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11-10, Bullet Points

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Some bullet points, since the scheduled outage has left me pressed for time: (edit: and by bullet points I of course mean numbered list since it appears I lost the bullet point function)

  1. Seven innings, seven strikeouts, three walks, and two runs. Not bad for a guy pitching sick. Felix, feeling under the weather, was clearly laboring from the start – even getting a rare mound visit from John McLaren in the top of the second – but he battled back to post one heck of a start. While I’m not wild about the fact that they let him throw another 110 pitches, he was cruising after the first two innings, and the fact that he touched 97 in the seventh suggests that he wasn’t really feeling much in the way of fatigue.

    The issue was pretty clear from the get-go – Felix didn’t have his best command, and for a time there he was leaving a lot of pitches up. However, he was missing off the plate, rather than over it, so the Orioles couldn’t really punish him on balls in play. If you have to be wild, this is the way to do it. Then after throwing 52 pitches in the first two innings, suddenly he found his stuff and threw only 58 the rest of the way, with minimal damage aside from a home run on a slider that wasn’t even in that bad of a location (although, with a 1-2 count, I’m sure Felix meant to throw it lower). In other words, this quickly went from Frustrating Felix to Comfortably Terrific Felix.

  2. The most encouraging sign that I (and Dave) saw? An excellent changeup. For much of 2006 and 2007, Felix was dogged by an inability to consistently retire lefties, a function of (not exclusively, but primarily) an inconsistent change. Today he really had it working. He threw it 22 times – 17 times for strikes – and of the 15 swings, seven missed and only one put it in play. Felix was doing a great job of either burying the change low or putting it off the plate away from the batter, with terrific results. If this keeps up, then that’s it, he’s made the leap. End of story. He’s already murder on righties. If he’s truly discovered the secret to throwing an effective change, then that gives him four pitches he can throw in any count to any hitter, and that’s…that’s game over is what that is.

  3. JJ’s back. There’s no sense beating around the bush. His first two pitches were both fastballs clocked at 98 miles per hour, and while he did give up a leadoff double, that was just Huff putting his bat on the ball and letting the velocity do the work. This was vintage JJ. Eight fastballs, all between 96-98, and a dynamite splitter that baffled Ramon Hernandez on three consecutive occasions. I was concerned at first when I saw him warming up because I didn’t know what to expect, but 16 pitches later, I have just as much confidence in JJ as I did on Opening Day. God bless this man. It’s unbelievable how much difference he makes.

  4. I was going to say something about how getting JJ back frees up RRS for earlier situations, but while this is absolutely true, I’m beginning to think that Arthur Rhodes might have a little more to offer than I initially assumed. He’s throwing in the mid- to low-90s and seems able to spot his fastball pretty well on the outside corner against lefties, leaving them no choice but to try to take the pitch the other way. While he’ll have to show a reasonably consistent breaking ball if he wants to stick around, he definitely seems to have more left in the tank than I’ve given him credit for. Note, however, that RRS is still far and away the better arm. I much prefer him over Rhodes in the later innings. My only point here is that Rhodes doesn’t appear completely worthless. Wait, what was I talking about?

  5. Joe’s Tracer: [Countless] Days Without Ever Thinking A Pitch Was In The Strike Zone

  6. Talking about Raul Ibanez in the bottom of the first, Dave Valle – the ex-Mariner backup backstop who isn’t among the recently deceased – remarked that Raul has "really caught fire" over these past few weeks. Now I don’t mean to pick on Valle, since everyone on the planet uses the expression on a daily basis, but I was left wondering about its origins. Being "on fire" is meant to convey that the player in question has recently gotten a lot of hits, made a lot of baskets, scored a lot of goals, or what have you. Why? How did this begin? Seems to me that a player engulfed in flames would have more pressing issues on his mind than hitting a ball or making a pass. If Raul Ibanez had truly "caught fire," I’d expect far fewer doubles and homers and far more problems with standing in the batter’s box and running between the baselines. Being ablaze strikes me as being the pinnacle of discomfort, a circumstance during which it’s virtually impossible to succeed at anything. The pain is matched perhaps only by being ice cold, but then in a sports context this ironically (and more accurately) implies the exact opposite phenomena. If we’re looking for a colorful way to describe a guy who’s riding a streak of good results, I think the most suitable term is probably "tepid". We’re never more comfortable and prepared to do well than when it’s slightly above room temperature.

  7. Another game, another four at bats in which Jose Lopez took the first pitch. All four were strikes. This makes nine consecutive at bats where Lopez took the first pitch and fell behind 0-1 (and 18 consecutive at bats where he’s taken the first pitch). I appreciate the intent – believe me, I really do – but even a patient, selective Lopez needs to swing at the first pitch every once in a while, just for game theory purposes. You have to keep the pitchers honest, otherwise they’ll just get ahead of you with an easy strike every time. Lopez’s approach is improving, but it’s clearly a work in progress.

  8. I don’t have any problem with opposing teams’ managers doing us favors, but I have to wonder what Dave Trembley was thinking when he stuck with Jeremy Guthrie there in the eighth. His career average is ~96 pitches per start, so today’s 116 were uncharacteristic, and while I’m not going to pretend that I can say with any confidence that he was wearing down, that inning could’ve been handled a lot differently. For one thing, with a man on second, two down, and Ibanez at the plate with Guthrie having thrown 103 pitches, I think it would’ve been prudent to go to Jamie Walker (or even George Sherrill) to get the third out. This is why teams have lefty specialists. Trembley decided instead to walk Raul to get to the right-handed Beltre, but then Guthrie walked him too, and with a switch-hitting Vidro coming up I again think it would’ve been prudent to go get someone else. Dennis Sarfate’s fastball is pretty much unhittable, and even if Trembley didn’t trust his control with the bases loaded, he still had an entire bullpen of rested arms to choose from. He stuck with Guthrie, though, and a changeup caught too much of the plate and decided the game. Prior to the at bat Guthrie looked into the Baltimore dugout and said something to the extent of "I’ve got him," but Trembley needs to make decisions in the best interests of the team, not the pitcher, and now he’s going to get justifiably second-guessed for failing to make a move.

  9. Adam Jones may be the future, but King Felix is THE FUTURE. Felix may not have bested him with a strikeout, but I’d argue that a pickoff is even more humiliating. Good show.

4_22_08_medium

Biggest Contribution: Jose Vidro, +25.2%
Biggest Suckfest: Jose Lopez, -12.3%
Most Important AB: Vidro single, +31.0%
Most Important Pitch: Huff homer, -16.9%
Total Contribution by Pitcher(s): +39.6%
Total Contribution by Hitters: -3.6%
Total Contribution by Opposition: +14.0%
(What is this chart?)

Carlos Silva goes up against Daniel Cabrera's amazing disappearing fastball tomorrow at 7:10pm PDT. Jose, for the next 24 hours please disregard everything I said above about occasionally swinging at the first pitch. The first pitch is lava! Hot lava!