Admit it, baseball games are long. Watching baseball on TV is boring. But what if changes were made to make baseball more exciting again? Over the last decade, the average length of a baseball game has eclipsed three hours. Three hours! In this modern age, more and more people would rather do something more productive in those three hours than sit down, spit sunflower seeds, and watch a baseball game. Perhaps that is why baseball is losing its fans.in order to reverse that trend, new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has proposed a couple alters to America's National Pastime. Changes like keeping one foot in the batters box at all times, no-pitch intentional walks, and a three time out limit are long shots at the time being, but pace of play clocks and a shrinking of the strike zone are the most likely to be enacted in the near future.
The first order of business are pace clocks, in fact, they have already been placed in Minor League Ballparks. Unfavorable to hitters and pitchers, these changes have been openly opposed. Pitchers that have slow windups and other preparations (example Bud Norris) have been scrutinized, and batters call time out, adjust their batting gloves and their helmet, and take a deep breath (example Jonny Gomes). On the contrary, the key to reviving offense is to take advantage of all the scouting reports that are available. Hitters need to prepare for each pitch, pitcher, and situation. These breaks inbetween pitches are to mentally recall and prepare for what to do and what to swing at when the time is right. In my opinion, this is what slows down games. Over the course of the 2015 season, baseball operatives will need to figure out how to adress this issue without altering the batter's preparation or deplete the already depleted offense. If all goes well, baseball should be increasing in pace by the year 2016.
Pitch clocks have already been instituted in the Minor Leagues, all the way up through the Triple-A level. It is only a matter of time before this system hits the Majors. In my opinion, the best case scenario would be that Minor Leaguers would have the timely tempo and preparation ingrained into their system when they reach the Major Leagues. Meanwhile current Major Leaguers will make adjustments, if nessisary, and will filter out of the game. This new generation of hitters and pitchers, with my proposed solution, will take years to come to fruitition, but will have better reception among the players and fans. Pitch clocks add stress to the game, but to save the game of baseball, which one would you rather have?
Another proposed solution in MLB is the shrinking of the strike zone. As pitchers have gotten better over the last few years, they have expanded the strike zone through their success. Borderline pitches, high or low, inside or outside, are becoming strikes. Could that be because of the increase of movement on pitches? For example, a slider that starts in the strike zone then tails outside is now a strike. Batters are striking out more often. Offense is dying and something needs to change. Shrinking the strike zone will now call that same slider a ball. Pitchers will throw less strike outs, and batters will walk more. Batters will have more pitches to hit, resulting in more rallies and an increase in offense. But each strike zone is determined by the home plate umpire's point of view. Until baseball has a robot umpire or a universal strike zone, the strike zone will never be perfect. But shrinking it is a great start.
In my opinion, shrinking the strike zone is the best option to improve offense, and the best to integrate in the near future. The change would make more fans come out to watch, hoping for a homerun. Fans come out to the ballpark for one of three reasons: to see their favorite player, for pure enjoyment, or to be in attendance when the winning homerun clears the outfield wall. They jump to their feet and cheer and whistle and go crazy. This euphoric moment is what all baseball fans crave. Shrinking the strike zone will increase the chances of the batter recieving a good pitch to put in play, which would also increase the chances of that same pitch going over the wall. Shrinking the strike zone will seperate the great pitchers from the good, and the good pitchers from the mediocre. I believe that shrinking the strike zone will prove beneficial because it will increase attendance and popularity and will revive the slumping offense all across Major League Baseball.