Yu Darvish dances around trouble in second major league start

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The results were better in Yu Darvish’s second major league start this afternoon against the Twins, but he was still pretty shaky.

Darvish allowed two runs (one earned) over 5 2/3 innings before being pulled after 102 pitches. Not too bad, right? Well, he also allowed 14 baserunners (nine hits, four walks and a hit batsman) and loaded the bases on three separate occasions, including when he was pulled for Robbie Ross in the bottom of the sixth. His line would have looked a lot worse if Ross didn’t get Justin Morneau to pop out to end the threat.

Through his first two starts, Darvish has allowed seven runs (six earned) on 17 hits over 11 1/3 innings to go along with an underwhelming 9/8 K/BB ratio. It’s way too soon to make any judgments about him moving forward, as he has fantastic stuff and a varied arsenal at his disposal, but he obviously needs to be a lot more efficient.

The Rangers ended up winning the game 6-2, as Adrian Beltre drove in a pair of runs and Josh Hamilton went 3-for-5 with a long solo home run.

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.