Why the Strikeout is Ruining Baseball

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The Strikeout Is Ruining The Game Of Baseball

Baseball is supposed to be a skill, strategy, and accuracy game. But lately, it seems like the strikeouts are ruling the day. More and more batters are whiffing, and fewer balls are actually being put in play. As a result, games are becoming longer and less exciting.

So, what’s behind this dramatic increase in strikeouts? And is it ruining baseball? Let’s take a closer look.

What is a Strikeout?

A strikeout, or “K,” is recorded when a batter swings and misses at a pitch or when a ball is thrown so that the batter cannot make contact. A strikeout can also be called if the batter doesn’t swing, but the ball lands in the strike zone. The strikeout is an integral part of baseball, brought to the fore by the likes of Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax. It’s a way of separating the good batters from the bad, and it can often mean the difference between winning and losing.

As baseball has evolved, so too has the way pitchers attack hitters. In days past, a pitcher relied mostly on his fastball to get batters out. However, nowadays, pitchers have a vast arsenal of pitches at their disposal. They can throw a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup in the same game. This expanded repertoire has led to more strikeouts, as batters are having a harder time making contact with the ball.

Yes, strikeouts have been on the rise. In fact, according to some experts, they are now at an all-time high. So what’s behind this dramatic increase?

The Rise of the Strikeout

The strikeout trend began in the mid-1980s when players like Bo Jackson and Jim Presley, among many others, made their major league debuts. They blasted 25-30 home runs every season and struck out 150 or more times. However, the strikeout rate has skyrocketed over the last 15 years, particularly the last five.

In the 80s, strikeouts per game were at a meager 4.8 per game. Now, it has almost doubled to 8.6. In April 2021, there were 1,092 more strikeouts than hits, the greatest difference in any month in major league history.

Modern Pitchers Are Getting Better

Pitchers’ arsenals have become even more spectacular. It’s come to the point that their pitches are almost unhittable. A decade ago, the average velocity for a fastball was 89 miles per hour.

Today, the average velocity is now at 94. Pitchers are also regularly throwing pitches of over 100 mph, while in 2008, only 214 such pitches were ever recorded. The difference between a 90 mph fastball and a 95 mph throw is tremendous. It can be the difference between making contact and whiffing.

If the fastball wasn’t tough enough, hitters must contend with the secondary stuff. Sliders, curveballs, and changeups are now routinely thrown in the 80-85 mph range. That’s 10-15 mph slower than a fastball, but it can still be difficult to make contact. The combination of an overpowering fastball and an unhittable off-speed pitch has led to more strikeouts than ever before. Hitters are simply unable to make the necessary adjustments.

Change In Hitting Philosophy

Adding to that, hitters don’t care as much about getting on base since they can still make an impact through home runs. Back then, hitters wanted to put the ball into play and make things happen. Nowadays, they’re more content to just wait for their pitch and hit it out of the park.

Umpires have also had an impact on this strikeout phenomenon. With the advent of high-definition television and pitch-tracking technology, umpires are being more closely scrutinized than ever before. As a result, they’re calling more strikes, especially the low strike.

In fact, the percentage of pitches called strikes has increased from 45% in 1988 to 58% today. This has led to more hitters taking pitches and getting themselves into unfavorable counts.

The Impact

So, what’s the impact of all these strikeouts? Well, for one, games are getting longer and less exciting. In fact, some baseball purists believe that all the strikeouts are ruining the game. With so many batters whiffing, there’s less action and fewer balls in play. As a result, the games are becoming more like a chess match, with pitchers and batters trying to outsmart one another.

That type of ballgame has made the game less exciting to watch. Fans now have to wait longer for the big payoff, home runs. And when there are strikeouts, it’s often a very anti-climactic ending. All the work by both pitcher and batter goes to waste and results in a long, tedious game.

The hitter’s mindset has also evolved. They’re no longer as aggressive at the plate since they know they can still impact with one swing. That change in mindset has led to more walks and fewer hits. This results in a watered-down game, far removed from the days of Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb.

What Can Be Done?

Some believe the strikeout is here to stay, and we must learn to live with it. However, others believe that something must be done to make the game more exciting again. One suggestion is to limit the number of pitchers a manager can use. That would force managers to stay with their starters longer and give the batter an advantage.

Another suggestion is to outlaw the slider and other off-speed pitches. This would force pitchers to rely solely on their fastballs, which would make the game more exciting and lead to more balls in play. Whatever solution is ultimately chosen, something must be done to address the rise in strikeouts and the impact it’s having on the game of baseball.