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Dave Duncan: The Evolving Game of Baseball


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He has come to the conclusion that baseball has turned into a “fly ball-hitting” game.

“The hitters are trying to hit fly balls and the pitching is trying to depend on velocity rather than movement,” Duncan said. “So now, if you’re throwing belt-high fastballs that are straight, you’re vulnerable. The pitchers who are having the most success are the ones with downward movement.

“That high velocity fastball ... has got to be above the belt. And it’s got to be in the right counts. A lot of hitters are chasing high fastballs with two strikes but they’re not chasing them before two strikes.”

Duncan also is witnessing the continuing evolution of the bullpen.

“It wasn’t that long ago that a 11-man pitching staff pretty much was the norm,” he said. “And then it went to a 12-man pitching staff. Now, oftentimes, you’ll see clubs carrying 13 pitchers. So the more bodies you have, the easier it is to use guys earlier in the game. And starting pitchers are very willing to accept a six-inning outing as a really good one.”

Another change is the gradual disappearance of the split-fingered pitch.

“For a long period of time,” Duncan said, “everybody was throwing it. But when the hitters stopped swinging at them and the pitchers had to throw them for strikes, then it wasn’t such a good pitch anymore. You’ve got hitters who could (not) care less if they strike out. What they want to do is hit the ball in the air.

“And, actually, that’s how you score runs — extra-base hits. You don’t get very many extra-base hits hitting the ball on the ground.”


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