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How a strike zone affects a game

In 1963, in response to Roger Maris breaking the single season home run record and ever-increasing game times, the MLB strike zone was enlarged to reach from the tops of the shoulders to the bottom of the knees. It remained this way until 1968.

The stats during those five years reveal some interesting facts about how much a large zone affects a baseball game. Home runs were indeed reduced -- HR totals were 10% lower than the years before and after the strike zone expansion. Walks were off 15%, strikeouts up 8%. Base hits were down 4%, and 11% fewer runs were recorded during these five seasons.

The commissioner got his wish. Games became shorter, home runs were harder to hit. Combined with taller and taller mounds, the larger strike zone created a situation where pitchers dominated hitters. Every game became a pitcher's duel. Control is the first thing pitchers lose as fatigue sets in, but with these new strike zones, control was no longer an issue, so pitchers could pitch deeper into games. Pitchers dominated the game so much that by 1968, fans were becoming restless and the strike zone was made smaller and mound heights brought under control.

For the amateur umpire, it is desirable to keep walks down, games short, and allow pitchers to pitch late into the game. Young players don't enjoy spending a lot of time in the field. Older players appreciate getting in their hacks instead of walking around the bases. Players learning the game at the youngest levels of high school ball need to learn to swing, not walk. A large strike zone accomplishes all of this and keeps a game moving along.


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