NEW YORK – Major League Baseball wants to see if moving back the pitcher's mound will increase offense.
MLB will experiment with a 12-inch greater distance between the mound and home plate during a portion of the Atlantic League season in an effort to decrease strikeouts and increase offense.
The pitching rubber will be moved back to 61 feet, 6 inches starting Aug. 3 during the second half of the independent minor league’s season.
“It’s a direct response to the escalating strikeout rate, where you’re giving the hitter approximately one one-hundreth of a second of additional time to decide whether to swing at a pitch, which has the effect just in terms of reaction time of reducing the effective velocity of a pitch by roughly 1.5 mph,” said Morgan Sword, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations. “The purpose of the test and hope is giving hitters even that tiny additional piece of time will allow them to make more contact and reduce the strikeout rate.”
In 2019, the last full season, strikeouts set a record for the 12th consecutive year at 42,823, up 33% from 32,189 in 2007. Strikeouts exceeded hits the last three seasons after never occurring before in major league history.
MLB calculated the average fastball velocity last year at 93.3 mph and estimated the increased distance would decrease the equivalent to 91.6 mph.
The mound has been at its current distance since 1893, when the National League moved the rubber back 5 feet. Strikeouts declined from 8.5% in 1892 to 5.2% in 1893 and the batting average increased from .245 in 1892 to .280.
Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer compared these changes to the lowering of the pitcher's mound from 15 inches to 10 for the 1969 season.