Casey Kelly likely facing Tommy John surgery

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We learned yesterday that Padres’ right-hander Casey Kelly was sent for tests on his ailing right elbow. Unfortunately the results pointed toward the worst-case scenario.

According to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Kelly said Tuesday’s exam showed “micro tears” in the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He’ll go for a second opinion before deciding whether to undergo Tommy John surgery, but he conceded that it’s the most likely outcome.

“I’ve prepared myself for the worst,” said Kelly at an impromptu press conference in a hallway of the Padres spring training complex.

“I don’t have too many options. The doctors are concerned with what they saw.”

Interestingly, Kelly noted that this week’s MRI wasn’t much different from what was found last year. However, since rehab hasn’t done the job, he has prepared himself for the possibility of going under the knife. If Tommy John surgery is required, he will miss the entire season.

Kelly made six starts for the Padres last season and was recently ranked as the game’s 45th best prospect by Baseball America. While surgery would be a tough blow, he doesn’t turn 24 until October.

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.