Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting that the Twins are refusing to discuss a contract extension with first baseman Justin Morneau until after the July 31 trade deadline. The 39-53 Twins are looking to trade the 32-year-old, who is earning $14 million in the final year of a six-year, $80 million contract. Berardino writes that Morneau’s representatives approached the Twins in the past week to talk contract extension, but were rebuffed.
Twins GM Terry Ryan said, “I don’t think it’s very smart for me to get into Morneau’s contract. I’m keeping all options open.”
Morneau is hitting .268 with seven home runs and a .727 OPS this season, mediocre numbers from a first baseman. His current .400 slugging percentage would be a career-low among the nine seasons in which he has accrued at least 300 plate appearances.
“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.