Catching up with Dinesh and Rinku

Leave a comment

Remember how the Pirates signed those two Indian reality-show winners?  Well, they’re back in camp this year, and unlike last spring, which was basically a publicity tour masquerading as baseball, this year they’re pitching and working out just like any other ballplayers. And they’re improving:

The progress between last spring and now is remarkable, Pirates farm
director Kyle Stark said, considering they knew next to nothing when
they arrived.  They had a difficult time getting the concept of catching the ball
with the glove, not their bare hands, and the first time a ball was hit
back to one of them during live batting practice, he jumped and screamed
in surprise.

Not bad. It usually takes Pirates prospects two or three years to stop jumping and screaming when the ball comes their way.

No one pounds the zone anymore

Getty Images
4 Comments

“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.