Scrappy utilityman Nick Punto was placed on the disabled list for a second time this season Wednesday, this time because of a strained forearm.
Punto missed the first three weeks of the season following hernia surgery. Because of injuries throughout the St. Louis infield, he had played pretty regularly since returning on April 20 and he was hitting .262/.355/.385 in 65 at-bats. That’d be a career-high .740 OPS for the long-time Twin if he could keep it up.
Replacing Punto on the roster and making his major league debut is 2007 first-round pick Pete Kozma. The 23-year-old Kozma, known strictly for his fine defense at shortstop, was hitting just .220/.284/.284 in 141 at-bats for Triple-A Memphis. He had 31 strikeouts and no homers in 38 games.
Bypassed again was third baseman Matt Carpenter. Carpenter appeared to make a strong impression on the Cardinals this spring, but the team declined to give him a try when either Skip Schumaker (elbow) or David Freese (hand) landed on the disabled list and he went unselected again now despite an OPS 250 points higher than Kozma’s.
Schumaker figures to be the first one to return out of the three injured infielders. Tyler Greene, who was sharing time with Punto at second base, will get most of the starts there for now.
“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.