How the dominant Fernandez from Tuesday could become even better.
For those of you who never watched Sandy Koufax pitch, last night was an opportunity to see an equivalent performance (and if you subscribe to MLB.TV, you can watch it in perpetuity). Jose Fernandez was just that good, using a fastball-slurve one-two punch to strike out 14 over eight scoreless innings and induce a lot of weak contact against the Braves, a team that can slug a baseball pretty well.
Four authors used different methods to watch the same pitcher make the same start. These are their reviews of that pitcher's performance.
In the movie Rashomon, a samurai is murdered. Four witnesses give four accounts of the murder, and out of one scenario come four very different narratives and three different killers. Do more angles get you closer to truth, or further from it? It's not clear.
What follows is an experiment. Four of us took a starter that none of us knew anything about: Pedro Hernandez, a Twins lefty making his 12th career start, on Saturday against the A’s. Without doing any research on Hernandez, the four of us watched the start from four different angles:
In last week’s Lineup Card, I urged the Astros to re-sign Rick Ankiel and test him out again as a pitcher. As I explained, September allows teams to expand their active rosters to 40 men, so experimenting with Ankiel would be less likely to interfere with the “normal operations” of the club. He would also be playing for a team with no postseason hopes. Nothing would be lost for the Astros if he pitched poorly.
A review of the outfielder's work on the mound this season.
It’s good fun scouting position player pitchers, but a measure of actual congratulations is owed to Casper Wells, who played the role of sacrificial lamb for the Philadelphia Phillies in Saturday/Sunday’s 18-inning marathon against the Diamondbacks. In Wells’ first pitching appearance this year, on June 28, he was called in for the ninth inning of a laugher, a 19-10 loss at the hands of the Indians. Wells was a member of the White Sox way back then.
Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright—profiled in a BP piece here—pitched 5⅔ scoreless relief innings last Thursday night against the Mariners. The 28-year-old utilized a floater that sat almost exclusively between 74 and 76 mph and an occasional fastball in the mid-to-high 80s. Although people tend to think of knuckleballs being in the mid-60s, I think the lasting influence of Tim Wakefield distorts perceptions of the pitch. Wakefield’s soft knuckler was only about 8 mph slower than his fastball on average—not all that different from Wright (-9), R.A. Dickey (-6), Charlie Haeger (-10), and Eddie Bonine (-6), the other knuckleballers of the PITCHf/x era. Given Wright’s fastball speed, his knuckler is right on target.
The Rangers left fielder shows off his...knuckleball?
Rangers left fielder David Murphy is normally a solid offensive contributor, posting a career .277 TAv. This season, he’s been subpar at just .234. What’s a manager to do? Why not change his position? Ron Washington, short of arms in a 17–5 blowout at the hands of the Red Sox on Tuesday night, decided to audition Murphy as a relief pitcher.
Examining the performance of the players who aren't supposed to pitch.
At some point, you’ve probably thought to yourself that you could do a better job than the man on the mound for your team, especially if your team has ever employed Jonathan Sanchez. And every so often, amateurs do get the chance to outshine actual pitchers. These brave volunteers are known as “position players,” and they’re occasionally called in to provide a desperate manager with outs so that a blowout game may mercifully end. Surprisingly, these rescue arms are not off-the-charts terrible, with position players who’ve debuted since the 2000 season posting a combined 6.84 ERA (6.76 FIP) in 51 1/3 innings—and that drops to a 5.11 ERA (6.34 FIP) if you exclude Paul Janish’s two rough innings.
The Yankees were in dire straits on Wednesday night after the unpredictable Phil Hughes lasted only 2/3 of an inning, surrendering seven runs on six hits and two walks. This forced manager Joe Girardi to get 5 2/3 innings of long relief from Brett Marshallin his major-league debut. After Marshall’s pitch count reached 108 pitches with two outs in the ninth, Girardi asked Alberto Gonzalez, a journeyman infielder with no prior professional pitching experience, to get Robert Andino out. Somehow, he did. (Granted, Andino, who owns a .236 OBP, is among the easiest outs in baseball. But still.)
Can Jordan Zimmermann keep getting batters to hit into outs?
Jordan Zimmermann, in a starting rotation with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, doesn’t get much attention. But did you know he led the Nationals pitching staff in quality starts last year? And that he leads the major leagues in WHIP this year? Zimmermann’s path to success, especially so far this year, defies basic sabermetric assumptions and is worth examining more closely.
Zimmermann is built like a power pitcher. He’s a sturdy 6’2”, 220 lbs., and he has a fastball that averages better than 94 mph. He has a hard slider and much-improved curveball as his secondary pitches, as well as an occasional changeup. He has the pure “stuff” to strike out 200 batters a season.
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Why Jack Morris' accusation doesn't stand up to the evidence.
As you’ve probably heard, pitcher-turned-commentator Jack Morris has accused Red Sox hurler Clay Buchholz of throwing pitches with illegal substances on his hand during his start on Wednesday against Toronto. Buchholz, his manager, and his catchers have taken turns explaining that that’s a ridiculous proposition.
A PITCHf/x look at the type of arsenal that fares well at altitude.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.