Outside strikes to lefties are becoming a problem

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Our Blue Jays commenters are fit to be tied today due to the called strikes to Melky Cabrera in the ninth inning of last night’s Jays-Rays game. Strikes one and three to Melky were clearly outside. Here’s Brooks Baseball’s plot of the at bat:

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Pitch one and three were called strikes, pitch two was fouled off. It’s not unlikely that Cabrera felt he had to swing at that due to the call on the first pitch.

Cliff Corcoran pointed this out at SI this morning. And noted that it’s not an isolated incident. There are a ton of outside-the-zone calls being made against left-handed hitters. What’s more, the increase in strikeouts this year is being driven largely by called third strikes, not swinging strikes.

Are the umps setting up poorly and missing the outside corner? Are they, as they have been wont to do over baseball history, just deciding to call certain things in new ways all of a sudden?  Do we have a bizarro Tom Glavine situation at work here?

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

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Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.