Andrew Cashner suffers setback, will undergo MRI

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Andrew Cashner, who had a terrific starting debut with the Cubs back on April 5 before succumbing to sore shoulder and going on the DL, has experienced tightness in his rehab and will undergo an MRI, CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports.

Cashner was expected to pitch in an extended spring training game today as part of his rehab.

The 24-year-old Cashner appeared in 53 games as a reliever during his rookie season in 2010 before beating out Carlos Silva for the final spot in the Cubs rotation this year.  He allowed one run and two hits in 5 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks in his season debut before leaving with shoulder soreness.  He was diagnosed with a rotator cuff strain and placed on the DL.

If there’s further damage in Cashner’s rotation cuff, there’s a good chance the Cubs will be without him for the rest of the season.  Doug Davis, who made his Cubs debut Saturday as the replacement for James Russell in the rotation, might be needed a whole lot longer than expected.

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.