Brandon Webb won the NL Cy Young Award in 2006. That seems like a gabillion years ago. But he still hasn’t called it quits. We heard recently that he plans to throw for teams this month. Today Troy Renck reports that the Rockies remain interested in him.
It has to be hard to be a gamble/comeback story like Webb. The worst place you could probably wind up is Colorado and its high-elevation farm system, but they’re perpetually in need of pitching so they’re the most interested.
Anyway, in a world where Ben Sheets makes it back and ends his career on a mound rather than on a disabled list, there has to be room for Brandon Webb to give it one last try as well. As someone who enjoyed watching him pitch, I hope he gets a legitimate shot at it.
“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.