Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols will arrive at spring camp in Jupiter, Florida on Wednesday and has informed the club that he wants all talks regarding a contract extension to cease once he unpacks his things. The clock isn’t ticking, it’s screaming.
If you kept up with the story last week, it was all about doom and gloom. In fact, SI.com’s Jon Heyman said at one point that the Cardinals have “virtually no chance” of reaching a long-term contract extension by Pujols’ self-imposed deadline.
That might be the case, but at least one baseball executive believes that a deal will get done. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke Saturday with a “general manager in a larger market,” who had little doubt that the two sides would eventually reach an agreement, no matter if it makes business sense or not:
“What will happen is, they’ll get it done,” said the unnamed general manager.” The Cardinals aren’t a small-market team, so they’re in that area where they probably have to do it because not doing it would create chaos and possible loss of revenue. But once in a while, you do something bold and think outside the box.’’
Pujols’ representatives and the members of the Cardinals’ front office have done an admirable job of keeping information about the course of the negotiations out of the media, so no one can really say for sure whether it’s going to get done. Albert is thought to have a 10-year, $275 million contract on his mind. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are reportedly trying to keep the extension to six or seven years. There is not much time left for the two sides to find a middle ground.
“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.