When Major League Baseball first proposed the idea of instant replay to help get the majority of calls correct each season in baseball games around the country, I was all for it. More recently, the somewhat controversial idea of an electronic strike zone in the future to help get balls and strikes correct has me on board as well. But the push to possibly once again change the size of the strike zone has me questioning the plan just a bit.
The idea behind the proposition is that the lower portion of the strike zone be moved up from its current point of below the knee to just above the knee, as it was before the change in 1996 to its current reading of the rule. Although the change wouldn’t likely take place until the 2017 season at the earliest, leaving a lot of time to work things out, I don’t really like the thought of shrinking the strike zone for a number of reasons.
First of all, pitchers who make their living working down in the zone wouldn’t be as effective anymore — the most obvious negative impact of a zone change. All of their lives pitchers have been taught to keep the ball down to limit the amount of solid contact by the hitter, but with the change they’d have to rework their mindset altogether.
On the flip side, hitters would likely see an immediate increase in the number of hittable pitches they receive. By making the pitcher throw the ball a couple of inches higher, the hitter would be able to wait out balls that were formerly called strikes until they received their pitch just a bit higher in the zone. While an inch or two may not seem like a ton, in a game where a centimeter is the difference in a home run and a fly ball to the warning track, it could make a big difference.
But while the hitter would be helped by the change, with pitchers getting the short end of the stick, it would likely be the umpires who are left having to do the most adjusting. For veterans who have been calling pitches right at the knees strikes for years, it would take a lot of time for them to make the change, in my opinion. For me, although human error is part of the game, the larger focus needs to be put on umpires knowing where the strike zone is supposed to be and calling a consistent zone all night long, both up, down, left and right (something that has been a bit of an issue over the history of baseball).
In the end, no matter where you stand on a change in the strike zone, such a change has unavoidable impact. While the move is seemingly to boost offense in baseball that has seen somewhat of a decline in recent years, I feel that offense and pitching performance are right where they need to be. After all, fifteen payers hit 35 or more home runs in 2015, with there being 18 pitchers to strike out 200 batters (including Clayton Kershaw’s 301 K’s). The best of the best players always find a way to post amazing numbers each season, whether they’re a pitcher or hitter.