Things MLB Should Take From Cricket and the T20 World Cup
- The cricket T20 World Cup was the best baseball I had watched in years.
- There are seven things I wish baseball would take from cricket to come out of the 20th century.
- These won’t fix baseball, but they could be simple solutions to problems that turn off many fans.
I recently immersed myself in the cricket T20 World Cup, and it was the best baseball I have watched in years.
I am a life-long baseball fan. I played the sport for 15 years. After that, I coached and even umpired. I have written for multiple baseball websites and even authored chapters in three baseball books.
But like a lot of baseball fans in recent years, I have soured a bit on the sport.
While watching the T20 World Cup, I kept seeing things that I wished baseball would incorporate. None of these things are going to “fix” baseball. However, most of these are simple solutions to some issues that are turning off fans.
Want a simple solution to the controversy of shifts in baseball? Use powerplays.
In cricket, there is a 30-yard circle in the middle of the field.
For the first six overs — 30% of the innings — only two fielders are allowed outside of the circle. For the remainder of the innings, the fielding team is limited to five outfielders.
Many baseball fans hate the shift, where defenders leave their traditional area and crowd the space where a batter is more likely to hit the ball. This might look like three infielders on one side of the field or a fourth outfielder just beyond in the infield.
Instead of being too concerned about how many fielders are on either side of the field, baseball should just control the number of defenders allowed outside of the infield.
The most straightforward implementation would be to just always restrict the number of outfielders to three.
But it might also be more entertaining to use a “powerplay.” Maybe the defense is limited to two outfielders for the first three innings, three outfielders for the middle three innings, and then unlimited outfielders for the remainder of the game.
Or maybe the defense is limited to three outfielders for the first six innings.
Under either scenario, the full shift we often see today with a fourth outfielder is still allowed, but only in the later innings.
Want an easy solution to the inconsistency of balls and strikes? Use stumps.
This is the equivalent of when we were kids and would make a chalk outline on a wall. Hit the rectangle, and it was a strike. Miss it, and it was a ball.
There is rarely mystery about whether or not the ball hits the stumps in cricket.
And maybe the idea of adding stumps to a baseball field is too extreme. If so, just use virtual stumps and take the umpires’ eyesight and guesses out of the equation.
The one time there is a mystery with the stumps is if the ball hits the batter’s leg first. Cricket has a great solution for that with their replay system.
The replay system
Cricket’s replay system makes Major League Baseball look like they are still trying to figure out what a TV is.
After a play in MLB, the coach on one team calls somebody to see if he should challenge the play. If he does, the umpires than gather and put on headsets to discuss the play with somebody in a video room.
It is not only inefficient and archaic, it is also not transparent. It is not always clear what the umpires are looking at, what they are discussing, or how they reach their decision.
In cricket, the review system is faster (umpires wear an earpiece so communication with the review booth is instantaneous), completely transparent (we hear the entire discussion between the review official and the umpires), and far more advanced.
This is most evident in a LBW (Leg Before Wicket) review. This is the one time where the ump must determine if the ball would have hit the stumps if it had not hit the batter first.
The review first uses sound analysis to determine where the ball first makes contact (with the bat or the leg).
The review then uses tracking technology similar to the Hawkeye system in tennis to determine if the ball would have hit the stumps if the batter had not been in the way.
And that entire sequence typically takes under 90 seconds.
More creative pitch names
Fastball? Curveball? Slider? Changeup?
No thank you.
Give me leg-breaks, googlies, flicker balls, flippers, carrom balls, and yorkers.
The closest things baseball has to cool pitch names are the eephus and the gyroball. The former only makes an appearance once every few years and the latter may not even really exist.
While baseball has gotten better in recent years at being less sensitive to other teams celebrating, it still has a ways to go with their “unwritten rules.”
Exuberant celebrations are perfectly acceptable in cricket. This not-so-humble moment of glory came after the first wicket (i.e., out) of the match.
—Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) November 11, 2021
And not only are these look-at-me moments OK, the opposing team seemingly never gets upset.
This might be the most shocking part of cricket to the typical American baseball fan: The best I can tell, there has never been a significant brawl in high-level cricket.
I went down a YouTube rabbit hole looking for cricket fights. It appears that what they consider “fights” are just opposing players staring at each other and occasionally yelling at each other. But they never actually throw punches.
Let pitchers bounce the ball
OK, this one is a bit far-fetched, but MLB needs more variety from their pitchers.
In cricket, there are pace bowlers (typically “pitchers” who throw fast) and spinners (more like a pitcher who throws slower but with a lot of curveballs and sliders).
While I am still a novice at the bowling types, it is clear that there are many more strategies in cricket thanks to the bounce. These include not only the type of spin and how it moves the ball, but the length of the bounce.
There was a time when baseball valued pitchers who didn’t overpower batters and instead fooled them with different speeds, movement, and control. Nowadays, it seems like every pitcher throws 95+ mph and the result is too many at bats that end without any defense being used (home runs, strikeouts, and walks).
Bring back variety in pitching.
There is no “ump show” in cricket, a term bestowed on baseball umpires when they seem to let their ego take over a game.
—THE C HAWKINS (@heavyfog) August 9, 2018
In cricket, this is about as much emotion as you ever see out of an umpire.
It is refreshing.