“Life Moves Pretty Fast. If You Don’t Stop and Look Around Once In A While, You Could Miss It.”
- Ferris Bueller
Granted, starting a post by referencing a movie released in 1986 immediately dates me (as does my Spotify playlist - “Yacht Rock & 70’s classics as examples) but the words hold as true today as they did back in ’86. I’d like to think I follow baseball reasonably closely, but at some stage I looked away and when things came back into my line of sight, the game had changed!
Its commonly accepted that humans deride the generation that proceeds them and harbours distain for one that follows, so naturally we did it better than ball players of old and scoff at the notion that these youngsters could do what we did.
Back in my day, people rolled their eyes at the at the notion of ball players being athletes. You’d find guys with boilers toiling on the mound or manning first base. Sure, you’d have the occasional freak show athlete, but strength and conditioning typically involved distance running and beer can curls. Nowadays if you’re not big and strong, you’re not even competing, and conditioning means you can complete explosive actions on multiple occasions. These athletes are throwing and hitting the ball harder than ever.
Back in my day, the hit and run was a key component of a team’s offensive arsenal. The perfect hit and run saw the runner in motion while the hitter artfully made contact to deliver a ground ball. Nowadays they’re rarely deployed and when they are, the hitter is looking to drive the ball to the gap to score the runner.
Speaking of which, back in my day you had a front-line starter who was firm (low 90’s) and painted the corners. Now its routine to see an entire pitching staff work mid to high 90’s which in turn allows them to go right after hitters, knowing full well that it’s easier to miss when your stuff is explosive.
Back in my day, coaching involved coaches strategically placed behind the bullpen mound or hitting cage, calling out instructions like “get out in front of it” or “keep your hands inside the ball”. Sure, this still goes on, but technology allows coaches to record movements and actions in super slow motion to ensure they are providing accurate insights and appropriate expertise in real time.
Back in my day, you took 3-0. The pitcher isn’t throwing strikes, so why help him out? Now, we see hitters looking to attack and not just the three-hole guy! It may be the best fastball you see all day so jump on it and do some damage.
Which reminds me, back in my day we didn’t strike out nearly as often. That’s all well and good but we also didn’t have multiple guys across the line up hitting tanks! I may counter that in the late 90’s guys were hitting more home runs but all you’d need to whisper is “steroids” and I’d have to climb back into my box……
Back in my day, the only data analytics you need was a spray chart, documenting where a hitter hit the ball and what pitches pitchers threw. Today that information, plus exit velocity, spin rate, launch angle and release points are included to generate comprehensive analysis that highlights weaknesses, tendencies, and strategic advantages. And best of yet, you can carry it around in your pocket instead of a 3-ring binder.
So yes, the game has changed. It’s harder, it’s faster, its smarter and it’s just better.