Report: Matt Holliday “doubtful” to return this season

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Bad news for the surging Cardinals.

A team source tells Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Matt Holliday’s availability for the rest of the season is “doubtful.”

Holliday left last Tuesday’s game with tendon damage to the base of his right middle finger. Strauss hears that it’s a matter of pain tolerance right now, as Holliday has yet to resume swinging a bat since returning to St. Louis following the injury.

While Cardinals manager Tony La Russa didn’t have an update from the training staff prior to tonight’s game, he insisted that there is “no reason” to rush Holliday back into the starting lineup. It’s not clear what his availability might be if the Cardinals defy the odds and actually make the postseason, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be able to help them get there.

Allen Craig, who homered twice and doubled in last night’s win over the Phillies, should see the bulk of the playing time in left field for now.

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.