No surprise: Rafael Soriano won’t opt out of Yankees contract

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Rafael Soriano’s contract with the Yankees allows him to opt out after this season, but coming off a mediocre, injury marred campaign there’s little chance of that happening and Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York talked to a source who confirmed Soriano will be staying put.

Soriano followed a poor start with a disabled list stint for elbow problems, but was much more like his usual self upon returning with a 3.33 ERA and 26/7 K/BB ratio in 33 innings during the final two months.

However, the two years and $25 million remaining on his contract is significantly more than Soriano could get on the open market this offseason. He’ll earn $11 million in 2012 and $14 million in 2014 as part of a deal general manager Brian Cashman had pushed on him by ownership.

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.