Report: The market for Jacoby Ellsbury is “moving faster than expected”

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We have often seen Scott Boras take his sweet time in order to find the right deal for his clients, which makes the following report from ESPN’s Jayson Stark come as somewhat of a surprise.

Boras said back in October that he had received calls from 11 teams, but aside from some conflicting reports about the Mariners, we have heard very little about who might be involved in negotiations to sign Ellsbury. Many have speculated on the Cubs as a possible landing spot for the free agent center fielder, though it’s unclear whether they are actually in the mix.

Ellsbury, 30, batted .298/.355/.426 with 48 extra-base hits (nine home runs) and 53 RBI over 134 games this season while leading the majors with 52 stolen bases. Whether it happens at next week’s Winter Meetings or not, it’s safe to say that he will walk away with one of the biggest contracts this offseason.

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.