It’s looking more and more like Justin Duchscherer isn’t going to be ready for action when the Orioles open their regular season.
According to Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com, “The Duke of Hurl” had to be scratched from a scheduled intrasquad game appearance Sunday due to discomfort in his surgically-repaired left hip. He won’t throw on the side either.
Orioles skipper Buck Schowalter acknowledged after the the scratching that Duchscherer probably isn’t going to be able to fit in the 20 or so innings that he needs to be physically prepared for the role of a starter. He’s made only a two-inning appearance thus far and the O’s apparently don’t want to convert him back to a reliever.
Baltimore signed the right-hander to a one-year, $700,000 contract in late January. He hasn’t been fully healthy in a while, but Duchscherer still carries a shiny 3.13 career ERA and 1.14 career WHIP.
“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.