The Braves defeated the Dodgers 4-3 last night to even things up at 1-1 in the NLDS, but the win wasn’t without some controversy, as Dee Gordon was called out on a bang-bang play while trying to steal second base in the ninth inning.
Gordon entered the ballgame as a pinch-runner after A.J. Ellis drew a walk against Braves closer Craig Kimbrel. Included on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster for his speed, Gordon quickly took off for second base with pinch-hitter Andre Ethier at the plate. However, he ruled out by second base umpire Bill Miller after Andrelton Simmons was able to catch a throw from Gerald Laird on the short hop and apply the tag in one motion. Ethier would go on to draw a walk, but Carl Crawford struck out swinging to end the ballgame.
Much of the focus after the game was naturally on Gordon being thrown out at second base. Watching the play in real time, it certainly appeared that he was safe. However, if you slow it down, it appears that Simmons may have tagged Gordon on his backside before he was able to reach the base. Granted, Miller wasn’t in the best position to judge where Gordon’s hand may have been. The picture (captured by Scott Cunningham of Getty Images) in this post indicates the same thing, though it’s unclear whether the ball is in Gordon’s glove at this time. Check out the play below:
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly undoubtedly would have used one of his replay challenges if this was 2014, but I’m not sure there would have been enough evidence here to help him. MLB will likely have more angles available than TBS did on this particular play, but I don’t see anything definitive here that would have overturned the call.
“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.