Deep Thoughts: arm injuries in Washington

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Randomly surfing around the Washington sports pages, I see that Washington Redskins’ center Nick Sundberg broke his arm — clean freaking break of his left arm — yet still played in the Redskins-Saints game yesterday, doing 11 long snaps and blocking all day despite the break.

Contrast this with the Strasburg shutdown over fear of an injury.

No, I’m not THAT dumb. I realize a pitcher’s arm is a lot more critical to his job than a lineman’s forearm is.  But it definitely reminds us about the fungible nature of offensive lineman compared to that of your average baseball player. Let alone your superstar baseball player.

Maybe it’s more about the football player’s toughness. But I steeled on “fungibility” because I wonder what inspires a player to play through a broken arm and a team to allow him to do so, and while toughness is a possibility, I wonder if fear of losing one’s job has a lot to do with it too.  It’s that sort of thing that makes the consequences of what goes on on a football field that much more real and dire in my mind, and I can’t not think about it when I’m watching football.  Which takes a lot of the enjoyment out of it for me, frankly, and is a large part of why I really don’t watch it anymore.

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.