And That Happened: NLCS Edition

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Phillies 4, Giants 2: The Giants had a shot here, and no matter what Tim Lincecum said after the game about not making good pitches in the third inning — which he didn’t — Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval’s defense was the real killer here. A pitcher shouldn’t have to be perfect. He should get picked up from time to time by the guys behind him, and that’s just not possible with the dudes in the Giants’ infield. Not that this game was over in the third inning. Kudos to Roy Halladay for fighting through an injury and gutting one out, and kudos to the Phillies bullpen for being on point. Not once in the final three innings did it feel like San Francisco had much of a chance to do anything.

Now back to Philly, which has to be deflating for the Giants. Are they still favored? They probably have to be because winning one of two is still an easier trick than winning two of two. But in losing at home with their ace on the hill on a night when one of the Phils’ big three wasn’t as sharp as he could have been was absolutely their best shot to close this series out. And quite frankly, the Giants blew it.

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.