Last week, when the A’s acquired Scott Sizemore from the Tigers and optioned him to the minors, Matthew Pouliot speculated in this space that they’d turn to him at third base if Kevin Kouzmanoff continued to struggle.
Matthew guessed it would take another couple weeks for Kouzmanoff to lose the job, but the A’s just optioned him to Triple-A … and called up Sizemore.
Kouzmanoff posted good power numbers for the Padres despite playing half his games in the majors’ most pitcher-friendly ballpark, but he’s hit just .240 with a .279 on-base percentage and .389 slugging percentage in 205 games since joining the A’s last season.
Oakland is a pitcher-friendly ballpark too, but managing just 23 homers in 743 at-bats is a surprise and Kouzmanoff has never had enough plate discipline to remain an asset if he’s not hitting for power. Sizemore has been even worse in the majors, hitting .223 with a .612 OPS for the Tigers, but that comes in a total of just 65 games and he’s hit .313 with 20 homers, 21 steals, and an .881 OPS in 179 games at Triple-A.
Oakland may try to trade Kouzmanoff, but his stock has likely dropped far enough that finding a taker for his $4.75 million salary will be tough.
“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.