As the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season comes to an end, an interesting question popped into my head. In 2018, The New York Yankees have 7 active players who have hit 15 or more home runs. The Los Angeles Dodgers have 7 players who have hit at least 20 home runs. Conversely, The Cleveland Indians have 4 pitchers with 200 strikeouts or more this season. Is this where MLB is headed? A strikeout or a home run? I asked local baseball scout and KPerformance Coach Mark Cahill this very question.
RIBBE – Mark, a strikeout or a home run? Is there where Major League Baseball is trending towards?
Mark – The game has changed because the players have changed. OPS is what players want to be better at. OPS translates into on base percentage plus slugging percentage. Hitting for power and on base percentage are the two areas players and management look to achieve. The modern players are stronger, faster and just more athletic than previous generations of baseball players. MLB (Major League Baseball) pitchers average velocity is around 94 mph, compared to the first year I played pro ball in 1979 in which it was 86 mph. Hitters have higher ball exit speeds than ever before. Strikeouts are up because of the higher velocities.
RIBBE – How have you seen this with change with hitters specifically?
Mark – Take the (Boston) Red Sox for example. They have this “hunt the pitch” approach at the plate. You see their aggressive swings early in counts. They didn’t have that approach last year and the results, so far, have been more hits and well over 100 wins so far. But for some teams that approach has also meant more strikeouts. Not being patient at the plate, swinging at balls, that drives the strikeout totals up. The Red Sox are not alone. Every MLB team is focused on getting guys on base so their power guys can drive them in. And the minor leagues is really focusing on hitters that hit for power. They are training these run producing guys to be serious hitters in terms of bat speed. I’ve been at these batting practice sessions at Major League fields. The bat speed and strength of these hitters is phenomenal. And the sound off the bat, wow. Just incredible. Chris Hess is a Merc Bat client of mine. I asked him about his minor season. You know the first thing he said was? “My ball exit speed is up, but my batting average was just ok.”
RIBBE – And what about the change with pitchers, what have you seen?
Mark – Well, you see the arm injuries are way up. Way up. Guys are overextending their natural ability in some cases. Having to throw harder and harder to get guys out. Instead of focusing on pitch selection, location, pounding the strike zone with good stuff. These young pitchers feel the need to overthrow their fastball, which in time just wears them down to the point of arm injury. You see it every season, a top of the line starter or reliever is done for the year. Again, in 1979 the average fastball registered about 86 mph. Watch any Major League game now. Bullpen guys are flinging it 95 to 100 consistently. As are some of the starters for that matter. You hate to see the arm injuries at any level of play. But the velocities are just incredible. Fastballs at this rate of speed are very difficult to hit consistently, thus the increase in strikeouts this season.
Mark Cahill is a professional baseball coach and adviser to many levels of baseball – from youth to professional players. Mark runs clinics and instruction on the fields and through KPerformance which is located inside Hops Athletic Performance in Coventry. He is also the President of Sales and Marketing for MERC Bat Company. For more information about Mark, go to www.kpbaseballtraining.com or www.mercbatco.com.