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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.

Khris Davis diagnosed with Grade 1 right groin strain

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Athletics slugger Khris Davis injured his right groin in Sunday’s series finale against the Blue Jays and an MRI taken Tuesday revealed a Grade 1 strain, per Steve Kroner of the San Francisco Chronicle. He is expected to be placed on the disabled list ahead of Wednesday night’s game against the Mariners and figures to miss around 2-3 weeks.

Davis has put up an .805 OPS (119 OPS+) with 13 home runs and 38 RBI in 47 games this season for the A’s, who are two games above .500 (25-23) largely because of their surprisingly consistent offensive production. Oakland is ninth among all MLB teams in runs scored and the club ranks seventh in combined team OPS (.748), behind only the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Braves, Pirates, and Indians.

It sounds like Franklin Barreto is on his way up from Triple-A Nashville to take Davis’ spot.