The Evolution of Baseball

In case you have been living under a rock, you can appreciate (or maybe you don’t) that the Grand Old Game of Baseball is changing.

  • Instant Replay has been implemented and will take an even more prominent role in the near future;
  • You can’t kill the catcher or the guy at 2B anymore;
  • Electronic Balls and Strikes are right around the corner;
  • The Pitch Clock will speed up the pace of play;
  • Visits to the mound by the staff or catcher will be limited;
  • The DH is coming to the NL… sooner than later;
  • Starting pitchers are a dying breed – teams are settling for 4 or 5 innings; and
  • You are going to see more-and-more pitchers who can pitch multiple innings in relief.

Many old-timers don’t like it!  You can always take up curling, I guess.  Change is inevitable… well, unless you die, but that itself, is a change. I think the Dodgers will continue to be at the forefront of this change.  Kenta Maeda is a classic case.  He was a below-average starter, but in the pen he could pitch 1,2 or 3 innings and was lights out.  What if you have 4 more guys like Maeda?  Stewart is THAT guy.  Walker Buehler might be that guy.  Santana might be that guy.  Cingrani could be THAT guy.

I think you are going to see more teams with an Ace like Clayton Kerhshaw, who can go 6, 7 or 8 innings and a stable of 3 to 5 more guys who can pitch multiple innings.  The facts are clear: In the past 5 years, the Dodgers have had the best ERA in baseball for their starters, but three teams have had better ERA’s from their bullpens. However, during the past two years, the Dodgers have had better ERA’s from their pen.  Change is in the air.

In September and October 2018, I could see Urias, Buehler, Stewart, Santana and Maeda in the pen – all capable pitching multiple innings. Change is in the air.  Embrace it… or die!

UPDATE

  • Joc Pederson is looking visibly different.  I think the Dodgers have to keep him and see what he can do. Kids mature differently – maybe he’s just starting to realize how hard he has to work and how serious he has to take this.  There is thunder in his bat, and if he is slimmer, stronger, faster and has more endurance, it just might play out very well.
  • The Winter Meetings are over and the Dodgers didn’t blink. In Friedman’s first year he was called a fool for making all those trades.  Now, he’s a fool for not making any.  Some fans are calling for his head.  How delusional can one get?

Baseball Photograph – Baseball Glove Evolution by David Bearden

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don't do game recaps or such things -- lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don't think they are the "end-all-be-all.". This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We'd like to hear your voice.

This article has 47 Comments

  1. Hey, I resemble that old-timer remark. Curling? I don’t even watch that during the Olympics. Something about sweeping ice?!?! No thanks.
    .
    Admittedly I do not like all of the changes, but I agree they are coming. Many of us grew up late 50’s early 60’s and still harken back to the “good old days”. I still listen to Classic Rock, so you know where I fall in. Bob Seger had it right.
    .
    There used to be unlimited trips to the mound for coaches and managers, and that got changed. Bunting is now a lost art. Launch angles is now considered common nomenclature. Framing is now measured. Relievers are now so important that they are getting into the HOF. What’s next the pure DH for the HOF? Okay, Edgar Martinez deserves to be in the HOF, and it will be tough to keep Big Papi out.
    .
    I was always against instant replay. I liked the human element. But then I wasn’t a Cardinals fan in ’85 with Don Denkinger as the 1B umpire in Game 6 of the WS. And Angel Hernandez should never umpire another game. However, you cannot have instant replay and then complain about how long the game is taking.
    .
    I think the game has evolved from one of pure physical to one both physical and cerebral. It used to be , “I will throw out my best nine against your best nine, and let’s see who wins”. Now it’s every move is countered with the manager trying to outthink and out strategize the opposing team. There are still great athletes (even more athletic), but now there are more of them. 25 man rosters were once thought of as too many. Now not enough.
    .
    IMO the biggest change, and the change that is the impetus for most changes is…. $$$$$$. The players are no longer seen as just players, but are now assets that need to be protected as any investment. WAR is another common term today, but it is only baseball’s version of return on investment. Pitchers used to pitch until they couldn’t. Now pitchers are told to go as hard as they can for an abbreviated time because someone will pick them up. There are improved medical procedures and training to protect that investment. How many rotator cuff injuries do we hear about today. TJ surgery is no longer the death sentence that it used to be. Soon labrum surgeries will be less of a concern. Who the devil ever heard of thoracic outlet syndrome in the 60’s?
    .
    With all due respect, the biggest change in MLB has been free agency.

