With big league pitching getting better and better – far outpacing improvements by the bats – the league is in a full-court press to increase action on the field, bringing Theo Epstein in to help lead those efforts (which would, in turn, increase offense, but I want to be careful to note that the purpose is to increase action).
To that end, we will see a number of rules changes implemented at various minor league levels this year (pitch clocks, killing the shift, larger bases, etc.), as well as additional changes in the independent Atlantic League. Included in that latter category is perhaps the biggy – the one Epstein, himself, has sold me on – moving the pitching mound back a bit for the first time in over 100 years. Instead of the famous 60’6″, it’ll be 61’6″.
It sounds like Kris Bryant – notably, a hitter – is on board with the league’s experimental efforts, but he’d like to see things taken a step further. About fourteen steps further:
Kris Bryant said he likes that MLB is at least exploring potential changes to help bring more offense into the game.
Asked if he had any ideas, KB quipped: "I think they should move the mound back to like 75 feet and they should throw underhand. That'd be fun."
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) April 26, 2021
A joke, a joke. But, you know, I’d watch it to see what happened!
Obviously I don’t want to see strikeouts completely eradicated from the game, just a rebalancing of the difficulty in making contact against modern pitchers (and a rebalancing of the incentives for hitters to sacrifice some power to make more contact). To that end, Bryant’s joke does get at the heart of the matter.
His joke also underscores something we’re absolutely going to see develop as these rules get put into play this year and discussed/dissected/debated: you’re probably going to see a lot of hitters happy to joke around or no comment, and you’re probably going to see a lot of pitchers pushing back more seriously. Understandable, given the vocations involved. But MLB has to think bigger than any one player or role or even one generation of players. These are long, long-term considerations, and Bryant – a former MLBPA rep – appreciates that the discussions are happening, even if he doesn’t yet know what particular rules changes would be best. Which, of course, is why they’re being tried out in the minors and the Atlantic League first.