The 43 ft. HS distance appears to be having the desired effect
Back when the National Federation announced it was moving the high school pitching distance to 43 ft., the main reason cited by most pundits was they wanted to get more offense in the game. At 40 ft. the pitchers were dominating, and it was believed that moving the pitching rubber back three feet might change that. While the change doesn’t go into effect officially until the 2011 season, many states adopted it immediately, including Illinois, where I live.
Now that we’re a couple of weeks into the season it looks like the move is having the desired effect. Where normally pitchers are ahead of the hitters in the early part of the season, I’ve been seeing a lot of double-digit scores in games in the Chicago suburbs. Certainly a lot more than in the past.
What’s really been interesting is it seems to have had the most profound effect on the “power” pitchers — the girls who relied primarily on their speed to get them by. It doesn’t seem to have affected the ones who can top 60 mph regularly, but they are few and far between. For those in the mid-to-upper 50s, however, it’s made a big difference.
I can think of one in particular. She has been a stud on varsity since she was a freshman. She was highly touted in the newspapers, and always racked up great numbers for strikeouts and ERA. I never quite understood how, since I saw little movement on her ball and while she threw hard she didn’t throw that hard. Apparently, though, she threw hard enough to dominate at 40 ft.
Now, maybe she has something else going on too and this is just a coincidence. But as I look in the box scores and summaries in the local paper, her numbers have inflated considerably. She is giving up 10-12 runs per game, and maybe striking out one or two hitters most of the time. It’s not all errors either. I see double-digit hits and maybe a couple of errors in the box score. She just doesn’t seem to be as effective now that she’s a senior.
That seems odd to me. If anything, you’d think she’d be better now than her freshman year. Again, maybe there’s an injury or something going on. But my guess is it’s the distance. She just can’t blow it by the hitters as easily as she used to.
What’s really unfortunate for the team is they have one of those coaches who never bothered to develop anyone else. If her team played 250 innings, she pitched 250 innings. Now, when she could use a little help, there’s no one there to help her. If the other team catches on to her, she has to stand there and take the beating. You would figure a change of pace of any sort ought to at least slow things down for a bit. But they don’t have that option, so there have been a lot of lopsided scores.
This seems pretty consistent throughout our area. Scores are rising, ERAs are rising, and strikeout numbers are falling. The fans are definitely seeing more offense (except from the really poor hitting teams), and more players are involved throughout the game. Time will tell if this is a good thing. In the meantime, pitchers start working more on your movement. You’re going to need it.