Happy Friday, Athletics Nation!
Eno Sarris gets deep into baseball nerd-lore like few others. Yesterday, in a terrific piece in The Athletic, he detailed the demise of the hitters’ count and its root cause: the rise of the slider. He also worked this fantastic sentence that any South Park fan should appreciate into the opening paragraph:
That was the time-honored, well-worn script for the hitter: step one, get a hitter’s count; step two, get a hittable fastball; step three, profit.
Sarris points out that the proportion of fastballs thrown in hitters’ counts—in which there are two or three more balls than strikes—dropped below two-thirds about ten years ago, and are now at an all-time low of 57 percent, at least since statisticians began keeping track.
More organizations are fostering less fastball usage and having a lot of success with it:
There are currently six organizations who throw < 50% FB in the minor leagues in 2022: SEA, NYY, MIN, HOU, SF, BAL.#Mariners last in FB usage by a LOT. 42.5%, next lowest is 46.7%.— Kyle Boddy (@drivelinebases) May 24, 2022
In 2021, only three orgs were < 50% FB usage: HOU, SEA, MIN.
Olds who want to establish the FB: pic.twitter.com/uIDjEPcHIU
Pitchers by and large are using the slider more often, and hitters haven’t caught up to it yet: despite its increased usage, the breaking ball’s whiff rates have held steady since 2008. When pitch tracking started in 2003, pitchers threw 90 mph on average and went with fastballs 63 percent of the time. Only a single pitcher has fit that profile in recent years: Julio Teheran.
Will hitters adapt by sitting on sliders in the future? Maybe, but the high variability with which breaking balls can be thrown might make it more challenging to adjust. And pitchers who can get 85+ mph on their breaking balls complemented by 95+ mph fastballs will be especially tough to catch up to.
Head on over to The Athletic for loads more detail on this phenomenon. And have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! I hope yours will be a long one full of watching the A’s mess with Texas—and not just the Rangers. The Astros are finally coming to Oakland on Monday for the two teams’ first face-off of the season!
- Ashford: Game #47: A’s blink first in pitching duel, lose 4-1 to Rangers
- Dierberger: Why Bagwell considers 2002 ‘Moneyball’ A’s a ‘farce’
- Gallegos: Is Smith the A’s next great third baseman?
- Kawahara: Ramón Laureano returns to A’s lineup; Mark Kotsay discusses injuries ($)
MLB News & Interest:
- Slusser: Giants’ Luis Gonzalez, bullied as a young immigrant, escaped into baseball ($)
- Sarris: MLB hitters have always sought fastball counts. But what if there’s no longer any such thing? ($)
- McDonald: MLB, MLBPA Agree To Extend 14-Pitcher Limit Through June 19
- Lloyd: How many baseballs are used in an MLB game? We tracked a Guardians-Tigers game to find out ($)
- Today in Baseball History
Best of Twitter:
Barrera looking like a full-fledged big leaguer.
Luis Barrera might just be here to stay. Now batting .333 with four doubles and seven RBIs over his first 16 games this season.— Martín Gallegos (@MartinJGallegos) May 25, 2022
@MikeSelleck with some fresh deep cuts.
Dany Jiménez recorded his 10th save of the season yesterday to become the sixth rookie in Oakland history with 10 or more saves (last: Ryan Cook, 14 in 2012)...the A's game note highlights for May 26: pic.twitter.com/g25YUvxWBv— Mike Selleck (@MikeSelleck) May 27, 2022
Frankie had another big K night last night but nobody can touch Vida Blue.
Make it nine games with 10 or more strikeouts for Montas. https://t.co/uSt7l8VpEb— Mike Selleck (@MikeSelleck) May 27, 2022
The Mexican HOF just made my bucket list.
I visited the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame in Monterrey today. Coming up in the Oakland A’s org. we were always told about how great a player our longtime field coordinator Juan Navarrette was. It was cool to find his plaque and learn more about his accomplishments here in MX! pic.twitter.com/0aawmXKzFQ— Seth Frankoff (@Frankoff43) May 26, 2022
Koenig keeps dealing.
A's Minor League Report - May 26, 2022: LHP Jared Koenig threw 7.0 scoreless IP, with just 3 h, 3 bb, & 9 so...now owns a 2.30 ERA in 47.0 innings...the ERA is second best in the PCL...he leads with 56 strikeouts & ranks 2nd in wins (4), IP, opponents AVG (.205) and WHIP (1.05). pic.twitter.com/wdoq7K7SRD— Oakland A's Communications (@AthleticsPR) May 26, 2022
Tony Kemp is pure class on the field and off.
.@TonyKemp hosted kids from @BGCO_Oakland to watch batting practice and enjoy today's game!— Oakland A's (@Athletics) May 27, 2022
Way to go, TK! #DrumTogether pic.twitter.com/DKNzuCZIbz
Too Poole for school!
#PooleSZN https://t.co/n4Kdbn0aoZ— Casey Pratt (@CaseyPrattABC7) May 26, 2022
Passan sits a clown down.
And yet somehow an increasingly large number of women are intimately involved in it, from running an entire baseball-operations department to managing a minor league team to directing a farm system, while you, a man -- a very little, sad man -- are tweeting. https://t.co/xMtysnZzh5— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 27, 2022
Rollie on the ‘stache.
The story behind Rollie Fingers’ legendary mustache pic.twitter.com/yUGZmj7jAj— A's on NBCS (@NBCSAthletics) May 27, 2022