For the first time in MLB history, we have witnessed a single month where there were more recorded strikeouts than hits.
During the month of April, we saw 6,992 hits with an average of 233 per team, and 7,335 strikeouts with an average of 245 per team. But why have we been seeing an increase in strikeouts?
In part, we can put some of the blame on the average velocity increase from pitchers. The average fastball now comes across the plate at 93 MPH, whereas just a decade ago that number was at 90.7. This may not seem like a huge increase, unless you are talking about a distance of sixty-feet, six-inches. This number is not only seen in starters, however, as in 65 relievers threw a pitch clocking in at 99+ MPH in 2017, which is increased from 2012 when only 37 hit this mark. Alongside this is the fact that the average reliever actually throws 1 MPH faster, clocking in at 94 MPH.
The second reason we can shed some light on is the change in a hitters mindset. In today’s game, hitters are taught to go for broke on their appearances, as it tends to pay out better than switching their approach on an 0-2 count to hit for contact, where the result will more than likely be an out.
Lastly, we can credit more pitching changes. Pitching used to be a ‘workhorse’ position where you stayed in as long as possible. However, the game has changed. Today, most pitchers throw as hard as they can, for as long as they can, knowing that they have a strong bullpen behind them. This has led to a decrease in complete games, and put more focus on the importance of having a quality bullpen to lead teams to victory.
While the battle between pitcher and hitter is a beautiful thing, and can be one of the most exciting aspects of the game, is it the direction that MLB wants to go? The average viewer would see a game with 10+ strikeouts and believe there is no action in the game, turning away to another game, or even sport. As numbers continue to decline throughout all ballparks across the country, this change in the game may not be best at this point in time. However, one thing is certain: The baseball landscape has changed.
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