I'd rather Felix ditch the slider in favor of that change he was throwing at times last year. Better long term upside and it won't twinge his elbow.
In my day, we called it a slider if it broke 10-2 or 9-3; nowadays you're more likely to see something with a vertical drop called a slider. On this pitch, Felix threw an 80's-style SLIDER. The camera angle was weird yesterday, higher than usual, and I couldn't quite be sure. Was that a David Cone slider he threw right there, John? Rewind, slo-mo... sure looked like it. Wow.
Felix of course has lived off a moving 95-96 fastball, an 83 overhand curve, an 84 change, and an 89 hard power curve that people call a "slider." It is thrown 88-90 mph, very hard, and drops directly down, 12-6 with a late bite. It is -- or rather, should be, theoretically -- one of the most unhittable pitches of the last 30 years.
I didn't watch baseball last September, so maybe he started throwing SLIDERS then. But this was the first pitch I'd ever seen Felix throw with any sideways action whatsoever. (Not counting the 95 swerveball.)
But it wasn't a hitter or two later before he threw a couple more. And in the second or third inning (IIRC), he got a called strike three on a Cone Slider. I asked John. Is that pitch moving sideways? Is the camera angle fooling me? (Watching Felix throw this pitch was like watching Ichiro bat righthanded.)
He was annoyed. "Watch, Dad. The hitter bails out of the box and then it breaks over the plate." Yep. The hitter flinched and leaned back as though it were going to hit him, and then the pitch broke way over the plate.
That's the fact. Felix is throwing a Bob Gibson SLIDER. Gibby's wasn't a Randy Johnson, Jeff Nelson slider, where the whole pitch had a banana shape. Gibby's was straight, then Nintendo'ed suddenly down, and out, at 45 degrees.
A couple pitches later, Mike Blowers joined the show. "Wow, it looks like Felix is dropping down on some of those sliders."
That's it! He was changing his ARM ANGLE.
Most amigos assume that you want the very same arm angle and very same release point on every pitch. That's true if you're developing and can't throw strikes. But for a pitcher who isn't fighting his location, varying arm angles are deadly weapons.
Kenny Lofton once complained about Pedro Martinez, "he doesn't have three pitches. He has nine pitches. He throws every pitch from three different arm angles. You can't deal with all those."
And lefties couldn't hit Felix' sidearm slider, either. They swung over it as it dove into the dirt at their feet, exactly as righties did on Randy Johnson's.
Felix has had great Opening Day* starts before. But he has never, at any time in any game, had the opposing hitters looking confused and passive. Deception was the missing link in his game.
I just couldn't believe my eyes. If Felix does the same next game, I'm calling 20-5, 2.40. If he does the same the game after that, and the game after that, then The Felix Era will launch.
Pedro arm angles from Felix Hernandez? Would that be time for the Miracle Mets? ;- ) "The team that couldn't win, the pitcher who wouldn't lose, and a city that..." I forget how the rest of that went.
I'll say it again ... (for the millionth time) ... it is NOT "stuff" that creates Hall of Fame pitchers. It is CONSISTENCY.
Felix has always had stuff. But, you can't tell how consistent a pitcher is going to be based on any single start. After we've seen 15 games this season - then you might be able to start examining whether he's bringing more consistency than in the past *OR* more guile. The ability of aces to survive when they do NOT have great stuff is the other key ingredient to punching a ticket to Cooperstown. Unit didn't get the consistency until age 29. He added the guile a bit later.
Ultimately, it doesn't matter if Felix has 3 weapons, 6 weapons, or 47 weapons -- *IF* they only show up half the time.
Maddux could win night after night with an 88 mph fastball at the knees followed by two change ups at the ankles.
Let's see what happens when he's not sharp - when the ump is squeezing the zone - and when one or more of weapons is out of commission for the night. THOSE are the nights that show the difference between throwers and pitchers.
Fine. Enjoy the moment.
The moment's over.
True Sandy, thats been Felix's weakness in the past.
I think he eventually figures it out.
You huys realize that Felix had a 3.44 ERA last year despite pitching in front of the second worst defense in baseball...right?
He's already an ace. If he gets no better at all...but pitches for 15 years...he's a HOFer.