Back in February we learned that Major League Baseball had entered into an agreement with the independent Atlantic League in which the former would use the latter as a lab to test new rules, equipment and technology. That has happened to some extent, with rules regarding defensive shifts and some rudimentary robot umpiring getting some testing during the season.
One of the more eyebrow-raising proposals was the idea to move the pitching rubber back 24 inches in an effort to handicap today’s breed of increasingly high-velocity hitters and to cut down on strikeouts. Well, put your eyebrow back down, because that looks like it’s not gonna happen. From Lancaster Online:
In a phone interview in June, however, Atlantic League President Rick White said Major League Baseball had decided to push the change back for consideration at the beginning of next season.
At the Atlantic League All-Star Game in July, White said there was doubt whether Major League Baseball would decide to adopt that change at all.
Players, coaches and executives alike, from within the Atlantic League and outside of it, had expressed concern over the proposed rule.
“I think you might have seen a lot of the older guys probably not pitch here,” Sugar Land Skeeters manager Pete Incaviglia said then. “I think you’d probably see a lot of them go to the American Association or Mexico or wherever, just because they’ve been doing it that way.”
In addition to the concern that players won’t want to come to the Atlantic League, you have to wonder whether injury concerns played a part. If you spend your whole life throwing from 60’6″, you have to figure that doing it from 62’6″ is going to change your mechanics and effort level and psychological approach as well. To me that’s not worth the couple of upticks in opposing batting average that idea was aimed at addressing.
If you want to cut down on strikeouts and/or increase the numbers of balls in play, alter the strike zone to take away the 97 m.p.h. fastball at the shins that no one can do a thing with anyway and call it a ball, forcing pitchers to work up, inside and outside more. I assure you, you’ll see more balls in play then.