Mariners left-hander Anthony Vasquez undergoes emergency brain surgery

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Scary news here. According to Greg Johns of MLB.com, Mariners left-hander Anthony Vasquez required emergency surgery last Friday after doctors discovered a ruptured blood vessel in his brain.

Vasquez began experiencing headaches initially, but didn’t think anything was wrong until he had dizziness and vision problems during a throwing session last Wednesday at the Mariners’ complex in Arizona. Tests showed a lesion in his brain and doctors found a left-threatening ruptured arteriovenous malformation (AVM) during the 5 1/2 hour procedure. The good news is that he came out of the surgery fine and was discharged from the hospital today.

“He’s a miracle,” said his father, Rudy, who is a scout in the Angels’ organization. “We have a strong faith in Jesus and Anthony’s faith has always been strong as well. There’s no other way to say it. When the neurosurgeon came out he said, ‘Your son should be dead, but he’s not.'”

Doctors told Vasquez that he’ll need to avoid heavy lifting for about 6-8 weeks, but he’s expected to be back to normal after that. Baseball obviously takes a back seat for now, but there’s a chance he pitch by the spring if all goes well.

Vasquez, 26, had an 8.90 ERA in seven starts with the Mariners in 2011. He was limited to just 11 starts this season with Triple-A Tacoma due to a shoulder injury.

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.