An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind

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I think Yogi Berra said that. No time to check.

Anyway, we had guys throwing at each other last night in Los Angeles. No one hit anyone, however. And nothing was really settled either, because someone apparently lost count of who hit who when and apparently some slights and vendettas never die.

Clayton Kershaw threw a pitch at Ian Kennedy. Why? Because earlier Kennedy threw a pitch at Kershaw. Why? Because last fall Hong-Chih Kuo threw at Gerardo Parra’s head.  Why? Because last July Parra preened and strutted some after he hit a homer off Kuo.

Somewhere, some Old School Prestigious baseball elder could probably explain when proper justice had been meted out in all of this, but it would contradict what some other Old School Prestigious player thought. There’s rarely any consensus here. Just idiots throwing baseballs at one another and making it increasingly likely that someone will eventually get hurt.

Well, there’s comedy too. When asked about Kennedy throwing at Kershaw, Dbacks catcher Miguel Montero explained it by saying “Kershaw has a long swing, so we had to pitch him in.” Um, ok. But hey: since he lied about it, no one will get suspended I presume.

Ah, Old School Baseball.

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.