Dear soon-to-be-baseball addict,
First off, thank you for picking up and reading this piece. You won’t be disappointed.
Second off, you’re welcome. You might be asking yourself, “For what exactly? I don’t even know you.” For helping you get up to speed on this year’s revolutionary and incredibly exciting MLB season, duh.
I was originally planning on writing this letter to you in the form of a rhyming limerick, but after my first two lines — and the fact I don’t really know what a limerick is — I thought it would be utterly unreadable for you all. I have, nonetheless and with great intrepidity, decided to “show off” this atrocity of an idea right here:
“The mighty Phils, filled with last year’s postseason thrills, have disappointed thus. But wielding a bat akin to Excalibur, the honorable Bryce Harper eyes a return (to first base, that is). And out west, where the cacti are fed by the arid sun, the Diamondbacks seem poised to make a playoff run…”
Yikes. Let’s finally start with the main reason why this season has been so different: the rule changes.
I’m paraphrasing from Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen here because I think he put it beautifully. It’s like the game has been transported back to the 1980s.
“The average time of game is down to 2:38 per nine innings this season. It was 3:03 last season and 2:38 is the lowest since 1984 (2:35),” according to Mike Axisa, a writer for CBS Sports.
Beyond this Orwellian speedup, there are more hits this year than normal. Exciting, no?
The league-wide batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has jumped due to the banning of the infield shift. As of April 19, league wide average BABIP was .298. It was only .282 in last year’s opening week.
This year has also seen a large uptick in stolen bases. On average, there are 1.7 attempts per team game, which is higher than 1.4 last year, yet comparable to 2010 or 2000. What’s really pushing the higher number of steals this year, however, is an 81% success rate — an all time high.
All of these game changes are … well … game changers. They have culminated in a faster, more exciting and ultimately more enjoyable experience to watch (and to play, hopefully).
Alongside the stars of the game shining and young studs being aggressively called up to play for their major league affiliates, why not start watching MLB? And if you already watch the beautiful game, then there really is no reason not to start watching religiously.
I mean, how could you not fall in love with this game? If you have any doubts at all, do me a favor and watch the dramatic final out of the World Baseball Classic (WBC) championship on YouTube between Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout — teammates for the Los Angeles Angels and essentially sport deities. Now tell me that’s not art. It’s drama in its purest and most ingenious form.
Lastly, here are the teams (in no particular order) that have gotten off to hot starts or have been pleasant surprises: Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, NL Central (sans St. Louis Cardinals) and the Arizona Diamondbacks. In other words, if you’re a fandomless nomad, you’re probably safe to espouse one of the aforementioned teams. I’d probably stray away from the NL Central though, if recent history is any indication.
Now go on and get a’watching some ’ball (pro tip: also crack up a cold beverage of your choice), or else I shove more awful limericks down your throat.
You won’t regret it.
With love (and peanuts and Cracker Jack),
Eli Blumenfeld is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences. Rounding the Diamond appears online and in print every other week.
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