Baseball for Dummies: What Is the Strike Zone in Major League Baseball?
Balls and strikes form the fundamental building blocks of the great American pastime. Without them, there would be no competitive baseball. Pitchers would never throw a ball near enough to a batter to hit. Batters would never swing until the perfect pitch arrived chest-high right down the middle of the plate.
Agreeing upon the place where a pitch is considered a strike or a ball solves that problem. Pitchers will walk batters if they don’t throw strikes. Batters will strike out if they don’t swing at good pitches. The area that determines whether a pitch is a ball or a strike is called the strike zone.
How Big Is the Strike Zone in Baseball?
It’s a common question in baseball. Where is the strike zone in baseball and how big is it? To explain, we will use the rules of Major League Baseball, which are followed by most serious baseball players.
What Are the Dimensions of a Baseball Strike Zone?
Unlike the dimensions of an object, the baseball strike zone has no fixed numerical dimensions. Rather, the strike zone is determined by reference points on the human body.
This is because players come in all shapes and sizes. The strike zone increases or decreases according to the size of the player. This gives all players an equal chance, no matter how big or small they are.
The most striking example of the adaptability of the rules came in 1951, when the St. Louis Browns sent pinch hitter Edward Carl Gaedel to the plate. The smallest player ever to appear in Major League Baseball, Gaedel was a person with dwarfism who stood 3 feet 7 inches tall and weighed about 65 pounds. In his one MLB appearance, he walked on four consecutive pitches - as a controversial publicity act planned by Bill Veeck, owner of the Browns and son of the Cubs president.
What Determines a Baseball Player’s Strike Zone?
In addition to size, the stance of a player determines the strike zone. The more a player crouches, for instance, the smaller the strike zone.
The MLB rules for the strike zone are simple. At least a portion of the ball must pass over home plate. To count as a strike vertically, the pitch must pass at the top between the midpoint of the player’s shoulders and the top of the pants. This is sometimes defined as the letters on the front of the player's jersey. The lower part of the strike zone is defined as just below the kneecaps.
What Year Was the Smaller Strike Zone Initiated in Pro Baseball?
Besides causing hot controversies on the field and in the stands, the strike zone has been subject to longer-term debate in MLB executive suites. As such, its definition has been changed from time to time.
The first official strike zone was implemented in the late 1800s and has gone through a series of changes.
The first time the definition of the strike zone changed took place in 1950, when the zone was downsized from the area between the top of the batter’s shoulders and the knees to the zone between the batter’s armpits and the top of the knees. This rule lasted until 1962, when the zone was expanded. From 1963 to 1968, the strike zone went from the top of the batter's shoulders to the knees.
Then from 1969 to 1987, the strike zone went from the batter's armpits to the top of the knees. At the same time, the pitcher's mound was lowered from 15 inches to 10 inches, in response to the 1968 season - known as the "Year of the Pitcher" - because of the ability of pitchers to continuously throw strikes.
From 1988 to 1995, the rule changed again and the strike zone went from the midpoint between the shoulders and the top of the uniform pants to the top of the knees.
The current system was implemented in 1996.