Dr. Lewis Yocum clarifies his comments on the Stephen Strasburg shutdown

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After being quoted as saying that he “wasn’t asked” about the Stephen Strasburg shutdown, Dr. Lewis Yocum clarified his comments to the Los Angeles Times late this afternoon.

Yocum is now saying that all parties involved — including himself, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, Strasburg and agent Scott Boras — agreed last year that the pitcher would face an innings-limit in 2012. He also said that he has maintained dialogue with the Nationals and team doctors during the season and spoke with Rizzo recently as August 13.

“I would like to correct the misimpression generated from today’s L.A. Times article, that I have not been a participant in discussions with the Washington Nationals regarding the recovery strategy for pitcher Stephen Strasburg.  In fact, I have been contacted repeatedly and have had numerous discussions with the Nationals GM Mike Rizzo and the team’s medical personnel, as recently as mid-August.  While the final decision was up to the team, as is standard practice, I was supportive of their decision and am comfortable that my medical advice was responsibly considered.”

As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post notes, the misunderstanding could have occurred because Yocum thought he was being asked if he helped decide precisely when Strasburg was being shut down. He wasn’t. And he said as much this time around, as well. But in the original story he was quoted as saying that he hadn’t spoken with Rizzo since last year. How could he suddenly forget that? Sure, maybe this is one big misunderstanding, but it still smells pretty fishy.

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.