Alex Rodriguez homers in rehab game in Trenton, vows to “keep fighting”

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Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, recovering from a grade 1 quadriceps strain, continued his laborious climb back to the Majors in tonight’s rehab game with the Double-A Trenton Thunder. Facing Phillies top prospect Jesse Biddle of the Reading Fightin Phils in the third inning, Rodriguez hit a long home run to left field. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand writes that left fielder Kelly Dugan didn’t even bother to move as the ball quickly sailed beyond the fence. In his only other at-bat, he struck out looking at a curve from Biddle. The Thunder went on to win 6-2.

Speaking to the media after the game, Rodriguez said he will play on Monday when the Yankees open up a three-game series in Chicago against the White Sox. He added that he thinks he can play another five years, which would take him into his mid-40’s.

Rodriguez also spoke about “entities” conspiring to prevent him from playing baseball. He was asked why he thinks he is being singled out, to which he replied, “I think it’s pretty self-explanatory. I think that’s the pink elephant in the room.” Later, he said, “When all this stuff is going on in the background and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract, that’s concerning for me.”

Rodriguez is among a handful of players expected to be suspended by Major League Baseball. Details will be revealed on Monday. Players have until 6 PM ET Sunday to settle with MLB. Rodriguez promised to “keep fighting“.

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.