Braves to use Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe on short rest

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With their spot in the playoffs no longer secure and Jair Jurrjens’ knee injury looking more serious than initially believed, the Braves have decided to adjust their rotation by starting both Tim Hudson and Derek Lowe on short rest.
Hudson fill face the Marlins tonight, followed by Lowe tomorrow, and they’ll both be pitching on three days’ rest. Hudson has made just three previous starts on short rest–including none since 2006–but is 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA in those games. Lowe has four career short-rest starts, going 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA, but also hasn’t won on short rest since 2006.
By starting on short rest tonight Hudson is also set up to pitch the season finale Sunday against the Phillies, perhaps with the Braves’ season on the line. That start would be on full rest and as an added bonus he’ll probably be facing Philadelphia’s backups. Lowe would then be in line to start either a one-game playoff or Game 1 of the NLDS.

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.