M’s Japanese owner won’t watch team play live in Japan

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There are a number of team owners across the pro sports landscape who would rather not be in the spotlight. Which is fine, and maybe even healthy.

But this feels like a different kind of thing.

According to Art Thiel of the Everett Herald, Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, an early innovator at Nintendo and a native of Japan, has never seen his team play live and is not going to make the two-hour trek from his home later this week to see them open the MLB regular season against the A’s in Tokyo.

The reason given? None. There is no reason.

“Quite frankly, a man of his age and stature doesn’t have to explain why he’s not here,” said M’s CEO Howard Lincoln. “He’ll be watching on TV. Given all the years he’s been involved with the Mariners, he’s really looking forward to see the team play. He’s very excited.”

Yamauchi is 84 years old, so health may be a factor. But he has owned the team since 1992 and, as Theil writes, “the Japanese are big on symbolism.” We’re guessing postseason-starved Seattleites are too.

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.