Get to Royals’ spring training early this year

Leave a comment

2011 is going to be a rough, rough year for Kansas City. But as we have noted a number of times in recent months, the future is bright.  And the future will be on display this spring, because the team has invited many of its big name prospects to big league camp:

A total of 23 non-roster invitations to big league camp have been extended by the club, and six of those went to players ranked by Baseball America among the organization’s Top 10 prospects.

Those six are first baseman Eric Hosmer, who was ranked as the Royals’ No. 1 prospect by the publication, third baseman Mike Moustakas (No. 3), and left-handers John Lamb (No. 4), Mike Montgomery (No. 5), Danny Duffy (No. 7) and Chris Dwyer (No. 8). Right-hander Aaron Crow, who was ranked ninth, is on the 40-man roster, so he’ll be in camp, as well.

As is usually the case, these guys will get their hacks for a week or two and then they’ll be sent back to minor league camp.  But it has to be exciting for Royals fans to be able to get the sneak preview.

The only problem is going to be when these prospects totally outperform the guys who are going to be on the big league roster when they break camp. Awwk-ward!

No one pounds the zone anymore

Getty Images
Leave a comment

“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.