Searching for the source of the struggles of Matt Cain and Jeremy Hellickson this season.
Matt Cain and Jeremy Hellickson are similar pitchers, with a likeness that extends to stuff, mechanics, and stats. Both pitchers have fastballs that average 91-92 mph on the gun, with plus command of great off-speed stuff to keep opposing batters off-balance. Each uses a 77-mph curveball around 12 percent of the time, but while Hellickson uses an 80-mph changeup at a 30 percent clip, Cain is a 15 percent cambio guy whose off-speed pitch comes in at a heavy 86 mph on average. He also adds a slider with the same frequency and velocity as his change. I have touted both pitchers for their excellent balance and strong posture, the underlying ingredients of top-notch pitch repetition, although the hurlers also share an affinity toward slow momentum.
Hellickson might be lower on the totem pole and several years Cain's junior, but the negative connotations associated with his profile are eerily reminiscent of those that Cain endured early in his own career. Armchair analysts who choose to focus solely on certain stats and eschew batted-ball numbers due to their inherent volatility have screamed “luck” in a reach to explain the consistently low BABIPs of both pitchers, with constant calls for regression to the league mean. Those same analysts can now be found basking under a cloud of smug, as both Hellickson and Cain are currently in the midst of the worst seasons of their respective careers.
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If you set out to design a place that I would hate, it would look a lot like Arizona.
It’s got natural beauty, sure, but it’s usually way too hot, or too cold, to enjoy. Everything is spread out, Houston- or Los Angeles-style; you have to drive everywhere to get anywhere. And once you get there, odds are “there” is a prefab thing conceived by a team of hospitality management experts.
What can we learn about pitching from FOX Game-of-the-Week scouting reports?
The third time I got caught stealing classified documents out of the National Archives, the judge said enough was enough. He and the prosecutor hatched up a plan to send me away to prison for 20 years so I’d learn my lesson. But there were plenty of things I’d stolen that the authorities didn’t know about (money things), so I used some of that loot and hired myself the best counsel in the city. He found a loophole in the law and convinced the judge that first he had to give me another option: I could learn my lesson by teaching young toughs about important life skills, in a structured and competitive environment. The judge looked through his binder full of ragamuffin teams in need and asked,"What about baseball? Can you coach baseball?” I nodded, because of how much codeine I had had that morning, and he interpreted my head movement as assent. That’s how I became the coach of the 12U GoldenTee baseball squad, and that’s how I found myself living a storybook season that ended with … well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves now.
“Pitching and defense wins” is what I knew about baseball, and I found out quickly that the boys (and girl) on the GoldenTees didn’t know squat about pitching. Lot of throwers on that team. Big kids, some mustaches and learner’s permits, and real strong arms; my glove hand was blue by the end of practice just warming up with them. It didn’t surprise me to learn that they had won the championship the previous season, and that most of the league was afraid to hit against them. But they weren’t doing it the right way, and I could tell them a thing or two about where life takes you when you don’t do it the right way. It takes you to a battered ballfield with a bunch of kids you don't even know, when you could be home sucking whippets and watching DVDs of Monk season four.
The Giants try to clinch their second championship in three years, while the Tigers hope to live to play another day.
Before San Francisco’s 2-0 victory in Game Three, no team had logged back-to-back shutout victories in the World Series since the 1966 Orioles. The 2012 Tigers were held scoreless only twice during the regular season. So, naturally, the Giants blanked the Tigers in Games Two and Three to take a commanding, 3-0 lead in the Fall Classic. Can Detroit bounce back and avoid a sweep, or will the 2012 season end tonight, with San Francisco celebrating for the second time in three years? To answer those questions, here is a closer look at Game Four:
The Giants didn't play their best five games, but it was good enough to beat a very good Cincinnati team to advance to the NLCS.
If you put enough gas in your spaceship and just keep flying, you’ll eventually get to a planet that looks just like this one. There’s a guy just like you and one just like me, and every letter the guy like you is reading was written exactly like the letters that I am actually writing. The only difference is that, on the other planet, Hideki Matsui was looking for a changeup, but Pedro Martinez threw him a fastball, and Matsui took it for a called strike three. The Red Sox kept their three-run lead. And it took eight years before Grady Little was ultimately scapegoated for a Boston loss and pushed out.
