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Should MLB move mound higher for safety?

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The last time pitchers started dominating the game, the solution was to lower the pitching mound.

Now, pitchers are dominating again, led by Clayton Kershaw. Talk has begun on whether the mound should be lowered again. Part of the problem this time, however, is how often pitchers are getting hurt.

Because of that, Texas Rangers executive Nolan Ryan and Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have suggested that MLB do the opposite, raising the mound back up to see if it has a positive impact on the number of injuries happening.

"I remember going to Spring Training [in 1969], and it felt like you were throwing on an aircraft carrier," Ryan told MLB.com. "I'd be against lowering the mound any more. I'd be in favor of raising it. Do I think it will happen? No. But I do think it would keep pitchers healthier."

Why it was lowered

The reason it was lowered in the first place was how much pitchers were dominating. It went from 15 inches high to 10 inches. That doesn't seem like a lot, but it is.

That year, throwing just a fastball and slider, Cardinals star Bob Gibson 1.12 ERA. That same year, the Tigers' Denny McLain won 30 games (he was the last player to do that) and Tigers starter Mickey Lolich won three games in the World Series as the Tigers edged the Cardinals. The overall ERA of all pitchers that season was 2.98.

"It was just so hard to beat him," Hall of Famer Billy Williams told ESPN.com. "One year, Roberto Clemente hit a line drive that hit him right in the shin. He pitched another five, six innings to finish the game, then it turned out he had a broken leg.

"He fell off the mound going toward first base, so people thought they could bunt against him. But when you'd try to sacrifice, when you thought he couldn't get back, he'd regroup and make a double play. Plus if you tried to bunt, he might throw one under your chin the next time."

Kershaw's stats

Kershaw is on the edge of history as well. Of pitchers who threw at least 100 starts from ages 23 to 26, he could become just the eighth in MLB history to have an ERA below 2.16. The rest were deadball era pitchers like Hall of Famers Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson, according to MLB.com.

No pitcher since Tom Seaver and Jim Palmer has even come close.

Related links: Why did Kershaw get snubbed on All-Star start
Elbow injury rate a major concern
Kershaw is no doubt baseball's best pitcher

Why it doesn't make sense

We can start with both Honeycutt and Ryan's careers. Both played after the move was made to lower the mound and both were relatively healthy. This year, at the All-Star break, at least 35 pitchers were on the disabled list with Tommy John surgery.

The issue is also much deeper than the mound. While Ryan and Honeycutt talked to MLB.com about the steepness of the mound, that isn't universal. The height is the only thing that is, which is why Honeycutt has suggested to put Ryan in charge of it.

"I always felt I had better leverage with a steeper mound, and it made a differences on the velocity of the fastball and break of the curveball," Ryan told MLB.com. "I never thought about what Honeycutt said, but I would say there is some truth to it. In those days [with higher mounds], the injuries were not as prevalent as they are now."

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Topics:
MLB National League
MLB American League
MLB
Los Angeles Dodgers
St. Louis Cardinals

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