Sullivan: Is MLB already shrinking the strike zone?

From Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs on March 29, 2017:

Some background: Last May, baseball floated the ideas of eliminating the four-pitch intentional walk, and also raising the strike zone’s lower boundary. This past February, there was a formal proposal. Everything was subject to the union’s agreement, and as you know, the union signed off on the intentional-walk part. But it didn’t agree to other stuff, including the strike-zone change. Although MLB is free to implement changes unilaterally, that can’t happen for a year after initially giving notice.

You’d think, then, that the strike zone is safe, for now. That nothing should look very different in the nearer-term future. After all, that’s how the agreement is supposed to work. But what if that isn’t how the agreement is working? Brace yourself as I make too much of what’s entirely too little data.

If you’ve been paying attention to the strike zone at all, and if you’ve been doing it for years, you know that the zone has consistently gotten lower and lower, and therefore bigger and bigger. Maybe it’s been a consequence of having PITCHf/x, maybe it’s been a consequence of better pitch-framing; whatever the case, what’s happened has happened. Here’s a very simple way to visualize things. Making use of Baseball Savant, I examined the lower third of the strike zone.

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Originally published: March 29, 2017. Last Updated: March 29, 2017.