The Best and Worst Uniforms of All Time: The Pittsburgh Pirates

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The Best: When I wrote this up a couple of years ago I was clearly suffering from some sort of stress-related malady, because I picked the 1960s vests as the best Pirate uniform.  That’s not the worst thing ever because the Pirates did vests pretty well, all things considered, but I realize now that no vest should ever be picked as a team’s best look. So, with all apologies to Clemente, Mazeroski and the rest, I’m going to give the title of best ever Pirates uniform to the longer sleeved traditional look they adopted in 1948. Which, with the exception of a big ugly arm patch, is what they wear today. The Pirates look great, actually. At least when they’re standing still and not, you know, trying to play baseball.

The Worst: While there had been a couple of very, very minor taste lapses in their history (Blue sleeves? Pirate head?) I don’t think it’s controversial to say that the late 1970s Pirates were an abomination unto all that is Good and Holy.  And that’s the case even when they tried really, really hard to look cool.

Assessment:
If we did this bracket-style, the 70s Pirates and 70s A’s would almost certainly meet up in the awfulness finals. Which, for Pittsburgh at least, is kind of a shame.  Really, they’ve got well over a hundred years of downright sharp and respectable uniforms sullied by a few short years of dreck, clouding all of our memories. Alas.

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.