More knee problems send Grady Sizemore back to DL

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Grady Sizemore, who spent part of May on the disabled list with a right knee contusion, re-injured the same knee yesterday and has been placed back on the DL.

The good news is that it was Sizemore’s left knee that caused him to miss most of last season and the beginning of this year following microfracture surgery, and the Indians are calling his current right knee injury merely a bruise. However, he left the team and traveled back to Cleveland to undergo further tests.

Sizemore has played pretty well in between the injuries, posting a .769 OPS that ranks 10th among all MLB center fielders with at least 50 games, but his .237 batting average and ugly 75/17 K/BB ratio are worrisome and at some point all the knee problems may put in question his ability to remain in center field defensively.

Michael Brantley filled in for Sizemore last time and will do so again now, sliding from left field to center field, but with right fielder Shin-Soo Choo also on the DL with a broken thumb the Indians may be forced to make regulars out of Ezequiel Carrera and Travis Buck or Austin Kearns.

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.