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What follows is not, in any way, shape or form, demonstrative evidence of
anything. It’s just interesting, worth sharing and discussing, and doesn’t
really mean diddlysquat.

Yet.

The big story this spring on the field is the effort to reestablish the
strike zone as it was originally designed. The short, elongated rectangle
of recent years is supposed to be stretched vertically and squeezed
horizontally to better reflect the rulebook zone. Along with this, there’s
a push to have all 68 umpires call a uniform zone, as opposed to the
"personalized" zones that have become the rule over the past 15
years.

The idea is that giving pitchers a higher strike will help to shift the
balance between offense and defense, a balance that has gotten a bit out of
whack since 1993. As a tradeoff, pitches will actually have to be over home
plate to get the right arm raised, which should cut down on Eric Gregg
Specials.

Now, we’re not even two weeks into exhibition games, so we’re dealing with
a data set that is both small and skewed seven ways from Sunday. It’s very,
very important that you take this stuff with a grain of salt.

Got that? OK.

All MLB                          K/9   BB/9   K/BB
2001 Exhibition (through 3/12)  6.26   2.73   2.29
2000 Exhibition (final)         5.91   3.47   1.70

2000 Regular Season 6.53 3.80 1.72

(The data for this season is pulled from CNNSI.com. Data for the 2000
exhibition season came from USAToday.com.)

Through about ten days of play in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues,
strikeouts are up, walks are way down and the ratio between the two has
skyrocketed as compared to last year’s exhibition season.

(For reference, I’ve included regular-season data. Interesting that both
rates go up, while the ratio stays about the same. My idle speculation?
Pitchers aren’t trying to fool people, batters aren’t trying to work the
count, at least not until late the in spring. The goals are different in
March. These effects cancel out.)

Again, it’s far too early to know if these trends are going to hold, or
even if they are meaningful. What I can say is that the differences are
enough to catch your attention. A week or so from now, we’ll revisit this
stuff, as well as take a look at how run scoring and batting statistics
compare to last spring and past springs. We’ll have better sample sizes at
that point, and as we go deeper into the spring, the player pool begins to
more closely reflect major-league baseball.

I’ll be back next Tuesday, but look for Dave Pease in this space Friday.

USC 78, Oklahoma State 69.

USC 81, Boston College 80.


Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Contact him by

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