Ken Rosenthal’s eminently reasonable position on Jeff Bagwell and steroids

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Not sure why it’s so hard for Hall of Fame voters to get on board with the ideas that (a) it’s not fair to assume someone was on steroids when there is no evidence of it; and (b) Jeff Bagwell, on the merits, posted a Hall of Fame career. But considering it’s highly unlikely he’ll be inducted this year, a healthy number of voters have a hard time with those concepts.

Thank goodness for Ken Rosenthal, then.  I don’t agree with everything he says in his Hall of Fame column — what fun would that be? — but how anyone can disagree with this is beyond me.

When voting, one should only consider the facts at hand. If Bagwell is later revealed to have been a user, maybe I will stop voting for him, if he isn’t already in the Hall. There is little doubt that he is deserving otherwise, unless you’re somehow unimpressed by his .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging mark, not to mention his baserunning, defense at first base and leadership of the Astros during his 15-year career … For now, all I know is one thing: I’m not withholding votes based on hearsay and innuendo.

Imagine.

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.