Bobby Valentine the “front runner” for the Brewers’ job

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There’s increasing heat to the Bobby Valentine-to-the-Brewers talk. On Saturday Bob Nightengale suggested that it was close to a done deal. Then yesterday Jon Heyman reported that Valentine was at the top of the Brewers’ list.  Heyman went furhter, saying that Joey Cora, Bob Melvin, and Ron Roenicke were second through fourth on the list. Which is kind of odd because I always thought that “the list” was more metaphorical. Maybe the Brewers actually have a numbered ranking system like the Harris poll or something.

We’ve been in “Valentine is the front runner” land multiple times in recent months only to have it not pan out. But given the increasing boldness and certainty to these reports, one has to think that the Brewers have decided on Valentine and are simply waiting for the World Series to end before making things official.

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.