing off flat ground. I think it had something to do with using gravity to your advantage, but I don’t know exactly. Of course, that does seem to beg the question as to why players progress from throwing on flat ground to throwing on a mound when rehabbing. No idea.

  6. RedFuture

    Alternate Hitter Concept in the National League is Far Better Then the Designated Hitter in the American League! I have offered this concept here before. This time rather than a wordy couple of paragraphs, I’m trying a to list 10 rules on its’ implementation.

    1. Only one player may be used as an Alternate Hitter (AH) per game.
    2. An AH can be any player on the roster.
    3. An AH is NOT “designated” prior to the game.
    4. A hitter MUST be announced as an AH (not a PH) prior to his at-bat.
    5. An AH can ONLY be used to hit for the pitcher onetime but anytime.
    6. The AH MAY re-enter game as a double-switch with a new pitcher anytime.
    7. The pitcher giving up one at-bat to the AH may continue pitching.
    8. All pitchers must resume batting for themselves unless a PH is used.
    9. A post-AH PH may hit for a pitcher, forcing the pitcher out of the game.
    10. The post-AH PH for pitcher causes the loss of an unused AH double-switch.

    • MK

      Seems this is a more defined use of the high school re-entry rule.

  7. Mike V

    Folks .. I am willing to see anything that will lead to more action on the field . I am a big fan of this game and have been for over 60 years and if you think the entertainment factor of the game is the same or better than ever , you are kidding yourselves . I went to an alternate site game yesterday with 2 other adults and 4 kids (ages 5-10) and there may have been 7 hits in the game and maybe 20 balls put in play . As a fan It was it was terrible and the kids paid little or no attention . Lets try anything to improve the offense . Even if has to be like slow pitch softball so be it . That may be the only way the game will/can survive long term

    • MK

      Conversely slo-pitch softball is only interesting if you play it. It is boring to watch.
      Watched the White Sox game last night which was very engaging, exciting and fun to watch.
      I agree there needs to be more contact so there is more defense and base runners. Maybe the key is making it more difficult to hit home runs and easier for singles so guy aren’t there swinging from their heels on every pitch.

  8. ClayMC

    Regarding the mound placement rule, I really can’t justify either the ‘for’ or ‘against’ argument in isolation. Without simulated data, which I’d like to hope MLB has, I just can’t argue that a decrease in velocity will be more than offset by the increase in pitch movement. Or that an increase in pitch distance will be more than offset by an increase in strain on the pitcher. The correlations between all these things make perfect sense, but when dealing with 1% changes, I just don’t think we can have anywhere close to an adequate grasp on the magnitude of these relationships to take a stance.

    Obviously we’re all just guessing at this point, but I guess I’d have to fall right on the fence until we see some Atlantic League results. No data is bad data, and I think it would be absolutely silly not to test out any possible change.