Bench coach Ken Oberkfell was let go yesterday as part of the Mets’ coaching staff shakeup and Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that their list of candidates to replace him includes former Nationals manager Jim Riggleman.
In addition to Riggleman, who stepped down in the middle of the season over a contract dispute, the Mets’ bench coach search is also said to include former A’s manager Bob Geren, former Mariners manager John McLaren, and former Phillies manager Larry Bowa.
Terry Collins has already had his contract option for 2013 picked up, so as of now his job security seems pretty strong, but pursuing four different former big-league managers as his bench coach would at the very least put a potential replacement in the same dugout.
“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.