Red Sox and Craig Breslow reach two-year deal to avoid arbitration

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Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown reports that left-hander Craig Breslow has avoided arbitration with the Red Sox by agreeing to a two-year contract, pending a physical. He’s guaranteed a total $6.25 million while the contract includes an option for 2015. The deal could max out at $10.15 million.

Breslow requested $2.375 million and was offered $2.325 million from the Red Sox when arbitration figures were exchanged yesterday, so it was assumed that it wouldn’t take long to hammer out an agreement. The 32-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter, so the new deal buys out at least his first year of free agency.

Breslow posted a 2.70 ERA and 61/22 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings last season between the Diamondbacks and Red Sox. He has compiled a 3.00 ERA over seven major league seasons.

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.