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Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

May 22, 2017

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, Capitals, Nationals, Wizards, the NFL and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats

With the Pens coming back to take a 3-2 lead on Ottawa, and the Celtics stealing a game from the Cavs, the disappointment at having our winter pro sports teams teeing off is finally setting in. Of course, leave it to the otherwise impressive Nats to have their first slump of the year at the time when DC fans could really use a pick-me-up. Any rays of sports sunshine on this otherwise rainy Monday?

The last week or so has really been a downer in D.C. sports. Dan Steinberg mentioned this morning that this now seems like an annual occurrence. If you're looking for a ray of sunshine, it's tough. I guess we could say that for many years this letdown happened in April because the annual bad joke was that that May flies and the Caps had the same life cycle -- they die at the end of April. BUT back then the Caps weren't back-to-back President's Trophy winners, And the Wiz had no prayer of being in an Eastern Conference final.

When I tuned in the Pens-Senators game yesterday, to see if it was close and I might want to watch the tape, the Pens had just scored to go up 7-0. That was double-edged.

It shows the Pens are probably going to dust off Ottawa, then beat Nashville, which leads Anaheim 3-2 with Game 6 tonight in Nashville. So, the winner of the Caps-Pens series really probably WAS going to win the Stanley Cup. If you're going to be beaten by anybody then you want it to be the eventual champ. When the Senators led that series 2-1 it seemed like the Caps might have the indignity of losing to a Pittsburgh club that was so injured it couldn't even handle Ottawa.

As of today, it looks like the Pens may win the Cup by beating the 98-point Senators and the 94-point Preds. Those are the T12th and T15th best regular-season teams.

Dogs.

That's the opportunity the Caps blew. I suppose they deserve to have to chew on that. But do their FANS deserve to have to digest that AGAIN. (No.)

You never want anybody to get hurt. But if they're GOING to get hurt -- something that puts them out of a series but doesn't damage their career -- it'd be lucky if it happened against you. But Celts star Isaiah Thomas got hurt against the Cavs. Boston won without him Sunday, but they aren't going to win the series. So, once again...actually, I think I'm glad that the Wiz played the same Celts lineup that they'd argued with all season and that Game 7 was a tough test and exciting game. Also, better to get a real read on how the Wiz would cope with big pressure on the road in a G7 against a comparable team. What we got: Beal came up huge, Porter big and Wall, who must have thought The Shot in G6 meant he'd suddenly become a really good outside shooter instead of a merely Finally-Okay-Outside-Shooter stopped going to the rim and went 0-for-11.

The two big disappointments were, I think, that the Caps showed exactly the same sense of offensive tension third-period and panic -- leading to being shutout -- that they have FOREVER in crisis games and that Wall did the most foolish thing he could have done in the fourth quarter -- shoot outside instead of doing what he does best, go to the hole to score, draw fouls or dish. You're not yet One of the Top Players in the NBA if you don't know what your game is with the season on the line. Good that he made third-team All-NBA. But that final game shows why "third," while excellent, is still as high as he's gotten.

OK, we'll work through this. But you have to look at things honestly. The Wiz have plenty of future and the Nats have a wonderful present, assuming they understand how bad and urgent their bullpen problem is and fix it soon, not in 10 weeks. But it's the Caps that linger with you. Isabelle had an excellent three-part series last week on What The Caps Do Next. The answer sure seems to be that they are in a box and aren't going to get out of it.Their two mains chances, the last two years, on top of a decade of chances, just passed. No way to see that as anything but sad.

Who is this guy? OPS of .871 since he took over for Eaton. Still striking out too much, over 35% of the time, but he seems to be doing a lot better than I expected. Not a bad replacement for Werth next year.

It's great that Taylor got off to a very good start. He needed a boost and some confidence. He hasn't just hit well (.315 since Eaton's injury) but has gotten important hits, too, including the come-from-behind game-winner last Sunday vs the Phils. Taylor has always had a knack for getting a decent share of important hits when he's playing everyday. I don't think his problem is tension in big spots. I think he copes fairly well. It's just that he has four important baseball skills -- run, throw, field and hit with power -- but not the fifth one -- making consistent hard contact. So, I'd say, "Good for him" and "root for him," but he still has another 110+ games to prove himself. Those 29 Ks in 73 at bats since Eaton got hurt (40 percent) will NOT do it over the long term. He could probably hit .250 -- which would be enough -- if he cut his Ks to 28-30 percent.

