May 16, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; New York Yankees pitcher Cody Eppley (not pictured) grips the baseball before delivering a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays beat the Yankees 8-1. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

Radical Baseball: Start the count at 3-2.


TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2009 If I could change only one rule …

Start the count on 3-2 and limit the batter to three swings…

1. Each AB would be a maximum of three pitches.
2. There would be fewer pitching changes.
3. Pitchers would probably throw mostly fastballs not those silly Bugs Bunny pitches that are often out of the strike zone.
4. There would be fewer meetings. What’s there to discuss?
5. Batters would have much less reason to step out of the box.
6. Bunting would decrease.

There is no downside. Watching the pitcher work to set up the batter is boring and silly since there is so much dead time between pitches. Each pitch is a separate event with no flow from pitch to pitch. How do you get a batter leaning when the batter can barely remember what the previous pitch was?

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Come on, we’ve all thought it.  Admit it.  The game is dragging on interminably.  Each batter seems to go 3-2.  Then foul off even more pitches.  What the heck?  Just start the damn count at 3-2 and get it over with!

So, why not do it?  Yes, start the count at 3-2.  Some slow pitch softball leagues start the count at 1-1 to reduce the jerking around.  The objective is for the batter to put the ball in play.  That objective has been lost over all the years that baseball has slipped further and further from what made it attractive to us, what made it fun to watch and to play.

Rampant old fartism in baseball is the main thing inhibiting basic reform such as this.  The primary objection to my proposal is that the pitcher will become so unhinged that he will be unable to throw that one and only strike.  Yeah, if he insists on throwing some Bugs Bunny pitch.  If he simply throws the ball over the plate it’s not so difficult.  If the pitcher simply throws the ball over the plate then the batter will belt it.  Yes, yet another benefit.

Here is a basic baseball tenet: three swings and you’re out.  The batter also has an obligation to achieve the objective of putting the ball in play.  The batter may not simply foul off pitches until the pitcher finally throws ball four.  If the batter cannot put the ball in play after three opportunities, then the batter is out.

If any of the three pitches thrown to a batter is a called strike or the batter misses, the batter is out.  If the batter fouls off three pitches, the batter is out.  Any pitch outside the strike zone is ball four, a walk.

Elegant, right?

Justin Verlander was the best MLB pitcher in 2011.  Verlander had the best earned run average (ERA) in the American League (AL): 2.40.   In 153 plate appearances (PA) against Verlander with a 3-2 count:

- 50 strike outs (SO),

- 38 base on balls (BB)

- batting average (BA) .115,

- on base percentage (OBP) .340

- slugging average (SLG) .186

-  two doubles

- two home runs.

Verlander did quite well even without my three swing limit for the batters.

Among the 42 AL pitchers who qualified for the  ERA leadership in 2011 Verlander’s Detroit Tigers teammate Brad Penny had the worst ERA: 5.30.  Let’s see how Penny did with a 3-2 count.

In 106 (PA) against Penny:
- 15 SO
- 29 BB
- BA .329
- OBP.519
- SLG .539
- four doubles
- four home runs.

Yikes.  That’s a huge difference.  Obviously, I don’t have the MLB totals for a full count in 2011, which is why I’m using individual examples.  If someone has that data, please share.

Let’s try one more pitcher, someone in the middle of the pack.

Ivan Nova of the Yankees was #21 in AL ERA.

In 75 (PA) against Nova with a 3-2 count:
- 11 SO
- 22 BB
- BA .226
- OBP.453
- SLG .358
- one double
- two home runs.

More of a mixed bag.

So how about we give it a try?  Maybe in a low minor league?  The All Star game?  Oops, I forgot, MLB uses that exhibition game to determine home field advantage in the finals of the post season tournament.  How bush.  Thank you Commissioner Bud Selig.

It would speed up PA and hopefully the game.  Even if the game time did not decrease there would be less dead time.  Things would move along, maybe even develop some flow, pace.  Pretty much anything would be an improvement.

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You can follow the personal baseball blog of Kenneth Matinale here: Radical Baseball

Tags: All-Star Game Brad Penny Bud Selig Detroit Ivan Nova Justin Verlander MLB Tigers Yankees

  • garretkc

    MLB stats with a full count, as you requested: http://bit.ly/JDMvRZ

    • http://radicalbaseball.blogspot.com/ Kenneth Matinale

      Thanks so much. I should have figured that out myself.

      So far in 2012 for all MLB in 6,776 PA with a full count:
      - 1,671 SO
      - 2,003 BB
      - BA .218
      - OBP .450
      - SLG .365
      - 230 doubles
      - 33 triples
      - 133 home runs.

      Looks like those walks could be a problem.