Dusty Baker suffered a mini-stroke

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Holy moly! In addition to the irregular heartbeat, Dusty Baker suffered a mini-stroke.  Via Mark Sheldon, here’s the statement from the Reds:

While in Chicago on Wednesday, Reds manager Dusty Baker was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital and diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as an irregular heartbeat. As he was being discharged on Friday, he suffered a mini-stroke and immediately was treated by the hospital’s stroke team, which minimized the effects of the stroke.

Dusty returned to Cincinnati on Sunday, and his condition has improved dramatically. His Cincinnati neurologist, Dr. Joseph Broderick, and cardiologists, Dr. Dean Kereiakes and Dr. Daniel Beyerbach, expect Dusty to make a full recovery and return to the dugout, possibly as soon as the season’s final series next week in St. Louis.

Damn. Here’s hoping the best for Dusty.

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.