UPDATE - I wanted to take just a few seconds of your time to thank all of those other bloggers who took the time to link to this article on their sites. I don't want to leave anyone out, so if you came to this site today from some other site, please let me know.
The Baseball Analysts put a link into their article today. Rich Lederer (who Twins fans will likely remember for his articles promoting Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame) and Bryan Smith (who I have enjoyed reading his minor league takes for a few years now) combined their efforts to develop this great site.
Jeff over at Lookout Landing (a great Mariners site) linked to the site.
The Twins Geek linked to the article over at Twins Territory.
I also need to thank Will Young (Twins fans know of his great Twins blog and Organizational Big Board) who linked this Felix Hernandez article at The Baseball Think Factory where there is already a lot of great comments from people all over the country. I really appreciate it!
Wednesday August 10, 2005
TWINS (and other baseball) THOUGHTS
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
Analysis of a Phenom
In the past, I have done analysis on starts of Brad Radke and Johan Santana. I even charted pitches for JD Durbin's first start last year. I think it is interesting to learn more about a pitcher.
The Mariners have the best pitching prospect in baseball. There is so much made of the fact that he is just 19. Is he too young to handle the big leagues? There have been so many pitchers rushed to the big leagues who were even younger and they end up fading. For every Bert Blyleven there is, there are ten David Clyde's. But I think it is even fair to say that the Mariners have really been patient with Hernandez. They could have, and maybe should have had Hernandez on their Opening Day roster. He earned it. It is legitimate to say he could have been called up last summer!
Will he win 300 games in his career? Who knows? Will he throw out his arm in two years and win 15 games in his career? Who knows? But excitement about a rookie pitcher doesn't come along this often on a big league scale. Sure, when Francisco Liriano finally moves up and makes his big league debut, there will be incredible excitement, but primarily in Minnesota. Hernandez's call up is the talk of the entire league and the subject of many articles and much debate.
So, I thought it would be fun to learn a little more about the pitcher. I hope that you enjoy this analysis.
I wanted to know more about Felix Hernandez. What do we know about him? Well, we know he turned 19 years old during the first week of the season. We know he throws hard, and he is known to have at least three pitches. We know that Seattle would not allow him to throw a slider until this year even though it was known to be incredible. We know that he pitched this season in Tacoma, the Mariners' AAA affiliate. We also know that he spent some time on their disabled list with a sore arm. When he came back, he would used out of the bullpen. He made one more AAA start and threw four no-hit innings. Then he was called up. He lost his major league debut 3-1 against the Tigers, in Detroit last week, but he threw well. And last night, he made his home debut against the Twins. I wrote about Hernandez back in February.
I wanted to find out what exactly Felix Hernandez does. What makes him so special? I also understand that the Mariners and their catchers are trying to learn more and see how he adjusts and how he gets hitters out, and what pitches he likes to throw. I was just as curious.
And after Felix Hernandez completely dominated the Twins lineup (something that isn't exactly difficult to do these days), I wanted to know how he did it!
Anyway, what I did, as I have in the past, is tracked, pitch-by-pitch, Hernandez's pitching performance. I noted which type of pitch he threw and then jotted down the speed of the pitch given on Fox Sports Net. I realize that the radar gun speed given on the telecast is subject to debate, but it's all I had to work with. So, how did he do it?
Let's start with the high level look at Hernandez performance:
IP H R ER BB SO
Felix Hernandez 8.0 5 0 0 0 6
Of the 94 pitches that Hernandez threw, 71 of them (75.5%) were strikes. 67% is generally considered very good so Hernandez was great!
Here is a breakdown of the type of pitch that Hernandez threw.
Fastball - 59 (62.8%)
Curveball/Slider - 23 (24.5%)
Change Up - 12 (12.7%)
Here are the number of pitches he threw each inning and the type of pitch:
1st inning - 17 pitches (14 fastball, 3 curveball)
2nd inning - 10 pitches (5 fastball, 5 curveball)
3rd inning - 12 pitches (10 fastball, 2 curveball)
4th inning - 13 pitches (8 fastball, 5 curveball)
5th inning - 15 pitches (12 fastball, 2 curveball, 1 changeup)
6th inning - 11 pitches (3 fastball, 4 curveball, 4 changeup)
7th inning - 8 pitches (4 fastball, 1 curveball, 3 changeup)
8th inning - 8 pitches (3 fastball, 1 curveball, 4 changeup)
Total - 94 pitches (59 fastball, 23 curveball, 12 changeup)
It was interesting to me that Hernandez was able to maintain the velocity on his fastball throughout the game. The other thing that really stood out to me is that he didn't even show his changeup until the fifth inning. Once he used it, he relied on it to get big outs. So, last night, we saw three better than average big league pitches; hard, heavy fastball with movement, sharp 12 to 6 curveball, and a great changeup.
