Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz to play for Dominican Republic in World Baseball Classic

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According to Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said today that he plans to play for his native Dominican Republic in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He’ll be joined by his teammate Nelson Cruz.

Beltre was limited down the stretch last season due to an abdominal injury, but didn’t require offseason surgery and anticipates playing if he’s healthy.

“It’s too early yet because you go through spring training and an injury can hold you back a little bit,” said Beltre, who hit .300 in the 2006 WBC. “Of course if I don’t feel 100 percent healthy to be in the WBC I’m not going to force it. I’m not going to jeopardize what I’m trying to do here with this team to play the WBC. If everything goes well and I’m healthy I think I’m going to play.”

Cruz played in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, but Beltre, then a member of the Mariners, didn’t participate coming off shoulder and thumb surgeries.

The entire roster for the Dominican Republic hasn’t been announced, but Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes are also expected to be on the squad.

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.