Must-click link: Baseball, depression and Justin Duchscherer

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Jen Mac Ramos of The Hardball Times has a post up today that, statistically speaking, will resonate with many of you directly. And even if you don’t have a direct connection, is an interesting and thought-provoking read. It’s about how she and others have coped with depression, often by using baseball as therapy of a type:

From the perspective of a fan with a mental illness, baseball can be a way to escape from the reality.

Lindsey Adler, a BuzzFeed sports intern, noted that the unpredictability of baseball holds her attention as she has anxiety and depression. The simplicity of the game keeps it stress free for Adler.

“I’ve found baseball to be really effective in curbing my anxiety/depression,” Adler said. “Watching upwards of 150 games over the course of the season serves as a major distraction from my anxieties. It creates a routine for me, in which I spend approximately four hours every night focusing almost solely on the game.”

Jen’s touchstone: former big league pitcher Justin Duchscherer, who himself battles depression. But who also served as an inspiration for her thanks to an opportune visit to the Oakland Coliseum back in 2008.

Even if we don’t suffer from depression, I’m guessing a great many of us have used baseball as an escape of sorts and treat those three or four hours much the way she or Lindsey Adler or others do.

A good read. Do check it out.

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.