One wonders what would have happened if it had been proven that MLB messed with the baseball in 1987 and then again in 1993, which I am pretty darn sure they did. They did find out about it in Japan, and it’s leading to this:
Japan’s players union has called for the resignation of Nippon Professional Baseball’s commissioner following revelations that a new official ball was introduced this season without notifying players.
Toru Matsubara, the secretary general of the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association, submitted a document to NPB saying commissioner Ryozo Kato should resign and be replaced by someone who can demonstrate leadership.
Bud Selig should call Kato and tell him that if he really wanted to demonstrate leadership he’d (a) say that he cared deeply about the altering of the baseball; (b) form a committee to investigate the altering of the baseball; and (c) maybe file a bogus lawsuit against the guys who drove the trucks delivering the baseballs.
“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.