Foul Strike Rule Change Proposal

Many in baseball think there is a need for rule changes to help create more action and excitement in baseball. There are many rule experiments going on in the minor leagues and some recent changes in the major leagues as well. Personally, I think most of these are terrible ideas. They are artificial feeling (starting the tenth inning with a running on second base); they require changes to the make-up of the field (moving the mound back), or they introduce new and external elements to baseball (a pitch clock – an abomination). So, I want to offer a rule change that fits with the history of the game as it has evolved.

In 1901, the National League introduce a rule that required the first two foul ball hit by a batter to be counted as strikes. The American League adopted the rule in 1903.

In part this was introduced to prevent batters from endlessly hitting foul balls. It was meant to incentivize putting the ball into play to help create more action and excitement.

My proposal is to further restrict the number of foul balls allowed. I am not sure what the precise number should be, but let’s say, after the first two foul strikes, the batter is allowed four more fouls before the next foul is a third strike and the batter is out. This incentivizes the batter to put the ball in play, creating more action. It shortens the at-bats, creating a quicker game pace. By reducing pitch counts, it allows the starting pitcher to stay in the game longer (reducing the delay from changing pitchers).

This fits with the evolution of the foul strike rule. It doesn’t require any changes other than tracking the extra fouls.

A full count would be 4-3-2 (fouls, balls, strikes). And it really would be a full count. We would have an actual pay-off pitch: the next pitch will either be in play, be a walk, or be an out. This creates more tension and excitement as well: rather than the anticlimactic foul ball on the ‘pay-off’ pitch, we know something is going to happen.

The only downside I can see is that this tilts advantage to the pitcher/defense. The batter cannot simply foul off pitches waiting for ‘his’ pitch. And in line with that, we would lose some of those epic batter-pitcher battles at the plate. But the trade-off seems worth it to me. We get the faster paced game many want without doing anything radical to the sport.

2 Comments

Filed under baseball

2 responses to “Foul Strike Rule Change Proposal

  1. Interesting idea and I’m inclined to agree. The development around pitcher/hitter strategy when fouls are limited would be cool to watch. I would like to see it tried out at some levels.
    I think it tips the scales too far towards the pitcher. You could balance it by experimenting with the right number of extra fouls, or give the hitter a corresponding ‘buff’. i.e. Four strikes and you’re out? a five-ball walk? maybe make earning a walk more rewarding, make the it worth two bases, or just the first walk of an inning? That feels artificial though.
    The two base walk would really put stress on the pitcher too . . .
    Good piece, thought provoking.

    • It does seem to tip the scales towards the pitcher. Maybe shrinking the strike zone a bit as compensation? It’ll be harder to strike out; force the pitcher to make better pitches.

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