Daily Egyptian

MLB would boost with aluminum

By Aaron Graff, @Aarongraff_DE

If you think baseball is old school, you are wrong.

Major League Baseball is changing with time. Teams in the past two decades have renovated stadiums with jumbotrons and party areas. Instant replay was implemented last season. But the league forgot to make a crucial change.

Metal bats were introduced in the 1970s, but they still are not legal in the highest level, which does not make sense. 

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Technology changes and people adapt.

Professional golfers do not still use wooden drivers. Tennis players do not use wooden rackets.

College baseball players still use metal bats for the most part. But professional baseball players still get their choice of maple or ash — or cork if they want to cheat.

The main concern is safety. Metal bats are capable of returning balls to pitchers at fatal velocities. But there are concerns on both ends, and solutions.

A softball pitcher has the option of wearing a protective mask, why can’t baseball pitchers do the same? The MLB started allowing pitchers to wear padded caps for more protection. As weird as it looks, they should be mandatory.

In 2013, former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ was hit in the head on a line drive, putting him on the 60-day disabled list. That was with a wooden bat, and certainly would have done more damage with aluminum, but the padded cap would have acted similar to a helmet.

Either way, a baseball diamond can be a danger zone. Wooden bats can break on impact. In September of 2010, a broken bat impaled Chicago Cub outfielder Tyler Colvin’s chest when he was running home from third. Ouch.

There is little to no chance a metal bat ever breaks.  

Hitters occasionally lose control of their bats and throw them into the stands on a swing. A metal bat would hurt worse, right? Well the lack of seats protected by netting is an issue on its own, but it is less likely a player loses control of a metal bat. They are designed with rubber grips on them, which help the player hold on.

Obviously there is less media coverage, but consider the last time a college baseball player threw a bat into the stands. It does not happen as often.

Amateur baseball is a completely different game from the professional level. Sometimes aluminum makes all the difference for a player—but their skills do not always pan out with a wooden bat.

Granted, the level of skill differs with each level. But it is a shame to see so many highly touted prospects become terrible players after moving up.

Ted Williams, who is tied for sixth all time with a .344 batting average, once said baseball is the only sport where a player can succeed three out of 10 times and still be considered good.

However, that statement is not logical. Sure, every hitter with a .300 plus average is great, but what about pitchers? By those numbers, a pitcher would allow 18.9 batters faced to reach base on average in a complete game. That is dreadful.

With the allowance of metal bats, the pitchers and hitters gap of success would be shortened. Then pitchers would not be held to a higher standard. It would make specific pitcher vs. hitter battles more exciting because they would both win about half the time.

That would probably mean a lot of pitching records would never be broken.

For instance, an ERA higher than 4.00 might be still considered good because of a boost in offense.

But there are already so many pitching records that will never be broken. Cy Young won 511 games in his 22-year career. But it was a different era. He started at least 40 games in 11 seasons. Last season the Major League leaders started 34 games.

No pitcher will ever win 500 games, and might not even reach 300 wins. What makes ERA so special?

Hitters would also struggle breaking records affected by aluminum bats. It would make them hit the ball farther, but Barry Bonds’ record of 762 home runs would still be hard to break.

Bonds played in the steroid era, which boosted his ability more than a metal bat would. His best home run season was in 2001, where the San Francisco Giants averaged more than 15,000 more fans than two seasons before.

After steroids disappeared from baseball, the Giants’ average attendance decreased by 5,000 fans from 2001 to 2009.

It just shows fans want to see better offense. The steroid era came shortly after the MLB strike from 1994 to 1995, and it seemed to save baseball. 

Technology is a good thing. Metal makes golf and tennis more exciting. It should make baseball more exciting too.

Aaron Graff can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 256

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