First the White Sox moved Chris Sale from the bullpen to the rotation, then they moved him back to the bullpen after five starts, and most recently they allowed him to pitch with a sore elbow that eventually led to an MRI exam.
Meanwhile, Sale has repeatedly made it very clear that he wants to continue starting and there’s seemingly disagreement between manager Robin Ventura and pitching coach Don Cooper regarding if or when he’ll get another opportunity in the rotation.
All of which makes it something less than shocking that Sale’s agent, B.B. Abbott, contacted Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune to say that he’s “extremely concerned about the way the White Sox have approached this entire situation with Chris and his future.”
Gonzales calls the handling of Sale “clumsy” and notes that “presumably Sale, and some in the hierarchy, believe he should be returned to the rotation while others think he should be in the bullpen.”
And it could be a moot point if the MRI results come back with bad news.
“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.