Quote of the Day: Posnanski on Jeter

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Joe Posnanski, as he so often does, completely nails the Derek Jeter dynamic in his latest post. The upshot: we all know what’s going to happen. And we do:

We KNOW Derek Jeter will play for the New York Yankees in 2011. There is no chance for a surprise there. This is not 90% likely or 95% likely or even 99% likely. It is Hurricane Insurance In Kansas likely. There is simply no even remotely plausible scenario I can imagine where Derek Jeter goes.

I suspect that is why this story seems like so much fun. It gives us a lot of Yankeefreude and Jeterfreude, but at the same time, there’s not a real chance that this will end in a sad way. And I suspect that even the most anti-Yankees people out there would think it sad, at least on some level, if Jeter was missing grounders to his left for the Astros next year instead of the Yankees.

 

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.