The Nats' first round pick will sign quickly

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While the Stephen Strasburg negotiations could be long and nasty, the Nats apparently aren’t going to have any trouble with their second first round pick:

The
Nationals, who took San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg with the
No. 1 overall selection, couldn’t resist taking another pitcher early.
[Drew] Storen was 7-1 with a 3.80 ERA and seven saves with 66
strikeouts in 42.2 innings this season . . . Storen, a draft-eligible
sophomore who could return to school, made it clear he won’t.

“It’s a done deal,” he said. “I can’t get a better situation than this. It’s a perfect situation for me.”

Note
to the Nats’ players: don’t make Storen your union rep once he makes
the big club, because tough negotiations aren’t exactly his forte

I
kid Storen. He may not have been the best player available when the
Nats’ picked him, but based on everything I’ve read, he’s a “finished
product,” as they say, who, as Matthew notes,
could very well be in the Nats’ bullpen very, very soon. If I was him
I’d (a) thank the Nats’ profusely for taking me where they did; and (b)
sign on the dotted line and get my butt throwing live pitches for money
ASAP. If he does that, he could get a nice political boost within an
organization that will no doubt be in Strasburg-related agony for the
next two months. Indeed, the Nats are going to have every incentive in
the world to showcase Storen, both to placate fans and to tease
Strasburg with all that he’s missing.

So good for the kid from Indianapolis, who will very likely benefit from the Boras-inflicted ugliness to come.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“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.