Thor­ough stud­ies must pre­cede change

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS | BASEBALL - Ted Berg For The Win USA TO­DAY Net­work

This is an ex­tremely mild take, so I will present it the hottest way pos­si­ble:

Hell yeah, Ma­jor League Base­ball should ex­plore mov­ing back the pitcher’s mound!

Are you se­ri­ous? MLB saw rev­enue blow past $10 bil­lion in 2018, and there is no bet­ter way I know of to in­vest some of that wind­fall than putting to­gether ex­ploratory com­mit­tees to ex­am­ine all sorts of changes to the game, mild and wild.

Strike­outs have been on the rise in the sport for more than a decade now be­cause pitch­ers throw harder than ever be­fore and teams de­ploy their pitch­ers in smarter ways, and now all of a sud­den ev­ery sin­gle bullpen has five dudes who throw 98 with Nin­tendo slid­ers.

To counter the trend, Jayson Stark re­ports at The Ath­letic, MLB has pro­posed putting to­gether a joint com­mit­tee with the union to study the effects of mov­ing the pitcher’s rub­ber back from the 60-foot 6-inch stan­dard set in 1893.

If they put me in charge of the league and some por­tion of the phe­nom­e­nal base­ball for­tune that sud­denly no one is eager to share with great play­ers, I would com­mis­sion the heck out of that study.

What hap­pens if the rub­ber is, say, 61 feet away? Does that small differ­ence com­pen­sate for the mas­sive leaguewide in­crease in ve­loc­ity that has come with bet­ter train­ing meth­ods and im­prove­ments in the un­der­stand­ing of me­chan­ics? Will there be more balls in play? More dingers? It’d be cool to find out.

I’m not say­ing they should do it, of course. That’s way too rash! It’s the type of de­ci­sion you want to make only af­ter the tire­less work of an ex­ploratory com­mit­tee es­tab­lishes a firm hy­poth­e­sis pre­dict­ing its effects.

The pro­posed group, Stark re­ports, would com­prise two rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the league and two from the union, and it is my strong and con­sid­ered opin­ion that four peo­ple are not nearly enough to un­cover all of the data nec­es­sary to bet­ter un­der­stand this. Would such a change have differ­ent effects on differ­ent pitches? What if it made curve­balls more effec­tive and slid­ers less so? What if it made cut­ters un­hit­table?

I want our na­tion’s top physi­cists all weigh­ing in on this, and I want them work­ing in con­cert with the world’s best ki­ne­si­ol­o­gists to de­ter­mine if the new dis­tance would change the way pitch­ers throw and jeop­ar­dize their health. I want data on the av­er­age MLB hit­ter’s vi­sion and re­ac­tion time so we can know if it’d make any differ­ence on how of­ten they swing and miss.

There should be whole cour­ses at M.I.T. and Cal­Tech called, “What If We Mess With Base­ball,” maybe as an in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary pur­suit cov­er­ing physics and eco­nomics. There should be whole ma­jors in mess­ing with base­ball, even. Grad-school course­work, too, and grants for in­de­pen­dent stud­ies. Our na­tion’s best and bright­est need to be en­gaged in the no­ble pur­suit of de­ter­min­ing what would hap­pen if they change fun­da­men­tal as­pects of base­ball.

What hap­pens if the mound is at 70 feet? What hap­pens if there’s no mound at all, and now the sec­ond base­man has to pitch? What if you’re only al­lowed to have two outfiel­ders? What if they add an ex­tra seam to the base­ball, in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions? What if some­one up­grades Google Glass and lets hit­ters wear it to rec­og­nize spin? What if all man­agers are re­placed by ar­tificial in­tel­li­gence?

I’d like to know this stuff, and it’s im­por­tant that Ma­jor League Base­ball ex­plore it.


Will this man soon have to walk slightly far­ther to rake the mound?

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