Twins trainer says Joe Mauer “wasn’t strong enough” to start season as everyday catcher

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How bad have the mounting injuries gotten for the Twins? Today they had trainer Rick McWane speak directly to the media because Ron Gardenhire was sick of answering all the health-related questions and the front office was likely sick of the manager giving non-expert half-information to frustrated reporters.

McWane gave an update on Joe Mauer’s status, saying the former MVP will meet today with team doctors to determine his recovery timetable.

Mauer is eligible to be activated from the disabled list today, but is not close to returning from bilateral leg weakness and McWane admitted that he “wasn’t strong enough to handle everyday catching” coming out of spring training following offseason knee surgery.

He did anyway, starting nine of the first 10 games behind the plate while hitting just .235, but now Mauer is working to strengthen his legs before hopefully beginning a minor-league rehab assignment early next month. McWane told reporters that “the doctors are very confident that he is perfectly healthy other than the orthopedic soreness that he is currently experiencing.”

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.