According to Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com, David Freese was scratched from today’s lineup against the Cubs due to irritation of a finger on his right hand.
The full extent of the injury isn’t yet known, but Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that it happened during an at-bat in yesterday’s game. It comes at a tough time for Freese, who is batting .404/.424/.688 with three homers and 11 RBI over his first 33 plate appearances this season.
Freese appears poised for a breakout following his World Series MVP performance, but injuries have been a constant theme during his career. The 28-year-old was limited to just 17 games at the big league level in 2009 due to a left ankle injury which required surgery. He played 70 games with the Cardinals in 2010 before requiring season-ending surgery on his right ankle. And he missed nearly two months last year while recovering from a fractured left hand.
“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.