Tim Hudson to make second rehab start Thursday

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Tim Hudson allowed two runs over three innings in his first minor-league rehab start Saturday at Single-A and he’s scheduled to take the mound for his second rehab outing Thursday.

David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Hudson is slated to throw around 65 pitches and four innings as he recovers from November back surgery and the plan still involves him making a total of 5-6 starts in the minors.

That puts Hudson in line for an early May return to the Braves’ rotation, at which point Randall Delgado may be headed back to Triple-A. Thursday’s start should provide a better idea of Hudson’s timetable, however, as O’Brien reports that both manager Fredi Gonzalez and pitching coach Roger McDowell will be in attendance with the Braves off that night.

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.