This time with wings!
Ok, Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs reference aside, a few more quick hitters:
1. People often say someone should just “throw more strikes”, with the implication that throwing strikes isn’t that hard. And they are correct. Throwing strikes isn’t hard if you are trying to throw batting practice and give up 500 ft shots to the 3rd deck. Throwing GOOD strikes? Almost impossible. Because:
2. All pitches, even below average fastballs, leak or bleed. By that, we mean, they aren’t perfectly straight. They may look straight, but their charted path will demonstrate horizontal movement in one direction or the other. So:
3. Every pitch thrown is moving. This means that the idea of “throw it down the middle and let it move”, is misleading. If every pitch has natural horizontal movement, you have to understand when and how your pitches move before you can employ such a strategy. However:
4. There is a difference between command and control. Control is the ability to throw strikes consistently. Command is the ability to throw GOOD strikes consistently. And by GOOD strikes, we mean the 4 corners – up and in, down and in, down and away, up and away. If you don’t have command, merely having control can get you in trouble. Because:
5. If you frequently throw poorly located strikes, you get killed. Metaphorically. And eventually, literally, if your manager doesn’t bench you first. Ergo:
6. As launch angle, shifts, defensive alignment cards and other analytical tools have flooded baseball, the hitting landscape has changed. Guys now make less contact than ever, but the contact they do make is often louder, harder, and more dangerous – in other words, while strikeouts have become easier as a pitcher, they’ve also become a greater necessity, because today’s contact is frightening. Meaning:
7. Pitchers can’t just “pitch to contact”, because now contact is geared toward 100mph+ exit velocities instead of flares to the opposite field, bunts, and grounders through the hole. Defenses have closed the hole, math has damned the bunt, and the opposite flare has always been difficult. Thus:
8. Pitchers try to “nibble”. They don’t want their pitches to leak or bleed into the heart of the plate, so they start them off the plate and hope they bleed back to the corners. This is a 50/50 proposition, leading to a rise in walk rates, higher pitch counts, shorter outings for starting pitchers, heavier bullpen usage, and longer games. Which is sad, because:
9. With the decline in contact rate, there is less action happening than ever. Which brings us to:
10. Mike Foltynewicz. As a Braves fan, there are only 2 reasons I don’t watch a game. 1. They are playing the Yankees. I hate the Yankees, and they play absurdly long games. 2. Mike Foltynewicz is pitching.
Folty seems like a very nice guy. He unquestionably possesses the most talented arm on the Braves’ pitching staff. His velocity is elite and his slider is filthy. But he’s the classic victim of points 1-9. It’s not a problem I know how to fix. It’s not a criticism of him. But because of this progression of events, Folty has trouble going deep into games consistently. He is frequently at or approaching 100 pitches by the 5th inning, despite a relative lack of base runners or runs scored. Which means the games drag on, and on. He generally does a fantastic job of keeping the Braves in the game, and everyone can see how hard he’s working and trying.
But what he’s trying to fix isn’t even his fault. Somewhere along the way, someone threw a monkey wrench into how baseball was played. And the game went down a new path, that no one has yet figured out how to adjust to.
Scott Boras says ban the shift because it hurts left-handed hitters. But so does facing left-handed pitching. Should lefty/lefty match-ups be banned too?
Chip Caray and Joe Simpson say umpires should “call more strikes” – but that hurts the hitters and results in even worse contact.
How do you fix something when you don’t even know why or how it’s broken?