UPDATE: According to Tom Singer of MLB.com, Liriano will only be guaranteed $1 million. He could make an additional $11.75 million if he reaches certain bonuses and has his option vest for 2014. That was quite a costly fall.
10:48 PM: The Pirates just officially announced the deal. Liriano will get a one-year contract with a vesting option for 2014, so it appears he will have to prove his health this season in order to receive the money he was originally in line to get prior to breaking his arm.
2:48 PM: Francisco Liriano agreed to a two-year, $12.75 million deal with the Pirates back mid-December, but the signing was put on hold and potentially put in jeopardy when Liriano broke his non-throwing arm in a bathroom fall.
There was talk of the Pirates re-working some of the language in the contract and even some speculation that they might back out of the deal completely, but Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the two sides have finalized things six weeks later.
Liriano has had an ERA above 5.00 in back-to-back seasons and infuriated the Twins and White Sox with his inability to throw strikes, but he’s also still just 29 years old with good fastball velocity, a devastating slider, and 480 strikeouts in 483 innings since 2010.
“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.