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Expand chart
Data: FanGraphs; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

While MLB is on pace to set a strikeout record for the 14th consecutive season, the rate of pitches actually thrown in the strike zone continues to plummet. Weird, right?

By the numbers: In 2002, 54.2% of all pitches were thrown for strikes (swings not included, just pitch location) … and batters struck out 16.8% of the time. In 2019, a record-low 42.1% of pitches have been thrown for strikes … and batters are striking out 22.8% of the time.

What's happening: With hitters increasingly swinging for the fences, pitchers are deliberately throwing outside the zone to avoid giving up home runs.

  • "Throws targeted for the inside and outside corners have been replaced by fastballs that rocket up above the zone or breaking balls that dive below it," notes NYT's Joe Lemire.
  • This has resulted in longer at-bats (batters are seeing a record-high 3.91 pitches per plate appearance this season); but again, almost one-fourth of them still end in a strikeout.

Meanwhile, pitchers have simply gotten better at enticing hitters to chase balls thanks to things like analytics and "pitch tunneling."

  • Analytics: The volume of advanced data available to pitchers gives them insight into exactly where each hitter is most likely to chase — and they're exploiting that.
  • Pitch tunneling: Pitchers have gotten extremely good at making two different pitches look identical for much of their flight toward the plate, allowing them to present balls as strikes for longer (example).

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's advisers successfully pushed state health officials to exclude certain data on the number of COVID-19 nursing home deaths from a July report, the Wall Street Journal reported late Thursday.

Why it matters: The changes resulted in a "significant undercount of the death toll attributed to the state’s most vulnerable population," the WSJ wrote.

Ro Khanna wary of Biden approach on Middle East

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An outspoken progressive Democrat is wary of President Biden’s approach to the Middle East, arguing it’s like “conceding defeat of the aspiration” to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it matters: A number of members of Biden’s own party dislike his Middle East strategy, as his administration signals the region is no longer the priority it was for President Obama and his predecessors.

Democrats eye reconciliation for immigration

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Comprehensive immigration reform is a pipe dream, but some Senate Democrats are hoping to tie key immigration provisions to the next big reconciliation push.

Why it matters: Immigration is one of the most controversial and partisan issues in U.S. politics, which is why the budget reconciliation process — which allows for bills to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes — is so attractive.