Lester gives the Red Sox a scare

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Jon Lester gave Red Sox fans quite a
scare on Friday night when he took a Melky Cabrera line drive off the
inside of his right knee. He looked to be in considerable pain,
crumpling to the ground before limping back to the dugout. Similar
comebackers have knocked Roy Halladay (leg) and Brad Bergesen (shin)
out for the year in recent seasons.




However, X-rays on the knee came
back negative and Lester was diagnosed with a contusion on his right
quadriceps. In fact, things were looking so good on Saturday morning
that
the Red Sox are now optimistic that he can make his next scheduled start against the Indians on Thursday:



“We’ll monitor him the next couple days,” Francona said. “This time
of year, they don’t always throw a side, anyway. So that doesn’t
necessarily get in the way. And we’re certainly not going to let him
pitch if he’s hobbling around out there. But he doesn’t necessarily
have to do a side day tomorrow, either. He looked pretty good. He’s
doing alright.”

The Red Sox would like to keep Lester on his regular schedule, but
they will make an adjustment to his preparation for the postseason if
the contusion on his right quadriceps demands it.

If he makes his Thursday start, as
scheduled, he would line up perfectly to start Game One of the ALDS,
most likely against the Angels, on Wednesday, Oct. 7 or Thursday, Oct.
8.

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.