John Fay — who doesn’t engage in wild speculation — reports that the Reds could shop second baseman Brandon Phillips this winter. He cites the Reds’ interest in Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero as one suggestion that they’re willing to move past Phillips. The second reason is more personal:
Phillips ticked off a lot of people in the organization with his behavior this year. Bob Castellini was the driving force behind Phillips signing. Phillips basically called Castellini a liar in the Cincinnati Magazine article … Phillips slapped the wrong guy in the face by saying that.
Given that offensive production was just average this year — Phillips was seventh in OPS among National League second basemen — the Reds could get similar offense for a lot less money.
Phillips has four years and $50 million on his contract and — RBIs notwithstanding — is coming off his worst offensive year in some time. So yes, they could get that offense for less money. But who takes that offense — and that contract — from Cincy?
“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.