Jon Morosi of FOX Sports is reporting that the latest development in replay talks is that the “neighborhood play” — where the second baseman catches the ball off the bag and throws to first base in an attempt to both avoid an incoming runner and complete a double-play, and is given credit for the force out — will not be reviewable. Morosi adds that a manager may challenge that the second baseman did not make a catch but cannot challenge that the second baseman was on the bag when he received the ball.
Further, Morosi says that a big reason why the play will not be reviewable is that forcing a second baseman to catch the ball while on the bag increases his risk of being injured by an incoming runner. The extra split-second or full second that he must hang around the bag increases his odds of having the runner slide into him, or being up-ended as he attempts to leap over the runner. Additionally, the runner is also at risk. This is how Justin Morneau suffered his concussion in July 2010.
“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.