Sounds like someone put Icy-Hot in Stephen Strasburg’s jock

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No, that’s not some metaphor. Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com tweets from Davey Johnson’s postgame presser:

Strasburg had one of his worst outings ever against the Padres, allowing four runs on seven hits in four innings in a 6-1 loss.  If, indeed, someone put this foul, combustible stuff in something that later touched his bits and pieces, well, it’s all understood. And all forgiven.

And of course, it would also mean that Strasburg has an almost 100% certainty of having a new nickname.

But this raises more questions than it gives answers. Who would perpetrate such a heinous act? Why prank The Franchise on a day he’s pitching?  And, dear lord, why is Davey Johnson sharing this with reporters?

UPDATE: Forgot about this. Maybe he did it to himself and he just wants to be like Roger Clemens. Both of them were in Washington, D.C. today. Maybe Rocket was giving the young, um, fireballer a little professional advice!

UPDATE II:  Turns out it wasn’t Icy-Hot!  Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that it was actually an ointment called “Hot Stuff.”  Tomorrow, Kilgore’s editors at the post will give him Bob Woodward’s old office and Carl Bernstein’s old typewriter in honor of his tenacious investigative reporting of this matter.

UPDATE III:  I suppose we’re obligated to call Strasburg a “fireballer” now, huh?

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.