Rosenthal's radical realignment proposal

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US Map.gifFOX’s Ken Rosenthal thinks it’s time to realign the divisions to break up the Red Sox-Yankees hegemony.  You gotta go to the interactive map in the middle to see his actual idea for radical realignment, but it breaks down like this:

AL Atlantic:  Yankees, Mets, Nationals, Orioles, Blue Jays;

AL Great Lakes: Reds, Indians, Tigers, Pirates, Twins;

AL Pacific: Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Mariners;

NL East: Red Sox, Phillies, Braves, Rays, Marlins;

NL Midwest: Royals, Cubs, Cardinals, White Sox Brewers;

NL Southwest: Astros, Rangers, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Padres.

Initial thoughts:

  • This scheme makes the Yankees’ path to the playoffs easier, not harder, replacing the Red Sox and Rays — tough competition — with the Mets and Nationals — less tough;
  • The AL Great Lakes would never get a game on national television;
  • I gotta admit, the AL Pacific is a pretty sweet division;
  • The NL East suddenly becomes an impossibly difficult division;
  • The new NL Midwest gives the Royals even less of a chance than they have now; and
  • The Padres probably won’t care much for being disassociated from the west coast and forced to play so many games far from home. Otherwise I don’t have any strong feelings about the NL Southwest.

Of course radical realignment like this just isn’t going to happen. Nor should it. Yes, right now the AL East seems a little unfair, but but baseball has always done well by practicing small-c conservatism with respect to this kind of thing and not allowing temporary problems dictate long-term planning. 

If the AL East is a joke for another 5-10 years call me, but right now this sort of thing is best left as an intellectual exercise, not a serious proposal.

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.