Settling the Score: Saturday’s results

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The Tigers are beginning to create some distance again in the American League Central standings.

Anibal Sanchez pitched efficiently in his first start back from the 15-day disabled list and Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder combined for a total of six RBI as Detroit topped Cleveland 9-4 on Saturday afternoon at Progressive Field. The Tigers are now up 3 1/2 games over the Indians in the hunt for the division title and can push that lead out to 5 1/2 games with a sweep of this four-game series (which will reach its conclusion on Monday night).

The Tigers have scored the second-most runs in the major leagues and their 3.75 staff ERA ranks ninth. Detroit’s +93 run differential is second in the bigs only to the Cardinals, who are currently +121.

Your Saturday box scores and recaps:

Orioles 4, Yankees 5

Twins 6, Blue Jays 0

Athletics 3, Royals 4

Marlins 4, Cardinals 5

Tigers 9, Indians 4

Pirates 1, Cubs 4

Padres 4, Nationals 5

Mariners 4, Reds 13

Mets 6, Brewers 7

Astros 9, Rangers 5

Braves 13, Phillies 4

Dodgers 2, Giants 4

White Sox 0, Rays 3

Red Sox 7, Angels 9  (11 innings)

Rockies 1, Diamondbacks 11

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.