Experimenting with the game. 67 comments


The Atlantic League is an independent baseball league that has become a test lab for Major League Baseball. When MLB has ideas for rule changes, they test them in the Atlantic League, in part because a lot of former major leaguers play in the league so the results are more true to the talent level they’d be implemented in, and in part because it’s a league that is far from the limelight so the experimenting isn’t generating a lot of public scrutiny.

While both MLB and the Atlantic League have an agreement to remain silent about the sorts of things they are testing, they can only keep them a secret for so long. Eventually they have to try them out, out in the open.

Three rules they are testing will have major implications.

One, the idea of revamping extra innings. In an effort to keep games from going too long, they are trying an idea used in softball—starting an inning with a runner in scoring position. If you have no outs and a runner at second, the chances of scoring go up exponentially. The thinking is, one team will score more than the other and put an end to these long, plodding, extra-inning games.

Another idea is the electronic umpire. Former major league player Eric Byrnes is leading the charge on the robo umpire idea. As he explained to Jason Shafer of Bleacher Report, “Baseball players used to leave their gloves on the field between innings. They used to take trains across the country instead of airplanes. They used to not have lights and not play night games. It’s a simple progression.”

It’s an idea that is coming. It might take a while to wrestle tradition to the ground but it when you have umpires who say they have their own strike zones, when you have umpires who won’t call a pitch a strike that totally missed where the catcher was set up even if it crossed the strike zone, when you have catchers framing pitches and pulling them into into the zone so they can be called strikes, when you have umpires basing calls on the tenure and stature of the batter, when you have Angel Hernandez allowed to umpire, it’s time. A strike is a strike, not an opinion. The entire game hinges on the count. The outcome of an at-bat is massively different at a 2-1 count than it is a 1-2 count. It’s time to let technology improve the game.

The home plate umpire won’t lose his job. He will still make all the other calls behind the plate.

Perhaps the most radical change they are testing is moving back the mound from its present and iconic distance of sixty-feet, six-inches. It’s all due to this gradual draining of offense. They are blaming that on the year by year increase in pitchers who are at or around 100 miles per hour. The thinking is, pitchers have developed beyond the point of hitters being able to hit them. Baseball has set a new strikeout record in each of the last eleven consecutive seasons. Hitters cannot hit anymore. If it were basketball, and generations of players were gradually evolving to where there were more and more seven-foot athletes, then eight-foot athletes, maybe the rim would need to be raised. In football, kicking has evolved so much that moving back where they kicked the extra point from made sense. It’s that thinking that is behind testing moving back the mound.

Humans have evolved, baseball needs to as well.

But there are always unintended consequences. And baseball might be creating more strikeouts rather than fewer. As Shafer points out, “It seems like a ‘solution’ that may only create more problems.” That’s because in trying to mitigate the fastball, they will be making the breaking ball even more lethal.

“The mound being moved back will be way worse for hitters,” Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball told Baseball America. “The difference is not large from a velocity/reaction-time standpoint, but the movement difference is huge.”

He added: “Play catch with a big leaguer throwing sliders at 50 feet and then play catch at 70 feet. 70 feet is infinitely more terrifying.”

Moving the mound back will allow players to catch up with the fastball a bit easier, which will mean a few more home runs. But chances are moving the mound back will lead to less offense, not more.

This is a great game. Tweak at your own peril.

 

  • Mr.C

    The World Baseball Classic tournament started the 10th inning with a runner in 2nd base and it was fun to watch. I’m definitely in favor of this idea to eliminate long extra-inning games.

    I’m also in favor of of the electronic umpire. I even think is long overdue. Think about it! A four game series have 4 different home umpires with 4 different strike zones. No wonder we have so many strike outs in the league !!! The electronic umpire will bring stability to the strike zone calling and should improve offensive production.

    Moving back the mound doesn’t make sense to me. Although I have no scientific evidence, I tend to believe there will be more TJ surgeries if this idea is implemented. If the objective is to improve offensive production in games, I would eliminate the mound instead. Make it a flat mound!

    • grumpyderfsmagic8ball

      I vote for the electronic umpire. The others NO. Strike outs are up because of poor umpires and high pay for HR hitters. Players should also be reminded that the batters box is where you go to swing the bat and hopefully make contact. Good things can happen when bat meets ball. I am so tired of watching players take 3 strikes with the bat on their shoulders. Fine them $3k and give them a seat behind home plate, they can watch the strikes from back there. Rant off.

