In the wake of the “Leo Nunez” and “Fausto Carmona” identity fraud incidents, the New York Times has a story in which people around baseball talk about how widespread the problem is feared to be:
Few in baseball were surprised that two well-established players had misrepresented themselves. The fear is that the problem could be much more widespread. One agent said more than a dozen players could soon lose their contracts because of age and identity issues.
“These are like time bombs,” Mark Newman, the Yankees’ senior vice president for baseball operations, said by telephone from the Dominican Republic while scouting there last week.
For his part Newman, as well as others in baseball, believe that the problem will get better. Still: as long as there are millions to be gained by an 18 or 19 year-old passing himself off as 16, this problem is going to persist.
“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.