UPDATE: Orioles president Andy MacPhail tells Steve Melewski of MASNSports.com that Bowden’s report “is not accurate.” He’s not the first one to say that.
8:32 AM: According to Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio, Vladimir Guerrero is close to signing a one-year contract with the Orioles. Bowden calls it a “humbling deal” and “one of the best free agent bargains,” so we’re going to assume he’s not getting two-year deal he wanted this offseason.
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported on Thursday that the Orioles had the “inside track” on Guerrero, though the team’s interest was downplayed by Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com.
Guerrero, who turns 36 next month, batted .300/.345/.496 with 29 home runs and 115 RBI for the Rangers last season, although he did stumble to a .748 OPS after the All-Star break and struggled miserably during the World Series.
The potential addition of Guerrero would complicate things in Baltimore, as Luke Scott would have to find some bats either in left field at the expense of Felix Pie and Nolan Reimold or at first base for the newly-signed Derrek Lee. For what it’s worth, Scott had a .902 OPS last season, so I’m not so sure he deserves to be the odd man out here.
“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.