Brandon Phillips is a punk because he didn’t charge the mound to fight Jared Hughes? What?

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The he-said, he-said of the Brandon Phillips-Jared Hughes thing died out a day after it all went down. Probably for the best, given that (a) neither Phillips nor Hughes was willing to say they were wrong; and (b) no one’s interests would be served by having it strung out any longer.

But in today’s Post-Gazette Ron Cook takes what I consider to be a totally demented angle on the matter. He called Brandon Phillips a “punk” because he didn’t start a brawl during the game:

Is Brandon Phillips a punk or what? … After the game, Phillips tweeted that he heard a racist remark. He didn’t mention names, but the implication was that it came from Hughes.

Right there, Phillips lost all respect. He never looked at Hughes even as Hughes was yelling at him. If Hughes slurred him — using the word “boy,” according to Phillips — shouldn’t Phillips have charged the mound and gone after Hughes? Some things are more important than the fear of injury or a suspension or even the impact either would have on your team in the playoffs and World Series. Defending your manhood is one. Phillips came up awfully small there.

Cook goes on to say that Phillips reaching out to Andrew McCutchen in an effort to have a go at fence-mending with Hughes was “impossible to explain.”

This is bizzaro world territory. You’re not allowed to take umbrage at what you perceive to be a racist remark unless you’re willing to get violent about it?  Running at the guy and tackling him is preferable to trying to talk it out?  On what planet is Cook writing this from?  The one in which Jackie Robinson routinely beat the crap out of people in 1947 as he made his way into the majors? The one where Martin Luther King led violent mobs in the streets?

Look, you can take legitimate issue with Phillips over making the incident public. You can even reasonably believe that he was simply wrong about what Hughes said to him and handled it poorly in the aftermath. But to suggest that Phillips or anyone else loses all credibility on a racial matter if they don’t react violently is beyond ridiculous.

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.