Back when he threw in the mid-90s Roy Halladay got nothing but praise. Now that he’s struggling he’s hearing some criticism. He’s not terribly pleased with that. From Mike Narducci at Philly.com:
“Philly is not an easy place to do that, you guys are pretty tough,” he said to the assembled reporters. “You have to be pretty mentally strong to block that out and go out there with confidence every time and trust.”
But it did seem like his comments were a bit more than an acknowledgment of the Philly press’ toughness, as he went on to suggest that maybe he should be given some praise for doing as well as he’s done given how recent his surgery was and how similar injuries have ended other guys’ careers.
Not sure that’ll get him very far in the court of Philly public opinion. There, more than a lot of places, results matter and you don’t get a ton of attaboys merely for trying hard.
“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.