Poor, poor Vin Mazzaro

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When a pitcher “wears one,” it means he takes one for the team in a blowout, helping preserve the other arms in the bullpen to fight and pitch another day.  Vin Mazzaro did that last night in the Royals’ 19-1 loss to the Indians, and he did so in epic fashion. According to Joe Posnanski, this was the single worst performance by a pitcher. Ever. In baseball history. As Posnanski notes, no reliever since World War II had allowed 14 runs in a game and no pitcher has ever allowed 14 runs in less than three innings.

Mazzaro was sent down to Omaha after the game.  And in this case, he’s probably happy for the demotion. Not out of shame, but for his own good and the good of Ned Yost who, for reasons that baffle me, let Mazarro take that abuse.  Especially considering that the very purpose such abuse is supposed to serve — saving the pen — didn’t even happen. Nope, Yost still used Tim Collins, Joakim Soria and three other relievers in this one, which makes no sense to me at all. Don’t you put your utility infielder in to pitch a couple of innings at some point?

Mazzaro said all of the right things after the game, but man, at some point you’d hope your manager would save you from all of that.

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.