Wrong hole, Buster!

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ESPN’s Buster Olney just proposed the following on Twitter:

Idea in Monday column:Ask players in March if they will attend ASG if asked and participate if not on DL. If they decline,no name on ballot.

Obviously, this is in response to the fact that 16 players have been replaced since the All-Star Game rosters were officially announced a week ago.

But it’s such a ridiculous idea that does no one any good.

Of the 16 players replaced:

– Nine were pitchers, who aren’t listed on the ballot anyway (and six of those were scratched only because they pitched Sunday, with another getting scratched because he is on the DL).

– Six were position players nursing legitimate injuries that left them unable to play this weekend.

There were only two players actually chosen for the All-Star Game who opted out despite being able to play: Derek Jeter, who is a week removed from a DL stint caused by a strained calf, and Mariano Rivera, who was unavailable for two days last week because of a triceps strain.

In addition, there’s Aramis Ramirez, who almost certainly would have taken part in the All-Star Game if asked initially, but declined when offered a last-minute invite because he had already planned his vacation.  Technically, he was never on the team anyway.

Look, I think it’s as ridiculous as anyone that there are going to be 84 players able to call themselves All-Stars this year.  But it’s not a case of players choosing not to participate; it’s a function of MLB’s decision to bloat the rosters in a completely ridiculous fashion.

And, really, does Olney expect Jeter, one of the game’s most media-conscious players, to decide in March to rule himself out for the All-Star Game? Seriously?

Take this one back to the drawing board, buddy.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“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.