Lance Berkman tells Astros he'll be ready to come off the disabled list Tuesday

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Lance Berkman went 3-for-4 with a homer and a double in a rehab game today at Triple-A and MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports that the switch-hitter called Astros manager Brad Mills afterward to say he’ll be ready to return from the disabled list Tuesday.
Berkman, who hasn’t played since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on March 13, said he told Mills “you can run me out there for about 10 or 15 games and see what happens.” However, the All-Star first baseman also told McTaggart that his surgically repaired knee isn’t totally healed.
“I wouldn’t say it’s completely behind me, but I would say it’s good enough to get out there and play,” Berkman said. “I hadn’t played a game in five weeks, so obviously not just my knee, but every part of me is kind of sore, just because I hadn’t been in game action. I anticipate being in the lineup on Tuesday and not coming out of it until the end of the year.”
After beginning the season with eight straight losses Houston has won three out of four games, but at 3-9 overall with an MLB-worst 2.33 runs per game offensively the Astros desperately need Berkman’s bat back in the lineup. He’s hit .299/.412/.555 with an average of 33 homers, 110 RBIs, and 100 walks per 150 games, posting a slugging percentage above .500 in each of his 10 full seasons.

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.