Should the Padres lock up their entire infield?

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Padres third baseman Chase Headley will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration going into the 2014 season, after which he would become eligible for free agency. For quite some time, the Padres have been reported as either shopping Headley or guarding him closely with plans to offer him a contract extension. As of now, nothing has happened.

In part due to Headley, the entire Padre infield has been the source of a great deal of production as first baseman Yonder Alonso, second baseman Jedd Gyorko, and shortstop Everth Cabrera are also posting above-average offensive numbers. As a result, Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego suggests the Padres should lock up their entire infield:

The team that has time and again sent its homegrown stars away rather than pay them has in the collective handling of its young talent a chance to change course in a grand way.

Ron Fowler, the Seidlers and the O’Malleys need to allow general manager Josh Byrnes to get underway the process of attempting to lock up Alonso, Jedd Gyorko, Everth Cabrera and, of course, Chase Headley.

All of them.

While having the luxury of writing down an entire infield in permanent marker is appealing, it isn’t necessary. Alonso is pre-arb through 2014 and isn’t eligible for free agency until 2017. Gyorko has all of 205 plate appearances at the Major League level so there is no rush to sign any additional paperwork with him. Cabrera is arb-eligible through 2016. Locking up Headley would be a great first step towards solidifying a great infield, but as it pertains to the other three, the Padres don’t need to worry about that for another year and a half at the earliest.

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.