Neal Cotts, Burke Badenhop, Franklin Morales avoid arbitration with respective teams

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There is always a lot of “avoided arbitration” news around this time, so enjoy the exciting news.

Per Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Rangers and reliever Neal Cotts avoided arbitration on a one-year deal worth $2.2 million. Cotts, soon to be 34, had a fantastic 2013 season, his first in the big leagues since 2009. He finished up the year with a 1.11 ERA in 57 innings, averaging well over a strikeout per inning and 3.6 strikeouts for every one walk.

The Red Sox and reliever Burke Badenhop agreed to a one-year non-guaranteed contract, the Red Sox reported. WEEI’s Alex Speier says Badenhop’s non-guaranteed salary is $2.15 million. Badenhop turns 31 on February 8 and is coming off of a solid 2013 campaign with the Brewers. In 62 1/3 innings out of the bullpen, the right-hander posted a 3.47 ERA with a 3.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Finally, Thomas Harding of MLB.com reports that the Rockies and Franklin Morales agreed to a one-year deal. Troy Renck of the Denver Post adds that Morales will earn $1,712,500. The Rockies recently acquired Morales, soon to be 28, from the Red Sox for infielder Jonathan Herrera. In 25 1/3 innings with the Red Sox last season, Morales posted a 4.62 ERA with a high walk rate (13 unintentional).

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.