Baseball: What's Changed?

It's been 1,856 days since the last Seamhead blog post. That's a little over 5 years. That's approximately 29,000 Major League home runs. Sometimes, it's important to take some time away from doing something that you love. I didn't intend for it to be five years, but sometimes life takes on a different speed than your best intentions do. With that, over the past summer, I had made a goal of resetting this blog by the beginning of the 2019 World Series. It would be easy because the Dodgers were so good and I'd have new ideas just flowing away. Dave Roberts decided differently on that.

With Game 1 of the '19 WS upon us, I almost find myself refreshed that I don't necessarily have a team to root for. That's actually a lie, but I can actually appreciate components of both the Nationals and the Astros without being heartbroken or enamored with either one. I like watching Strasburg, Altuve, Rendon, Bregman, I appreciate the storyline of a long-timer like Ryan Zimmerman getting a chance to play on the big stage. I like being able to wrestle with my old school standards by contrasting the different walk-off styles between Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. "Let The Kids Play," they say.

And maybe that is the primary thing that has changed since I last wrote on this blog. There's a new wave of players, ideas, analytics, style of play - and I like it. I haven't taken time off from the game. I just took some time off from writing a blog about the game. Although it could be a much deeper list, I'm breaking down the Top 5 things that have dramatically changed in Major League Baseball in the last 5 years. It's not comprehensive, and I likely missed a few big ones, but these stand out for me.

1. Home Runs

So many home runs. There were 6,776 home runs hit in the major leagues in 2019. That sounds like a big number because it is. The 6000 dinger mark has only been surpassed once. That was in 2017. Essentially, the MLB game has turned into a launch angle festival. The minor leagues, the collegiate ranks, and down to youth baseball have followed this trend. In and of itself, it's not really a bad thing. Long balls are exciting. Big swings are exciting. Runs scored in bursts are exciting. The drawback? See No. 2.

2. Strikeouts

So many K's. So, so many whiffs. So many 3-1 swings on 0-2 counts. There were 42.823 strikeouts in the Major Leagues in 2019. I know that sounds like a big number. It's a huge number. MLB has eclipsed 40,000 strikeouts two other times. You guessed it. Those years were 2017 (40,104) and 2018 (41,207). Just to contrast, in 1968 - "The Year of the Pitcher" - there were 19,143 K's across the Majors. That's a lot of swinging and missing. Does it bother you? For me, during the course of the regular season, it doesn't tend to stand out quite the same way as it does in the Postseason. In the Playoffs, the repeated failings to "keep the line moving" can be excruciating.

3. Bullpen Games

I didn't pitch much. I don't write about pitching a whole lot. Bullpen games are a newer phenomenon, and the jury is still out as to whether this trend will stick or pass. I haven't decided on whether I hate it or just accept it. I mean, an "opener" is not really a "starter", and even if he shreds through the lineup, he's getting 2-3 innings tops. But, I get the reasoning behind it and find myself slightly enjoying the increased pressure for in-game management. We'll see.

4. The "Juiced Ball"

Juiced. It's one thing or another isn't it? There's got to be a reason for the increase in HRs right? Beyond all of the violent launch angle oriented swings, all the 95+ MPH fastballs, a massive increase in analytics and strategy, and maybe - just maybe - better equipment and manufacturing processes, it has to be the ball, right? I don't know. It might be the ball. I saw quite a few surprisingly pedestrian F7's or F9's find the seats this year. I'm not a scientist, and I haven't gotten to hit a bucket of pearls in a big league cage this year (or ever), but my gut says this is a perfect storm. Everything is juiced. Relax for now. Let's let it play out.

5. "The Statcast Era"

This change is actually pretty bad ass. Seamheads like to be able to have a measurement, goal, or rating system on any and every thing that can happen on the diamond. Yeah, it gets old hearing phrases like, "Stanton's ground ball single is the hardest hit ball in 'The Statcast Era', but give it a few years. They've only been measuring this data consistently and publicly for a short amount of time. It's actually pretty fun. I'll spend some time very soon breaking down all of these new measurements in greater detail.

Oh, and you'll note that I chose Joey Gallo of the Texas Rangers as the marquee for this post. He's actually the perfect example for the changes in the game over the last 5 years. Earlier this year, he became the first Major Leaguer to hit 100 career home runs BEFORE reaching 100 singles. Think about that. And those 100 dingers are impressive to watch. He hits the living shit out of the ball. Oh his 5 year career, he's averaged 231 strikeouts per 162 games played.

Enjoy the Fall Classic!

Predicition: Houston in 6