The 2018 MLB season is on pace to shatter the strikeout record. Shatter it into oblivion. If you look closely at the last couple decades of baseball, you had to see it coming to some extent. It’s not as though the pitchers are suddenly that much better either. The game has been changing, very slowly, right before our eyes.
I fully understand if Scherzer, Kershaw, Verlander, or Sale puts up double digit strikeouts in a game. The aces will do what aces do. But no-name pitchers, far removed from being household names, are regularly striking out batters at an alarming rate. A couple recent incidents exemplify this. The Cubs struck out 24 times in an extra inning game last week. That’s not a typo. Yesterday, in a double-header, Aaron Judge went 0-9 with 8 K. Again, not a typo. He is now the record holder for strikeouts in one day. Congrats, Aaron.
Gone are the days of hitters like Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, and Pete Rose. You know, real, complete baseball players. Players are bigger and stronger now. They’re huge. If you put an unusually large human being in the batters box who grew up watching the long ball being glorified on SportsCenter trying to hit the ball a mile, then there’s a really good chance he’ll be an easy victim of whoever is on the mound. We collectively bowed down to the home run. And baseball fed us this drug like the best pusher on the busiest corner.
Bud Selig, as well as the rest of MLB, ignored steroids for years. People were coming to the ballpark, they wanted to see power. They were spending their hard earned money. This is the root of today’s problem. I love watching a pitcher dominate a game. I even mentioned that in my last blog. But when a guy with an ERA of 5.43 is striking out batters to the tune of 13 per game, then something is wrong. It seems no one can really hit anymore. Sure, there are exceptions. But for every Trout, Harper, and Votto, there are a dozen of Chris Davis, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Joey Gallo. This isn’t baseball, in my opinion. Despite the possibility of a monster home run, the drama is lessened to the point of being predictable. The pitcher has the upper hand a vast majority of the time. I want this to change.
Unfortunately, it won’t change overnight. Or, possibly, ever. When I was growing up, Harmon Killebrew was considered huge for a baseball player. He was 6’2, 220 lbs. That’s a shortstop today. I get it, the game will change over time. All sports see this change/growth. But the change in baseball seems more of a detriment than the changes we see in other sports.
But I’ll still be tuning in, it’s baseball after all. But with the game on the line and my team facing Aaron Judge at the plate, I’m not nearly as nervous as I would’ve been years ago. And for the record, the point of this wasn’t to bash Mr Judge, but he is becoming the face of baseball while also representing the change that we’re seeing. I respect the guy, he has huge potential. Just hit the damned ball.