According to Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald, Mike Napoli is back in the starting lineup this afternoon against the Dodgers after resting for the past six games due to plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Napoli aggravated the injury while legging out a double last Friday against the Yankees and has only appeared as a defensive replacement with the Red Sox playing under National League rules this week. Plantar fasciitis is known to be a nagging injury, so Red Sox manager John Farrell said they’ll continue to monitor his condition moving forward.
“One thing Mike has been good about is just expressing when days have been a little more symptomatic than others,” Farrell said. “All the tests and all the therapy that he’s gotten, we don’t feel it’s to the point where it’s going to take him out of the lineup long-term. Just got to continue to monitor it, manage it day-to-day, and he’s doing a good job of it.”
Napoli is hitting just .189 with four homers and 36 strikeouts in 105 plate appearances since the All-Star break. The Red Sox will have to hope that the extended rest will get him back on track offensively.
“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.