Hitting or Pitching? What Is Causing This Year's Perfect Games?
Baseball history was made yesterday when Felix Hernandez pitched a gem and recorded the 23rd perfect game ever. His perfect game was the 3rd this year which is a Major League record.
The first perfect game was thrown back in 1880, and since then 22 more pitchers have accomplished the feat. If you spread 23 perfect games out over that time the average would be 1 perfect game every 5 years. So how do you explain the fact that there have been 3 this year and 6 total in the last 3 years? There have also been 3 no-hitters this year to go along with those 3 perfect games.
I think it begs the question, is the pitching getting that much better or hitting that much worse?
An argument can be made for either, so let's take a look at both sides of the coin.
Here are a few reason to support pitchers getting better:
1. Velocity - There is no doubt that the velocity of pitchers is increasing. It wasn't that long ago that an average fastball was 87-90MPH. Now that average has increased to 90-92MPH with more pitchers touching 95MPH than ever before.
2. Pitch Repertoire - Pitchers have equipped themselves with different weapons to attack hitters. The days where a pitcher had a Fastball, Curveball, Change-up have diminished. Instead pitchers have added cutters, two-seam fastballs, and sinkers to their arsenal. Look no further than Roy Halladay who is the best example of a sinker ball pitcher in the game today.
3. Statistics and Research - There is a lot more information available to pitchers regarding the hitter's tendencies. They have access to advanced digital information including spray charts and hitters' hot and cold zones. Even the defensive strategies have changed due to this information as now you see a lot more shifts and agressive alignments.
Let's take a look at the hitters:
1. Hitters' stats have been declinig steadily over the last decade. Two of the biggest stats affected in the Major Leagues; batting average is the lowest it has been since the 1970's sitting at around .255 and homeruns per game are around 0.94/game, lowest since 1993.
2. Strikeouts - The strikeout rate for hitters is way up. Now this could be argued as a reason pitchers are better but I think that the mentality of a hitter has changed. I'm sure the players could all go up there and just try to make contact and put the ball in play, but that mentality didn't get them to the pros and definitely won't keep them there.
3. No More PED's - With performance enhancing drugs (PED's) no longer a factor, hitters have taken the biggest hit. Sure you might say that pitchers were on them too, but perhaps not nearly as many as hitters. The advantage was clearly in the hitter's favour, just look at what players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa were able to do. That's just to name a few.
So you be the judge - are pitchers getting better or hitters getting worse? Maybe you just feel the playing field has been leveled. Let us know what you think and leave a comment below.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to your thoughts.
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