In its zeal to add excitement to the game and tilt the playing field back toward beleaguered hitters, Major League Baseball on Wednesday announced its most ambitious experiment to be carried out in its minor-league laboratories: Moving the pitching back one foot, to 61 feet, 6 inches.
The change will occur in the second half of the Atlantic League season as MLB once again will use the affiliated but independent minor league to workshop potentially massive changes to the game at the big league level.
Some experiments failed to gain traction – such as the “stealing first base on a passed ball” concept.
Others are now viewed as imminent – such as the automated ball-strike system, or “robot” umpire.
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And others actually made it to the major leagues – such as the three-batter minimum that has handcuffed managers while also failing to cut down on the length of games.
Now, as average fastball creeps toward 95 mph and strikeouts annually outpace hits, MLB is hoping to reverse a 15-year trend of strikeout rates increasing from 16.4% of all plate appearances in 2005 to a record 23.4% in 2020.
In announcing the experiment, MLB says moving the mound back by a foot will convert a 93.3 mph fastball (the major league average in 2020) to a 91.6 mph fastball. Nearly three dozen pitchers who threw at least 80 innings in 2019 – the last full season – average nearly 95 mph per fastball, which would theoretically make their heaters easier to handle while, perhaps, impacting the bite of their secondary offerings, as well.
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