Chicks Dig the 0-2 Curveball: Why Dominant Pitching and the Demise of Sluggers is Good for Baseball
(Originally featured on the PlayUp US Blog)
Chicks dig the long ball, right?
Of course; just ask Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.
But if this is the case, then the style of play with which the game of baseball is currently trending is not only seeing Major League hitters striking out at the plate, but with the ladies as well.
In the year 2000, roughly the period when people around the league started scratching their heads in confusion as to why players seemed to be getting bigger and hitting balls farther, there were a record 24,971 runs scored. That’s good for an average of 5.14 runs per game, per team.
Now, to be fair, that’s no 10.47 runs/game like the good ol’ boys plated in 1871, but it’s still something.
From 1986 (Jose Canseco’s rookie year - just sayin’) through 2000, the runs scored number spiked from 18,545 to the aforementioned 24,971. Obviously, we all know why. It all had to do with better nutrition advice, right?
All kidding aside, since MLB decided to take the blinders off and start cracking down on steroid users, the offensive game displayed on the field has undeniably taken a hit. And with the offense went the ratings.
The number of runs scored per season has significantly decreased since 2000, with a skimpy 20,808 scored last season. Last year, fittingly dubbed “The Season of the Pitcher”, was the least amount of runs scored since 1995, when teams combined for 19,554 tallies, fresh off the 1994 strike and almost certainly rusty.
Going back a decade of World Series TV ratings, when Luis Gonzalez hit the game-winning bloop single in Game 7 in 2001, it wrapped up an average of 24.528 million viewers. Last season’s St. Louis Cardinals/Texas Rangers series saw 16.6 million. Throw in a record-low 13.635 million in 2008 for Philadelphia and Tampa Bay and something is clearly up.
People aren’t watching baseball anymore.
Is it because it isn’t as exciting without all of the fuss and muss over homers and high-scoring games?
But guess what -- it’s good for the game of baseball.
Everything started to get out of hand with the pace that players were hitting home runs and with the amount of offense being patrolled out onto the field. Pitchers couldn’t catch up. They had to adopt new strategies and workout routines and start to think more about situations and pitch locations, instead of just trying to chuck it past the batter.
Now that offensive players have mostly been brought back down to earth, these new breed of pitchers have continued to evolve into the dominant mound presences we continue to see today. This leaves the game a pitching-first, defense-second, offense-third product, driving away fringe fans and the abomination known as the pink hat.
Everyone should be OK with this -- think about it.
What happened when the pitchers were overwhelmed and overmatched by the powerful bats of anabolically-charged hitters?
Don’t you think now that hitters are being left looking silly more often and there seems to be a no-hitter every other night of the week, the guys holding the bats will look for other ways to get the advantage?
Of course they will, only this time needles and creams won’t be the answer.
Overweight, out-of-shape power hitters are rapidly being phased out of the game as more and more naturally-athletic and determined, hard-working players are entering the league and starting to succeed.
As more players like Matt Kemp and Mike Trout start to become more the norm and guys like Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman are a thing of the past, the offensive aspect of the game will be back on the upswing.
And won’t it be nice to know that players are succeeding solely for the work that they put in off the field and not what they do with a trainer behind closed doors?