Michael Vitez of the Philly Inquirer has a fun story today about the never-ending battle in baseball between those who like to wear high socks — the avatars of goodness and truth — and those who don’t — evil incarnate.
OK, that was a bit of editorializing on my part. Apologies. I’m sure there are some non-evil people out there who like the big baggy pants hanging down below the shoes look. I just haven’t met them yet.
And to be honest, I do think that there is a danger that the big high-socks look has become a too self-consciously retro choice by now. No, it’s not like a ton of guys really rock it, but many who do seem to be doing it less because it’s cool and more because it’s perceived to be cool. If that makes any sense.
Know what you don’t see much of anymore? The intermediate look. Anyone doing that? With the stirrups? That’s probably the coolest look of them all. At least until too many start to do it and it becomes lame.
Man, hipster fashion politics are difficult.
“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.