As D.J. Short noted today, Adam Wainwright brought a no-hitter into the eighth inning this afternoon against the Rockies. Nolan Arenado singled to center with one out to end the bid. Wainwright went on to shut the Rockies out on two hits as the Cardinals won 3-0. It was one night after Shelby Miller retired 27 Rockies in a row following a lead-off single to Eric Young in the first inning.
MLB.com’s Paul Casella reports, via the Elias Sports Bureau, that the Cardinals tied the all-time record for consecutive hitters retired by one team against another with 40 Rockies shut down in a row.
The dominant performances by Shelby Miller on Friday night and Adam Wainwright on Saturday afternoon combined to match the 1996 Rangers’ streak set against the Tigers on May 3 and 4, 1996.
On May 3, Ken Hill tossed a one-hit shutout against the Tigers as the Rangers won 11-0. Hill allowed a one-out first inning single to Bobby Higginson. The next day, Roger Pavlik set down the first 14 batters he faced before Mark Lewis hit a solo home run. Pavlik finished the game as the Rangers won 3-1.
Wainwright’s shutout today lowers the Cardinals MLB-best rotation ERA to 2.11. The Tigers, hosting the Indians tonight, are in second place at 3.22.
“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.