Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Has anyone else noticed?

I've seen something different this season in Major League Baseball. Maybe it didn't start this year; maybe it's been this way for a decade and I just haven't noticed it. It seems like a very minor thing, but I think it's having a pretty big impact on how the game is played.

Has anyone else noticed that when a batter is bunting, he doesn't have to pull the bat back any more to avoid a strike call?

Let me flesh that out a little. The rules state that when a player squares around to bunt, if he doesn't make contact, it's a strike. But if the player pulls the bat back out of the strike zone before the pitch crosses the plate - and if the pitch isn't in the strike zone - it's called a ball.

Seems like batters don't have to pull the bat back anymore, though. All they have to do is twitch the bat back toward them the slightest little bit. On top of that, it seems even if the pitch is right down the middle, it's still called a ball.

This reminds me of the apparent change in the "traveling" rule in pro basketball, by which I mean the traveling rule doesn't exist any more in pro basketball.

It's just another way to give hitters an advantage over pitchers. The juiced ball made every ballpark a hitter's park. Then the strike zone shrank, turning hittable pitches from the letters to the waist into balls. Then players started wearing Desert Storm-worthy body armor, allowing sluggers to crowd the plate, putting outer-half strikes right into the hitter's wheelhouse.

Now, this newest rule change has even given hitters an advantage when it comes to small ball.

It's a rough time to be a pitcher. No wonder more hurlers are turning to steroids - hitters have so many legal ways to cheat.

--Matt Kelsey

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