OK, it was just the Governors’ Cup, the trophy given to the winner of the Triple-A level International League championship. But it is one thing for the Red Sox to celebrate in a dismal 2012 season. They hadn’t won the title in 28 years.
The Pawtucket Red Sox finished a sweep of the best-of-five series over the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox affiliate, on Thursday, winning 4-1.
Journeyman right-hander Nelson Figueroa picked up the win for the PawSox, allowing one run in six innings. Jeremy Hazelbaker, Juan Carlos Linares, Mike Rivera and Che-Hsuan Lin drove in the runs. The lone top prospect in the lineup, right fielder Bryce Brentz, went 0-for-4, but he did finish the series 4-for-12.
Game 2 of the series featured Zach Stewart shutting out his old team for six innings on his way to the win. Stewart pitched for Charlotte before being included in the Kevin Youkilis trade in June.
Now that the PawSox season is over, one imagines a few players will be added to Boston’s roster for Friday’s game. Stewart, Lin and Danny Valencia would be obvious additions.
“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.