Yankees lefty CC Sabathia, recovering from off-season surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow, will make his spring debut on Friday, reports MLB.com’s Adam Berry:
“Felt good today, no problems. I felt strong. I’m ready to go,” Sabathia said. “I’m working pretty hard and trying to throw all my pitches and make it as game-like as possible. I’m getting good work out of it.”
The big left-hander hasn’t had to see a doctor since he reported to Spring Training, and his throwing elbow hasn’t bothered him at all during his last two throwing sessions. Sabathia said he threw a little bit harder Sunday than he had before this spring.
During the 2012 regular season, Sabathia tossed exactly 200 innings with a 3.38 ERA. However, he did lose 1.5 miles per hour on his fastball, according to FanGraphs. Sabathia is hopeful a healthier elbow will allow him to recover that velocity. The Yankees, already dealing with their fair share of injuries, would love nothing more than a fully-recovered Sabathia to take the hill on Opening Day against the Red Sox.
“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.