Francisco Rodriguez accepts arbitration from Brewers

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The Brewers offered arbitration to free agent right-hander Francisco Rodriguez last month in order to fetch draft picks when he signed elsewhere.

But the reliever market has been rough since Jonathan Papelbon scored a massive deal from the Phillies and now it appears that Milwaukee will be stuck with a high-priced setup man in 2012.

According to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, K-Rod will “probably” accept the Brewers’ offer of salary arbitration later tonight.

Rodriguez earned $11.5 million in 2011 and stands to make around $14 million for 2012 through the arbitration process. He posted a strong 2.64 ERA and 79/26 K/BB ratio over 71 2/3 innings this past year, but the low-budget Brewers don’t typically overpay relievers. Perhaps a trade will be coming.

UPDATE: MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy confirms that K-Rod has accepted arbitration.

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.