David Freese to begin minor league rehab assignment Tuesday

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The Cardinals are getting some important pieces back in the fold. Matt Holliday and Kyle McClellan both returned from the disabled list this week and it sounds like third baseman David Freese isn’t too far behind them.

Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Freese will begin a minor league rehab assignment Tuesday with Triple-A Memphis. The 28-year-old third baseman underwent surgery to repair a fractured left hand after being hit by a pitch in early May.

“I’m excited to get going,” said Freese. “Obviously, we’re a couple of weeks ahead of where we thought we’d be.”

If all goes well, Freese believes he could rejoin the Cardinals sometime during their upcoming roadtrip, which begins June 28 in Baltimore and concludes July 3 in Tampa Bay.

Freese was batting .356/.394/.471 with two homers and 14 RBI over 94 plate appearances prior to the injury.

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.