No cheesesteak vs. cheesecake this year

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I hate those cutesy little bets mayors and governors make over sporting events.  Pineapples for possum when Hawaii plays West Virginia in the BCS championship game? Egg creams for lake trout when the Orioles play the Mets in the World Series?*  Who needs it?

Thankfully, the mayors of New York and Philly are eschewing that tradition this year and are doing something a bit more worthwhile:

Mayor Bloomberg and his World Series city counterpart, Michael Nutter, made a bet to nourish their communities instead of their stomachs.

If New York wins the Fall Classic, Nutter promises to come to the city and participate in a volunteer service project while dressed in Yankee pinstripes.

If the Bombers lose, Bloomberg will don a Phillies’ jersey and volunteer for a community service project in the City of Brotherly Love.

There’s probably still an element of grandstanding to all of this, but at least it has a core of community service instead of mere community boosterism to it.

*I realize that the Mets and Orioles are not likely to meet in a World Series again in our lifetimes, but I had to use this example to get to the egg creams (contents: no eggs and no cream) and Lake Trout (not from a lake, contains no trout).

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.