Bill James has a couple of interesting articles up on his subscription site. The first one quickly chronicles the history and inexorable rise of the strikeout. To sum up: “Strikeout rates have increased in the majors in every decade since 1920, except for the 1970s.”
The strikeout has gained ground steadily for many, many years for two fundamental reasons: strikeouts are good things for pitchers and not necessarily bad things for batters. Theoretically, the rise in strikeouts could end someday, but there is nothing stopping it right now. In fact, the rate of increase has grown in recent years.
But Bill has an objection:
Strikeouts, observed that great philosopher Crash Davis, are boring—and they’re fascist. Strikeouts minimize the need for defensive play, thus taking the fielders out of the game. If we want to live to see the end of the Dave Kingman generation, we need to take deliberate actions to bring about the end of it.
In a follow-up piece, Bill raises specific ideas for slowing the strikeout takeover, primarily shrinking the edges of the strike zone while simultaneously doing other things to deaden the impact of the batted ball, such as regulating “deader” balls and thicker bat handles.
What do people think? Is the strikeout strangling the game? Is it time to fundamentally change some of the playing conditions to make the game more interesting again? My replies: yes and yes.