The Nationals are interested in Diamondbacks’ outfielder Gerardo Parra

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The Nationals don’t appear content going into the season with Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina or Jayson Werth as the starting center fielder.

Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Nationals have expressed interest in Diamondbacks’ outfielder Gerardo Parra. Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo signed Parra to his first professional contract when he was Arizona’s director of scouting from 2000-2006.

It’s not clear who the Nationals would offer in return, but Ladson mentions that the club has some starting pitching depth. That might not be very appealing for Arizona, though, as they already have a full rotation and plenty of young starting pitching on the way.

Parra won a Gold Glove in left field last season, but the addition of Jason Kubel is expected to push him into a part-time role this year. The 24-year-old batted .292/.357/.427 with eight homers, 46 RBI, 15 stolen bases and a .784 OPS in 2011 and has experience at all three outfield positions. He remains under team control through 2015.

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.