Hanley Ramirez claims he is on track to rejoin the Dodgers “way sooner” than expected

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From Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

The Dodgers originally thought Ramirez would be out until late May, but he has begun taking batting practice and fielding grounders. The team has outfitted him with a special splint to protect his surgically repaired right thumb that allows him to throw.

“It’s awesome. No pain, nothing,” Ramirez said. “Definitely it’s going to happen way sooner than it’s supposed to.”

The Dodgers have not confirmed that Hanley is ahead of schedule, but they’re also not denying it.

Ramirez fractured his right thumb on March 19 while playing for his native Dominican Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He underwent surgery to repair the broken bone on March 22.

Filling in for the Dodgers at shortstop has been Justin Sellers, who carried a brutal .176/.263/.265 batting line into Tuesday night’s game against the Padres. Getting Ramirez back early would be huge.

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.