UPDATE: OK, so maybe Joey Votto wasn't being rude

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UPDATE: Upon a few hours of reflection I’m fairly certain I
totally whiffed
here. I haven’t seen video of Votto’s comments (I based my post on ESPN
Chicago’s linked story), but logic suggests that Votto’s tone here
probably
mattered a hell of a lot and it’s entirely possible, if not probable,
that Votto was goofing off a bit here. When I read it through the first
time I assumed that
Votto’s comments was a straight up “I really didn’t want to congratulate
Marlon Byrd” thing, and both re-reading the story and using basic
common sense, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that. I’m not saying I
totally endorse the “I don’t like the Cubs” preamble to his answer, but
that’s kind of minor if, indeed, Votto was being a little tongue in
cheek.

If I had to do the post over again — and since it’s the
Internet, you
can’t really erase what you did before — I probably would have just
made it a stand alone “quote of the day” and let you all try to
figure out what the hell Votto was getting at if anything rather than
make the assumption I made.

Not trying to use it as an excuse, but I write close to 100 posts a week
and, dammit, not all of them are going to be good. This is one of those
not-good ones. Apologies.

4:15 P.M: Dave at Big League Stew alerted me to this bit of lunacy from Joey Votto yesterday, when asked to comment on Marlon Byrd making a couple of key plays to help lead the NL to victory:

“I don’t like the Cubs.  And I’m not going to pat anybody
with a Cubs uniform on the back. But because he made that really cool
play, it turned out to be a really cool experience. I’m really glad we
got the win today.”

Thanks for the win, but no thanks to you, Byrd. I’m sure there are a ton of old timers who would say that they were never friendly with the opposition, but coming in this day and age, in reference to a guy who — at least in the context of yesterday — was Votto’s own teammate, this comes off as really damn juvenile.

This is especially true directed at Byrd who — based on what people have told me — is a really, really nice guy who would probably be high-fiving Votto if the situations were reversed.

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.