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Carlos Silva Is Different

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Carlos Silva has countless reputations, but first and foremost, he's always been known as a guy who throws a lot of strikes. A guy who just pounds the zone and forces the hitter to beat him. He was pretty good about it early in his career, but when he wrapped up 2005 having only walked nine batters in 188 innings, he cemented the perception that he can always hit his spots when he wants to. That was the year that brought Silva a lot of notice as a guy who's constantly going right after his opponent.

And the reputation has never been entirely undeserved. Silva's 2005 season, as one would expect, stands as an anomaly, but from 2002-2008, he's been pretty consistently above-average in terms of strike rate and Zone%. Just look at the following table, knowing that the average strike rate is ~63.5% and the average Zone% is around 50%.

Year Strike% Zone%
2002 63.7 56.5
2003 60.9 52.3
2004 64.9 58.5
2005 71.4 65.2
2006 66.5 58.2
2007 65.3 56.2
2008 63.8 53.6

Silva, for all his other faults, has always been able to locate the ball pretty well and stay in and around the strike zone. This has kept him from making too many location mistakes, pitching from behind too often, and issuing many free passes, all part of his gameplan to induce weak contact and let the defense do the work.

So with that track record in mind, I'd love for someone to explain this to me:

Year Strike% Zone%
2009 59.8 ~44

Three starts into the season, Silva's strike profile looks nothing like normal, and that's with a repertoire consisting of like 85% sinkers (76 more today out of 94 total pitches). You have to wonder if it's deliberate - an attempt to get hitters to go after more stuff out of the zone - but then considering Silva's best season came when he threw the most strikes, that seems a little unlikely. Which makes me wonder what's going on, because this is a weird change for a guy who just got healthy and worked himself into way better shape.

Silva's groundball rate is up and his line drive rate is down so far, so don't misinterpret this as complaining. I'm as content with his performance as I'll ever be. It's more simple curiosity. Either this is an early-season fluke, or Silva is pitching differently than he ever has before in his career. Keep an eye on this. It shouldn't be too long before we get some answers.