Kyle Farnsworth had “little bit of a setback” with elbow injury

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Joe Maddon revealed yesterday that Kyle Farnsworth had “a little bit of a setback” with his elbow injury and likely would have been unavailable to pitch Saturday had the Rays needed a late lead closed out.

Instead they lost 8-6 and it was a moot point, but Farnsworth’s status remains up in the air with an injury that has bothered him since early September.

Maddon told Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times that the Rays are hopeful Farnsworth could be available for today’s Game 3 in Tampa Bay, but added: “As we continue to move this forward, I just have to be careful with him.”

Not exactly encouraging words regarding a closer whose dependability in the playoffs would have been questioned healthy or not, so don’t be surprised if Maddon bypasses Farnsworth in favor of Joel Peralta or Wade Davis if the Rays take a small lead into the ninth inning.

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.