Stark: "I'm Worried" About Baseball

MLB is heavy on thinking, light on entertainment

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
May 03, 2018 - 9:22 am

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In April, for the first time in MLB history, baseball had more strikeouts than hits. The home run is still alive and well, but roughly 35 percent of plate appearances are ending in a homer, strikeout, or walk.

That is not good for business.

“I’m actually a little worried about this trend,” The Athletic and MLB Network analyst Jayson Stark said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “At the rate we’re going, this year there are going to be 10,000 fewer balls in play than there were in 2009. Think about that: 10,000. So many strikeouts, so many homers, so many walks that now almost 35 percent of all plate appearances end with a ball that does not land in the stadium. I’m not sure what the solution is. Nobody knows what it is. There’s an approach to hitting, an approach to pitching, and all this information that is conducive to all of this happening. How do we stop it? How do we slow it? People inside the sport are grasping for those answers and nobody’s found one yet.” 

How bad is it? A ball is put in play, on average, once every 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

“I really appreciate all the thinking in the sport now,” Stark said. “That’s the coolest part of what’s going on. But I’m not convinced that a lot of the strategy that comes with all the thinking translates into great entertainment. So you’ve got these two trends in the sport and they’re leading the sport down two totally divergent roads. Thinking is good. That is good. Using the thinking is awesome. But if it doesn’t lead to great entertainment, then I think your sport has a challenge on its hands.”

While the game has been short on excitement this season, the Atlanta Braves have been a great story. After finishing with a losing record in for straight seasons, the Braves (18-11) have one of the best records in baseball and are atop the NL East.

“This is a team that has that 2016 Astros look,” Stark said. “Ronald Acuna comes up and is just a special talent. There’s nothing on the field he can’t do. He’s the fastest guy on the field. He had a home run in the upper deck. He’s an elite defender wherever you put him. It’s already clear. He’s special. Ozzie Albies is Jose Altuve, only nobody has heard of him.”

Albies is hitting .278 with nine homers, 20 RBIs and 12 doubles – and is only 21. Acuna is hitting .345 with a .406 OBP – and is only 20.

“They’ve got a chance to really hit the accelerator on their time table,” Stark said. “It’s going to be fun to see where it leads.”