Media spats tend not to interest most people, but this one is pretty notable: Peter Gammons, Boston icon, called out in the pages of his old paper, the Boston Globe:
During his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Felger and Massarotti’’ show last Wednesday, Gammons asserted that Globe reporter Bob Hohler should reveal the anonymous sources from his bombshell story last October on the factors contributing to the Red Sox’ historic collapse. Those factors, according to Hohler’s sources, included manager Terry Francona’s personal issues and a fractured clubhouse in which a clique of pitchers were drinking beer and eating chicken during games.
It was an absurd suggestion.
That’s Chad Finn of the Globe taking Gammons to task.
Finn notes that Gammons has since come off the notion that Hohler should reveal his source, but he still believes that the story was unnecessary and irrelevant. Which, sure, many people might feel that way. But as Finn notes, those people tend to be Red Sox fans who don’t necessarily want to hear of discord on their team, legitimate or cooked up or otherwise.
I follow a ton of reporters and columnists. Most of them keep the proper journalistic distance from the teams they cover. Some of them, I hate to say it, seem to become fan boys or apologists over time. I don’t think Gammons is that way, but in this instance he does seem to be hitting the wrong notes, and I think Finn was right to note it.
“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.