He's hitting breaking balls better. He's not overswinging as much. Sometimes he's just overpowered by excellent RHed pitching. I assume he always will be. He needs to internalize that MLB is FULL of successful everyday outfielders who look silly against the best pitchers. They don't let it get them down and punish the lesser pitchers. Let the heart of the order handle the tough guys. If you can field and throw (!!) and run as well as Taylor and your team only needs you to hit 7th or 8th, then (try to) ignore all the embarrassments, and there will be plenty, and you can still hit .266 (his current avg) with a .726 OPS (probably good enough),

The ROY caliber guy we saw for half a season last year, or the pedestrian .236 hitter we've seen for a quarter of a season this year? I hate to say he was a flash in the pan, but at this point it does look like he was overhyped.

You need to see an optometrist! That's not what I see.If this is what a Turner "slump" looks like -- and I think it is -- then that is GOOD news. As I have said many times over the years you don't know who ANY player is until you have seen them as hot as they can get AND as cold as they can get as well as in between. Then you put it all together. That's the player.

Turner was nervous when he came up in '15. This year, he's had leg problems almost all year and has never really shown his speed. He's playing on cruise control -- as he should -- until the hamstring problem is ancient history. He's showing burst now, but still being careful. He uses his legs a lot in his swing -- one of the reasons he's so strong for his size -- and I don't think his "base" has been 100 percent all year.

So, what have we got right now? His defense is better than I thought it would be -- and his arm is better than good enough. Nats fans have an almost perfect way to measure his defense -- their memory of two recent shortstops who were pretty good, not wonderful. Ian Desmond had slightly above average range, but more than average errors. His career fielding average at SS was .962 (poor) and his Range Factor (chances per 9 innings) was very nice at 4.12. Espinosa was durable, but just solid dependable defensive SS, not as good as he was at second. The standard for SS play these days is VERY acrobatic. If you say, "Wow, look at that!" then that's merely normal for a good MLB SS now. I'd say that Turner will have more "Wow!" in his game than Danny, whose fielding percentage at SS last year was a decent .970 and his range factor just OK at 3.73.

So far, in 33 games, not a big enough sample yet to judge, Turner is .975 and 3.87. I think he'll end up at about .980 and 3.95. Just a guess, but I've always paid attention to defensive stats. That will be more than good enough for a leadoff speedster who also has extra-base power. For comparison to a famous offense-first SS, Jeter was .976 and 3.90 for his career. 

We now have 487 career at bats for Turner. The results, which include a weak end to '15 in his call-up and a poor start to '17, are 82 runs, 24 doubles, nine triples, 18 homers, 61 RBI, 44 steals out of 53 and a slash line of .302/.334/.499 and an OPS of .833 which is All-Star level for a SS.

For a full season, that about 100 runs, 30 doubles, a dozen triples and 22 homers with 70+ RBI and 50+ steals.

!!!

Right now, he's hitting the ball harder, in poor luck, and I think will start to warm up with the weather. He WILL have to adjust somewhat -- not a lot but some -- from the ultra-aggressive approach of '16. He is a slasher, to be sure, but he can't continue to expand the strike zone quite as much as he does now. 

One note: He hit .485 in a few games batting second behind Eaton. That's exaggerated. But he may show another stage in development next year if he gets to hit behind Eaton and ahead of Harper. Talk about hitting in the Catbird Seat or the Rocking Chair.

Tanner Roark. Is it just me or is something off this season. Not just in Pittsburgh but his last few starts: every at-bat full counts, unable to put away batters, walks... a year ago he struck out 15. Is he ill or hurt? World Baseball Classic hangover? Felipe Romero: worst decision ever to send him to the Bucs? we trained him, and now he strikes out Bryce Harper while the guy we traded for his gone (and injured to boot). Bullpen: As Chelsea noted last week, they just shouldn't be this bad at least before the 9th inning. Every team and every player has slumps but isn't the prolonged train wreck of the Nats bullpen-multiple pitchers- a few standard deviations to the left? The Nats have lost, to my count, at least 6-7 games due to bullpen ineptitude & the season is still fairly young. That has to be a statistical anomaly. Could there be a "thumb on the scale" someplace? Say it ain't so...

