Yankees confident they can re-sign Pettitte, Rivera, Kuroda

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CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman provides the scoop:

The Yankees have faith they can make deals with pitchers Mariano Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte — surely more faith than they can do a deal with Rafael Soriano at the moment.

The Yankees expect to try to work something out with Rivera in the coming week, especially now that Soriano has rejected the $13.3-million qualifying offer. The club’s hope is to get Rivera done at a bit of a pay cut from his $15-million 2012 salary, as he is 43 and coming back from a knee injury.

Pettitte hasn’t completely committed to returning for the 2013 season, but the expectation is that the veteran left-hander eventually will.

And it’s highly doubtful that he would agree to pitch for any team other than the Yankees at this point.

Kuroda may be a little trickier because of the amount of interest he has already attracted from teams like the Red Sox and Dodgers. But Heyman says the Yankees are viewing Japan as their primary competition.

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.