Mariano Rivera on Joe West: "He should do his job"

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Mariano Rivera has been a major league pitcher since 1995. In those 15 years, I can recall exactly zero instances of him being critical of someone in the press. The man does his job, takes a shower, goes home and does it again the next day and doesn’t let the petty affairs of the mere mortals around him disturb him in any way whatsoever. So when he spoke with the New York Post about Joe West’s intemperate bleatings yesterday, it was definitely notable:

“It’s incredible. If he has places to go, let
him do something else. What does he want us to do, swing at balls? He has a job to do. He should do his job. We don’t want
to play four-hour games but that’s what it takes. We respect and love
the fans and do what we have to do and that’s play our game.”

Joe West might have a point about game length, but (a) it’s his job to try and do something about it; (b) he could start by calling strikes strikes instead of squeezing everyone like he does; and (c) regardless of any of that, he was way, way out of line in going public with his complaints about the Yankees and the Red Sox. If he’s got a problem with them he should take it to the Commissioner’s Office, and in no event should he — a freakin’ umpire crew chief — be ripping teams in the press.

I hope West is disciplined for his wrong-place, wrong-time comments yesterday, and I hope that Major League Baseball makes that discipline public, just as it would do for any player or manager who went after the umpires. Integrity is a two-way street, and if it’s improper for players to questions an umpire’s integrity, it’s improper for an umpire to do the same of the players over whom he has considerable power.

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.