  2. It appears the Madres are going to be getting Freddy Galvis as their SS until Fernando Tatis Jr. is ready (soon, very soon). It has not been reported what SD traded to Philly, but I would not think much. The Phillies wanted to move Galvis as much as SD needed a short term solution.

  3. 1970’s and 80’s are a blur in my baseball memories due to training, family, career, life, etc. Couldn’t remember exactly how it started in the AL and not NL.

    Ended up on Wikipedia. Interesting how the Phillies owner’s fishing trip may have prevented the NL from instituting the DH.

    Also DH seems to have evolved from a single player on the team to a couple day rest spot for older players.

    Not a fan of DH. One reason I now follow NL Dodgers rather than my childhood AL team. I’ve resigned myself to the DH becoming a NL reality.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Designated_hitter

  4. OK – change is inevitable. But don’t throw out the good while you are changing things.

    I don’t like the DH. It eliminates too many strategy points from the game.

    SABRphiles don’t like the SB – risks an out and all of that. Dodger fans of a certain age will tell you that but for Maury Wills and his baserunning escapades, the Dodgers don’t win the pennant in ’65 or ’66. There is more than one way to win and more than one way to score a run. I have always thought that Maury belongs in the HOF. WAR doesn’t like him but WAR is based on stats and not on real life events.

    WAR doesn’t like Steve Garvey either. But playing every day, getting 200 hits every year, playing good defense, and being a clutch hitter (SABR doesn’t believe in that either) matters. There is a reason that the Padres suddenly became good after the Dodgers let Garvey go. He deserves HOF consideration too.

    There is a problem with applying current day standards to what’s good and what isn’t to players who played 40 or 50 years ago.

    I side with AC – I like the human element and would prefer not to have a computer call balls and strikes. I’m not wild about so-called “instant” replay (which isn’t instant). Yeah – umps miss calls – but it’s part of the game too. The game is played by human beings and not machines or computers.

    Pitchers should be capable of throwing more than 5 innings (or less these days) without turning into pumpkins. Throwing hard isn’t the end all and be all. Knowing how to pitch, how to set up hitters, good movement are all more important than pure velocity. (Otherwise, Greg Maddux wouldn’t have been Greg Maddux and Nolan Ryan would have been better than a .500 pitcher.) Athletes all train for the specifics of the event that they compete in. A miler doesn’t run sprints to train to run a distance. Starting pitchers can train to pitch more innings. The fact that they lose their stuff after a few innings has more to do with conditioning, both physical and mental, than limitations of the arm.

    The biggest problem with pace of play is all of the pitching changes and related player movement during a game. When the average game saw 1 – 2 pitchers per team, there was less pinchhitting and fewer doubleswitches and so forth. A slow pitcher like Lou Burdette or a guy who stepped out of the box after every pitch like Nomar didn’t slow the game as much as a manager who comes to the mound to make 7 pitching changes in a game. Now that would be a rule change that I could get behind.

  5. I feel the same way about Joc. It seemed to me that something clicked for him and resulted in him having a good world series. If he works on that new swing and hones it like Taylor and JT have and increases his conditioning he could have a breakout season. That could allow the Dodgers to trade Logan if they wished and move Taylor to second base. I also think that Turner Ward could help Joc as he has helped Puig become a more selective hitter. Speaking of Puig, I was very pleased with his progress last year. I expect him to be even better next year.

    I have a day off today so I can post from my PC and I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone here a very merry Christmas and a great New Year!

  6. Lets give 2 runs for HRs more than 450 feet. Expand active roster to 40 and have unlimited subs. Have a defense and offense team. Make the pitcher stay on the rubber and throw the ball as soon as he receives it, eliminate any wind up and save a lot of time. Eliminate the mound and have the pitcher throw from 2nd base. Eliminate pitching changes all together. Instal a game clock and have ties. Eliminate all the rules that make the game different from the concussive brain damage sport and basketball. Maybe give the base runners blockers and a defensive line at home plate.

