Derrek Lee “definitely” on Brewers’ radar

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FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported in March that free agent Derrek Lee was open to continuing his career if presented with the right opportunity.

Well, that opportunity might finally be here.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Brewers are “definitely” interested in signing Lee to take over as their primary first baseman.

Mat Gamel, who was pegged as Prince Fielder’s replacement this winter, was diagnosed with a torn right ACL last week and is expected to undergo season-ending knee surgery. The 26-year-old was batting just .246/.293/.348.

The Brewers also lost shortstop Alex Gonzalez recently to a knee injury. He was a real source of power in the Milwaukee lineup (with four home runs in 24 games) but might be ruled out for the rest of the year.

Lee, 36, hit .267/.325/.446 with 19 home runs and 59 RBI last season between the Orioles and Pirates.

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.