Athletics acquire Stephen Drew from Diamondbacks

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The Athletics finally addressed their weakness at shortstop late tonight, acquiring Stephen Drew from the Diamondbacks for minor league infielder Sean Jamieson.

John Gambadoro of 620 KTAR in Phoenix reports that the trade was made after Oakland claimed Drew off waivers from Arizona two days ago. The Diamondbacks will save a little over $3 million in the deal.

Drew was mentioned as a possible target for the A’s leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline last month and represents a potential upgrade over Cliff Pennington. Oakland has a major-league worst .187 batting average and .545 OPS out of the shortstop position this season.

To be fair, Drew is hitting just .193/.290/.311 with two home runs, 12 RBI and a .601 OPS in 40 games since returning from ankle surgery in late June, but his track record provides reason for optimism.  Drew’s contract includes a $10 million mutual option for 2013 or a $1.35 million buyout.

Jamieson, 23, owns a lowly .234/.345/.354 batting line and a .699 OPS over his first two pro seasons. He’s known as a solid defender and has some speed, but it appears that the Diamondbacks were mostly motivated to save some cash here.

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.