ren·ais·sance — /ˈrenəˌsäns/
1. The revival of art and literature under the influence of classical models in the 14th–16th centuries.
The definition above is just to give you a quick refresher on the term 'renaissance.' Why? Because we're witnessing one in Major League Baseball right now. Although I do love Shakespeare…
Almost every baseball generation beholds the status of a certain 'era' branded towards its style of play — the dead-ball era, the modern era, the steroid era…etc. Right now, at the beginning of this decade, we can officially welcome in a revival of the dominant pitcher — a 'dead-ball era II,' if you will.
But that's not what I'm calling it. Before I get to that, let's toss out some fun-filled facts to explain why this potency of pitching is thriving in America's greatest past-time.
–Matt Cain's perfect game on Wednesday night was the third no-hitter within a 13-day span. The last time that happened was more than 100 years ago.
–We could have even had four no-no's in that time span if David Wright's play wasn't ruled an error during R.A. Dickey's one-hit effort for the Mets– also on Wednesday night.
–There have been five no-hitters already this season. The last time there were that many before mid-June was 1917. We still have 3 1/2 months to break the all-time record of seven no-hitters in a single season.
–Cain's perfecto was the second this year after Phil Humber tossed one for the White Sox in April. It's the second time in three years there have been two perfect games in the same season. The only other time that happened was in 1880.
–There have been five perfect games since July 2009 and it could have been six if Detroit's Armando Gallaraga wasn't robbed of his because of a blown call.
–In 2 1/2 years there have been a whopping 14 no-hitters.
So what's changed? A lot of things.
The 'steroid era' is officially over. Although baseball — and all major sports for that matter — will always be fighting the human growth hormone, baseball seems to be the cleanest it's been in decades. Teams are now going pitching and defense first above all else. More players are stealing bases, creating less errors in the field, and managers are bunting to move runners into scoring position again — something that was almost a lost art in the last decade.
In 2000, around the pinnacle of the steroid era, the major league batting average was .270. Teams were scoring 10.28 runs per game. That stat has now dropped to .253 and 8.60 runs per game. This drop is in part because teams don't have a plethora of mutants that can hit a ball 700 feet in their lineups anymore. Sorry Barry, but your head isn't supposed to grow — that's actually medically impossible, unless you're on the juice…
But back to my point — it's simply tougher to get on base in 2012.
The last time players had this much trouble getting on the bag was in 1972, when guys only hit .244 — the last year without a DH. Guys weren't coming off the 'juice' back then. So what's to give?
Technology. Plain and simple.
When Don Larsen threw his perfect game in the 1956 World Series, he was the first to do so in more than 34 years. That's insane considering the renaissance we're in right now. What were they missing back then? Technology. Players and management didn't have high speed cameras at multiple angles to break down the science of every pitch.
Teams are not only able to scout more thoroughly in today's baseball world, but because of advanced saber-metrics and video, it's literally possible to know the hitter and his habits better than he knows himself.
In today's world, a pitching coach can look at statistics and film and tell his pitcher that Albert Pujols is swinging at breaking balls low and away on an 0-2 count 75 percent of the time, and with the same count, even when he even makes contact, his percentage of hard-hit balls is only 10 percent.
It can also tell you not to throw him a first pitch slider, because no matter where it is in the zone, he drives that pitch for a base hit 80 percent of the time against righties, and 90 percent if he's playing on grass, during the day, and on the road.
You think Pujols himself is aware of that?
That same film can help your pitcher realize if he's tipping pitches and what he needs to adjust in certain counts against very specific situations. As recent as 10 years ago, that would be almost impossible to pull off.
We're in a renaissance because the advantage has gone back to the pitchers — something that was bound to happen when hitters got off the juice and coaches were given NASA technology.
Sure, you could call it the 'dead-ball era II.' But that sounds too…lifeless.
Baseball is off the juice and the pitchers have 'revived an art' that hasn't been seen in generations.
Ladies and gentleman, I hope you will help me welcome in baseball's 'clean renaissance era.' Or of course, you could just call it Shakespeare.
Photo Credit: AP