It's finally official: Manuel and Minaya are gone

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The Mets just issued a press release saying that Jerry Manuel and Omar Minaya have been “relieved of their duties.” This follows their morning release about the sun rising and anticipates their evening release about darkness falling. As soon as it came out a dozen fedora-wearing reporters rushed to pay phones to call in their scoop, they were so surprised.

Jon Heyman just tweeted that Minaya is being retained by the Mets to do . . . something.  I’ve argued that such a thing wouldn’t be the worst idea on the planet and that the Mets, not wanting to pay Omar to do nothing (he’s under contract next year) may want to keep him around.  Looking at it differently, however, there’s just way too much of a chance that his mere presence makes life difficult for his successor at GM. Well, more difficult than it will already be what with having to answer to Jeff Wilpon. I could see that part of things ending poorly.

Manuel, of course, is really gone.  I’m having a hard time shedding a tear for him.  He played a big part in Willie Randolph getting ousted a couple of years ago, allegedly serving as a conduit of player complaints about Randolph to the front office. Whether or not that was really a problem, he never showed any indication that he could inspire the Mets to do anything special, and he has certainly lost the confidence of the press, the fans talk radio and all of the usual constituencies that make managing in New York unique.

The Mets now embark on their quest to find a general manager who is savvy enough to fix the many things wrong with this team but desperate enough to where he’ll willingly subject himself to Jeff Wilpons’ caprice and the seeming mandate from ownership that you can’t rebuild in New York.  I don’t know who fits that description.  It may not matter unless ownership, in addition to changing managers and the GM, changes the way they’ve been doing things for the past several years.

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.