This article has a lot in it about woodworking and “slope of grain” and stress resistance and stuff and I really stop being sharp at around this time of the afternoon so I can’t really parse it too well. But this seems like the upshot to me:
MLB employs TECO, a certification and testing agency for wood products, to inspect bats. And now that broken-bat incidents are being tracked and categorized, the data can be used to target specific teams, players and manufacturers. “It becomes very obvious what players are breaking the most multiple-piece failures,” Kretschmann said. “What teams are they on? What are the teams that are breaking a lot of bats? You can kind of pinpoint where you go.”
So baseball is apparently inspecting and confiscating dangerous bats that don’t conform to some standards that are mentioned in the article but which are hard to tell whether or not they represent a safe threshhold for bat shattering.
Progress I guess? Hard to say. Unless you just ban maple bats, it seems like we’re just sort of spitballing. If no one has been killed or blinded by a breaking bat in the next five years or so I suppose we can declare victory.
“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.