U.S. Cellular Field may get a name change next year

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It may not happen for the 2013 season because the deal is not yet done, but the park formerly known as New Comiskey may be Sprint Field or something like it in time for 2014. Why? Because U.S. Cellular is selling some of its business units to Sprint/Nextel, and exiting the Chicago market:

There has been no word yet from U.S. Cellular or Sprint/Nextel on the future of the name of the stadium, but sources in the telecom industry told me this morning that they expect to see some or all of the U.S. Cellular phone stores gone from the market and a major push to further establish the Sprint/Nextel name in the Chicago area.

Also in the article, talk about why the Cubs don’t sell the naming rights for Wrigley Field. Which, though it would risk pissing off basically everyone with taste and good sense, would probably give the Ricketts family $15 million a year. Which is an INSANE amount of money compared to other naming rights deals, so take it with a grain of salt.

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.