Fastball Curveball Changeup
1st inning - 96.6 84.7 N/A
2nd inning - 96.2 83.6 N/A
3rd inning - 96.4 82.0 N/A
4th inning - 96.6 83.0 N/A
5th inning - 96.1 83.5 82.0
6th inning - 96.3 82.5 83.5
7th inning - 95.8 81.0 83.7
8th inning - 95.7 82.0 79.8
Just to show how consistently hard Hernandez was throwing, here were the speeds of his fastballs:
94 mph - 3
95 mph - 7
96 mph - 22
97 mph - 23
98 mph - 4
Did Hernandez alter the pitches he threw each time through the batting order? The Twins had one hit the first time through the order (a Shannon Stewart slow roller down the third base line). They had two hits the second time through and just one hit the third time through the order. Hernandez then got the Twins top two hitters, Shannon Stewart and Nick Punto, on one pitch each in their 4th plate appearances.
Time Through Order FB FB% CB CB% CU CU% Total Pitches
1st 29 74.3% 10 25.7% 0 0.0 % 39
2nd 20 71.4% 7 25.0% 1 3.6 % 28
3rd 10 40.0% 5 20.0% 10 40.0% 25
4th (2 batters) 0 0.0% 1 50.0% 1 50.0% 2
So what does this show? In my opinion, it shows very little. Maybe the Twins did try to be more patient their first time through the order, but after that, they were more aggressive, realizing that Hernandez was on last night and throwing a lot of strikes. Putting all of this together, it really just verifies the fact that Hernandez relies primarily on his fastball, but is willing also to throw his other pitches at any time.
Hernandez was so dominant last night. He only had two 3 ball counts. Here is a quick look at the pitches he threw on each count:
FB CB CU
0-0 22 5 2
0-1 6 3 5
0-2 2 3 1
1-0 6 2 0
1-1 5 3 2
1-2 4 3 1
2-0 1 0 0
2-1 6 0 0
2-2 4 3 1
3-0 0 0 0
3-1 2 0 0
3-2 2 0 0
Do first pitch strikes matter? I would say that they matter to a pitcher who does not have control or a great fastball. However, at least last night, Hernandez had great control and threw smoke! Last night, he threw first pitch strikes to just 21 of 29 batters. Of those 29 batters, he started 22 of them off with a fastball (2 with a changeup and 5 with a curveball).
I think that it is fair to say that Felix Hernandez met the hype last night. He appears to be the real deal. Sure, it was one game. Sure, it was against the Twins lineup. But not only did he put up strong numbers, but everything about the performance points to a potentially incredible future for the 19 year old. He has the low cap with his glove up to his face, a la Scott Erickson circa 1991. His motion is powerful and his arm is whip-like, however, his delivery and follow through are smooth. He throws a hard fastball that moves and appears heavy coming off hitters bats. His curveball is sharp and breaks a foot! His changeup is delivered with the same veracity of his fastball, yet flies to the plate 12-15 mph slower. Seattle fans don't have a lot to get excited about. However, the future of Felix Hernandez should make every Mariners' fan very happy!
Now, to bring this back to the Twins, I should say that I am sorry for not tracking the pitches of Twins starter Kyle Lohse who was excellent again last night! He gave up just a run in the 7th inning and really pitched every bit as well as Hernandez. Secondly, seeing these numbers and velocities makes me even more excited to see Francisco Liriano. Liriano's fastball is about the same. While listening to the Red Wings morning game yesterday, he struck out a left-handed batter on three straight sliders. Their velocities were 88, 89 and then 91 mph. He also has a strong changeup. It is fun to see a rookie, a player this young especially a pitcher, have this type of success. It will be good for the league!
TWINS (and other baseball) THOUGHTS
Just a couple more thoughts:
Remind me again what Nick Punto has done to deserve all of this playing time?? He doesn't hit. He takes a lot of called third strikes. Well, he swings through a lot of third strikes too.
Lew Ford was removed from the game in the middle innings. Punto went to CF and Luis Rodriguez went to 2B. Now, Ford had bunted into a fielder's choice on a sacrifice bunt attempt. I would hope that would not have been the reason for the benching. Of course, we also hope that it wasn't an injury the sent him to the bench. I would be curious to know what happened. Why? Because when Yuniesky Betancourt tripled in the game's lone run, the first thing I wondered was if Ford would have made that play!
