LOS ANGELES — Major League Baseball as a whole in 2018 shattered the previous record for strikeouts in a season. The high strikeout totals have been a favorite target of so-called “old school” fans who think everything was better “back in my day.” The players nowadays are somehow painted as some sort of villains who don’t work hard enough at fundamentals — that’s why they “don’t know how to bunt,” after all — and don’t even care about striking out.
The reality is that players absolutely don’t want to strikeout and the reason it happens a lot, in addition to the difficulty in bunting, is because the pitchers are exponentially better than they used to be. In the early 1980s, hard throwers could hit the mid-90s. There weren’t many of those. Today they seemingly roll off an assembly line, There are pitchers casual fans have never heard of hitting triple digits.
And then there’s the breaking stuff. Pitches that weren’t around back in the “good ol’ days” include the splitter, cutter and even variations of the slider.
Throwing someone like Noah Syndergaard in the middle of the 1960s with 101-mph heat and a slider topping 90, he’d have posted a sub-1.00 ERA with ease.
Don’t agree? Ask one of the greatest hitters of all-time in one Hank Aaron:
“All through the league, all through the league, that these kids can play, throw hard,” Aaron said before Game 3 of the World Series. “I think I made this remark last year and I’ll make it again, I told Willie Mays if he and I was playing, they’d be probably sending us to Class D ball, because we wouldn’t know how to the hit these guys at 100 miles an hour. It would be hard to learn how to do that.”
“But that’s baseball. That is baseball. I watched [Hank Aaron Award winner J.D. Martinez] play and walk up to the plate and hit somebody that’s throwing 100 miles an hour, and said, oh, my God, I couldn’t do it.”
I don’t know, just a suggestion: Maybe we should enjoy baseball being played at the highest level it ever has instead of complaining about how much better stuff used to be? I know, I know. It’s delusional to think a certain crowd is capable of such awareness.
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