      • Mr.C

        LOLA

    • dearmidol

      Interesting you bring up Tommy John surgeries. From that same article:

      “Moving the mound back even by a foot or two, however, may not be progress. In fact, it could be a counterproductive disaster. The Tommy John epidemic has leveled off. According to data gathered by FanGraphs’ Jon Roegele, 143 minor and major league players underwent the procedure in 2015. That figure fell to 122 in 2016, 100 in 2017 and 84 in 2018. And now, just as it seems to be abating, MLB reportedly wants to experiment with guys throwing from a longer distance, potentially putting even more strain on their arms and elbows? Throwing harder begets more injuries. Therefore, it stands to reason, moving the mound back could exacerbate arm problems.”

      • Mr.C

        It’s logical, isn’t it?

        • dearmidol

          Yes.

  • MikeH

    I have long been in favor of the computer calling balls and strikes. The technology is there, we need to use it. Imagine a pitcher knowing that if he puts the ball in just that spot, it will be a strike–today, tomorrow and next week. Now, his best pitch may be a strike tonight, but not tomorrow night. The same for the hitters–he never knows whether that low and outside will be called a ball or a strike. It would bring a consistency to balls and strikes that the game has never known. As for moving the mound back–NO! Hitters will evolve. In fact, I think electronic balls and strikes may help the hitter more than the pitcher. Plus, you would have to throw 100+ years of statistics out the window. I do realize that the mound has been tinkered with, the DH put in and other statistic altering things been done in the past, but for the last 50 years, baseball has been fairly consistent. As for starting with a runner on second–why don’t they just invent a new game? It certainly wouldn’t be baseball. In fact, we might change the name of the game we have now from baseball to longball. But that’s a whole new subject.

    • dearmidol

      I’m with you on all three. There is absolutely no downside to computer balls and strikes. Get it consistent. Moving the mound back would be foolish. Quit overpaying for one-dimensional hitters and compensate the guys who make contact and the game will gravitate. As in anything, follow the money. I don’t have a problem at all with extra inning games, no matter how long they go.

      • Mr.C

        Didn’t you enjoy the 10th inning rule at the last WBC?
        I thought you did.

        • dearmidol

          It’s fine for the WBC. That tournament is all about protecting arms for the real season, so it’s fine. But not in real baseball.

          • Mr.C

            I did enjoy all the strategy behind starting an inning with a runner in scoring position.
            It is fun, and it is exciting !

            Much more fun than trying to stay up and not sleep on a long extra innings games.

  • Mr.C

    ((( POSTED LATE LAT NIGHT )))

    2019 Texas Rangers Batting Leaders:

    Hits:
    Fontana (7)
    Guzman (7)
    Davidson (6)

    Doubles:
    Pence (4)
    Ibanez (3)
    Mazara (3)

    HRs:
    Guzman (3)
    Davidson (3)
    Odor (2)

    Average:
    IKF (.462)
    Andrus (.455)
    Tocci (.389)
    Fontana (.389)

    OBP:
    Andrus (.500)
    IKF (.500)
    Tocci (.476)

    SLG:
    Odor (1.000)
    Guzman (.850)
    Tocci (.853)

    OPS:
    Guzman (1.474)
    Andrus (1.222)
    Odor (1.182)
    Davidson (1.164)
    IKF (1.152)

  • CrazyEd

    They’ve been using starting a runner on second base during extras innings in the minors. I don’t think that’s a big an impact on the game as moving the mound back. Think what that would do to base stealing. The numbers will soar. The more you think about it, it just creates a major
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1ecbb8822fc958259f686573c47898f35c78018175367efa0c2d1fc2f17a3a7c.jpg

  • CrazyEd

    Got a couple minutes to waste?

    All access with @JoeyGallo24. #RangersST pic.twitter.com/NVl8iTWDy4— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) March 7, 2019

    • Mr.C

      Guzman is bigger than Gallo.

      • elkaba

        Guzman is bigger than anyone.