Tanner shows how small differences can produce fairly large results. His bread and butter pitch ever since he came up has been his two-seam sinking fastball which he likes to swing-back over the plate (like MANY since Greg Maddux showed what a weapon it could be). All his other pitches look the same to me, or maybe a hair better. But that swing-back FB sets up a lot of other things, gets called strikes, not just fouled strikes. Wieters says Roark's feel for the pitch is coming back in recent starts.

Here is the Nats BIGGEST problem right now -- by a lot.

The bad bullpen MUST be fixed sooner rather than later (iow, NOT in 10 weeks at Aug. 1 trade deadline) because the damage is being done to the incredibly valuable starting pitchers who define this rotation. The Nats run the risk not only of wearing them out long before October but of getting one or more of them seriously hurt.

Right now, Roark, Scherzer, Gonzalez and Strasburg rank -- gulp -- No. 1, 2, 4 and 5 in pitches thrown. (Lester is 3.)

This is NOT a distinction you want, especially for Gio and Strasburg who have not had successful "workhorse" histories.

These guys were ridden hard last year. Scherzer, Roark and Gio were No. 2, 3 and 10 in pitches thrown. By the end of the year, Scherzer was pitching with a stress fractured knuckle and Roark and Gio were ineffective for long against the Dodgers in the playoffs. Strasburg never made it to September because of arm problems. 

This year, they are ALL trhrowing even more -- a little of in Gio's case , about eight pitches a game more.

Roark: Up from 100.3 to 106.3. Too much. Who nicknamed this guy Iron Man? He's valuable and he's durable. But don't abuse him and wear him out when he's under team control at modest salaries through '19.

Max: up from 104.8 to 106.2. Remember this is early season. Starters tend to go longer in the warm months when they can get loose and, well, that's just usually how it goes. These guys are up in May.

Gio: Up from 97.4 to 105.8. WAY too much. He's the only lefthander in the rotation. It's exasperating that he doesn't go deeper in games, but that's who he's always been. But also remember that, since '12, Gio's the 17th best pitcher in MLB in WAR. He almost never misses a turn. He has zany stuff and nobody knows exactly where he'll throw it -- including Gio. Don't wear this guy out either.

Strasburg is up from 99.4 to 104.8. Again, too much. The good side of Strasburg is that, when healthy, he's VERY good -- since '12 he's 30 wins over .500 (68-38). Only six pitchers are more wins  over .500. Also, since the start of '12 he's made 88 percent of his starts. That's quite good. But it also shows that he can be worn down and get injured.

The FIRST thing the Nats need to do to relieve all this too-many-innings stuff is identity and stick with a real Long Man in the pen. It can be A.J. Cole or Turner or, I suppose, Joe Ross although I'd still work him back as a fifth starter. But you need somebody out there who can get 8-to-12 outs from the pen and not burn up three or four relievers to get those outs, always going for matchups.

A decent long man, like Petit, isn't pretty. But he eats innings, is glad to have the job, toughs it out and saves all those "one-inning" pitchers at the back end. Turner has sort of done that job but not really because they have been thinking of him, out of necessity, as a fifth starter at times. 

Get a damn closer. If it's David Robertson (CWS) -- and the rebuilding White Sox want to get rid of as much of his '17-'18 salary as they can (So TAKE it) -- and he doesn't look like he can dominate in  October, then he can at least work the eighth inning if you are fortunate enough to get a BETTER closer by Aug. 1. But a Robertson -- "or similar" -- NOW has the double value of putting other perfectly decent-to-good pitchers (Glover, Kelley, Treinen) back in role they have proven they can handle or should be able to handle.

NOBODY in this pen has proven that they can CLOSE. Can they pitch? Yes. They did fine work BEHIND MELANCON last year -- which suits their talents and temperaments. Maybe Glover is a closer someday. But right now he's working back from hip problems. This is no time to push him EITHER.

