The Sox just lost to the Rays, 4-0. They only got three hits in the game. Again. They got three hits in each game of yesterday’s double-header as well.
Part of this, of course, is facing good Tampa Bay Rays pitching. Today it was David Price, shutting the Sox out for eight innings. Yesterday it was James Shields who, even though the Sox won, they didn’t really get to. jeff Niemann did the deed in the nightcap. Also in play, obviously, is the absence of David Ortiz, the stiff neck of Adrian Gonzalez and a Kevin Youkilis who looks anything but comfortable out there due to his bad back.
The Sox are 8-8 in August and have scored fewer than four runs in 12 of those 16 games.
Meanwhile, the first place Yankees get another one in Kansas City tonight, followed by a trip to Minnesota to take on the less-than-formidable Twins, the series against the A’s and Orioles before they meet the Sox again.
Question: will the Sox’ offense right itself in time to make that series a true battle for first place, or will they be in a decidedly deeper hole by then?
“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.