If it wasn’t clear enough from the minute you hit this page, let me state for the record: I love baseball. Baseball is an art form, a chess game, a wine tasting on a summer evening. But you know who could give a shit? My wife. My wife, and a whole lot of other people.
Major League Baseball had its lowest attendance in over 15 years in 2018, and game lengths crossed the 3hr mark for the 7th year in a row, in a society with an attention span that has never been shorter. Strikeouts are at all-time highs across both leagues, and the game is managed to the point that offense is at a premium, for a sport that one time exclaimed “Chicks dig the long ball!”
Is baseball in trouble? Considering Fox’s $5 billion dollar extension from mid-November, I’m going to go out on a limb and say “No”. But that doesn’t mean baseball can’t be better. For as much as I love the game, I can still put the Koolaid down long enough to see there are some huge missed opportunities for MLB.
A few things to consider. (Because you have to set the table before you can eat.)
From an excellent article written by Scott Miller – no relation, but I’m sure he’s a good dude.
– 31.6% of plate appearances end in a strikeout, walk, or hit batsman. That’s batsman, not Batman. Although Batman would be pretty rad.
– The MLB batting average was less than .250, the lowest since 1972. Think about that for a minute. That’s less than 1 in 4 players that reach base on a hit.
– We had months with more strikeouts than actual hits?! Entire months.
– Defensive changes – times the ball is put into play – are less than 37% for the first time ever. Pitchers are throwing harder and the shift is hurting players that can’t figure out how to take the ball the other way or are too proud to bunt.
– I know what you’re thinking. It must be a pitcher’s game then, right? As of August, there were less than 40 complete games thrown in all of Major League Baseball. In 2008, there were over 130. So what does that mean? A whole lot of pitching changes, which leads to, you guessed it, longer games.
– Hitters are at a disadvantage across baseball. (I know, Boo Hoo.) (Crying picture). But
think about it. Defensive shifts, facing more pitchers per game, and a big one, increased velocity. There’s no better illustration than Buster Olney’s article from May. Number of pitches that hit 98 MPH+ in 2009? 4,618. 2017? 17,192. Jesus! (And on pace for over 20,000 in 2018.) Is it any wonder we’ve gone from 82 hitters w/a 100+ strikeouts in 2009 to 140 in 2017?
So the table is set. There are 3 primary things hurting baseball right now:
- Games are too damn long.
- Pitchers are dominating the game by throwing too damn fast.
- And hitters can’t hit a damn thing.
So how does Major League Baseball adjust? It’s really not as hard as you’d think.
In Game Advertising
You want to trim out 10-15 minutes a game? Eliminate commercial breaks. I know what
you’re thinking, slow down. Shift the commercial breaks to in-game advertising. WWE has already experimented with it successfully on their Smackdown platform. If you want to keep your viewers from changing the channel, then don’t give them the opportunity to. Picture in picture box ads have been a brief promo staple during broadcasts for years, so why not expand that an entire game format? You cut game time, and likely increase ad engagement if it’s in game.
DH To Both Leagues (With A Catch!)
I get it, you’re a traditionalist. The DH is an abomination. But what if I told you there was a way to have the DH, but to do it in a way that changes the strategy by game? Imagine a DH on both teams, in both Leagues, but as a permanently replaced player. In today’s game, the DH takes the Pitcher’s spot in the batting order, and is pulled if the Pitcher moves to a defensive position in the field during a game. (When was the last time that happened?) Under this new rule, if a pitcher was pulled for any reason, the DH would be replaced with the relief pitcher. Would that stretch your Starter past 5.1 innings with Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz, or JD Martinez coming up in the 6th? That could eliminate one pitching change a game just based on where the lineup is set to fall, along with the score of the game.
Want to cut down on the time it takes between Pitchers? Cut down on the number of Pitchers! Limit teams to a max of 4 Pitchers per game. That cuts down on time, it cuts down on over-managing/limiting offense, and creates more risk per team. So what happens if a Pitcher gets injured? You can add another Pitcher, but the injured pitcher is moved to a 5-day DL by default. (No faking!)
This one is tricky. Baseball has been playing the shift for years, look at Ted Williams. The difference? Ted Williams could hit. I think at some point you need to evaluate whether the shift is good for baseball and make the move. If you don’t like eliminating the shift altogether, what if a team had to declare which one player they were designating a shift for?
We’re in an information and ‘reality’ focused age. So where’s the reality? I want MLB “Hard Knocks”. I want cameras in the locker rooms. What about bonus Social Media exclusive feeds in the dugout or the bullpen? We should be able to watch a game from multiple viewing angles at will. My 4K GoPro was a few hundred bucks, you’re telling me that MLB couldn’t have these transmit from multiple locations? I want warts and all. I want personality. In its prime, MLB has thrived on players. Look at Cooperstown, it’s full of them. “Let the kids play?” YES PLEASE. Embrace the attitude and individuality, and you the game grows.
We’ve all heard the saying “Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.” Well let’s hear yours! Your opinions… not the other. How do you tackle the 3 things ‘hurting’ baseball in today’s game?