MLB to test “advanced replay systems” at games next week

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For all Bud Selig’s talk regarding how supposedly no one complains about the lack of expanded instant replay it sure sounds like MLB is planning to … well, expand instant replay.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that MLB will “test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season.”

Yankee Stadium and Citi Field will be the ballparks used for what Passan says are “a radar-based system and a camera-based system, both similar to the one used in tennis for down-the-line fair-or-foul calls.”

And despite Selig’s stubborn, constant insistence to the contrary, Passan writes that among owners “there is a groundswell of support to at least quell the perception that baseball is ignoring the available technologies.”

Or, you know, what a huge percentage of the sport’s fan base has been saying for years now (while Selig apparently wasn’t listening).

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.