Nationals prospect shortstop Yewri Guillen dies of bacterial meningitis

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Sad news out of the Dominican Republic.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that Nationals prospect shortstop Yewri Guillen, who played and lived at the team’s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, died yesterday morning of bacterial meningitis. He was just 18 years old.

According to Nationals’ academy administrator Fausto Severino, Guillen started feeling ill at the complex last week and was sent home at his request to see a doctor of his choice. He was hospitalized over the weekend and died in the hospital Friday.

“He was a young kid with a lot of future and had a lot of talent,” Severino said. “It’s a young life other than being a baseball player. He was a happy kid all the time. He was a great kid. He was upbeat. He was a kid from a humble family but with great spirits. He was a kid everybody liked.”

The Nationals signed Guillen in February and had plans for him to play for one of their minor league affiliates in the United States this season.

It’s not yet known how Guillen contracted the illness. The Nationals have been in touch with other players who live and play at their complex and fortunately none have reported any health concerns.

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.