In first start since no-hitting Twins, Jered Weaver to face … the Twins

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Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire didn’t enjoy Jered Weaver’s no-hitter against his Twins last Wednesday.

Gardenhire paced behind his desk while addressing reporters after the game, the picture painted by Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune showing the manager in a slow burn, using great effort to avoid blowing up. I’m guessing he looked something like this.

That’s understandable. It’s been a long season already for the Twins (and it’s only May 7), who enter the week with the worst record in baseball (7-20). Being no-hit by a great pitcher is one thing, but Gardenhire was unhappy with his team’s pitching, lack of aggression and lack of attention to detail.

He said the Twins’ performance was “not acceptable,” and that his team looked “like Little Leaguers out there, and that’s a bunch of bull.”

Gardenhire missed the Twins’ series in Seattle over the weekend. Not because he needed a break – though that’s entirely possible – but because he returned to Minneapolis for his daughter’s graduation from Southwest Minnesota State.

He returns to manage his club on Monday night, and hopefully his weekend was relaxing because waiting for the Twins will be the Los Angeles Angels with – you guessed it – Jered Weaver on the mound.

Monday night will be Weaver’s first start since his no-hitter, and if you don’t know anything about Johnny Vander Meer, you might want to click here and study up.

The odds of Weaver tossing consecutive no-hitters are essentially zero. There’s no way he’ll be as focused, as sharp and as lucky as he was last week. And as bad as the Twins offense is – they managed just one hit on Saturday against Felix Hernandez and a lone Mariners reliever —  they’re still a bunch of big leaguers like Joe Mauer and Denard Span and Josh Willingham.

Still, as favorable a scheduling occurrence this is for Weaver, it is equally unlucky for Ron Gardenhire’s Twins.

Serenity now, Skip. Serenity now.

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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.