The Strike Zone and the Future of Baseball

This is a few days old by now, but I'm just getting around to catching up on things. Over at The Atlantic, Derek Thompson has a piece up that takes a look at baseball's Pitch f/x technology and how it, rather than steroids, may be more to blame for the decrease in offense in recent years.

Of note, he has a chart that shows the yearly accuracy rate of called strikes between 2007 and 2013. In 2007, around 83-84% of calls were made properly. By the end of 2013, that accuracy rate had reached just under 88%, a significant difference  when you consider exactly how many pitches are thrown over the course of a season.

As the strikes moved down, the strikeouts went up. Swinging strikeouts are up 11 percent since 2008. Called strikeouts (on third strikes without a swing) are up 66 percent. The entire increase in strikeouts is happening on pitches between 18 and 24 inches off the ground.
— Derek Thompson

In other words, the lower part of the strike zone, which was not often called for decades, suddenly became a major advantage for pitchers.

I've long been hesitant to place the sole responsibility of the decline in offense on steroid policies, and it's something that Thompson seems to believe as well, especially when he notes that the minor league drug policy hasn't seemed to have the same effect on those levels, although it's certainly a bit more debatable when we don't have the same technologies at our disposal and the talent level is vastly different.

In any case, it's a piece definitely worth taking a look at, and whether you agree with his assessment or not, hopefully you'll find it somewhat enlightening and interesting.