The Florida Marlins turned heads this morning when they fired Fredi Gonzalez, but upon closer inspection, maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise after all.
Buster Olney tweets that the Marlins had been planning to fire Gonzalez for a while, actually, but that the whole Hanley Ramirez thing put a kink in it. I mean, sure, Jeff Loria isn’t exactly a master of public relations, but apparently even he realized that firing your manager the second he gets tough on a player who everyone is excoriating for dogging it is not exactly the kind of thing you want to be doing.
Then you have to think back to last winter when, despite the fact that the Marlins had out-performed expectations and despite the fact that Gonzalez was under contract for two more years, Jeff Loria pushed hard for Bobby Valentine all the same. That’s just not a sign that your boss wants you around, ya know?
Above all else, though were those expectation. Last winter Loria said “I expect us to make the playoffs.” That’s either supreme delusion or the kiss of death.
Of course with Loria, it could be both.
“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.