The third and final day of the draft is taking place right now, but a couple of yesterday’s mid-round picks caught me eye …
* Remember the University of Texas pitcher who threw 169 pitches during a 13-inning relief outing in an NCAA tournament game last month? Austin Wood was drafted in the fifth round by Detroit. When told that the Tigers picked Wood, manager Jim Leyland said: “He won’t be able to pitch until August.” He didn’t specify which year.
* Remember the Florida high schooler who threw four consecutive no-hitters? Patrick Schuster was taken by the Diamondbacks in the 13th round, which Conor Glassey of Baseball America notes
“is lower than Schuster was expected to go based on talent.” Schuster
has a scholarship waiting for him at the University of Florida, so he
may choose college rather than mid-round money.
* One other draft note from yesterday: Drew Storen’s incredibly fast deal with the Nationals includes a $1.6 million signing bonus, which is about 25 percent below what the past three No. 10 overall picks have received. General manager Mike Rizzo said
that Storen will begin his pro career at Single-A, which suggests that
the Nationals aren’t planning to push him to the majors this year.
“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.