Report: The Phillies to offer Cole Hamels six years, $130 million

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Jon Heyman reported the other day that the Phillies were prepared to offer “more than $120 million” to Cole Hamels. Now he’s getting more specific:

The Phillies are sending signals that they are planning to make an initial offer to star lefthanded pitcher Cole Hamels for about $130 million over six years within the next few days, sources familiar with the team’s thinking told CBSSports.com.

The Phillies are believed to have had some conversations in recent days with Hamels, and while no official offer has been made yet, sources say the team is interested in doing a deal in the range of Matt Cain’s six-year arrangement with the Giants.

Hard to say what that will do. It would be a reasonable assumption to think that Hamels will want more than Matt Cain is getting — $127 million or so — so this is not merely a non-starter, public relations offer.  But if Hamels truly wants to play the open market, it may not matter.

Targets north of Cain include Johan Santana’s $137.5 million deal and CC Sabathia’s $161 million deal, which he later opted out of and redid.

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.