The Cardinals could still win this thing. Indeed, as Buster Olney pointed out today, Cardinals teams have faced a 3-2 deficit in World Series play five times before this one and on four of those occasions they came back to win games 6 and 7. So, sure, it could happen.
If they do, however, where will they rate all time? Yes, every World Series winner is the undisputed champion of the baseball world — just like the guy who graduates last in his medical school class is still called “doctor” — but the teams are obviously of varying quality. The short series trumps what the long season tests and all of that. Today at the Platoon Advantage, Bill looks at the worst World Series champions of all time. I’d have to say the 2011 Cards would crack that list.
And it’s a neat list. Lots of transitional teams such as the 1959 Dodgers who were just their lovable Brooklyn days but not quite fully into their sleek, professional Los Angeles Dodgers days. We consider all of the Derek Jeter Yankees teams to be part of the same general dynasty, but the 2000 Yankees were definitely at the end of one phase of that existence and the beginning of another. There’s a wartime team on the list. A couple of flukes. These sorts of champs just happen when you meet up with them at an unusual time in baseball’s life.
“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.