      • JacobMcCandles

        Guz looked to add some muscles recently……Gallo prob still a bit stronger

    • Mr.C

      Thanks Ed

      Did you notice Guzman is bigger than Gallo?

    • GoRangers23

      I was just about to post this. I’m glad I looked first. 😄

  • CrazyEd
    • Mr.C

      Lot of offense in yesterday lineup ……. not today !

      • Mr.C

        Game on TV today !!!

  • JacobMcCandles

    Ideas 1 and 3 are ludicrous. Need to hear more about 2, and see it before adding that to the.disccard pile.

    • Mr.C

      Idea 3 is ridiculous; but I disagree on idea 1.

      As fans, who watches a long extended game without falling asleep?
      As players, who enjoys working a double shift and then have to work the following day?

      I’m also bias …. I saw the rule implemented in the WBC and I really enjoyed it!

      • JacobMcCandles

        I think the players are well compensated.

        • Mr.C

          That’s irrelevant.

          You cant expect the same level of productivity from baseball players the day after a long 5-6 hours game. Making $500k or $25M has no nothing to do with their productivity that next day. Don’t you think?

          • JacobMcCandles

            I disagree. Plus you have a 25 man roster…..and salary is relevant, no need to be babied. MLB used to schedule Double headers.

          • Mr.C

            Then we will agree to disagree.

  • Rowdy Yates

    Move the mound back? Ridiculous IMO. Just lower it several inches! That will mitigate the advantage pitchers now have over hitters.

    • elkaba

      Exactly. It’s the elevation, not the distance.

    • Mr.C

      Yeap. That’s what MLB did back in the 60’s to improve offense.

  • elkaba

    1. Long games are one of the most unique and sacred parts of baseball. If you don’t like them, turn them off or leave after 9 innings, but let the rest of us enjoy!
    2. Absolutely time to let tech call balls and strikes. They’ve outlawed arguing with umpires, so now the reason for most of those arguments needs to go as well. But hey, umps will still be able to make other stupid calls from behind the plate, so there’s hope.
    3. No. Lower the mound but leave it exactly where it is.

    • Mr.C

      I feel like I’m the only one here that liked idea #1.

      I really think idea #1 is like Elvis ….. Fantastic !!!

      • elkaba

        Item 1 is not a deal breaker for me either way. I just don’t think it’s a big enough problem that we have to change the essence of the game (the only game left without a clock on it!) And I don’t have a problem with going to a game or watching a game and leaving early if I need to get on with something else… like sleep!

        But then I’ve also watched and attended marathon games where wild horses couldn’t drag me away until it’s over. It’s a fundamental part of the game- there is no clock. For me it’s like people complaining about content in TV and movies- if you don’t like it, turn it off or leave. That’s a better solution, I think, than outlawing long games or changing the rules.

        Item 2, on the other hand, doesn’t change the essence of game or what makes it unique among sports. It just makes it more even handed and fair for everyone. It’s the same with IR (if they’d ever pull their heads out, apply it correctly and make it function as merely a tool, an enhancement to the spirit and intent of the original rules.)

        Item 3 is just ridiculous. Moving the mound back is fraught with myriad known unintended consequences and probably even more we haven’t thought of yet. Lowering the mound makes better sense if the goal is to adjust the relative competitive balance between hitters and pitchers (which has happened periodically from the beginning of the professional game.)

  • CrazyEd

    Preview of coming attractions, Hans Crouse at work:

    Resistance is futile. #GoSpo #TBT🎥 @SWXRightNow | 🔥 @hansrouse pic.twitter.com/va60JoTfS4— Spokane Indians (@spokaneindians) March 7, 2019

  • JacobMcCandles

    Seems like almost everyone likes the balls/strike change and not the two others. Some rules are just ludicrous. Several rules recently have been thrown in there without a ton of thought and implementation scenarios. If they are going to follow this route, get it right first. Its been years now and they still haven’t perfected IR yet. And I am not talking about the calls that are missed even with IR its the rules not followed…many times Mgrs getting too much time deciding if they want an appeal, or manipulating Umps for additional appeals. Umps calling for booth reviews on plays not supposed to be reviewable. So get it right first. Right now I don’t see it happening.

    • CrazyEd

      Instant Replay has turned into a joke. Great concept, but poorly implemented.
      Computerized balls and strikes is an idea that is going to happen. Get the kinks out and go with it.

