And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

32 Comments

Orioles 10, White Sox 4: Matt Wieters homered twice. The first one coming in the eighth, which kicked off the O’s comeback after finding themselves down 4-1, the second one: a 10th inning grand slam which put the game out of reach.

Twins 7, Yankees 3: Joe Mauer had three hits and Justin Morneau played in the field and had a home run. That should make the Twins fans happy. Carl Pavano allowed three runs in seven innings, which should make the Yankees fans mad.

Phillies 5, Giants 2: The battle of the aces doesn’t quite live up to its billing, but Halladay beats Lincecum, who is still struggling mightily. Indeed, Lincecum gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings and it actually represented a clear improvement over his last outing.

Mets 6, Braves 1: I guess the Mets own the Braves now. Ike Davis — three run homer — and Dillon Gee — four hit ball over seven innings — led New York to their fourth straight win over Atlanta.

Rays 1, Red Sox 0: As mentioned yesterday, Bobby V. stuck with Daniel Bard a bit too long and he walked the ballpark. And Fernando Rodney should have walked Cody Ross in the ninth, but Larry Vanover had other ideas. None of which takes away from James Shields’ day (8.1 IP, 4 H, 0 ER). The Rays avoid the sweep.

Nationals 6, Astros 3: Stephen Strasburg cruised through five innings, was beat up a bit in the sixth, but had plenty of margin for error to get the win. And check out this throw home on a pop fly by Rick Ankiel. You’ll never see a better one in that situation. If the dude stood out there and threw it like that ten years ago instead of on the mound he’d still be a pitcher.

Tigers 3, Royals 2: Speaking of nice throws, check out this one by Jeff Francoeur nailing Jhonny Peralta at third base. Tigers still won, though, because Verlander dealt for eight innings and then survived — just barely — for the ninth, after loading the bases and going 2-2 to Alex Gordon. Struck him out looking though, with all five pitches to him being 100 m.p.h. fastballs. Brandon Inge had a two-run homer. Which probably bought him two more years in a Tigers uniform, what with the sliding performance scale to which he is subject.

Padres 7, Rockies 1: Nick Hundley drove in three, Chase Headley had three doubles and scored three times and Corey Luebke allowed one run on six hits in seven innings.

Angels 6, Athletics 0: Kendrys Morales hit his first homer since the one that led to his ankle injury nearly two years ago. Mike Scioscia actually said this after the game: “”I was happy he got around the bases in one piece.” Pujols went 2 for 4 with a double. Jered Weaver got his 1000th career strikeout. The A’s were shutout for the third time in six games.

Diamondbacks 5, Pirates 1: Chris Young continues his torrid start. He had three hits, including his fifth homer of the year. Joe Saunders gave up one run on six hits in seven innings.

No one pounds the zone anymore

Getty Images
4 Comments

“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.