    1. … and some think I am crazy! 😉

      I do like idea of pitching from 2B. 😉

      FUNNY TRUE STORY: I once (one time) played a game in a No Holds Barred Softball League and the pitcher for the other team had a bike helmet, catchers mast, chest protector and shin guards. When he released the ball, he would run towards the plate, screaming at the top of his lungs. I totally missed the first pitch, but on the second one, he must have been 15 feet from home plate when I knocked him off his feet with a line drive to his chest. He stayed down for about 20 seconds, jumped back up and started his routine again. I hit him twice and I think the rest of the team got him twice. We lost, but I don’t remember the score. Beer may have been involved. It was a hoot!

  7. I am “old school”. Don’t like DH and many other changes, but with changes that are taking place, why does the starting pitcher have to pitch 5 innings to receive a win while a relief pitcher can get a win without throwing a single pitch?

  8. Yes on pitch clock, yes on electronic strike zone, yes expand the roster, yes DH to the NL. I am as old as most on here and while I do miss ‘the good old days’ the game is changing and takes too long to play 9 innings. There is a younger generation of fans and they want a faster pace of play. Has anyone been to a horse racing track lately? Look at the fans in attendance and it is skewed very old and the turnstile numbers are way down. If a younger generation of fans is not cultivated the ‘Sport of Kings’ may die a slow death. Look at who actually reads newspapers: it is an older generation, kids, teens and young adults get their news online. If baseball does not change with the times the future of the game is in serious trouble. Look at the attendance in these cities last year:
    Tampa: 1,253,619
    Oakland: 1,475,721
    Miami: 1,651,997
    Chi WS: 1,629,470
    Cincin: 1,836,917
    Pitts: 1,919,447
    Philly: 1,905,354

    Can Chicago and SF areas still support 2 teams? (Cubs drew 3,199,562 in a small park, Giants drew 3,303,652 with an awful team) Will baseball ever succeed in south Florida? Are Cincy and Pitts still big enough to draw well? Philly is one of the largest metro areas in the country. St Louis is not and yet drew 3,447,937 second only to the Dodgers. Cleveland with an excellent team drew just 2,048,138. Arizona, who has drawn well in the past and had a competitive team and a large metro area had just 2,134,375, being outdrawn by San Diego!

    How do small market teams compete without large local TV deals and lousy attendance? (unlike the NFL local TV revenue is not shared) I doubt Green Bay or Buffalo could survive without the TV revenue being shared in the NFL. MLB allows Florida to be sold for $1.2 B ($400 M in debt) and then strip the team of most of their valuable assets. With the Yankees and Dodgers now preaching fiscal restraint and player development the small market teams are handcuffing themselves signing big deals but how else to increase attendance or get larger local broadcasting rights? Sure they get a piece of MLB, Fox and ESPN during the season but it’s the large deals that the Dodgers and Yankees enjoy that gives them a competitive advantage.

    Coming back to changes in the game to make the pace faster, get the calls right and have more offense (who really wants to watch a pitcher hit?) I believe it is a battle for survival of the future of the sport in an increasingly competitive environment. It already costs too much to take a family to a game in any major sport and the salaries continue to go up. At least make the on the field product better and easier to watch, it is crucial to somehow get the games eventually below 3 hours and improve the pace of play.

    1. Vegas, I agree with everything you wrote. Us old farts need to embrace change and welcome a new generation of fans who may have newer/better ideas, be it in baseball, horse racing, or curling, if we want sports to continue to play a (somewhat) relevant role in our lives.

