… OK, that’s not fair. It was just one man’s opinion in the course of this long and fun article from Jerry Crasnick in which we hear all about the interaction between fans and outfielders across the majors. The good, the bad and the ugly.
As for the ugly, Crasnick asked one guy who has a generally good relationship with outfield fans — Jeff Francoeur — where the worst place to patrol the grass happens to be:
“Philly is the worst — no doubt about it,” Francoeur says. “I thought it was bad when I was with the Braves. Then it got even worse when I played for the Mets and we went there. In New York, people just yell at you. In Philly, they wear you out. Even the little kids can be rough in Philly. It’s way out of bounds.”
Hey, if Jeff Francoeur said it, it has to be true. Right?
“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.