Good thing I already have a macro for this one…
Right-hander Mark Prior was scratched from his scheduled appearance with the GCL Yankees on Tuesday because of shoulder discomfort.
Prior had made six appearances in the Rookie league over the past 2 1/2 weeks, allowing one run and two hits in six innings. He struck out 12 and walked two in that span. Unfortunately, his shoulder has once again let him down.
Even though his velocity isn’t what it was, Prior has shown major league ability while on the mound this season. Of course, he’s pitched just 12 innings after missing most of the first half with a groin injury. Plus, he hasn’t tried working on back-to-back days and he’s gone multiple innings just once, so he hasn’t undergone any of the tests he’d need to pass in order to actually land a spot on a major league roster.
Hopefully, Prior decides to keep at it next year, because he is closer to pulling off a successful comeback now than he has been at any point in the last five years. That doesn’t mean it will happen, but it’d be nice to at least see him come back and contribute as a middle reliever or a setup man.
“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.