State Of The Game

What Fans Think About Power, Pace Of Play And Several Other Issues

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

We wanted to know what fans think about pressing issues in baseball, so we asked.

In partnership with Seton Hall Sports Poll, we asked a random sample of 715 adults in the United States about the game. The poll, which was conducted by the Sharkey Institute, was done by telephone from October 23-25.

Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard landline and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample is plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

PORTRAIT OF A FAN

Baseball may be the national pastime, but it can be better described as a sport that interests a little more than one-third of the U.S. adult population.


MARKET SIZE

Baseball may have seen a rise in parity in recent years, but fans aren’t so sure it’s an even playing field.

Those who follow baseball were asked whether large market teams have an advantage in producing winning seasons


PICKING UP THE PACE

Recently, MLB games have been getting slower and slower. In 2017, the average game took 3:05 to play, an all-time high. That led the commissioner’s office to propose multiple ways to speed up the game. We asked just how far fans are willing to go to see some of the stoppages in play reduced or eliminated.


A BANNER YEAR FOR HOME RUNS


In 2017, a new record was set in Major League Baseball for the most home runs hit in a season. Baseball fans were asked what they believed were the reasons for the surge in home runs. One notable takeaway, fans believed it was more about hitters getting better a hitting home runs than an undected surge in the use of performance-enhancing drugs.


POSTSEASON EXPANSION

The addition of the second wild card team led Major League Baseball to adopt the one-game wild card round. Television networks love it, but some fans and writers have complained having a team’s playoff chances reduced to one game.

So, there has been talk about expanding the wild card game to a three-game series. But when asked, fans were quite happy with the intense, single-elimination game. Very few are asking for the winner-take-all format to be replaced by a longer series.


NETTING

After a series of fan injuries from batted balls, a number of teams announced they would expand their protective netting. Some teams have worried such a move may hurt attendance, but fans we asked said it should have little impact.

Are you more or less likely to attend games with the extension of protective netting?


ROBOT UMPS?

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has publicly stated that he would like to see baseball grow to 32 teams before too long. Fans are generally in agreement with him, as nearly twice as many want expansion as those who oppose it.

While the idea of having balls and strikes called by computer tracking has become a hot-button issue in recent years, the average fan is not ready to see the home-plate ump replaced by a computer.

And more than 40 years after the DH was added to the American League, fans have gotten used to pitchers no longer hitting.

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