Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The Pitching is Fine

A commonly held belief in baseball is that the pitching of today is mediocre. The reason given is usually that expansion has diluted the talent pool over time to such an extent that the glory days of pitching are gone and unlikely to return again. Yes, Roger Maris, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa all broke records in expansion years, 1961 and 1998. But there's more to it than that.

I have a different point of view. I don't believe the pitching of today is worse than that of previous eras, but is in fact better. It's just that the appearance of today's pitching is worse. What has caused the appearance of pitching to be worse is a number of changes in the game, including to the rules, that have favored the hitter. Also, the talent pool of hitters has been "diluted" just as much as that of pitching.

To prove my point, I'd like to suggest that if baseball made the following changes, we would quickly find out just how good the pitching of today really is. I'm not suggesting that these all be implemented, just that if they were, my point would carry some weight.

  1. Eliminate the Designated Hitter Rule.
  2. Raise the height of the mound from 10" back to 15", as it was before 1969.
  3. Increase the size of the strike zone to what it used to be, knees to shoulders.
  4. Take all protective gear away from batters. This would include shin guards, elbow guards, batting gloves, sunglasses, and, yes, batting helmets. Make them wear their wool fielder's caps, just like it used to be.
  5. Number 5 is closely related to number 4. Give back to the pitchers the brushback, knockdown and beanball pitches, and take away the umpires' enforcement of these. Neither the pitcher or his manager would have the slightest fear of warning, ejection, suspension or fine for using these pitches. Just like it used to be. There might be a few more bench-clearing brawls, but boys will be boys.
  6. Eliminate the dark green batter's backgrounds in centerfield and open the bleachers up to shirt-sleeve crowds, like it used to be.
  7. Prohibit the new hardwood maple bats.
  8. Move the Rockies to sea level.

I don't believe, either, that expansion has diluted the overall talent pool. It does, relatively, each time baseball expands, but this has throughout history been more than compensated for by:

  1. The growth of the American population.
  2. The breaking of the color barrier and the inclusion of black and Latin players of color.
  3. Popularity of baseball in, and heavier scouting of, Latin countries.
  4. New available talent from foreign countries like Cuba, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and others.

Don't worry. The pitching is fine.

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