Where The Heck Did That Come From?

Okay, yeah, so Feierabend kind of got his ass kicked today. It's tough to pin 11 hits in 5.2 innings on plain old bad luck, and for the duration he did see pretty frequent solid contact. But then, this was the Rangers. The Rangers were purpose-built to destroy egos and hand-held scoreboard operators. They have an .862 team OPS at home, and hold a significant lead over second place in team runs scored. Against that lineup - against the regular lineup, really, sans Ian Kinsler - Feierabend missed 13 bats in 80 pitches. 13 bats, with 56 strikes overall.

I would've expected neither of those. The Rangers strike out a lot, yes, but Feierabend is hardly known for his strikeout stuff, so to miss that many bats while pounding the zone speaks to something going right, even when the balls in play were going wrong. That sort of thing doesn't just happen by accident. Just as Feierabend was sometimes allowing the Rangers to make solid contact, other times he was doing something to make them swing right through the ball.

The more I see of him, the more I find myself interested in his changeup. I'm kind of biased, because I love guys with a good change, but Feierabend's always been reputed to have a particularly strong one, and so far he's lived up to his billing. He threw 18 of them today, generating five swinging strikes against just four balls. What I like most about it is that it's disguised so well in his fastball - the PITCHf/x movements on his fastball and changeup are strikingly similar, but their speeds are 10mph apart, which I have to imagine makes it difficult for the hitter to pick up on which pitch is coming. Maybe this is why he's been able to get this far despite velocities that make Jose Rosado feel brawny. When it's difficult to identify one of the two pitches, it's difficult to identify both.

It's a heck of a straight change, and after today, the sort of thing that makes me wonder if perhaps I've written Feierabend off too quickly. Maybe he has something to contribute to this team after all. I'm obviously still skeptical, and I'm not about to throw him a parade, but considering Jarrod Washburn hasn't missed 13 bats in a start since August 2006 and Carlos Silva hasn't done it since ever, I'm willing to grant him a longer leash. 11 hits aside, today I think he earned it.

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