    2. And none of it will bring in more fans. Either you like baseball or you don’t. If you really want to shorten the game. I guess we need to make it 6 or 7 innings for the ADD crowd. Or let’s just stick with HR derby. If you can’t play defense it should be exposed. I would never vote for a guy for the Hall of Fame who’s defense is so bad that he can’t be put on the field. Baseball is growing again at youth levels. Partly because of the concussion issues in football, but it is up. Parents don’t sit around bitching about when games are going to be over, but the casual people who show up to support may be looking at their watches all day. It isn’t any different at the pro level. Fans want to watch the games. People who do it a something to do for the day might have a different view. MLB has had back to back excellent post-season’s and ratings. Instead of building on that and marketing the youth of the game, we have to focus on this pace of play BS. The game is slowed down because of regional tv contracts, instant replay, and lack of foul territory. Let the checkers crowd stay with checkers and the chess player play chess.

      1. My reasoning for the DH is not to play guys who can’t field but to send more batters up that can actually hit, and to align the 2 leagues. The players union loves it extending careers. Somehow there used to be 9 inning games played in 2 hours or so. I understand commercial breaks between innings having an effect but do batters need to step out on every pitch? What’s with the batting gloves needing to be constantly adjusted? Even bowling has a timer to limit pre shot rituals when televised. Pitchers like Baez are just as bad, putting his fielders to sleep and the audience. Pitching to contact is becoming a lost art in search of strikeouts. I would like to see more batters hit a fat 1st pitch than drive up pitch counts too and more green lights on 3-0 pitches.

        1. Baseball is about the only sport that isn’t up against a clock and I’m good keeping it the way. Yes, I support automated K zone, one foot in the batter’s box, and fixing the Sept rules which are stupid. Guys like Baez should be warned and fined in my opinion. It’s a chess match. Sometimes pitchers need to step off. Why do we need the National Anthem and God Bless America? Isn’t Take me Out the Ball Game enough for the 7th inning? Most players and coaches prefer the NL game. The strategy and I like seeing which clubs hitters can handle a bat and which can’t. I got nothing out of watching a fat Dave Parker taking a roster spot from a kid who deserves it.

  9. Change is coming and I don’t have a problem with the changes, never liked the DH, but I’ll just have to accept it. The electronic calling of balls and strikes is my favorite, can’t stand watching umpires call balls and strikes by their version of the strike zone.
    Pederson, not sure he will be any different, but boy could he be a major contributor if he can successfully make the changes.
    If Pederson can, and Verdugo can, and Puig plays like he did last year or better what an outfield. IF?
    Gonzalez just scares me,21.5M of trouble is my feeling.

  10. All 30 team owners are about to receive a payment of $50 million in the first quarter of 2018 for the sale of BAM.

    1. Does that mean they waiver the Luxury tax the next year?

      😉

      The players will want some of it! Of course.

  11. When my kids were very young and playing T-ball one of their coaches kept harping on catching the ball with two hands. The kids got their bare hand in the way instead of catching with the glove and using the bare hand to make sure the ball wouldn’t fall out of the glove.
    .
    The picture of the old gloves shows the need to get both hands involved in catching the ball but the glove hand had to be dominant. I would tell my kids to listen to me and not their coach and catch the ball with one hand to avoid getting the bare hand in the way. The new glove design and soft leather allow a one-handed catch.
    .
    Speed of game:
    .
    Most baseball fans and especially younger ones want to quicken the pace of Games, not just make them shorter. Maybe there is little difference.

    There is an hypothesis floating around that says that as the extra innings increase, the hitters tend to try to end the game with a home run and that leads to more outs and more innings. My thought is that games are long enough without extra innings.

    There was discussion on MLB network recently about putting a runner on second to start an extra inning. That makes small ball more important to win extra innings. That idea really messes with traditional baseball but I like it.

    An electronic strike zone introduces other measurements like high and inside pitches. A hitter that leans over the plate often has to hit the ground to avoid a pitch that is almost in the strike zone. That is only a dangerous pitch if the hitter crowds the plate and leans in. But a pitch that is above the shoulders and 6 inches inside is a intimidation pitch and a dangerous pitch for any hitter. How might it be discouraged?

    A pitcher could be penalized for a high and inside pitch by electronically reducing the strike zone for that hitter. Maybe take an inch away from the strike zone from top, bottom, and both sides? That would be done automatically to take the argument out of the call.

