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It’s time to shrink home plate, apparently

Feb 27, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT

Home plate

I don’t think so, but what do I know? Someone no less well-known and respected than Frank Deford feels differently, however:

It’s time to make home plate smaller. I know: That’s heresy; that’s sacrilegious. But there are simply too many strikeouts in baseball now, and that hurts the game, because if the ball isn’t in play, it’s boring . . .That’s too broad for the pitchers today, especially when so many strikes are on the corners, or even “on the black,” the small fringe that frames the plate. If you cut, say, an inch and a half off each side, pitchers would have a 14-inch target. Batters would have a more reasonable chance to try to connect. They’d swing more, put more balls in play. It’d be more fun, a better game both to play and to watch.

He explains it more in the audio version, to which you can listen at the link. Somehow he doesn’t acknowledge that making the plate smaller would lead to more walks which also don’t have the ball in play, but never mind that.

Never mind it because Deford knows better and this is not to be taken seriously. Evidence that he knows better is contained in his own essay, as he notes that, in the past, offense and pitching have fluctuated historically. That baseball has, in the past, made rules changes such as lowering the mound or — though they don’t admit it — juicing the ball in order to juice offense. There are ways to deal with this if baseball wanted to that fall short of shrinking the plate, and if baseball chose to do something they’d do any number of them before shrinking the plate. And, really, they’ll probably do nothing because this is just cyclical stuff the sort of which has always happened in baseball.

But Deford is getting my attention with this and now yours, so it’s not worthless. And he has given me a blueprint for my next essay about how we should legalize steroids in order to cut down on the strikeouts. Maybe that’s controversial, but it’s far less of a radical change than shrinking the plate. I mean, heck, we had such an environment a mere decade or two ago and baseball survived. Even thrived!

Honestly. It’s the more conservative approach to the problem.

  1. stratomaticfan - Feb 27, 2014 at 2:26 PM

    How about a novel concept. Call the strike zone. Letters to knees, like when I was a kid. More strikes = more swings = more swings at less than optimal pitches = more balls in play = more action = FASTER GAMES!

  2. kalinedrive - Feb 27, 2014 at 3:54 PM

    I know, how about let’s change the distance between the bases. And then let’s have the pitcher’s mound be a hole instead. And then we could put a roof over the infield and any batted balls that hit the roof are in play.

    Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

  3. Jonny 5 - Feb 27, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    It’s quite obvious to me that this man has never actually tried to throw a strike himself.

  4. natsattack - Feb 27, 2014 at 7:23 PM

    What are the exact dimensions of home plate? From the picture, it can be proved that the line parallel to the front of home plate is 17″. This forms an allegedly right triangle with sides of 12″, 12″, and 17″. However, a right angle with sides of 12″ has a hypotenuse of 16.97″, close but not exact. That translates to about 8 inches over 400′. If it is not indeed a right triangle, but a 12-12-17 triangle, resulting in foul lines 16.6″ to far out. What gives?

    • kalinedrive - Feb 28, 2014 at 10:39 AM

      The edges that are marked as 12″ are actually each about 12.02081528017131″ long. It’s easier to cut the actual right angle at the bottom and just let the edges go straight until they intersect the exact 17″ width. So you start with a 17″ square piece and cut a 45° angle from the bottom center to each edge, actually cutting out two 8.5″ x 8.5″ right angles at the bottom. Each of the missing pieces is 8.5 x 8.5 x 12.020815… leaving the beautiful piece of work you see in the illustration, with edge sizes rounded off for simplicity.

  5. tn16 - Feb 27, 2014 at 11:24 PM

    F@&k that, no way in heck that will ever happen

  6. gloccamorra - Feb 28, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    All you have to do is make a very slight adjustment in the definition of the strike zone, and the umpires will pay closer attention to their calls, which is all that’s needed.

    It happened after the 1987 season, when hitting was overtaking pitching. The less than an inch wide strip of black rubber surrounding the plate was defined as part of the strike zone, the umpires made their adjustments, and the composite MLB batting average dropped from .263 to .254, a huge drop in the average of all teams.

    For individuals, Tony Gwynn won the batting title in ’87 by hitting .370. In ’88 he won the batting title again, but hit only .313. More important, the runs scored dropped from 19,883 to 17,380. If you want to end the dominance of pitchers, just take away that black strip from the “official” strike zone, and the newly attentive umpires will do the rest.

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