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Could MLB make changes to the strike zone and intentional walks in 2017?

More pace of play changes could affect the game as early as this year

It’s okay buddy. I might sleep at a Red Sox/Yankees game too

Raising the lower part of the strike zone? Eliminating pitches thrown for intentional walks? While I’m not necessarily opposed to either possible change, I’m not sure how they play into pace of play.

For instance, intentional walks take place about once every 5.2 games. Each intentional walk takes about 1 minute. So, we are talking about a 1 minute time saver that takes place about once per week per team. I’m not sure where the benefit is in that.

Here is a list of intentional swings at intentional walk pitches. The list is not conclusive, but there are some fun ones in there, including Miguel Cabrera knocking in a go-ahead run back in 2006. While it’s not on the list, Gary Sanchez managed a near homerun and a sac fly on what was supposed to be an intentional walk just last year. Wild pitches can happen as well, and there were at least two of them in 2016 on planned intentional walks that led to runners scoring from third base. Do we really need to take this part out of the game?

Changing the strike zone from the hollow beneath the kneecap to the top of the knee cap would probably have a significant change on the game, but I’m not sure how it makes the game shorter. This change would effectively put the zone back to where it was from 1988 to 1996.

Raising the zone by two inches on the lower end would almost certainly effect offense in a positive way - or would it? More offense isn’t going to shorten the game though. However, it does have an effect on “pace” I suppose since the idea is that fans will see more action, more balls in play, and less overall downtime.

Looking at the data, run production and batting average HAVE been trending down this past decade - however, run production and average have been trending upward the past 3 years (if ever so slightly in the later). 2016 saw an average of 4.48 runs per game - the highest total since 2009. League-wide batting average has also gone up from .251 to .254 to .255 the last few years but it hasn’t seen the 260’s and 270’s since roughly 1994-2009. To those who follow baseball drama, that range of years very closely resembles the infamous steroid era (said to be around the late 80s to late 2000s)

Thanks to the steroid era, it’s difficult to compare the last strike zone change to the currently proposed one, but when the zone shrunk in 1988 there was not a noticeable increase in run production or batting average until 5 years later in 1993. When the zone grew again in 1996, run production and average remained pretty stagnant until perhaps the mid 2000’s.

The Major League Baseball Players Association would have to approve the proposed changes and there is little time left for that to happen for the 2017 season.

What say you fans?