Pitchers outclassing hitters in MLB's first 6 weeks
Last updated 5/11/2021 at 9:29pm
Major League Baseball continues to make changes that will take some of the dominance away from the pitchers and assist the hitters to bring more offense that fans demand into the game.
When I was in my heyday some 60 years ago, we pitchers loved the high mounds most baseball diamonds used. But as the batting averages and home runs dipped, MLB decided to lower the mounds considerably, hoping to insert more offense into the game.
I remember watching batting practice before the 1968 All-Star Game in the Houston Astrodome when big Frank Howard—and many of today’s sluggers are now his size—put on a show by hitting balls into the upper decks one-handed.
But when the game began, the pitchers dominated throughout and the score ended up 1-0 in favor of the National League to the delight of the many Astros fans who were in the Astrodome that night.
If memory serves me right (and it doesn’t many times) the run scored on a fluke play—like a double steal or fielder’s choice or maybe even an error.
Getting back to the topic at hand, 1968 was the season when the batting averages of the major league teams hit the lowest in decades and the pitcher’s earned run averages also were the lowest in a long time.
And after the first six weeks of the 2021 MLB season, we find the same situation as many batters swing for the fences and either hit home runs or strike out. There now there is a computer that measures the velocity of a batted ball, with most home runs and line drives averaging over 100 mph.
After this weekend’s MLB action, there already have been four nine-inning no-hitters thrown and one seven inning gem, which normally is the number for an entire season of great pitching. Ironically, two of the no-hitters were spun by former Astros—Joe Musgrove and Wade Miley.
According to the Associated Press, this is the earliest in a calendar year that there have been four no-hitters since 1917, when the fourth was thrown on May 5 and the fifth on May 6.
Miley, a 34-year-old left-hander, no-hit the Cleveland Indians May 7, one day after Baltimore’s John Means against the Seattle Mariners. It was the Orioles first individual no-hitter since Jim Palmer tossed one against Oakland on Aug. 13, 1969 and the 10th in franchise history, including six as Baltimore after four as the St. Louis Browns.
“San Diego’s Joe Musgrove started the 2021 no-hitter club by throwing the first in Padres’ history April 9. Five days later, Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rondon blanked the Indians, just missing a perfect game when he hit a batter in the ninth inning.
“Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner pitched a seven-inning no-hitter against Atlanta on April 25, but that one is unofficial because it didn’t go nine innings,” the article pointed out. “It’s no wonder that hitters are batting a record-low .233 this season.”
However, our Houston Astros are quite the opposite, hitting .270 which is third in the American League. But none of their starting pitchers are among the AL’s top 10 in wins, earned run average or strikeouts.
Designated hitter Yordan Alvarez continues his torrid attack on opposing pitchers with his .362 batting average which is third best in the American League, first baseman Yuli Gurriel is fifth with .339 and Alex Bregman is 10th with a .312 average.
Alvarez is hitting .477 (21-for-44) over the last 11 games, has reached base in his last 15 games through Sunday and became the fastest player in the expansion era (since 1961)—and seventh of all-time—to reach 100 career RBIs.
On the other side of the coin, the Los Angeles Angels came to Houston Monday without legendary Albert Pujols, who was released last week because of his puny .198 batting average and only five homers.
But Pujols is the only player in major league history with 3,000 hits (3,253), 600 home runs (667) and multiple World Series championships. Only one other player—Babe Ruth—won a title more than once and pitchers walked Ruth so often that they never let him get to 3,000 hits.
KWICKIES…Our weekly Chad Dallas update, the Orange native got to realize that when you’re good you’re also lucky. He had a quality start at Missouri Friday night, pitching seven innings, giving up four earned runs, six hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. But his team was trailing 4-3 when his day was done. However, shortstop Max Ferguson blasted a two-run homer in the top of the eighth inning and reliever Sean Hunley saved the victory for Dallas, who upped his record to 8-1.
Sam Houston State was trailing James Madison by 21 points at halftime in the FCS semifinal playoff game Saturday afternoon in Huntsville but like in their other playoff games roared back in the second half and posted a narrow 38-35 win to advance to Sunday’s championship game against top-seeded South Dakota State at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX. It was the largest comeback victory in school history and came at the right time. While the Bearkats came back against Monmouth (21-15), North Dakota State (24-20) and James Madison (38-35), South Dakota State mauled their three opponents Holy Cross (31-3), Southern Illinois (31-26) and Delaware (33-30).
Rory McIlroy ended his victory drought Sunday by winning the Wells Fargo Championship by one stroke over Abraham Ancer at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C. It was his 19th career win but the first in 18 months. McIlroy admitted that his neck locked up during his final practice session and if it wasn’t for a late tee-off time Thursday, he would have had to withdraw.
JUST BETWEEN US…Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test and his victory is in serious jeopardy. Churchill Downs has already suspended his Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert Sunday in the latest scandal to plague the sport of champions. Of course, Baffert denied any wrongdoing after receiving word his horse tested positive for an excessive amount of the steroid betamethasone—used sometimes to treat pain and inflammation in horses. Until the victory is officially overturned by another drug test, Medina Spirit will run in Saturday’s Preakness in Maryland.