A tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale at the owners meetings:
Before you get all excited, remember that Selig says that every single matter that ever comes to his attention is “being considered” or is “under review” and most of the time nothing comes of it. Selig is excellent at communicating his awareness that something controversial has happened. Rarely, if ever, however, does he wade into things and blow them up. Which, to be fair, is usually the right course of action. Baseball is not made better by Selig being some activist commissioner like Roger Goodell or David Stern. Conservatism in a conservative institution is almost always best.
And in this case, as I argued this morning, I highly doubt anything comes of it. Nor should it. Even if Bud is going to play the “I feel your pain, Marlins fans” game for a couple of days.
“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.