Sometimes, Felix is great, and you spend paragraph after paragraph gushing over his brilliance.
Other times, words fail you, and you have to leave the task of explaining how good he is to the kid himself.
"I lost a little bit of concentration [in the seventh inning], then decided to center myself, and when I do that, I cannot fail."
Back when Barry Bonds existed, I'd find myself talking to someone every few weeks or so about his demeanor, how he managed to turn off so many people despite putting on the greatest show on earth. What it usually came down to was that a lot of people were put off by Bonds' attitude, the way he carried himself in the clubhouse and how he'd stare at his home runs until they landed in the bleachers. I would maintain that, if anyone had the right to be arrogant, it was Bonds, a guy who was far and away better than anyone else in the game. He behaved like he was the best player in baseball because he was the best player in baseball, and I think it's hard to fault a guy for that.
So it is for Felix. Some people might read the quotes above and conclude that he's just some cocky hotshot teenager with limited big league experience and a lot of growing up to do. People who have seen him pitch, however, will understand that he's only telling the truth, that - when he's on his game - he really can't fail, because even the pitches he leaves over the plate are practically unhittable. If anything, I think we should be applauding Felix for his confidence, because the last thing we need is for a guy with his stuff to start nibbling around the zone because he's unsure whether or not he can afford to throw it down the pipe (you listening, Gil?).
The big stumbling block for guys getting promoted from the minors for the first time is that they have to adjust to the ins and outs of playing in the Majors, that these players are better than anyone you've ever faced. They'll spot your weaknesses and exploit them, forcing you to make an adjustment if you want to stick around. This is usually referred to as "overcoming adversity."
Felix, though...he doesn't really have that problem, because, see, the only adjustment he ever has to make is to start throwing strikes, and then everything's all right again. He doesn't have to be clever with his pitches because each of them is so naturally phenomenal that he can chuck 'em down the middle without getting smacked around. And Felix knows it. That's why he came up from Tacoma and immediately started pounding the strike zone ("Objection! Speculation.") - he wanted to see if big league hitters would make him pay for pitches that caught too much of the zone. They haven't, so he's pretty much free to do whatever he wants, because it's going to take a lot of things going wrong for him to get knocked around in a game. It's Felix Hernandez's world, we're just living in it.
Biggest Contribution: Felix Hernandez, +37.9%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Lopez, -14.5%
Most Important Hit: Beltre sac fly, +15.8% (seems fishy to me, too)
Most Important Pitch: Swisher fly out, +12.5%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +53.0%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -1.4%
I gave Yuniesky Betancourt credit for a catch - and, in turn, charged Felix for a single allowed - when the shortstop tracked down a Mark Ellis liner in the sixth and made a leaping snag, because that was just a spectacular play that no one else even comes close to making (although Derek Jeter would probably get his uniform dirty while making a valiant but fruitless effort, earning him considerable praise for his balls-to-the-wall shittiness). I also charged Yorvit Torrealba for the interference that wiped Betancourt off the basepaths in the fifth and put the attempted-squeeze double play on Jeremy Reed's shoulders, because that was a terrible bunt.
Three of Betancourt's 27 hits (11%) have gone for triples, and none of them are of the fluke variety - he's probably the fastest baserunner on the team, and when any ball is hit into the gap, you have to be thinking third base. Triples are always going to be a big part of Betancourt's offensive value. With that in mind, let's compare his 3B% with some of the other noted speedsters in the game (with the understanding that it's way too early to reach any conclusions):
Betancourt: 11.1% (7.8% in the minors)
The modern day single-season record for triples is 21, smacked by Willie Wilson in 1985. 12.5% of his hits that year were three-baggers. George Brett's 20 triples in 1979 made up 9.4% of his hits. Cristian Guzman had 20 and 12.8% in 2000. The point? If Betancourt keeps hitting triples at this kind of clip - a big "if" to be sure, and at this point purely a hypothetical - he's going to be in some exclusive (albeit somewhat underwhelming) company. Maybe I'm reaching, but Betancourt's certainly shown the ability to reach the gaps at a reasonable rate (a third of his hits have gone for extra bases), and his speed will make him a constant threat to advance. When you're not a very good hitter, being lightning fast is one of those things you can do to help compensate. Ask Willie Ballgame.
Ground balls: 88
Fly balls: 23
MLB best GB/FB: 4.31 (Webb)
MLB 2nd best GB/FB: 3.32 (Westbrook)
One of the things I like to do here is determine peripherals as a function of batters faced, rather than per nine innings. It's a little extra work, but it's a more accurate metric. Example:
Felix Hernandez K/9: 8.82
Mark Prior K/9: 10.00
Felix Hernandez K%: 26.3%
Mark Prior K%: 27.8%
Felix's raw strikeout numbers aren't as impressive as they could be because he's not facing very many batters per inning, reducing the number of guys he can strike out. He's currently sporting a WHIP of 0.80, against Prior's 1.17. That makes his K/9 seem worse (and his BB/9 and HR/9 seem better). Don't get me wrong, it's nice to see more and more people acknowledging the significance of peripheral statistics, but there's still work to be done on that front before I'm satisfied.
There's been a little disagreement over whether or not it was the right move to have Jeremy Reed attempt a suicide squeeze with men on the corners and one down in the top of the seventh (already leading 2-0). I decided that this was a problem best answered through mathematical analysis, in the form of something similar to what Beyond the Box Score put up earlier today. I'll spare you all the details and just give you the juicy results:
Predicted win expectancy after calling for squeeze: 87.2%
Predicted win expectancy when letting Reed swing away: 86.9%
It's awfully close, but Reed has just been so awful against lefties this year that it makes the squeeze attempt a little more worthwhile. It's nice to have numbers to support my initial impression. Plus, I just like suicide squeezes.
Joel Pineiro and Joe Kennedy tomorrow at 7:05pm PDT.