I think that managers make a lot of decisions throughout a game and throughout a season. If things go right, he can look like a genius, when they go wrong, second-guessers show up from everywhere. Remember my "key moment" from the first game in Seattle? When Carlos Silva let two runners on base in the 8th inning, Jesse Crain was brought in. With the runners on 1st and 3rd and no one out, Crain got the next two outs without allowing a run. The decision was then made to unintentionally intentionally walk Adrian Beltre to get to Jeremy Reed who walked in the winning run for the Mariners. Well, there were a number of decisions just within that half inning that a manager has to make. Gardy made them, and in the end, it just didn't work out. I hate to bash any decision for that very reason. But it is also hard to disagree with these guys:
Think Gardy blew it last night. I know that Beltre is a big time hitter, but loading the bases gives Crain no room for a mistake after getting two very good hitters out. Crain comes in with two on and nobody out in a tied game, goes an excellent job...makes a mistake to 1 batter and is the "goat." Between Romero letting every base runner of Crain's score and moves like last night...Crain is a much better pitcher than the circumstances of the last month or so indicate.
Here's my take on the bottom of the 8th last night:
Gardenhire with another bonehead move last night. I can't stand watching this guy try to manage a game! Crain comes into an almost impossible situation (after pulling Silva too late again...what else is new!...guess he didn't learn from Sunday's game with Mays). Runners on 1st and 3rd, nobody out in a tie game. I admit, at this point I figure we're fried. But Crain comes up big, with a couple pop-outs. Now it's 2nd and 3rd, two outs (runner from first tagged up and took 2nd on a throw to the plate on out #2). I'm screaming at the TV to NOT intentionally walk Beltre. The last thing we want is to force a struggling pitcher to throw strikes in the 8th inning of a tie game on the road. It was a miracle that the game was still tied...and now you're gonna flirt with the disaster of a possible bases loaded game-winning walk?? I can't tell you how much I hate that play. As soon as I saw they were gonna walk Beltre, I knew we were screwed....and I was pretty sure it was gonna be a bases loaded walk that would do us in. A completely unnecessary move...over managing at its best. Crain was doing just fine until Gardy instructed him to first pitch around, and then walk, Beltre. Because of this stupid...and I repeat...STUPID decision, the Twins gave away any shot of winning the game.
Here's the real kicker: If it was 2nd base that was open instead of 1st base, would Gardy still walk Beltre? I can't blame Punto for throwing home on out #2, as I'm sure he thought Ichiro! was tagging up. Unfortunately, the throw allowed the runner at 1st to advance to 2nd. Because Gardy is a cookbook manager, he sees an opening at first base and "naturally" fills it up. I'm pretty confident Gardy wouldn't intentionally walk Beltre if it was still 1st and 3rd. But the thing is, the only run that mattered at all was the guy on 3rd. If he scores, Guardado comes in and we lose 90% of the time.
This is not Monday (or Tuesday) morning quarterbacking. I thought it was a stupid move at the time, and the result certainly proved that Gardy truly is a thickhead. I know that the bottom line is the players have to execute. However, it is the manager's job to put them in the best situation to execute. Gardy fails miserably at that, which is really his only job as "manager."
It's easy to second guess, but I'd rather see Crain pitch to Beltre in that situation than Reed. Beltre has not been even close to all world this year, and Crain seems to either walk, hit or give up a bloop hit to batters lately. Filling the bases seemed dangerous, especially with no dependable lefty in the pen.
Ah, the life of a big league manager!
Yesterday, Kenny Rogers' 20 game was reduced to just 13 games by an arbitrator meaning that he will start tonight. I frequently talk about how I would want to be a part of MLB's union because it is so strong in comparison to the other major sports. However, I am getting increasingly frustrated by some things that it does. When they decided to appeal Rogers' suspension, I thought it was fair, but ridiculous. Every time there is a suspension in baseball, it is appealed. Why? How many members of baseball's union actually thought that Rogers didn't deserve the 20 game suspension. Who knows, many of them may have thought he deserved more! It goes further. If a pitcher intentionally throws at a batter and gets a suspension, there is automatically an appeal. Likewise, if a player charges the mound, or instigates a benches clearing brawl and gets suspended, there is an appeal. And now with the steroid suspensions, they are still able to appeal (and I don't want to even get into how Rafael Palmiero was able to continue to play while appealing his suspension whereas Juan Rincon and the others suspended had to serve their suspensions before the appeal process!).
Just once, I want someone to get suspended and say, "Hey, I messed up! I am very sorry! The union wants me to appeal, and if I did, I could probably save a few thousand dollars and play one extra game, but I think that I deserved the suspension. I don't want to hide behind my union. I did wrong. I accept the league's decision."
