May 1, 2000
The Daily Prospectus
Power, Part II
Thursday's column addressing the abundance of offense in baseball today inspired a significant amount of reader mail, most of it making salient points. I wanted to follow up on a couple of issues.
A couple of people pointed out that I contradicted myself, claiming that there wasn't enough evidence to say there was a "problem" with increased offense, while simultaneously offering a solution to the nominally nonexistent problem. This was poor writing on my part.
It's clear we're playing a much different game than we did in 1992, and that has been the case for a while. What I was objecting to was the feeding frenzy based on a couple of hot weeks by the Cardinals, and the idea that people were up in arms based on less than a month of the 2000 season. These conditions have existed for a while. I don't object to saying that there is a lot of offense in today's game, and that calling a reasonable strike zone is one way of impacting that.
Another big point was that more offense leads to longer games, and that game times have gotten out of hand. This is a problem, because while many people--like myself--don't mind long games, there are a hell of a lot more people who do, and they're the people baseball is in danger of alienating.
Again, I look to a realistic strike zone as the solution here. More strikes, fewer deep counts, fewer hitters' counts, fewer runs. There is also something to be said for baseball players making an effort themselves to keep a certain pace. Long games, to me, aren't as big a problem as slow games. That's something baseball can, and should, address internally, and something that is independent of runs scored.
I want to point out, though, that the highest-profile long games, the ones on network TV in the postseason, are lengthened by the additional commercial time in those games. A lot of media coverage of the issue overlooks this.
This is an era of increased offense, and that increase has contributed to a surge in the game's popularity. Some of the causes of the increase, like stronger hitters, are simple evolution of the game. Others, like the strike stamp, should be corrected in the interest of making the game as good as possible. And before anything radical comes into the picture, like raising the mound or changing the structure of the baseball, the solutions that are less intrusive should be explored fully.
I'll close with a different topic, but one that has found its way into my mailbox a lot lately. Many people have written in to ask how they can become part of the BP team or contribute articles to the Web site. The simplest answer is: send something in, to email@example.com. We'll take a look at it and if we can use it at the site, we'll let you know.
Simply from the mail we get, we know that Baseball Prospectus is lucky to have a very knowledgeable readership. I know that much of the mail I get personally is well thought out and some of the messages would make interesting articles. So if you have something you want to see published, please submit it for review.
Joe Sheehan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.