Carpenter throws side session, says “I’ll be fine”

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Chris Carpenter seems to be making a quick and easy recovery from the left hamstring strain that he suffered in a game last week.

According to Hall of Famer Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Carp threw a light side session off a mound Sunday afternoon in Cardinals camp and reported only mild discomfort in his hammy.

The Cardinals haven’t scheduled a live appearance for him yet and probably won’t until he’s back to feeling 100 percent. He has ample time to get back on track for his Opening Day start on March 31 in St. Louis.

“(The leg) is good enough,” said the Carpenter. “I just wanted to get up there and throw a little bit. And it was exactly what we needed to do. I’ll be fine. I’ve come back from many, many different things. My arm strength is good.”

The Cardinals need another ace-like performance from Carp this season with Adam Wainwright sidelined by Tommy John surgery. The veteran finished with a 3.22 ERA and 179 strikeouts in 235 innings last year.

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.