For now the Reds are going with closer-by-committee in Aroldis Chapman’s absence, but manager Bryan Price said yesterday that Jonathan Broxton will take over ninth-inning duties once the big right-hander returns from the disabled list in a week or so.
Broxton was mediocre in 34 appearances for the Reds last season and then underwent elbow surgery in August that he’s still coming back from, so putting him right into the closer role is a bold call for Pryce.
Of course, the Reds overpaid to sign Broxton last offseason, giving him $21 million for three years, and Pryce no doubt values his previous closing experience with the Dodgers and Royals. Broxton has 111 career saves, including 36 in 2009 and 27 in 2012.
Chapman is hoping to return from facial fractures in late May.
“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.