Braves fans are arguing among ourselves a little bit. Not a ton, but a little. The argument: should Kris Medlen start the one-game wild card playoff for which the Braves seem destined or should Tim Hudson. I say “a little bit,” because almost everyone I talk to thinks it should be Medlen because the dude has been insane in the second half.
John Smoltz has another idea, though:
John Smoltz believes the Braves should take the gamble of going with one of their other starting pitchers in this must-win game. His belief is that the Braves would increase their odds of winning the best-of-five Division Series if they would have Medlen and Hudson available to pitch the first two games which would be played at Turner Field.
Maybe Smoltz is just subconsciously advocating for the third-best pitcher out of some leftover Maddux/Glavine issues.
Whatever the case, like Leo Durocher said: “You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.”
Pitch Medlen. You don’t win the NLDS until you get to the NLDS. And Medlen gives you the best chance to do that.
“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.