Joe Mauer exits game with strained left oblique

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From MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger comes word that Twins first baseman Joe Mauer made an early exit from Tuesday night’s game against the Royals after suffering a strained left oblique muscle. Most oblique strains need 2-3 weeks of rest and rehab, so Mauer is presumably headed to the 15-day disabled list.

Mauer hit a two-run double in the bottom of the fourth inning Tuesday versus Kansas City, but he is still batting just .271 with a .695 OPS in 76 games this season. The 31-year-old entered 2014 — his first season since moving permanently away from catcher — with a .323 career average and .873 career OPS.

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.