Clay Buchholz shaky in first rehab outing

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Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz was expected to make two Minor League rehab appearances before rejoining the Major League squad, but he started off on the wrong foot this afternoon. Given a pitch count between 45 and 50 pitches, Buchholz threw 38 and did not make it out of the first inning, walking the final two batters he faced, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN.

Buchholz last pitched in a Major League game on June 8 against the Angels. He landed on the disabled list with bursitis in his right shoulder. At the time of his injury, he was a front-runner for the American League Cy Young award, owning a 1.71 ERA in 84.1 innings over 12 starts.

The organization expects him to make another rehab outing on Friday. Whether that start is with Triple-A Pawtucket or Double-A Portland has not been determined yet.

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.