      Starting a runner on second base in extra inning games has been in use in the minors and the wbc and it’s really of no effect other than shortening games. I don’t like it, but for the most part it’s a non-issue if they do it. It hasn’t had any bad effect on minor league games so don’t see it doing so in the majors.

      DON’T MOVE THE MOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Mr.C

        Instead of calling NY to request a review; NY should call the game umpires to reverse wrong calls they observed.

  • GoRangers23

    I have fallen way behind on posting pics again and I apologize for that. Here are some pics for today. I will try to post more tomorrow.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/0693725e71990dd766803d87a98610f66ea64d879c15aee3a66cb672a510416a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4d96d3b8d9e1de9ab2f5cd52a4c741f73f98665daaaefba876820bdf0fb1286c.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/28128372833a2a14e774bcd3e23ad030cad729126dd73b56fad85f416c92cd40.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/36557f1b58d67678a6397b96b2e843a56c1fa8e2a941e5b4cd69268e58b0fa47.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a934b89769e81d071de4373fa6b885bd8c0d02d3e4ed1f699ab1eb86f3d04d42.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/639657804fdbe7f067e677ae535485db371aad535beebbc227906de1cf926cc0.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8fa1f185c27435b9617025c58707f94f3096d7377ab6a2296f8914eb6b3cd710.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/22985c1280f7a920c43ebb85164a0d8a0cb9780dca7769889c4d9847973f9582.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/914819b6811309e1cce783f47e27bc56a089941a24b3f7456404f0a0fc669578.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c2c22e17f200b2745fec297471067841667dd9308197b5ef6887902e5fdb6f22.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e125f33ab26d0082c7ce542515b2c6b419c7490391e5543d8fb1dfcb497dea6e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/65b2c84841a64f54b2377ec1ca9b0dc6f9a7ad9bdde7ca87074b41235af53b97.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b6ae5405b347230de41d81139c01d272d272ce6c7e5b93b29e61548d5645f65a.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1f834a40fb4db9c4ee0ec75f47d4e74a091cd1c39d9240fcb5ad4bf88f747421.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/579da2191f1329ba09ee58830ee344c93c9bb4c0f33451e80915905ef206ce59.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5a8ae2b22627a5a9958bd5e846abd01634cc1b5a9d40ad03018c605f7c44e2a7.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/80df8f4a2c3346fdcb9bdecdd1042f8e93ecdd66e540969b08e6d6bfe6ccbef1.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1c4a7b187776becab3943e4be1180acda563ebfb94b1a26f3b20d9eb18717c99.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/62be41d187f8a6eadb91ae6b851277ae8c7981a04754b6635ed23e9368692874.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cea45633694faa52632a82f780cb2c813cceffdb57157ac1b2e91c4b36a821b9.jpg
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/25bef4cb91289e9a17679fb507242d4b9072a79bd838602561dbc6dc1142b019.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d2e0f20fe0dab6222167c04721ebc7521e27aa43824dd3a86036d5b76de77571.jpg

  • GoRangers23

    “Don’t touch my stuff.” #AwkwardTV 😅

    • GoRangers23

      I wonder what the guy had in his bag that he didn’t want anyone to see??? 🤔

  • GoRangers23

    Ian……😐

  • GoRangers23

    The announcers just said that the Padres were giving us “A whomping and a whuppin”…….☹️

    • CrazyEd

      The Rangers are closing the gap and the announcers are complaining about the umpires strike zone. Homers!!!

  • GoRangers23

    Why in the world is that one dude hitting the other announcer dude in the arm with a baseball?? These guys are weird. 🤪

  • Mr.C

    Got to love Hunter Pence

  • GoRangers23

    Hunter Pence, if they don’t keep you on the team, I will be really mad.

    • JacobMcCandles

      It’s a real fencepost….cuz you want to see the younger guys, but I think he brings a lot to the table…on the field and in the clubhouse, and he is from ARLINGTON…..means winner, lol

      • WhoKnowscs

        I’ll be honest. I don’t care to watch young guys(necessarily). I want to see guys that for the most part look like they belong on the team, and not yet another year to see if it “clicks” for “core” players that will probably be split up within 3-4 years.

