The Tigers could non-tender Phil Coke

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Phil Coke began the season as the Tigers’ closer, but Chris Iott of MLive.com speculates that he could be non-tendered this offseason.

Coke is coming off a miserable season in which he posted a 5.40 ERA and 30/21 K/BB ratio over 38 1/3 innings. Miscast for the closer role, the 31-year-old southpaw struggled with early save chances before hitting the disabled list with a groin injury and continued poor command lead to a demotion to Triple-A Toledo in August. He rejoined the big club a couple of weeks later, but then dealt with some elbow issues and didn’t make it back until the ALCS.

Coke earned $1.85 million in 2013 and will be arbitration-eligible for the final time this winter. The Tigers might prefer to cut him loose rather than give him another raise, but he could be a useful piece somewhere if used properly and his health cooperates.

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.