    Sometimes something has to be given so that it can be taken away. That is the theory behind having the DH in the NL but taken away for managerial actions that slow the game. Several pitching changes in an inning slows the game. Maybe fewer pitching changes would be made if beginning with the 4th pitcher, the pitcher goes into the DH spot.
    .
    For those that enjoy watching a pitcher hit and the resulting strategy that goes with decisions to pinch hit for the pitcher, that doesn’t totally go away with what I suggested. It just happens in the later innings where it typically comes into play anyway. In the meantime, a team gets to see a real hitter hit for the starting pitcher and for the next two that follow.

  12. I hate the idea of the DH, but I know it is inevitable, and I am surprised it has taken this long. I will not lose any sleep over the implementation. I really hate the idea of electronic balls and strikes. It is a game played by humans and should be monitored by humans. I think it would change the integrity of the game. If I want to play computer baseball, I will hire a programmer to write a computerized game. No thanks. The Umpires Union has to be proactive in getting rid of bad umpires like Angel Hernandez.
    .
    There is nothing instant about instant replay. It does not belong in baseball.
    .
    That is why I agree with Hawkeye. I love the game of baseball, and all of its nuances. I love the 1-0 game, the 12-11 game, and the 12-0 game. I do not care if it is 2 hours or 4 hours; 5 innings, 9 innings or 18 innings. Little League, high school, college, minor league, major league…I do not care. It is all baseball.
    .
    Limit the number of catcher visits to the mound. They really serve no strategic purpose. It is more of a problem of communication, and if the pitcher and catcher cannot get in synch on one visit or between innings, then there should be consequences.
    .
    Fixing batting gloves between pitches. Is it really all that different than stepping out and tapping on the cleats? Baseball players are superstitious, and are very routine driven. Those little idiosyncrasies are not making the game any longer. $$$$$ has changed the game. TV and TV commercials. The need for more seats, so the foul the foul ball is almost eliminated. More foul balls, more pitches, less innings, more pitching changes. Got to pay for those $200M players some way.

      1. The average game is 11 minutes longer today than in 1994. I get that the game is longer, but not enough for me to get excited about. It is obvious that I am in the minority here, but the length of the game does not bother me.
        .
        Baseball is not the only sport where the length is a concern.
        .
        https://www.cbssports.com/college-football/news/its-time-for-college-football-to-shorten-games-for-the-fans-and-players/
        .
        My second favorite sport is college football and last year’s championship game took 4 hours and 8 minutes. I have tried to record games and have added 30 minutes to normal 3 hour mark, and did not get to see the end of the game. The reasons given for the increased length of games…instant replay and commercials. It looks like a trend.

    1. We have watched too many games where umpires have made too many bad calls on balls and strikes. It’s hard enough to hit a ball in the strike zone without having to swing at pitches out of the zone because an umpire has expanded the zone.
      .
      There would still be an umpire behind the plate but maybe with more protective equipment because he/she doesn’t have to call strikes.
      .
      I don’t like reviews for runners that are safe but come off the bag for a split second. A review could have given Galarraga a deserved perfect game. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armando_Galarraga%27s_near-perfect_game

      1. Two HOF pitchers with the ATL Braves loved that expanded strike zone; Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. The difference today is that we have TV strike zones that tell us if it was a strike. Most pitchers and batters will tell you that the umpire just needs to be consistent. Both can adjust. The sport (ALL SPORTS) just needs to get rid of bad officials. Angel Hernandez is a horrible umpire (maybe the worst ever), and when he doesn’t get his way he sues MLB. What do you want to bet, Hernandez gets an NLCS or WS gig next year. MLB needs to grow a spine and tell Hernandez that he is done and go ahead and sue them.
        .
        If the umpiring is bad, change the umpire. Don’t turn a human element into a computer game.

  13. According to Chris Cotillo…….

    Source: Dodgers in agreement with righty Tom Koehler on a 1-year deal, pending physical.

