Cataloging the music which is haphazardly barfed out of the loudspeakers at ballgames

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Let’s talk about music and other pumped-in sounds at the ballpark.

I don’t have anything against walkup music or some well thought out musical interludes here or there, be they organ or pumped in rock or whatever. But the level of sound saturation we have these days — not to mention its scattershot nature — is really frustrating. Wall-to-wall music is bad enough, but it often makes no sense even if you accept its presence. The “charge” organ when nothing particularly interesting is happening. The “everybody clap your hands!” thing. “Day-O!” Those opening claps to “Car Wash” or whatever it is is simply pointless. It doesn’t comment on or enhance or often even match what’s going on on the field.  It’s the equivalent of some dumb conversation people have when they can’t bear even a momentary silence.

Larry Granillo of Baseball Nation has noticed this too and he did something I’ve thought to do in the past but never had the drive to actually accomplish: he made a note of every single musical cue that blared out of the loudspeakers at a major league game.

His game was Monday’s Pirates-Brewers game and the results are pretty startling:

Of the 271 pitches thrown on Monday, 119 had some sort of musical cue afterwards. If we count the walk-up music for each of the Brewers’ plate appearances, that brings the total to 152, or 56 percent of the game’s pitches punctuated by music in some way. This does not include the extended musical selections heard during nearly every inning break.

He catalogs each and every song in a separate appendix, showing what was played batter-by-batter. Reading that appendix is telling of that stuff I talk about above. The lack of a plan with music. It’s just belched out there for no reason so often.

While I think baseball would be fine without musical accompaniment, music can be just as good and entertaining a part of a viewing experience as the event itself. Think movie soundtracks and scores and the like.  Why baseball, if it insists on pumping in so much music, seems content to treat it as some moronic afterthought is beyond me.

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.