It’s Mother’s Day, sure.
But it’s also Andy Pettitte Day.
As expected, the Bombers have promoted the veteran left-hander from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and will start him on Sunday afternoon in their series-finale with the Mariners at Yankee Stadium.
Cody Eppley was optioned to the minor leagues on Sunday morning to open a 25-man roster spot for Pettitte and David Phelps has been demoted back to his long-relief role to create the necessary opening in the starting rotation.
Pettitte, 39, hasn’t appeared in a major league game since the 2010 season.
He agreed to a minor league contract with the Yankees in mid-March after spending a year in retirement and registered a 3.71 ERA in four rehab starts before getting clearance late last week to return to the Yanks.
Pettitte is expected to throw around 100 pitches Sunday against the light-hitting Seattle lineup.
“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.