The Daily News caught up with A.J. Burnett yesterday and asked him if he’s re-thinking his pie-in-the-face routine in the wake of Chris Coghlan’s knee injury. The answer: not on your life:
“I feel sorry for him. You cant take the fun out of the
game, but you have to do it right, I guess. It’s an unfortunate
incident, but I’m still going to throw pies . . . I don’t exactly go full-sprint at somebody with a pie. Stuff happens, I guess. I always try to somewhat think safety first –
unless I’m snapping – even when I’m pie-ing.”
His manager has his back too. Joe Girardi:
“A.J. has had a lot of practice at it and seems pretty efficient at it.
It’s a fine line that you walk, but I have not said anything to our
players about taking it away.”
I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m really not a fan of the pie thing. But I’m even less of a fan of letting the dumb and clumsy kids ruin everything for the rest of us. It was probably Chris Coghlan’s older brother who made them take Jarts away from us. Kendry Morales’ cousin is probably the reason they discontinued the Boba Fett that actually shot the rocket out of his backpack back in the day. Jerks.
I’d like to know what Girardi means by Burnett’s pie-throwing “efficiency” — some stathead probably has it worked out — but the way I see it, if he wants to keep throwing pies, more power to him.
“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.