Brandon Wood, meet Tony Pena Jr.

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With his 0-for-3 on Sunday, Brandon Wood went over 200 plate appearances for the season and his average dwindled to .160. If he doesn’t get another at-bat all year, he’d finish with a .397 OPS that’d rank as the lowest for any player in the expansion era.
Here’s the bottom 10 with a minimum of 200 plate appearances:
1. Brandon Wood (Angels, 2010) – .160/.185/.213 – .397 in 188 AB
2. Tony Pena Jr. (Royals, 2008) – .169/.189/.209 – .398 in 225 AB
3. Ray Oyler (Tigers, 1968) – .135/.213/.186 – .399 in 215 AB
4. John Vukovich (Phillies, 1971) – .166/.211/.189 – .400 in 217 AB
5. Al Weis (White Sox, 1966) – .155/.233/.187 – .420 in 187 AB
6. Doug Strange (Pirates, 1998) – .173/.217/.216 – .433 in 185 AB
7. Mike Ryan (Phillies, 1968) – .179/.218/.216 – .434 in 296 AB
8. Jerry Zimmerman (Twins, 1967) – .167/.243/.192 – .436 in 234 AB
9. Jim Mason (Yankees, 1975) – .152/.228/.211 – .438 in 223 AB
10. Rich Morales (SD/CHW, 1973) – .161/.245/.194 – .438 in 248 AB
Pena, incredibly, got even worse in 2009, hitting .098/.132/.118 in 51 at-bats before the Royals gave up on him, and he’s now trying to work his way back to the majors as a pitcher in the Giants chain.
Wood appears doomed. He’s now played in 153 major league games and hit .177/.205/.267 with 10 homers and a ridiculous 130/11 K/BB ratio in 412 at-bats. Though the Angels are out of the race, they’ve given him just two starts all month. (Oddly enough, they’ve won all three games he’s started since Aug. 25.) Wood has a pretty good reputation in the field, but in 484 innings (the equivalent of 55 games) at third base and shortstop this year, he’s committed eight errors and been involved in just seven double plays.
Some rebuilding club will probably take a chance on him this winter. He’s entering his age-26 season, and he’s hit .283/.350/.536 with 77 homers in 330 Triple-A games. But he’ll be far from a lock to make a team out of spring training, even though the fact that he’s out of options has kept him in the majors throughout 2010.

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.