The Reds lost the pitcher but won the battle. Now will they win the war?
From game one to game 162, the Reds rotation stayed perfectly intact. The only time a sixth man started was in August, when Todd Redmond was called up for a day to work the second game of a doubleheader. That durability turned a rotation that was merely pretty good into a huge asset.
Cain gets about as good a draw as a pitcher can possibly get this week, facing what are perhaps baseball’s two worst offenses. The only thing that would make this better is if he were facing them at home.
After completing a three-game sweep of the Nationals in D.C., the Yankees are starting to look like the real Bronx Bombers.
The Weekend Takeaway
The Yankees and Nationals both came into this weekend’s series at Nationals Park on six-game winning streaks. But after Danny Espinosa grounded out to end Sunday’s finale, New York was on cloud nine and Washington was three in the hole.
Though the Dodgers have one more win than the Yankees and four more than the Nationals, by most measures, the teams that squared off in the nation’s capital this past weekend were the two best in baseball right now. After a month and a half of lurking in the background and struggling to find a rhythm, Joe Girardi’s squad has resoundingly announced its presence with the recent surge.
Matt Cain just threw a perfect game. Surely that means something going forward, right?
Since 1990, 10 pitchers have thrown perfect games. The nine who aren't Matt Cain combined to throw 56 2/3 innings in their next starts, with a combined 57 hits allowed, 40 runs allowed, 35 earned runs allowed, 17 walks allowed. That's 8.2 baserunners per start, a 1.31 WHIP, and a 5.56 ERA.
We generally don't expect top athletes to choke, but that doesn't mean they don't get just as nervous as you would.
There was a brief period in my life when I was afraid to drive. I had had a near accident on I-5 when I, inexplicably, could not find the brake pedal and had to veer off the freeway at full speed. After that, I drove in dread of missing the pedal again. I tried to visualize myself braking, but even in the visions the nervous part of my brain took over and my visualized foot would just flail dumbly and unsuccessfully. This is what we call choking. A bit of nerves made me unable to perform a basic function. The level of stress it took to cause me to choke was: the threat of having to slow down a car. It did not take a lot of stress to cause me to choke.
We take it for granted that baseball players won’t choke, except in the extremely rare cases when they do. We are aware of those cases, and those cases make sports a little bit unpredictable and exciting, but mostly we take it for granted that they won’t choke. We take it so for granted that we have repurposed the word to describe merely failing in a big situation, which has nothing to do with choking. In a competition between two athletes, after all, one must fail. There’s nothing psychological about it. If you say Alex Rodriguez chokes in big situations, you mean he pops out. You don’t mean he forgets how to swing and holds the bat upside down.
Matt Cain tied Sandy Koufax for the most Ks in a Perfect Game with 14. But did he face a better lineup?
Matt Cain’s 14 strikeout perfect game tied the great Sandy Koufax for the most strikeouts in a perfecto. Whether it is the fact that the Giants won 10-0 (highest margin of victory ever in a perfect game) compared to Koufax’s 1-0 win or just the general nostalgia for past superstars, there is some belief that Koufax’s gem was still “better.” Whether in support of Koufax’s as the best perfect game or not, several comments have been thrown around with regards to quality of Cain’s opponent., some even outright dismissing the feat because it came against the Astros.
Matt Cain's perfect game was one of the best outings ever.
The Wednesday Takeaway
One of the most storied franchises in baseball history, the Giants, have had their share of outstanding pitchers since the team was established in 1883. From Christy Mathewson to Juan Marichal to Tim Lincecum, there have been Cy Young awards, World Series gems, and no-hitters. But—thanks in part to Juan Uribe’s untimely fielding error in Jonathan Sanchez’s 2009 no-no—in more than 128 years of play, no Giant had ever thrown a perfect game.
Matt Cain changed all of that on Wednesday night, 107 years to the day of Mathewson’s no-hitter on June 13, 1905. He faced 27 Astros and sent all of them back to the dugout, 14 of them on strikeouts, half of which were the result of batters frozen by fastballs. Perhaps most impressive: not a single Houston hitter was able to work a 2-0 count.