This is simple stuff. WAKE UP. Swallow some pride. Admit that -- this time -- things didn't work out or fall in place the way you hoped. You can't win every trade. Sometimes you have to LOSE to win. This is one of those times. Maybe the Nats have to waste a few million more on Robertson than he's worth. Maybe they have to try to trade with the Giants to get Melancon and admit that, yes, $62M for four years is still risky, but it doesn't look so dumb as the Nats thought. The Giants went that high because 1) they were AWFUL in the pen last year and 2) with Melancon they thought they had the starting pitching to make another World Series run this year. Well, with Madison Bumgarner injured for months thanks to his motorcycle accident, this isn't one of the Giants years. (It's even an odd-numbered years.) So, one of the main reasons the Giants bid high for Melancon -- a shot to go deep in '17 w Bumgarner, Cueto, etc -- has almost disappeared. Right now, he's probably not worth his contract to the Giants. But to the Nats, who now KNOW the N.L. East is there to take and that the Cubs don't look unbeatable and the Cards are just OK and if they can beat the Dodgers, well, they really could find a path to the Series, that Melancon price now looks MORE sensible because the prospects for the rest of '17 look even better than they did last November.

Robertson, Melancon (still a long shot), Kelvin Herrera, Robert Osuna, Tont Watson or A.J., Ramos. Pick one. Get him. And, memo to Ted Lerner, don't get hung up on a few million dollars extra -- or even wasted -- because you have Much Bigger Problems. You have invested $385M in Scherzer and Strasburg and, by not fixing a bullpen that everybody in baseball knows needs to be fixed DESPERATELY, it is those valuable starting pitchers, not just your mid-season W-L record, that is being put at risk.

So now I think it's time, after watching the Nationals blow game after game to the Pirates and Braves, 2 of the not exactly top teams in the National League, to confront the debilitating psychological effect of an incompetent bullpen. Lead off walks, home run after home run given up in the late innings, and now: Gio and Scherzer are following Roark into the realm of labored innings, unusually high walks. On top of that, dispirited offense. Whatever the team says or at least must say, the effect of so many blown games late must be having an deletrious effect on the rest of the team: why hustle for those extra runs in the 5th if the likelihood is they get given back in the 8th? As Charlie Slowes said on Saturday, the Nats are being out hit, out-pitched, and out-played every since they left for Pittsburgh. This team is sick and getting sicker, and if it is isn't addressed somehow, the dreams of a post-season only a few weeks ago seem all but extinguished. Why were the Braves, a re-building team, able to assemble a bullpen that shuts down the Nats over 8 innings, 0 for 24--the equivalent of nearly a regular game over 2 games--while Washington isstuck with a gaggle of the dysfunctional. Maybe we now know why Rizzo's contract is not assured?

When a glaring team weakness isn't addressed in a timely way, the problem, in hindsight, seldom turns out to be Rizzo. USA Today reported in recent days that the Nats could have had Robertson at the cost of 19-year-old LHer Jesus Luzardo and minor leaguer Drew Ward and that the White Sox would have eaten a chunk of the $25M that is owed to Robertson for '[17 and '18 combined. But the deal died "over money."

There have been many potential deals since November, up until recently. The rule of thumb is that the only deals that you REALLY know the terms of are the ones that get done. All the others, unless confirmed by multiple sides of the deal, tend to be the version (not always accurate) that somebody wants to have out in public.

Please stop Dusty from letting everyone throw 115 pitches a start! Yes the bullpen is awful and might blow an extra game or two but the Nats have a 7 game lead in the division so why waste their arms now?

See earlier answer.

I'm really not trying to overreact, I understand the bullpen issues, and I don't necessarily have a solution, but isn't it concerning given, Dusty's track record, the amount of pitches the starters are throwing every time out?

I think we have a "trending topic."

Managers will almost always manage to keep things together in the short term, to avoid going into a losing streak, to prevent lost confidence. You don't hire Dusty Baker so he can handle a half-baked bullpen. This '17-'18 period is presumably his Last Shot at the Title. Give him a bullpen he can win with and he'll handle it fine. The team trusts him, knows he won't be the problem that stops them -- unlike Matt Williams. But he's not a miracle worker, either. A bad bullpen erodes confidence in every direction -- including toward the manager's office, even if 98 percent of his decisions are reasonable. 

Sunday was a narrow escape from another blow to the gut. Strasburg was as good as you'll ever see him and incredibly aggressive, just as you want him to be. But the game really trapped Dusty and the Nats in the eighth. Two out, two on, Strasburg's pitch count up to 110, 3-0 lead and Dansby Swanson up. It's hard to take out a pitcher with a shutout and great stuff. But that was a spot where I'd have considered it -- EXCEPT that Strasburg had struck out Swanson three times on just 10 pitches (and made him look foolish. So, Baker had to leave him in (IMO). Strasburg almost struck him out on a fine curve that was called "ball three." Then Swanson doubled home two runs. Here they go again -- you think. And they think it, too. But Koda Glover fans Marakakis.

