After squandering an opportunity to take the lead in the top of the fifth, the Tigers finally broke through in the top of the sixth against Red Sox starter Jon Lester. After getting Torii Hunter to ground out, Lester put Miguel Cabrera on base with a walk and Prince Fielder by drilling him in the arm.
The Sox very nearly ended the inning with a nifty 6-4-3 double play off of the bat of Victor Martinez, but he was correctly ruled safe on a bang-bang call by first base umpire Rob Drake. Cabrera advanced to third base on the play. Lester couldn’t see his way out of trouble again as Jhonny Peralta hit a weak liner to center, plating Cabrera with two outs. The inning was closed when Omar Infante sharply grounded out to third base.
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez will attempt to continue his no-hit bid against the Sox in the bottom half of the sixth. He is already at 88 pitches, so the odds are long he’ll be allowed to finish the job.
“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.