Do you have any thoughts on the Twins, the Mariners or anything baseball. Feel free to e-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Quickly, before we look at the Twins affiliates, Chris Coste went 4-5 with two doubles and two RBI for Scranton/Wilkes Barre last night.
ROCHESTER RED WINGS
Tuesday - Game 1 - RED WINGS 7, Ottawa 3- Francisco Liriano threw seven shutout innings in the Red Wings 7-3 win over Ottawa. Liriano improves to 7-1 with a 1.46 ERA. He has not allowed a run in his last 26 innings. He didn't have his great stuff today, as he allowed four hits and three walks. Most notably, he struck out just four hitters. I listened to much of the game online and as the color analyst said, he really showed that he can pitch too, as he worked out of a few tough jams. Brent Abernathy went 2-2 with two walks. Josh Rabe hit a solo home run off John Maine to lead off the 5th inning to break up the no-hitter and the shutout in a hurry. Rob Bowen joined Rabe and Abernathy with two hits.
Tuesday - Game 2 - RED WINGS 7, Ottawa 4 - In the second game, Nick Blackburn made his first AAA start. He gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk in six innings for a solid first effort. He left with the team losing, but there would be a lot more game to be played. Brent Schoening gave up a run over the next two innings. Ricky Barrett struck out the side in the 9th before Travis Bowyer pitched a scoreless 10th. Beau Kemp struck out the side in the 11th and when Luis Maza drilled a three-run home in the bottom of the inning, Kemp had his third win of the year. It was Maza's lone hit of the game. Brian Buchanan and Josh Rabe each had two hits. Rabe hit his 8th homer to tie the game in the 8th.
NEW BRITAIN ROCKCATS
Tuesday - Game 1 - ROCKCATS 4, Portland 8 - A couple of errors really cost Errol Simonitsch. In just 3.1 innings, he gave up seven runs, but just two of them were earned. He allowed nine hits and two walks though, so he didn't exactly pick up his teammates. Denard Span led the offense going 3-4 with a triple and three RBI. Alex Romero was 1-2 with a walk and his 13th home run.
Tuesday - Game 2 - ROCKCATS 6, Portland 8 - John Thomas started and went just 2.1 innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks. Daylon Childress came in and gave up four runs on four hits and two walks over 4.2 innings. Matt Moses went 2-3 with a walk and his second AA homer. Luis Jimenez went 2-4.
FT MYERS MIRACLE
Tuesday - MIRACLE 2, Tampa 3 - The Miracle got a chance to go against a big league pitcher. Jaret Wright made a rehab start and went six innings. He gave up two runs on seven hits and three walks and only struck out four. Scott Tyler got the call for the Miracle and gave up just a run over five innings. Tristan Crawford gave up four hits and two runs and recorded just two outs. Chris Schutt then got the next four outs. Interestingly, Anthony Swarzak came out of the bullpen to pitch the last inning. He gave up a hit, but also struck out two. Ron Perodin went 2-5. Trent Oeltjen went 1-3 with a walk and his 19th stolen base.
Tuesday - SNAPPERS 7, West Michigan 1 - Eduardo Morlan got his third win by throwing six shutout innings. He gave up just a hit and two walks, and he struck out four. Josh Hill gave up a run in two innings. David Shinskie pitched a scoreless inning. Johnny Woodard led the offense with a 2-4 day.
Tuesday - Game 1 - E-Twins 1, Danville 4 - Ryan Mullins started and threw three shutout innings. He gave up three hits and struck out three. Dan Powers came in and gave up four runs on two hits and four walks in just two innings for the loss. Joe Gault then pitched a scoreless 7th inning. The offense managed just three hits. Caleb Moore went 1-2 with a walk.
Tuesday - Game 2 - E-Twins 5, Danville 6 - Danny Vais gave up four runs on eight hits and a walk in four innings. Ryan Gehring pitched three scoreless innings before Armando Gabino pitched a 1-2-3 inning. Unfortunately, Tim Lahey blew the save in the ninth by giving up two hits and two walks and two runs without recording an out. Eli Tintor led the offense going 2-4 with a walk and two doubles. Yancarlos Ortiz and Sean Richardson were both 2-4.
GULF COAST TWINS
Tuesday - GCL Twins 4, GCL Red Sox 3 - Brandon McConnell improved to 4-3 with seven strong innings. He gave up two runs on five hits and two walks and struck out three. Aaron Craig picked up his 7th save. Juan Delgado was 3-54 heading into the game, but he went 2-4 with a double and a triple to increase his batting average to .086!
On that note, I am going to call it a day! I hope everyone has a great day! As always, please feel free to e-mail me your thoughts on the Twins, the minor leagues, or anything you would like to discuss.
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