And the first manager to get ejected this season is …

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It took a while, but last night we got our first manager ejection of the season when rookie Cubs skipper Rick Renteria was tossed by umpire Jeff Nelson for arguing about a 1-2 pitch that was called a ball.

Carrie Muskat of MLB.com notes that Renteria was also the first manager to use an instant replay challenge this season, so he’s a real trailblazer.

For whatever it’s worth, MLB.com’s PitchFX system showed Jose Veras’ pitch to Jordy Mercer as slightly outside the strike zone, so the umpire’s call was correct. Mercer also ended up grounding out later in the at-bat anyway and the ejection didn’t motivate the Cubs, who failed to score in the bottom of the inning on the way to a one-run loss.

But still. Good to get on the board early, Rick!

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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.