UPDATE: Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweets “I’m told by someone who knows Damon well that he’s not considered retiring.” That makes more sense, of course, as many of you in the comments have suggested that this could very well be a negotiating ploy.
The real question is whether O’Brien knows this because the Braves are negotiating with Damon to become their leftfielder on a nice and cheap contract.
Wait, I think my fandom is showing again.
10:00 A.M. Bob Klapishch of the Bergen Record reports that Johnny Damon’s offseason has been so discouraging that he has contemplated retirement. Short of that, he has a choice of either taking $2 million on a one year deal from the Yankees — assuming they’re offering it, which they probably are — and begging someone like the Braves to take him on.
One can’t help but wonder if Damon’s best bet at this point wouldn’t be to simply say that he’s not signing anywhere, make a big show of getting in shape on his own this spring, wait for contenders to find out that they have holes in their lineup after the season starts, and then sign a Pedro Martinez-style midseason deal.
“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.