Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun accepted his National League Most Valuable Player award on Saturday night at the Baseball Writers Association of America awards banquet in New York City.
It was his first public appearance since the news broke last month that he tested positive for “insanely high” levels of synthetic testosterone just before the start of the Brewers’ NLDS matchup with Arizona.
Braun gave a short speech, touching on his lingering PED conviction only in broad terms (via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel):
“Sometimes in life we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure. We have an opportunity to look as those challenges and view them either as obstacles or opportunities. I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity and this will be no different. I’ve always believed that a person’s character is revealed through the way they deal with those moments of adversity.
“I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball. Everything I’ve done in my career has been done with that respect and appreciation in mind, and that is why I’m so grateful and humbled to accept this award tonight. Thank you again to everybody and I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your evening.”
Braun pleaded his innocence Thursday in front of a three-person arbitration panel. A ruling should be coming soon. If the test result is upheld, he will serve a 50-game suspension at the start of the 2012 regular season.
“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.