George Hale takes at look at how MLB has changed over time

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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL HAS REACHED THE ONE-QUARTER MARK OF THE
2019 SEASON . WITH THREE FOURTHS OF THE CAMPAIGN STILL TO GO MANY THINGS ARE LIKELY TO CHANGE FROM WHERE THEY ARE NOW. BUT THERE IS ONE THING I DO KNOW. THE GREAT AMERICAN GAME OF BASEBALL IS NOT THE SAME GAME WE GREW UP
WITH OR EVEN WATCHED A FEW YEARS AGO. CONSIDER A FEW FACTS.

HOME RUNS CONTINUE TO APPROACH RECORD LEVELS. ON AVERAGE YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE 2.6 DINGERS IN EVERY GAME BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. BATTERS ARE STRIKING OUT IN RECORD NUMBERS. PITCHERS ARE WALKING BATTERS AT A HIGH RATE. IF YOU COMBINE STRIKEOUTS, WALKS AND HOMERS THAT’S WHAT YOU SEE 36 PERCENT OF THE TIME.

CONTRARY TO WHAT SOME FANS THINK PITCHING STATS ARE GREAT WHEN YOU CONSIDER THAT A BATTER HITS MORE FOUL BALLS THAN THE TIME HE PUTS THE BALL IN
FAIR TERRITORY . ON AVERAGE EACH GAME HAS 252 PITCHES WHEN THE BALL IS NOT HIT INTO FAIR TERRITORY.

I’M NOT GOING TO BORE YOU WITH ANY MORE NUMBERS AND STATS EVEN THOUGH
I REALLY COULD. THE WORD IS analytics. IN THIS COMPUTER WORLD OF OURS WE NOW KNOW MORE ABOUT THE GAME ITSELF THAN EVER BEFORE.

WE NOW TALK ABOUT LAUNCH ANGLES, EXIT SPEED, DISTANCE TRAVELED AND A
MERIOD OF OTHER FACTS . EVERY TEAM HAS A DEFENSIVE SHIFT FOR EACH BATTER BECAUSE THEY KNOW THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF WHERE THE BALL IS LIKELY TO BE HIT. THROW INSTANT REPLAY INTO THE MIX AND WE SEE A GAME THAT JUST SOMEWHAT RESEMBLES WHAT WE GREW UPWITH.

THE HOME RUN IS THE FAN FAVORITE. BASEBALL OWNERS KNOW THAT TO FILL SEATS IN THE STANDS, CERTAINLY IN YOUNGER DEMOS, THE BALL NEEDS TO LEAVE THE PARK.
PITCHERS DUELS AND STATION TO STATION BASEBALL GAMES ARE NO LONGER
INTERESTING TO SOME VIEWERS. OF GREAT INTEREST TO ME IS THE BASEBALL ITSELF.
THE BALL SEEMS TO LEAVE THE PARK FASTER, HIGHER AND FARTHER THAN IN
PAST YEARS. MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL HAS DENIED THE BALL IS NOW “JUICED” BUT THEY NO LONGER CAN DENY THAT IT’S LIVELIER.

BASEBALLS ARE NOW STITCHED TIGHTER WHICH PRODUCES LESS DRAG AS IT
FLYS THRU THE AIR. IN OTHER WORDS THE SPHERE IS MORE AERODYNAMIC THAN IT USED TO BE. EVEN SMALL SIZE PLAYERS SWING FOR THE FENCES . WHEN MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL SWITCHED TO THE SAME BALL MAJOR LEAGUERS USE THE RESULT WAS SIMILAR.

A DRAMATIC INCREASE IN HOME RUNS. SO THERE IS NO ARGUMENT ANYMORE ABOUT THE HITTERS HAVING A DISTINCT ADVANTAGE OVER THE PITCHER IN A GIVEN SITUATION.
A BALL HIT INTO THE AIR IN A MAJOR LEAGUE BALLPARK IS MORE LIKELY TO BE A HOMERUN A HIGHER PERCENTAGE OF THE TIME NOW THAN IT WAS JUST FOUR YEARS AGO.

HERE’S AN EXAMPLE. SINCE TRIPLE A BEGAN USING THE SAME HAND-STITCHED BASEBALLS USED IN THE MAJORS THE RESULT IS STUNNING. MANY TEAMS HAVE RECORDED TWICE THE NUMBER OF HOMERS THEY HIT LAST SEASON AT THE SAME POINT IN TIME. LAST YEAR PITCHERS WERE THROWING A CHEAPER BASEBALL WITH HIGHER SEAMS AND THUS MORE DRAG.

THERE IS AN UPSIDE TO ALL THIS SINCE THE PITCHERS WILL BE USED TO THE BALL
WHEN AND IF THEY GET CALLED UP TO THE BIG SHOW. MY POINT IS SIMPLY THAT IT ISN’T ALWAYS THE PITCHERS FAULT WHEN HE GIVES UP A HOME RUN. THE ANNOUNCER WILL INTONE THAT “ HE MADE A MISTAKE”WHEN ACTUALLY THE HURLER THREW A PRETTY GOOD PITCH.

IN HIS BRILLIANT PERFORMANCE THIS WEEK CHRIS SALE OF THE RED SOX STRUCK OUT 17 BATTER IN 7 INNINGS BUT GAVE UP A CRITICAL HOME RUN. DID HE MAKE A BAD PITCH OR WAS IT OTHER FACTORS AT PLAY? TODAYS GAME IS SIMPLY DIFFERENT FANS SEEM TO LOVE SLUG FESTS, WALK OFF HOMERS AND ALL THE REST. A 2-1 BATTLE WITH PITCHERS GOING DEEP INTO THE GAME IS NOT WHAT THEY SHOW UP FOR ANYMORE.

JUST REMEMBER THAT FENCES WERE ORIGINALLY PLACED AROUND BASEBALL FIELDS
NOT TO RECORD HOME RUNS BUT TO KEEP FANS OFF THE FIELD.
A GUY NAMED BABE RUTH CAME ALONG AND CHANGED ALL OF THAT.

THIS IS GEORGE HALE WITH MY PERSPECTIVE ON SPORTS