Mark Teixeira comes to terms with aging, says he’s overpaid

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Dan Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal has a must-read interview with Mark Teixeira, who has come to terms with the idea that he won’t be the same player in his mid-30s as he was in his 20s. In another moment of candor, he also said that he feels there’s nothing that he can do to justify the massive eight-year, $180 million contract he signed with the Yankees in December of 2008.

“I have no problem with anybody in New York, any fan, saying you’re overpaid. Because I am,” Teixeira said. “We all are.”

“Agents are probably going to hate me for saying it,” he continued. “You’re not very valuable when you’re making $20 million. When you’re Mike Trout, making the minimum, you are crazy valuable. My first six years, before I was a free agent, I was very valuable. But there’s nothing you can do that can justify a $20 million contract.”

It’s a pretty logical take, as players in their pre-arbitration and arbitration years can deliver far more value because they are less expensive and are only entering their primes. Meanwhile, players in free agency get paid as if they’ll continue to maintain their peak production, even though many will be past their prime by the end of a long-term deal. That’s why we have seen many teams buy out arbitration years and a year or two of free agency as part of extensions, taking on some risk on the chance they’ll end up with a team-friendly contract.

Fans will appreciate the general sentiment from Teixiera, as it appeals to the notion that our priorities are out of whack, but let’s not fool ourselves and think the system will suddenly change. Players will continue to ask for more as long as these ridiculous television deals put more money in owners’ pockets. And they absolutely should. I’m sure the issue doesn’t keep Teixeira up at night, but it’s a refreshing take.

There’s a whole lot more in the piece, but this is really great work by Barbarisi, who points out that expectations for players in their mid-to-late 30s might still be skewed a bit by what we saw during the steroid era.

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.