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Speaking of launch angle and longer games

More strikeouts and homers leading to more pitches
San Diego Padres

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Homers are up throughout Major League Baseball. Strikeouts are also up. And games are getting longer, not shorter.    

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Homers are up throughout Major League Baseball. Strikeouts are also up. And games are getting longer, not shorter.    

Padres manager Andy Green sees a connection between the three. And the connecting thought could be "launch angle."   

"You can probably go to a lot of different things," Green said Thursday while discussing the rise in both homers and strikeouts.   

"You have pitchers pitching up in the zone on purpose more, which leads to more fly balls and home runs. That's also going to lead to more strikeouts. You have hitters getting more aware of trying to lift the baseball.   

"That's going to lead to more home runs and more strikeouts. There's more velocity in the game, more mistakes in the middle of the zone. Before, pitchers used to nibble at the corners more. Now guys throwing 97 and thinking the way to be successful is to throw it past guys in the upper part of the zone. When those pitches are mistakes, they get hit out of the ballpark."   

Of course, more strikeouts mean more pitches. More pitches -- and home run trots -- lead to longer games.    

"All those things factor into it," said Green.   

Clearly more hitters are going for the long ball. Launch angle has become the hot niche stat of analysis. Because there has been an uptick in homers, there has been an adjustment made by pitchers, who are going to a combination of high fastballs and curves to get more strikeouts.   

"There is much more information out there," Green said recently. "Hitting the ball on the ground is not the smartest thing for most hitters. We're seeing a lot of guys adding loft to their swings. The spike in power has a lot to do with that.   

"The combination of high fastballs and breaking balls is throughout the game right now. The curve out of the hand looks the same as the high fastball. You throw the curve right off the high fastball and you're going to get a swing over the top. It's a combination that is leading to a lot more strikeouts as well as home runs."    

There has been a call to expand the strike zone. Green agrees that could lead to quicker games.    

"But it could also reduce the number of balls in play -- meaning the action," said Green.    

That could be a counter-productive move, since fans are craving more action.   

"In general, the nature of the game has always been that the athletes get more refined … they get more information, so they get better and better and better," said Green. "There's more good power hitters in the game. Everyone enjoys the home run."   

Green has mentioned his team's high strikeout rate several times recently. His response to why his team sees so many curves: "Because we swing at a lot of them before they get to the plate. We're trying harder to lay off those pitches. But it's throughout the game right now … curve off the high fastball."    

The Padres' swing-and-miss rate has also inhibited their ability to play "small ball," because it is difficult for a running game to operate on misses.    

NOTE WORTHY   

Jose Pirela had a career high three hits Wednesday night after entering the game in Arizona as a pinch-hitter. He also reached base in his first three plate appearances Thursday afternoon to reach base in six consecutive plate appearances. The only other Padre to reach base in six consecutive plate appearances this season was Matt Szczur (May 20-25).    

Twenty-five of the 32 RBIs registered by Arizona during the Diamondbacks' three-game sweep of the Padres came with two outs in the inning. Arizona's 32 runs in the series were their most ever in a three-game series against the Padres.    

Yangervis Solarte is hitting .310 (18-for-58) with two doubles, two homers and eight RBIs in the 15 games since he moved to the second slot in the batting order from cleanup. He has a .387 on-base percentage from the two hole with a .458 slugging percentage for a .845 OPS. While hitting cleanup, Solarte had a .236 batting average, a .324 on-base percentage and a .366 slugging percentage for a .690 OPS. Solarte has two homers in his last six games.    

Christian Friedrich allowed five runs on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings in his first rehab assignment with Double-A San Antonio Thursday night.     

San Diego Padres