  14. The Dodgers picked up Tom Koehler on a 1 year contract. I know the anti-FAZ crowd will have their field day with this. The Dodgers were looking at Koehler at last year’s trade deadline. He moved to the bullpen with the Jays, and showed some promise with his curve. This has the makings of a Joe Blanton type sign. This signing could also move Stripling and Stewart into the pure reliever role, as Koehler can be the long man in the pen. This is not a game changer. What is more of interest is who gets released from the 40 man to make room.

  15. Kohler is not a good pitcher. Career numbers – 36 – 55, 4.39 with WHIP 1.39, FIP 4.49, so he’s even worse than his ERA suggests.

    So – he’s better as a reliever? With the Jays the 2nd half last year out of the ‘pen, he was 0 -2, 2.65, 1.294 WHIP, FIP 3.22. So a little better, but the WHIP of 1.29 out of the ‘pen is so-so – and it’s only 1/2 season and 17 innings over 15 games.

    1. After he was traded from the Marlins to the Blue Jays, Koehler started getting regular looks out of the pen. In his new role, he put up a 3.00 ERA and 3.16 FIP in 12 innings, while his strikeout rate ticked up (18.0% to 21.6%) and his walk rate almost halved (11.3% to 5.9%). Though perhaps what appealed most to the Dodgers was that Koehler’s fastball ticked up in the pen, and he started throwing as hard as ever, sitting 93-95 mph. Koehler also still used three other pitches in his curve, slider, and change, though he leaned especially heavy on his curve in relief.

  16. Rick, this is Joe Blanton part two. Nobody wanted Blanton (including me), but he was good until the playoffs. I do not know if Koehler will be any good, but so what. If he isn’t, he gets released. It is nothing to get excited about…positively or negatively. No harm, no foul. What do people expect??? Craig Kimbrel?

    1. we don’t know how high the risk is. He made over $5 MM last year – that’s why he was DFA’d by the Jays. They haven”t announced his salary

  17. Koehler could benefit from Honeycutt, Kershaw and Hill. He’s not a fireballer which is good, as the Dodgers can mix it up out of the pen.

  18. Like I said, this is typical FAZ signing for the pen. Low risk. High Reward!

    Sight – See what has been.

    Vision – Seeing what could be.

  19. Hawkeye said it, you either like baseball or you don’t. If it’s a good game do you really want to get it over with? Well not me, I like baseball.
    As far as DH, No. Leave that for the junior league let the big leaguers have their pitchers step up to the plate. Regarding electronic umpires, please, take AC’s advice, the game is played by humans. If a pitcher can’t throw a strike the manager doesn’t bring in a pitching machine, he yanks him out and brings in another guy with a glove and a cap. If an umpire can’t get it right he doesn’t belong behind the plate nor does a seeing eye machine
    Change can be good but let’s not change the game we love.

  20. Whoa, Whoa, Whoa – who said anything about bringing in a machine to pitch?

    So, do you want to eliminate instant replay too?

    Lots of umpires get it wrong. It’s provable and a fact. In 100+ years they have never got them out from behind the plate. Maybe the next hundred years will be better? Yeah, Right!

    I have a smartphone, do you? Did you 10 years ago?

    Technology changes – if it can be done better with technology, then why not?

    Machines cannot be bought off and they have no biases! Umpires can and do!

  21. Yikes! Yes I do have a smart phone. Well nobody is asking for a pitching machine but ” if it can be done better with technology then why not?” Because it is a game played in an imperfect world where mistakes and errors are made. Bad moves and misjudgements.
    Made by players, managers and umpires. Of course Blue will make bad calls, sometimes really bad calls and some umpires who consistently are bad shouldn’t be in the game.
    I believe an umpire standing behind the plate calling balls and strikes is a beautiful part of the game. I would hate to see that changed. And I like technology and baseball.
    And I like this exceptional blog.

      1. Weren’t I mean. I make way too many mistakes when on my iPhone.

        Bad news for the Dodgers. Matt Moore and Fernando Rodney have left the NL West.

        1. Evidently the Rangers think they can “Fix” Moore. The Giants have to be happy even though they didn’t get much. He was looked at as a #3 at one time.

  22. I would keep the umps behind the plate and let them call balls and strikes. If the machine overrules them a lot then you can question their ancestry and eyesight without being ejected!

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