Keeping Score

Whiffle Ball: Why MLB Strikeouts Are at an All-Time High

Faster pitching, and smarter front offices, might be fueling the cavalcade of Ks

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Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees reacts after striking out against the Minnesota Twins during their game on April 18, 2012 at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

In this week’s issue of TIME, on newsstands July 13 and available to subscribers here, we explore reasons why more major leaguers than ever are striking out at the plate. The numbers are somewhat staggering. Strikeouts per nine innings have risen 14.9% in the past decade and more than a third over the past 20 years.

Among the possible explanations: more pitchers throwing cut fastballs, a wicked pitch popularized by New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera, higher pitch speeds, and smarter front offices. As analytics reveal the value of high-strikeout pitchers – and they’re valuable – demand for these pitchers increases, leading to more whiffing.

Bill James, the godfather of brainy baseball whom TIME once named to its annual list of the most 100 influential people in the world, predicts that strikeouts will keep increasing. So if you’re a fan of good pitching and baseball’s recent wave of no-hitters, you have reason to cheer. It’s hard to get on base when you can’t put a bat on the ball.

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