The Atlantic League has reached the halfway mark in their season…
And with that milestone, the pitching mound is set to make it’s move.
Two years ago, the MLB announced that they would experiment with rule changes in the Atlantic League, one of which being to move the pitching mound back to 62 feet 6 inches.
When Rob Manfred, the MLB commissoner, was interviewed by NBC Sports in an article from March 2019, he didn’t seem too concerned about the pitchers:
Baseball also is using the independent Atlantic League for experiments, such as increasing the distance from the mound to home plate to 62½ feet from 60 feet, 6 inches. When Kay suggested pitchers would get injured, Manfred quipped: “That’s why we’re doing it in the Atlantic League.”NBC Sports
There was plenty of backlash and concern of injury from players and teams, and ultimately, the league did not move the mound in 2019.
Last year, the Atlantic League did not play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so any new experimental rule had to be put on hold again.
However, the Atlantic League is back in full swing this year, and it appears as though MLB and the Atlantic League will go through with the moving of the mound starting tomorrow (August 3rd).
The new distance – 61 feet 5 inches – will be put into place for the second half of the season… with dire consequences if a player refuses to play.
The goal is to give the hitters a better chance of hitting due to the increasing velocity in pitches. The moving of the mound at the halfway point will be used to have two separate sets of data, a control group at the normal distance for the first half of the season and an experimental group with the new distance for the second half of the season.
But what about the players and teams that are still concerned with injuries (not to mention the logistics for a team having to literally move a mound that has been in place since the stadium was built).
Indy Ball Report (@indyballpod on Twitter) has reported on the topic as well.
I believe that the “grace period” suggested in the above report may have ended at 11:59pm last night (August 1st).
A list of Atlantic Transactions can be found HERE although I do not know how complete they may be.
And if you’re looking for an honest opinion on what is happening, it doesn’t appear as though you will get it from any of the managers and coaches involved in the league.
If there is one bright spot in all of this, JJ Cooper did report in April 2021 that since the reports of moving the mound came out two years ago, there has been research done on pitchers and mound distance from an injury standpoint. Baseball America reported:
Since that 2019 proposal, there has been research that may allay some of the injury concerns. Dr. Glenn Fleisig and the American Sports Medicine Institute conducted a randomized study that found that pitchers’ biomechanics did not change when they threw from the traditional 60.5 feet, 62.5 feet or 63.7 feet.
In that study, 26 college pitchers were asked to throw five fastballs each from the three different distances in a randomized order. The study found their mechanics were not altered by the differences in distance.
The summary of that paper, published in ScienceDirect, stated that “No significant differences in pitching kinetics and kinematics were observed among the varying pitching distances. Ball velocity and strike percentage were also not significantly different among the pitching distances, however, the duration of ball flight and horizontal and vertical break significantly increased with pitching distance … In conclusion, it is unlikely that moving the mound backwards would significantly affect pitching biomechanics and injury risk; however, the effects on pitching and hitting performance are unknown.”
But that’s just one study of college level pitchers…. should professional pitchers really be asked to use their arms and their careers as an experimental game for the MLB? Especially when refusing will not allow them to compete in any top league in the United States or Canada thanks to the top independent leagues all becoming partner leagues over the last year.
Indy Ball Island will continue reporting on this issue as the story plays out.