NY Sports Day
Matt Mankiewich

Karpin’s Korner: K’s are not OK

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During this trying time without sports, fans have adopted a nostalgic disposition. To make up for the loss, the sports networks have resorted to showing great games from the past.

Fans have taken to social media to comment on these “classic” games. Many have noted how much less time it took to play baseball games in previous years, as opposed to now.

Baseball has been heavily criticized for their games being, “too long.” Ballgames used to be last an average of approximately 2½ hours, but nowadays, three hours is considered a more acceptable time period for the length of a baseball game.

So why have the games gone to such “great lengths.”

Some believe that the new philosophy of valuing on base percentage over batting average has led to this extension of games. Players are looking to walk more than in the past because that’s what the “new data” implies should be the way to go.

Since a walk increases on base percentage, players are having longer at-bats. Running up the count increases the time it takes to complete an at-bat. Pro rate nine innings worth of running up the count and you have a need for more pitches, which has eventually led to more pitchers, which leads to longer games.

Unfortunately, these longer at-bats have not only resulted in walks but also more strikeouts.

Do you want to be sitting at a game, watch a player run up the count to 8 or 9 pitches and then finish it off with a strikeout. At least a walk is not an out, but the base on balls can almost seem anti-climactic while the “K” is the poster child for a lack of action on the baseball field.

The walk and the strikeout have one thing in common. They both result in not putting a ball in play, thus there are no chances for a great defensive play, no chance for a misplay in the field, no chance for pure baseball action.

Those who subscribe to the “new data” believe that a strikeout is not a bad thing. They cite the notion that a strikeout with men on base is better than hitting into a double play. That may make some sense numerically, (1 out is better than 2 in that regard) but baseball is not a sport that, many times does not make sense numerically. After all, 3 for 10 is a good number in baseball. That’s not the case in other sports.

The fact that a hitter strikes out and fails to put the ball in play (with or without anyone on base) lessens the chances of a positive outcome. If a hitter doesn’t strikeout and puts the ball in play, what’s to say that the fielder will make the play. Maybe the ball is booted or they’ll be some kind of mistake made, but that cannot occur without putting the ball in play.

The action of a pitcher throwing to a catcher, resulting in a batter not putting the ball in play, has helped feed the narrative of baseball being a boring sport.

I researched the strikeout totals for MLB (thanks baseball-reference.com) for the past 20 years, along with the walk and strikeout totals over the past 10 years.

In 2000, there were 31,356 strikeouts. During the 2010 season, 34,306 batters struck out. That total climbed throughout the decade of the 2010’s and last season, there were 42,823 strikeouts.

What’s interesting is the walk totals. In 2000, there were 18,237 walks issued but last season that total dipped to 15,895, but it’s the amount of strikeouts that is alarming.

What can be done to limit the strikeouts? Maybe put a little more emphasis on making contact instead of downplaying it based on some statistical data. There’s an ol’ saying that “a walk is as good as a hit.” Is that really the case? How about when there is a runner on third and two out. A walk won’t bring that run home but a hit will. Just saying.

If baseball goes to a shortened season, plans have already been made to deal with it.

MLB and the players came to an agreement where a player’s service time would be preserved if the season is not played. There are a number of players who will benefit from this, including Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. Hypothetically, if the entire season was canned, the former AL MVP could never play a game for the Dodgers.

Contingency plans for a proposed schedule was not addressed. According to an article written by the Associated Press’ Ronald Blum, the two sides also “agreed to consider playing past the usual end of the postseason in late October and early November, even if it involves using neutral sites and domes.” The two sides are “committed” to completing discussions by April 10th.

With that in mind, we could potentially see the World Series being played around Thanksgiving. What is becoming more and more apparent is, if the season is played, even with a truncated version, doubleheaders will be needed. MLB is also considering a revamped playoff structure that could feature as many as 14 teams.

Baseball is aching to get on the field and have a reputable season. MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark intimated that the players would be willing to waive the rule that says they can’t play for more than 20 consecutive days. Of course, that would have to come with a stipulation to expand the rosters. It’s the only way that these ideas of doubleheaders and waiving the 20 consecutive day rule will be acceptable.

The two sides have been very cooperative during this difficult time for the country. Don’t forget, the CBA expires after the 2021 season.

I was not alone with the idea that this may be the “put it all together” season that’s been expected from Noah Syndergaard. It wasn’t meant to be.

Syndergaard underwent “successful” Tommy John surgery on his elbow on Thursday. The timeline for his return is 12-14 months.

If there is a baseball season, the Mets can contend without their talented right hander. They still have the two time reigning NL Cy Young winner, Jacob deGrom, the best in the game right now. There are still some talented arms backing him up including Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello.

Syndergaard’s injury doesn’t change the notion that the Mets need much more out of their bullpen than they got a year ago. With the moves made in the off season, the Mets hope they’ve fortified that part of their team.

Baseball lost “The Toy Cannon” this week.

For a man who was only 5’9” and 160 lbs, Jimmy Wynn could hit a baseball as far as anyone, thus the nickname.

Wynn played 11 of his 15-year major league career with the Astros, where he developed a reputation for hitting “tape measure” home runs. In 1967, Wynn hit one of the longest home runs at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field when his shot cleared the 58 foot scoreboard in left center field and landed on the Interstate outside the ballpark. Later that season, Wynn hit a “bomb” at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field that cleared the center field wall, and was estimated at 457 feet.

Wynn played in 30 games for the Yankees in 1977. There are two moments that stick out for me during his short tenure in “Pinstripes.”

The first was opening day at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were hosting the Milwaukee Brewers and Wynn blasted a mammoth home run that landed beyond the center field wall at the ol’ Stadium. It would be the last home run of Wynn’s career.

The other moment was June 18th, 1977 at Fenway Park during the infamous Billy Martin/Reggie Jackson dugout confrontation. Yankee coach Elston Howard intervened as a peacemaker as he held Martin back, but it was Jimmy Wynn who also played peacemaker and helped usher Jackson to the clubhouse to avoid anything else breaking out.

After a quick start with the Yankees, Wynn’s numbers plummeted and he was eventually released in July.

RIP “Toy Cannon”

The United States is in the midst of an historic health crisis. Sports are secondary to the health and well being of all Americans, but this is a column that focuses on our great game of baseball so that is why we discuss it here and now. We’re not being callous. We’re just trying to provide a small distraction to the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in. Stay safe, be strong and we’ll get through this.

Karpin’s Korner appears every Friday on nysportsday.com


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