Why is the Pitcher's Mound Raised in Baseball?

Why is the Pitcher’s Mound Raised?

As a pitcher, stepping up to the mound may be like second nature, but did you know that the pitcher’s mound wasn’t established until 1950? Even pitches themselves have changed immensely as runners were once able to get a running start.

Learning the beginnings of baseball and pitching allows a player to understand why certain rules came into play and will help build an understanding of how to improve throwing velocity outside of the throw itself.

Baseball’s Origin Story

Baseball’s roots date back to the 18th century with sports such as Cricket. However, the famous American pastime has evolved into its distinct sport. 

Modern baseball was not created until 1945 when the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club played its first game. A member of this club, Alexander Joy Cartwright, created a series of rules that would lay the foundation for the sport. Cartwright’s rules consisted of not allowing players to purposely throw the ball at each other with hurtful intent.

At this time, Cartwright established arguably the most distinguishable field of modern-day sports: the baseball diamond. Consisting of four bases a diamond shape formed the field of play, hence the name “baseball diamond”. Since the beginning of modern baseball, it was established that the batter would hit from home base and run through the first through the third base until he made it back home to score. 

Cartwright left out a very key detail in determining the layout of the baseball field when establishing where the pitcher would throw from. Sure, there was a rule saying the pitcher must stand 45 feet from home base. Otherwise, there were very few rules to guide what pitching would look like in-game.

It’s safe to say in the past 150+ years, the structure of pitching and pitcher’s area have evolved greatly.

The History of The Pitcher’s Mound

To better understand the fundamentals of pitching today, it is important to understand the evolution of the pitcher’s mound, or lack thereof, throughout the years.

1845: In the early days of modern baseball, the rules regarding the area for a pitcher to throw from were very limited. In fact, the only regulation for pitchers was that they had to stand 45 feet from home base. At the time, baseball was truly considered the batter’s game and pitchers were not viewed as very important to the team’s success. 

To add some difficulty to the game, pitchers began to find ways to make it hard for the batter to hit the ball. At the time, there was no such thing as strikes or fouls, so pitchers resorted to the only thing that would add difficulty: throwing the ball faster. There was very little consistency between pitches. Some players threw underhand while others would even get running starts in an attempt to throw the ball faster.

1864: After a few years of practice, spectator and player complaints led to some major rule changes and additions in the game.

Some spectators began to complain as the game shifted more in favor of the pitchers than the batters. Many said the pitchers were cheating to make the ball “unhittable”. Therefore, a 3-foot x 12-foot pitcher’s box was established where the pitcher had to remain while they pitched.

The pitchers were also now required to have both feet on the floor while pitching. Without running or just throwing the ball as fast as possible with no regard for technique, players had an incentive to explore ways to continue to add difficulty for the batters. Pitchers found ways to add movement and change speed in their pitches. 

During this time, the pitching box was also moved to 50 feet from home plate, 5 feet further than before.

1893: Following the pattern of early modern baseball, switching between pitcher and batter dominated, and more rules were established to redistribute the balance between pitcher and batter. 

In order to increase movement allowed and aid the pitcher, the previous pitching box was replaced by a mound with a slab on top. This new raised pitching position was increased to 60 feet 6 inches.

1950: After the mound was established, the only regulation regarding the mound was that it couldn’t be taller than 15 inches. This led to inconsistency between fields. Some fields would vary the height of the mound to hurt the other team’s pitcher while giving their own an advantage.

To pursue fairness and consistency throughout the league, the MLB required all pitching mounds to be 15 inches in height.

1968: The year 1968 was known as the “year of the pitcher” mainly because the number of runs had dropped and pitchers were beginning to succeed much more. In an attempt to restore the average number of runs per game, the MLB changed the height requirement for the pitching mound to 10 inches. 

To this day, the height and distance of the pitcher’s mound have not changed, establishing the perfect ratio of runs per game to maintain the thrill and entertainment of the audience.

How a Raised Pitcher Mound Helps Pitchers

With the majority of the baseball field lying flat, many people wonder why the pitcher’s mound is raised. The height of the pitcher’s mound is not random. The pitcher’s mound was raised to help players have a faster pitch.

To avoid requiring players to make a running start before throwing the ball or taking any other dramatic measures, Major League Baseball decided to instate a mound shape for the pitchers to stand on. The action of starting at the top of the mound and moving down the slope creates velocity. This way, the pitcher builds velocity by moving in addition to their pitch process.

Velocity is crucial to a pitcher’s success. In combination with the pitching process and the development of the pitcher’s mound, players can create a velocity more difficult for batters to hit.

If you are interested in developing your pitch, check out Ryan Weiss' coaching program and training programs. Ryan will develop a custom program to help you achieve higher velocities, even without the help of the mound!