Vicente Padilla has swine flu

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Not only did Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine announce that Vicente Padilla was diagnosed with H1N1 Type A influenza, better known as “Swine Flu” on Friday, but that he is still scheduled to make his next start on Tuesday:

“He was as surprised as anyone when
we told him this was the case. From everything we’ve been told, this is
certainly a different strain of the normal flu and by nature might be
deemed more serious, but you really wouldn’t treat it any differently.”

“Without speculating, I think it is
reasonable to expect that we may find some of our other guys have it.
We’ve been medicating our players. We would use the same medication and
the same kind program to rehabilitate them and they’ve all shown
improvement. Those are the positive signs.”

“As an extra precaution, we have
encouraged him to go back to the hotel tonight and not sit in the
dugout or the clubhouse. He’s done that. I think we’ll continue to take
that level of precaution, and in addition [with] everyone else.”

In a related story, baseball sources tell Circling the Bases that Omar
Minaya has contacted Rangers general manager Jon Daniels in hopes that
an acquisition of Swine Flu could give the team a potential boost down
the stretch.

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.