Pirates “have their eyes on” Justin Morneau

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The Pirates acquired outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the Mets on Tuesday afternoon. Now they’re chasing a first baseman.

According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the Pittsburgh decision-makers “have their eyes on” the Twins’ Justin Morneau, who cleared waivers earlier this month and is eligible to be traded to any team. Heyman says the Twins are “willing to pay some of the close to $3 million left on Morneau’s $14 million salary, depending on the prospect worth returned.”

Morneau has hit just .263/.321/.424 this season, but the 32-year-old impending free agent does have 15 home runs and 72 RBI and his power potential would likely shine much brighter away from Target Field.

The Pirates open play Tuesday with a half-game deficit behind the Cardinals in the NL Central.

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.