Breaking: Melky will be ineligible for the batting title

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This is both totally unexpected and extremely unusual. And dare I say, ill-advised.  Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports:

In an unprecedented agreement between Major League Baseball and union officials, suspended Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera will be ruled ineligible to win the 2012 NL batting title, sources told CSNBayArea.com.

Cabrera asked to be removed from consideration on Wednesday, when his representatives sent a letter to union officials. The Players’ Association worked out a one-time amendment to Rule 10.22(a) with MLB officials on Thursday, one day after Commissioner Bud Selig said publicly that he was not likely to take action on the matter.

A “one-time amendment” to the rule is a curious phrase.  Rather Orwellian, actually. What it is a decision to just ignore a rule because baseball and/or Melky Cabrera or whoever initiated this decision didn’t like the repercussions of that rule.

I presume this will make a lot of people happy because no one was comfortable seeing Melky Cabrera win the batting title.  But it also opens the door for all manner of messing around with the rules in the future when they don’t produce results to someone’s liking.  Which is exactly the kind of arbitrary thing having rules is supposed to prevent.

I also love how Melky “asked to be removed from consideration” for the batting average title. Quick: Adam Dunn! Call the league and ask to be taken out of consideration for the strikeout title.

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.