Now, what do you do in the ninth? Whom do you trust? Baker asked Glover for a four-out one-run save! Did this 24-year-old just become Mariano Glover? Still, it was a reasonable semi-trapped decision -- what else would you do. After Kemp led off with a line single it was like "the end is nigh" at least for that game. But baseball has a sense of humor, or mercy, or something. Matt Adams crushed a liner that, because he was holding the runner, Zimmerman caught for a gift DP. The ball might have gone foul if not caught. But the point is the same -- a few feet different and it's men on second and third with no outs and the Nats probably loser, Glover gets a BS and L. More crisis in Natsland.

But they escaped. They didn't save the game, the game saved them. And that's just 1-out-of-162. But that, plus a day off, may give some breathing room. But the bullpen problem didn't just disappear. 

Dusty isn't the problem. The relievers, believe it or not, are not the problem. Kelley and Treinen can pitch. Glover will be good. Oliver Perez is a standard serviceable LOOGY. Blanton will probably get fixed. Romero is a project, but a worthwhile one. JTurner has been a nice surprise. They'd probably be just fine -- IF THEY HAD A CLOSER behind them.

Things are interconnected. The method to use so you do not overreact is to recognize that just as one problem can make everything look worse than it is, one solution can make everything look pretty solid again in a hurry.   

We have a curse, an honest-to-goodness curse. Curses of the Bambino and the Billy Goat have fallen by the wayside, it's time for us to step up and work Caps Lose Game 7 into the popular lexicon. It's something, and it's ours! Root for the Curse! Now, what to name it....

By nature, I almost NEVER tend toward pessimism. Especially in sports where so many unexpected twists change the plot so completely. Besides, for fans and observers, it is a game, not a profession or livelihood. So do we really want to work ourselves all the way up to a word like "pessimism" over a sports event that's entertainment?

But the Caps really have gone into a special category as I mentioned in a column last week. They are unique. And I don't think they'll just "recover" from this. I suspect this was the end of a period. But I have no idea what comes next. They can probably keep as much of this team as they can and still be a good team next year -- but nothing like a 118-point team. I think that's the best they can do. Just endured. And hope.

So, this is probably a time for summing up this '84 to '17 epoch of ugly. This is now TWENTY seasons that have ended with one or MORE)of these three ugly scenarios applying to the team. Because it's so unique in sports history, I thought you'd "like" is see the years, too.

1) Blew either a 2-0 or 3-1 lead in games.

The five 3-1's were '87, '92, '95, '10, '13 and '15. AND in '85 they led 2-0 and lost the last three in a five-game series (which is the same thing, basically, as blowing a 3-1 lead.)

The 2-0's were '96, '03 and '13. That's TEN of 'em. No team in any sport is close to this, even if we didn't get to Disasters of Type 2 and 3.

2) Lost a Game 7 at home. These were in '84, '85, '87, '88, '92, '95, '08, '09, '10, '12, 13, '15 and '17. HELLO, this is Insanity! That's 13 of 'em. Of course, in many of these lucky years the Caps blew a lead and also lost a Game 7 at home.

3) Lost to a lower-seeded team when they had home-ice advantage and never even got to HAVE a Game Seven at home. These are '86, '89, 93, '00, '01, '11 and '16. Yes, seven of these.

That's a total of TWENTY cursed -- or whatever -- seasons. I am just WAITING for Ted's first chipper re-up blog about the Caps. OTOH, at this point, isn't the dominant emotion toward anybody who actually plays or works for the Caps at least 51 percent empathy? (The other 49 percent is "they will never fool me again -- just tell me when they get to a Stanley Cup finals. I'll watch 'em again then -- maybe.")

I suppose it's good that we tend to forget all out "deep-sworn vows" about sports, including all of those that begin, "I will never again..."

I love Rendon. But I don't understand him at all. He is an extremely talented hitter who, other than one week, has been very underwhelming this season. What is going on with him? Health issue? Poor mechanics? We are over a quarter of the way through the season and he hasn't gotten going yet. Is the answer just that he's an extemely slow starter?

Baseball makes no sense in small or even medium sized chunks. It comes closer to make serious sense than any other sport when taken in large chunks.

