Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Zero Defects

It would appear that the number of shutouts in Major League Baseball is up, way up, the most since 1968 and 1972.  Is this a problem?

Well, it's being noticed and, as attendance is down as well, you can bet the "suits" at MLB are wondering whether or not they should do something about it.  I'm beggin'em, "Please, No!"

It was only a decade or so ago that they were fretting over the games being too long for the average fan's attention span, and also that there was embarrassingly too much offense in the game.  It was embarrassing because the skinny shortstop who had never hit more than 10 home runs in season was almost overnight looking like an NFL tight-end and pounding out 40 and more.  While steroid testing put a stop to much of that, both bringing the offense back to earth and, thereby, shortening the game as well, I think something more like the free market is a better explanation for the apparently sudden resurgence of pitching.

In the 1990s, steroids and expansion made it relatively easier to exploit an opponent's defense, which, in baseball, refers mostly to pitching.  The effects of steroids are self-evident, but why expansion?  Expansion dilutes the pool of talent for a time and time is what is inescapable if you want to produce good pitching.  While some hitters are born, most pitchers simply have to learn how to ply their trade and that takes time.  For awhile then, a premium was placed on the big hitter.  But soon, when almost everyone was knockin'em out of the park, the premium shifted to the arms that could reign in the madness and that is where we are today.

Will the current imbalance correct itself?  I'm confident it will.  When the 9th man on a 10- or 11-man pitching staff can routinely put up zeros, the market will demand a shift towards hitters who can handle it and, voilà, the supply of better hitters will slowly and steadily increase.

So, as I say, I'm praying the business end of MLB will exercise some patience and discipline and simply wait on this already near-perfect game to fix itself, which it will as this capacity for self-correction is itself part of its near perfection.  The last time they went wobbly about too little offense in the game and intervened, they instituted that "abomination of desolation" that is the designated hitter rule . (Excuse me while I spit.)

They also lowered the mound a bit, but you could say in doing that they were just leveling the playing field.

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