Something worth perusing today if you were among the folks beefin’ about the strike zone this year: Jon Roegele (who is pretty much a must-read in whatever he writes) looked at the evolution of the strike zone in 2015 over at The Hardball Times.
Obviously the strike zone is a constant source of discussion during the season – this year was no exception – but you may recall it was also a major topic of conversation around this time last year, as MLB dealt with the implications of an increasingly lower strike zone, and the attendant drop in offense that it seems to be causing.
Incredibly, Roegele found that the zone this season was slightly larger than it was in 2014, which was, itself, larger than 2013 (which was larger than 2012 (which was larger than 2011 (which was larger than 2010 (which was larger than 2009)))).
You’d think, then, that offense would once again have ticked down in 2015, though that wasn’t quite the case, thanks largely to a huge spike in offense in August and September that we haven’t yet precisely explained (though Roegele does some really interest work digging into it in the article).
All that said, the larger strike zone of the last several years is, for the most part, an increasingly accurate zone, based on the rule book definition of a strike. Improvements in technology and video tracking, as well as league evaluations, have made umpires better and better at correctly calling balls and strikes (despite what you may think). But, the thing is, with today’s pitchers throwing harder than ever – and increasingly specialized – a larger strike zone, even if technically correct, may not be a good thing for the game overall.
With apologies to pitchers, I am an unabashed supporter of efforts to slightly increase offense in baseball. That’s not because I don’t love a good pitchers’ duel, mind you – I do. It’s simply because, in my opinion, a little more offense makes baseball a little more exciting to casual fans – the kinds the sport is going to need to court over the next 10, 15, 30, 50 years to remain an important part of sports culture in the United States (and/or the world).
As long as we’re not doing anything nutty that exponentially explodes offense (because then you risk boring-ness in the other direction … like basketball (sorry, basketball … not sorry)), I’d like to see tweaks at the margins that help batters a bit: