The Reds recently exercised Bronson Arroyo’s $11 million option for 2011. It has now been torn up and replaced by a three-year extension worth $35 million reports Ken Rosenthal.
Arroyo once looked like he’d be a free agent this winter, what with a contract that seemed overpriced on a non-contender. But then a funny thing happened. The Reds started winning, Arroyo kept on taking the mound every fifth day and he kept on getting guys out at a pretty steady clip. He went 17-10 in 2010, with a 3.88 ERA in 215 innings. His strikeouts are down a touch from his peak but his walk rate is pretty steady. In a world where Zach Duke gets $4.5 million a year, paying Arroyo $11.6 million a year doesn’t seem crazy at all.
“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.