This is Rendon's career slash line: .273/.347/.432 for a .779 OPS. This is Rendon's '17 slash line: .265/.372/.429 for a .801 OPS. He is on pace to be EXACTLY himself.

"But he drove in TEN RUNS and had SIX HITS including THREE HOME RUNS in ONE game!!!" you say.

Yeah, he did. Gotta love baseball.

When Dusty Baker came here his reputation as a manager who blew out the arms of the starting rotation was mentioned. He now seems to be doing just that, pressing starters into the 110-120 pitch range because there is nobody to trust in the bullpen. So instead of getting reliable personnel the Nats are undermining their starters too? Can't believe Mike Maddux could be happy with that.

Maddox and Baker handle the pitching together. They got Dusty for all the things he does well. They got Maddox because he is often considered the best pitching coach in baseball. So, between the two, especially with all the respect Dusty and Mike have for each other, you should be in good shape in handling the staff. But the book on Mike is NOT that he babies pitchers or is some anti-Dusty. Mike and team president Nolan Ryan got along fine, philosophically, in Texas in their two World Series years. The other side of the coin is that you do have to USE your pitchers, not just keep them in a glass case for show.

BTW, Strasburg doesn't get enough credit for what he's done since he came back from TJ surgery. Since the start of '12, including the (very wise) "shutdown, he's made 88% of his scheduled starts. So, he's been "durable enough." Since the start of '12, he's 12th in MLB in pitcher's WAR (20.8 wins).

Strasburg has 165 career starts, almost 1,000 innings and (maybe) has come up with a less stressful, more efficient no-windup delivery. At 28, his arm is as mature as it will ever get. Nobody knows what will happen to any pitcher next. But one of the sane possibilities is that Strasburg will have a pretty long one. Knock on wood. In his whole career Mark Prior only had 106 starts (and was finished at 24) and Kerry Wood, before he went to the bullpen, 165. His last strong year as a starter was age 26. I still remember all the pundits who said in '09 that they was zero percent chance that Strasburg with his "reverse W" delivery would last -- he was doomed. We don't know what happens next. But we know THEY were wrong.

They also said Tyler Clippard had the same issue and was "doomed." Clippard, 32, has pitched in 569 games, so far, and has a 2.74 ERA for the last NINE seasons in the pen. Doing fine setting up for Yankees now. So much for "experts" on pitching mechanics and doom.

I think the Nats' bullpen problems offer a great chance to debate the question, "When do you move beyond a focus on numbers and consider a team or player's mindset as a legitimate factor in their performance?" We're no longer supposed to evaluate guys by their grit or their toughness, we're supposed to use WHIP and K/BB ratios, etc., which is actually good. But I think you have to factor in what roles guys have been given as compared to what they've done in the past and the pressure they must feel when the entire bunch does poorly day after day. At some point, that HAS to be an issue. I just don't know if you can totally account that in stats. All of which means Dusty Baker's got a really tough job right now.

I agree.

That idea runs underneath a couple of my answers today. A relievers "role" and psychology certainly seem to be linked in plenty of cases even though it SEEMS like there should be no difference in WHEN you throw a baseball.

(Yeah, tell that to the guy who has a five-foot-putt to win the U.S. Open next month. "It's just like any other putt." Right.)

That's it for this week. I promise to work on "somewhat cheerful" by next Monday. It isn't so hard. But it does takes a LITTLE time.

How can that be checked? I know avg. homer distance has risen for several years. Any other fancy stats that might offer insight?

I saw a "study" of that recently and the conclusion -- contrary to the preference of the folks doing the investigating -- was that the '17 ball was normal and no different than '16. (A lot of players think differently.)

Talked to Matt Wieters about trends in hitting. He said that hitters, given a couple of years to recognize trends, can adjust to them, even at a level as fundamental as changing their approach so that they can hit different types of pitches for power. In other words, first the strike zone got lower as umpires tired to conform to the grades they were getting from electronic PitchFX data. So, pitchers prospered more by throwing more low strikes and mastering pitches that produced "chases" at the bottom of the zone. Hitters suffered. But not for long. Now, according to Wieters, plenty of hitters have been learning how to "hit low pitches for power" better than they had previously. Tweaked their swings. So, yes, he and other catchers are calling for more letter-high fastballs to strikeout the new breed of low-ball sluggers. 'Twas ever thus.

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Thomas Boswell
A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."
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