Curtis Granderson hits three homers in first four innings

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Curtis Granderson had three homers in four innings and then singled in his remaining two at-bats Thursday as the Yankees topped the Twins 7-6.

Granderson, who entered with three homers on the year, took Anthony Swarzak deep in the first and second innings and then launched his third homer off reliever Jeff Gray in the fourth. His subsequent singles while going for homer No. 4 gave him 14 total bases in the game.

Granderson was bidding to become the 15th member of the four-homer club. The last to do it was Toronto’s Carlos Delgado on Sept. 25, 2003 against the Rays. Lou Gehrig is the only Yankee to ever accomplish the feat.

The 14 total bases were the most a player had had in a game since Dustin Pedroia finished with 15 on June 24, 2010 against the Rockies. The last Yankee with so many was Joe DiMaggio on Sept. 10, 1950.

Granderson finished second in the majors with 41 homers last year, two behind Toronto’s Jose Bautista.

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.