Among players to debut since 1970, only Cal Ripken Jr. went to more All-Star Games than Tony Gwynn’s 15. Yet MLB chose not to honor the departed Hall of Famer during Tuesday’s contest at Target Field.
Instead, what we got during FOX’s All-Star Game broadcast was all of the Derek Jeter we could handle, a performance of Forever Young from Idina Menzel, and a Ken Rosenthal interview with commissioner Bud Selig that delayed the start of an inning. Obviously, the game wasn’t being played in San Diego or even a National League city, so perhaps the fans at Target wouldn’t have been so moved by a Gwynn ceremony. Or maybe they would have been. After all, they had their own Hall of Fame outfielder die young when Kirby Puckett passed on at 45.
UPDATE: FOX says it ran a feature on Gwynn
Gwynn died June 16 at age 54 after battling salivary gland cancer. A brief video tribute and a moment for silence was the bare minimum MLB should have done in his memory tonight. Flying in Phillies outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., if he were amenable, would have been a nice touch, too. Why MLB did nothing at all is a question that needs to be asked of Selig next time he’s interviewed.
“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.