White Sox lose backup catcher Ramon Castro to broken hand

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Lost in Ozzie Guillen’s postgame rant last night is that the White Sox learned they’ll be without backup catcher Ramon Castro for 8-12 weeks due to the broken right hand and index finger he suffered on July 9.

Castro was injured when Twins second baseman Alexi Casilla pulled his bat back after looking to bunt a Mark Buehrle offering and the catcher lost sight of the pitch, resulting in a passed ball.

Buehrle immediately realized Castro was hurt and, as he put it: “Had to turn around because I would’ve fainted if I looked at it too long.”

A.J. Pierzynski is the White Sox’s primary catcher, but Castro started 20 of the first 91 games while typically taking Pierzynski’s place versus left-handed pitching. Tyler Flowers will now assume that role and the one-time top prospect has impressive offensive numbers at Triple-A, but his defense has never drawn strong reviews and he hit just .203 versus southpaws there.

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.