LaTroy Hawkins: the ump wanted the Cubs to win

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Major League Baseball is contemplating discipline against LaTroy Hawkins for accusing a home plate umpire of wanting the Cubs to beat the Astros the other night:

It all began when Everitt ejected Hawkins in the eighth inning after
he disputed a called ball to Aramis Ramirez and continued to complain
after Everitt ordered him to “knock it off.” After the game, which the
Cubs won 5-1 on Alfonso Soriano’s walk-off grand slam in the 13th
inning, Hawkins sounded off.

“Maybe he was having a bad day,” Hawkins said. “I thought he had determined who he wanted to win the game anyway.”

. . . Asked by Houston reporters whether he regretted the remark, Hawkins replied: “Why would I?”

The best part of it is that Hawkins’ defense to accusing an umpire of
intentionally tipping the outcome of a game — which is about as
serious a charge as one can level — is “It’s America, dude.”

I think we have the front runner for CTB’s official motto.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.