This morning I linked to Amy Nelson’s story about the players wanting a sit-down with the umpires and the league after the season. My take: “This is so manifestly reasonable that you know damn well it will never happen.”
Shows you what I know:
A rare meeting between Major League Baseball players, umpires and
league officials to discuss player-umpire relationships, and possibly
instant replay, is set for Dec. 3.
I’m not sure what will come out of it really, but I see the following two outcomes as the best and worst case scenarios:
Best: Umpires hear what the players are saying about the umps’ attitudes, players get a better appreciation for how difficult and how stressful the umps’ job is, and it results in calmer, more rational on-field disagreements and a new sense of transparency and accountability when bad calls are made, which they inevitably will be;
Worst: The umpires use the meeting to document specific player complaints, thereby allowing them to add to their list of players they intend to screw with bad calls next season.
But hey, this is progress, right?
“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.