Comment of the Day: what's so special about Lou Piniella?

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Lou Piniella rages.jpgReader

Look at his managerial career and it’s hard to avoid: has any manager ever done less with more than Lou Pineilla? The Mariners especially, a team that had two of the best players of all-time at their positions, in their prime, plus Randy Johnson, plus Edgar Martinez, plus several other good players . . . Can’t blame Lou for the bullpen? Yes you can because he hasn’t had a good bullpen since 1990.

I’m not sure that comment about the bullpens is fair, as Lou has not been the general manager and hasn’t been responsible for a lot of the bad pens he’s had in Seattle, Tampa Bay and Chicago. But the general point — Piniella hasn’t had the kind of success a guy usually needs to get the kind of reputation he gets — may be right.  He’s often mentioned in the same breath as Torre, La Russa and Cox, but I think that has a lot more to do with tenure than merit.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think Piniella is a bad manager. He won a ring with a team that, on paper anyway, didn’t seem like it had what it takes to win the World Series.  But I can’t help but think that he’s always been a bit overrated. Partially because of the lack of success with those extremely talented Mariners teams, but partially because people place too much value on the fact that he’s colorful and combative and all that jazz.

But really, outside of Cincy, his successors have always had greater success than he has.

UPDATE:  Check out Joey B’s comment below, which shows me that I’m pretty much dead wrong with that assessment.  This lesson has been brought to you by “checking the data rather than merely asserting things that feel right.”  Happens to the best of us from time to time.

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.