MLB appears to have a colossal problem on its hands. A problem we’ve all kind of known has existed the last decade. That is of course the epidemic of dominant pitchers and the corresponding decline of hitters.
For years we’ve seen the writing on the wall. Home runs have gone up. So too have strikeouts. While batting averages have plummeted.
How to combat MLB’s offense problem
Through the evolution of pitchers and the influx of defensive shifting, hitters in modern day baseball don’t seem to have much of a chance.
We still get the home runs and high OPS’s, but the old school approach to the game of getting guys on base and hitting for average looks to be shrinking.
Six no-hitters have been recorded thus far in 2021 by Joe Musgrove, Carlos Rodon, John Means, Wade Miley, Spencer Turnbull, and Corey Kluber. Another one by Madison Bumgarner in a 7-inning game was also thrown but will not be counted as an official one.
We are now just approaching the month of June and we’ve had enough no-hitters to typically last us three years.
On one hand, these occurrences signify the evolution of pitchers and how good they have gotten. Velocity has obviously increased and spin rate has added an extra layer to how dominant an ordinary MLB starter can be, not just the elite ones.
For die-in-the-wool lovers of the game like myself, I personally love seeing pitchers work their magic like they currently are. I’m also naturally more partial to pitching in general.
But others of course aren’t. Lovers of this game and purists, as well as the vast majority of casual and youth viewers want to see offense. Purists want the full experience of simple base hits and home runs sprinkled on top. Younger and casual viewers want the long ball.
For the game to continue to grow and draw that younger generation, hitters need to get better. How can we facilitate that without necessarily tarnishing the integrity of the pitching game?
I for one do not believe hampering pitchers is the way to do it, i.e. lowering the mound or moving it back. I can see a case for maybe banning certain substances pitchers use on their ball if they dramatically increase spin rate.
I think the better way is to see that pitchers have the upper hand and make the adjustments on the hitting side.
Hitting is the hardest thing to do in sports, scientifically. But it can be mastered even facing seemingly insurmountable odds (like the rise of dominating pitchers).
What hitters have gotten away from in the past 20 years is attacking the pitcher early in the count.
An emphasis has been placed more on working a pitch count and wearing a starter down than potentially getting him out of there ASAP by putting a crooked number on the board in the early innings.
Jumping on a pitcher earlier in the count is where I believe the next step lies in hitter evolution. It may even be a step backward to where hitting was back in the day. Funny enough it may wind up being a full circle sort of deal.
Veterans of the game (many of whom have transitioned to commentary) preach that the best pitch you’re going to see in an at-bat is the first one.
While it may seem like a counterproductive initiative, swinging first pitch could bear more fruit than it kills. You risk early failure in an at-bat with no taxing of the pitcher, but on the flip side, first pitch may be the best pitch you see all at-bat.
More aggressive hitters looking to do damage earlier in the count are what I believe will turn this ship around for the position player community in MLB.
Take the risk of cutting a starter’s pitch count down and try to knock him out with immediate damage rather than a war of attrition.
That’s my two cents.