Leonys Martin and the Rangers have finally made official the deal they agreed to last month, with the Cuban outfielder receiving a $15.5 million major-league contract that includes a $5 million signing bonus.
Martin will start out in the minors, but giving him a big-league contract means the Rangers will immediately place the 23-year-old center fielder on the 40-man roster and he’s said to be close enough to MLB-ready that a second-half call-up to Texas is very possible.
John Manuel of Baseball America had mixed reviews of Martin in his scouting report last year, praising his speed and defense in center field while questioning his power potential. In the past even top-rated Cuban defectors have signed for much less than $15.5 million and most of the early speculation on Martin had him costing under $10 million, so clearly the Rangers believe he has legitimate star upside.
And the clock is ticking on Julio Borbon.
“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.