When is Ron Villone going to apologize to Mark McGwire?

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Ron Villone headshot.jpgEventually people will start playing baseball again and all of this will be forgotten. Until then we’ll have old timers like Fergie Jenkins saying silly things like this:

Ferguson Jenkins says Mark McGwire owes an apology to all those pitchers who gave up his home runs. The Hall of Fame ace sent an open letter* to The Associated Press
this week, telling the former home-run king: “You have not even begun
to apologize to those you have harmed.”
“How many pitchers do you think he ended their careers by hitting numbers of home runs of them?”

“You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced,”
Jenkins wrote. “You altered pitchers’ lives. You may have shortened
pitchers careers because of the advantage you forced over them while
juiced. Have you thought about what happened when they couldn’t get you
out and lost the confidence of their managers and general managers? You
even managed to alter the place some athletes have achieved in record
books by making your steroid-fueled run to the season home run record.”

Best tidbit from the story: STATS LLC researched and found out that 51 pitchers gave up  homers to McGwire in what
turned out to be their final major league seasons, including Bert Blyleven and Donnie Moore.  I can only assume that Murray Chass and that crowd will now change their Hall of Fame vote for Blyleven and start blaming Donnie Moore’s suicide on McGwire.

Of course what STATS LLC has not done is analyze how many home runs McGwire hit off pitchers who were juicing.  For example, he hit two dingers off of Roger Clemens in his career, so I assume he need not apologize there. He hit five off Ron Villone, who was named in the Mitchell Report. Other Mitchell Report alumni who served up home runs to McGwire: Kevin Brown, Jim Parque, Darren Holmes and Steve Woodard.

Given how cursory and incomplete the Mitchell Report was, and given that pitchers have, if anything, been overrepresented in positive PED tests since 2004, there are no doubt many, many more to whom McGwire need not apologize. I’d compile a list of pitchers who should apologize to McGwire — ‘roiders who struck Mac out and prevented him from hitting home runs — but that would be a pretty extensive undertaking.

How about this: instead of wasting our time telling everyone who should apologize to whom, we just drop this pathetic, sanctimonious game, accept that the era in which Mark McGwire played was rotten with steroid users and figure out how to put it all in historic context?  Or is that too immature?

*Open letter?! Arrrrgghh!

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.