Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays have agreed to minor league contracts with outfielder Shelley Duncan and right-handed pitchers Jamey Wright and Juan Carlos Oviedo.
Duncan batted just .203/.288/.388 in 264 plate appearances last season with the Indians. The 33-year-old does have some power but seems highly doubtful to crack the Rays’ Opening Day roster.
Wright, on the other hand, could find a spot in middle relief. He posted a 3.72 ERA (aided by an impressive 67.3% groundball rate) in 67 2/3 innings last summer with the Dodgers. The 38-year-old faced a total of 306 batters in 2012 and allowed only two home runs.
Oviedo — formerly known as Leo Nunez — underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last September and is not expected to be fully recovered from that procedure until the very end of the 2013 campaign. His particular minor league deal includes a club option for the 2014 season.
“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.