Best Shape Of His Life stories can come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t necessarily have to involve superstars, and they don’t always need to be presented in full-length feature articles.
There are no rules for this phenomenon, you see. There is a logo now, but there are no rules.
Enter Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn.
According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the bearded reliever has already arrived at the Cards’ spring training complex in Jupiter, Florida and has brought with him a “better-conditioned look.” As in, he’s slimmer and trimmer — ready to establish himself as a reliable major league setup man.
Lynn, 24, registered a solid 3.12 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 40/11 K/BB ratio in 34 2/3 regular-season innings last season out of the Cardinals’ bullpen before posting a 3.27 ERA in 10 postseason relief appearances.
“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.