Craig Calcaterra

Pitch Clock

Games are longer this year than last year

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In 2015 Major League Baseball implemented measures to speed up the game, both in terms of pace and in terms of overall length. A between innings clock, warnings to pitchers and batters and threats to call balls and/or strikes if they dilly-dallied too much were imposed. It worked too: game length was reduced for the first time in a long time and there was little if any blowback from the players.

Jayson Stark of ESPN reports that this year, however, game length is back up again. Seven minutes up, which more than erases the six minute reduction in games realized last year. Stark speaks to Rob Manfred about it, who voices his displeasure and says that MLB will make better efforts to speed things up. Primarily getting on players’ cases.

As Stark notes, the biggest culprit appears to be pitches per game. Which tracks the increase in strikeouts per game. All of which adds to the time and takes away from moments when the ball is in play, which makes things a lot more . . . static. Not sure what Manfred can do about that with memos. That’s about the strike zone and guys who throw 97 all the dang time. And, of course, about how all of those max effort pitches take longer to gear up for, especially from relievers.

 

Francisco Cervelli signs a three-year deal with Pittsburgh

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that the Pirates have signed catcher Francisco Cervelli to a three-year, $31 million contract extension. The deal will pay him $9 million in 2017, $10.5 million in 2018 and $11.5 million in 2019.

Cervelli, 30, was set to be a free agent after the season. He has been excellent since coming over from the Yankees before to the 2015 season, putting up a .291/.373/.384 batting line over 163 games while also providing excellent defense behind the plate particularly with pitch framing. Cervelli has had numerous injury issues in the past and was one the players caught up in the Biogenesis scandal a few years ago. But he has made himself a fixture on the Pirates and played in 130 games last season.

Braves Fire Manager Fredi Gonzalez

Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez talks with the media before a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Washington. Braves outfielder Hector Olivera was placed on paid administrative leave by Major League Baseball after he was arrested when a woman accused him of assault at a hotel outside Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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It was only a matter of time. And now his time is up. David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Braves have fired Fredi Gonzalez as their manager. Brian Snitker, the club’s Triple-A manager, will step in as the interim skipper.

This was Gonzalez’ sixth season as the Braves manager. In that time he had compiled a 434-413 record. Last year, however, the Braves lost 95 games. This year they’re 9-28 and look to be one of the worst major league clubs in recent memory. Someone was bound to pay for that.

Not that the current state of affairs is of Gonzalez’ doing. The club, despite finishing in first place with 96 wins and possessing a contractually-controlled core of good young players in 2013, embarked on a wholesale rebuild last season, decimating the big league roster and punting winning on the major league level for the foreseeable future. Between that, Gonzalez not being under contract beyond this season, and the club’s clear plan of starting fresh in its new ballpark in 2017, Gonzalez’ fate was sealed before the first pitch of the season was thrown.

All of that said, Gonzalez has been a source of criticism for years, both by virtue of his following a Hall of Fame manager in Bobby Cox and suffering by comparison and because of his many tactical mistakes and multiple late season collapses from teams which were too talented to collapse, particularly in 2011.

This change will not do much to alter the Braves’ fortunes in 2016. That extraordinarily unpalatable cake has already been baked. But it will change the conversation for a time.

Watch the trailer for “Pitch,” the new show about a woman pitcher in the bigs

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In January we mentioned a new show from Fox called “Pitch.” It’s a drama about the first woman major leaguer. Yesterday a trailer for “Pitch” debuted and the plot becomes way more clear.

The main character, a pitcher, plays for the Padres. She made the bigs after what seems like some intense coaching from her father, who taught her to throw a screwball, which people in the trailer refer to as a “trick pitch,” as if Hector Santiago doesn’t exist, but we’ll let that one go.

You can tell that there will be the obvious dramatic tension you’d expect from this kind of thing. Storylines about whether what she’s doing is for herself or to please her dad. Jealousy and acrimony from teammates. Early nerves and a case of the yips. No doubt at least one teammate with a heart of gold who gets the rest of the team in line (I’m guessing the David Ross-esque catcher in the trailer). A LOT of exposition from media members playing themselves. You know the drill.

Hard to say if it’ll be a good show or a bad show. At first I thought that there was one GLARING issue: Petco Park was being shown with throngs of excited fans, and that’s simply fantastical. Then I realized that the Dodgers were the opposition in that game and it was immediately far more realistic. Also: I give Dan Lauria, who plays the Padres’ skipper, a preliminary 24 on my Most Handsome Managers list. He earned at least that much based on “Wonder Years” goodwill.

Beyond that: could be good. I dunno. I’ll give it a chance.

Chipper Jones implies that baseball people don’t much like Jose Bautista

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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In the normal course you’d think that the opinion of baseball people, especially old school baseball people, would be, at worst, evenly split between Jose Bautista and Rougned Odor but maybe more on Bautista’s side of things. He’s the more experienced veteran. His act — a slide that, while some may consider dirty, old school baseball types would consider “hard” — was less over-the-top than a punch. And, of course, there were already a lot of stories floating around about Odor’s allegedly bad attitude or bad behavior.

However, to some close to the game, it seems like Odor is being perceived as the better actor here. Jon Heyman observes that at least, and a future Hall of Famer weighs in on why:

Basically, Jones is saying, that people in the game hate Jose Bautista.

I can’t recall stories that implied that Bautista wasn’t well-liked before. Certainly not before the bat flip last October. And even then, most of the anti-Bautista bat flip sentiment came from retired dudes. It makes me wonder if people don’t like him for other reasons. Or if that bat flip really was a truly divisive thing among more than the retired set. Or, alternatively, if people in the game just like that Odor’s punch landed so cleanly and are getting off on that.

So much drama.