      • azrangerfan

        Pence or Calhoun? My guess is Calhoun never becomes an everyday player at the ML level. Why do we need to see that. Pence even at his age will run circles around Calhoun.

        • JacobMcCandles

          Future

          • grumpyderfsmagic8ball

            If Calhoun is our future we are in BIG trouble.

          • azrangerfan

            Thank you!

          • JacobMcCandles

            Welcome

          • JacobMcCandles

            Not saying thats the way to go….but thats the concern and weight of decision needed to be made

          • grumpyderfsmagic8ball

            Then take a chance on Tocci.

          • JacobMcCandles

            Love to see To chi start in CF…seen enough of DD

        • JacobMcCandles

          “My guess” lol

          • azrangerfan

            Oh and I supose your opinions are hard cold facts. News flash, your opinions are just that, an opinion and you are not the only one that has one. Believe it or not we are all entitled to our opinions. Just saying!

          • JacobMcCandles

            Whoa Cowboy making something out of nothing….be glad to list multiple players I was wrong about. As far as Pence over Calhoun. Yes slam dunk. Just pointing out the price tag for not giving Calhoun a longer chance.

    • azrangerfan

      Pence is here to stay unless the bat just goes cold and stays cold.

  • Rowdy Yates

    Really PO’d. Had to cancel the Military Battles tour to Guam, Saipan & Tinian in June. The freakin’ air fare cost more than our air to Siem Reap, Camodia last May and was 40 hrs which is 4 hrs more than Cambodia which is several thousand miles farther to the west. Ridiculous but I guess Guam ain’t at the top of lottsa traveler’s lists so has loooong layovers with the fewer flight choices. Guess DW will never get to see what I enjoyed so much as a kid.

    • possumrld

      Sorry to her this, Rowdy.

    • CrazyEd

      That’s a kick in the backside. It’s also nuts. There’s a daily mail flight from the mainland to Guam and you can bet that it’s hardly ever full. The airline gets paid for hauling the mail so the seats ought to be inexpensive. The ain’t. About ten years ago I went and a round trip was $1800 and I got to ride with the mail. It was on the company so I wasn’t bitching.

    • GoRangers23

      I hate that Rowdy. I have wanted to take my husband to Hawaii to show him where I spent some time growing up, but as you know, Hawaii is super expensive. I would absolutely love to see it again. Some of my happiest memories growing up were spent there. Mr Go is a military brat too and his dad was in the Army for over 20 years and he spent a few years in Greece. I wouldn’t mind going to Greece with him to see his old stomping grounds.

  • possumrld

    Kev, for years I have been advocating for an electronic strike zone. And I have made most of the points for it you made in this article makes. However, I do believe if they implemented a strike zone that was a hard consistent zone, instead of one based largely on an Umpire’s opinion, we would also soon also see hitting improving, as the hitters learned the strike zone.
    As it stands now, the strike zone is a general area that changes from night to night, or form game to game. Heck! Sometimes it changes form inning to inning! Because let’s face it, no two umpires are ever going to have the same strike zone. Some Umpires may be closer than others. And some may be more consistent than others. But even the best Umpires at times badly blow both strike and ball calls. And all of them have bad games.
    Overall, I thin k it is it is a sorry system, and the time to vastly improve it is long overdue.
    Imagine a game where where a left handed batter comes to the plate in a meaningful at bat, late in the game, and he knows the umpire can’t call that ridiculous, foot off the plate slider as a strike, like many of them have traditionally called against left handed hitters. Imagine hitters not being forced forced to swing at garbage pitches that everyone knows isn’t a strike, except apparently the umpire. Imagine if the hitters knew on a 3 and 2 count, hitters knowing that the ball would actually have to be IN the strike zone, in order to get a called out looking.
    And imagine games where the home team’s pitcher’s did not get the benefit of a broader strike zone than the visiting team’s pitchers.Those things would be huge game changers. And before they start monkeying with the distance of the pitching mound form the plate, I think they should try a couple of seasons of a hard, electronic strike zone, and see what that does for the game.
    Sure not even an electronic strike zone would be perfect, or infallible. But at least it wouldn’t care if the pitcher or the hitter was an All Star, or which team out there was supposed to be the local “Home Town Heroes”.

  • GoRangers23