A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the 20th anniversary of Hal McRae’s famous meltdown and the 30th anniversary of Lee Elia’s rant against the Cubs fans. Let’s mark the third in the Holy Trinity of Manager Meltdowns: 35 years ago today, someone asked Tommy Lasorda what he “thought of Kingman’s performance” after Dave Kingman hit three homers and drove in eight against the Dodgers. Tommy:
“What’s my opinion of Kingman’s performance?” Lasorda said. “What the (expletive) do you think my opinion is of it? I think it was (expletive). Put that in. I don’t (expletive) care. What’s my opinion of his performance? (expletive). He beat us with three (expletive) home runs.
“What the (expletive) do you mean, ‘What is my opinion of his performance?’ How can you ask me a question like that? I’m (expletive) off to lose a (expletive) game, and you ask me my opinion of his performance?”
Audio of it — and it is unedited and, of course, profanity-laced, can be heard here. If you play it at work and get fired it’s all on you.
A few years ago Lasorda gave his reaction to the fame his comments soon acquired. Even Burt Reynolds thought it was great. And in 1978, what Burt Reynolds thought about things mattered.
“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.