MLB batters are recording more strikeouts than hits. That's a big problem that's unlikely to soon change. – Washington Post

Miami Marlins’ Miguel Rojas argues a call with home plate umpire Brian O’Nora after striking out. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Striking out in baseball used to be frowned upon. Now, it’s just the nature of the game. And for the first time ever, there could be more strikeouts than hits in a season.

Last year, batters struck out in 21.6 percent of their plate appearances, a major league record for a full season. In the early goings of 2018 that has ticked higher still to 22.7 percent, which, if sustained, would be the 11th straight season the strikeout rate has increased. Batting averages, meanwhile, have dropped from .269 in 2006, the first year MLB instituted its leaguewide drug testing policy, to .245 heading into Friday night’s games. That would be the lowest in a season since 1972.

“One month is a rather small sample and we are hoping that the phenomenon of strikeouts exceeding hits is an anomaly that will not persist over the course of the season,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said in an email to the Associated Press.

Sorry Mr. Commissioner, but there’s no reason to expect it will change anytime soon.

Start with the increased degree of difficulty for batters. Hitters face more-specialized relievers than ever before, with fresher arms available earlier in the game. Ten years ago it was common to see pitchers go through the batting order three or more times, facing 7.1 batters per game. Dating back to last season, that mark has dropped to 6.2 batters per game. As you would expect, the more a hitter sees a pitcher in a particular matchup, the better they do. For example, pitchers allowed a

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