Hall of Fame Moments - the MACHINE


=== Well, Consider What Was at Stake For Him, Dept.  ===

Pitching for the 58-and-82 Seattle Mariners, Felix Hernandez came out to the mound in the 7th inning with a slim 2-1 lead.  The M's are done for the year, but the Angels are not.  The Angels wanted this game approximately as much as they'd want Game One of a playoff series.

With a loooonnnnng 9 outs (and about one hour) to go, Felix tore into the Angels like a rottweiler finding a stranger in his living room at 4:00 a.m.....


Peter Bourjos up, Felix reared back and fired .... an 82 mph curve ball.  A little high.  1-and-0.

Bourjos is maybe the fastest player in the major leagues, and you don't want a leadoff walk here, amigo.  But neither do you want to take him for granted; he's got 10 homers already.  Compare Dustin Ackley's 6.


Felix came at Bourjos with ... a curve thrown even harder.  Back-to-back overhand curves!  1-and-1.


I figured, okay, fastball letter high, baby.  Felix chose ... another curve!!  This one crackled louder than the first two, with a ginormous 13" vertical break.  1-and-2.  Bourjos stepped out, sucked in a breath, wow.  You're not supposed to throw any offspeed pitch even twice in a row.


Felix went for the throat with his best pitch, maybe the best pitch in baseball, his 89 mph power changeup with the spitball action at the end.  (Find out how often Felix uses this now with two strikes.)  Bourjos manages to foul it off.


Still 1-2, Felix drives a 94 fastball, but it misses on him.  2-2.


2-2, Felix comes back with the spitball.  Bourjos, impossibly, makes contact, but it's an easy 6-3 out.

Felix got Kendrick on a groundout, and after a 7-pitch battle with tough-to-fan Maicer Izturis, dropped a yellow hammer on the LH Izturis for called strike three.


=== "No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect" ===

Used to be the catchphrase at Baseball Prospectus, and they used it a lot with respect to the minor-league Felix specifically.  ... since Felix' arrival in the big leagues, this phrase seems to have fallen into disuse....

Why Felix would even care about this game is beyond my perception.  But I wouldn't be able to tell you the difference between this performance, and the ones that he'll have in the playoffs.


All pitchers are health risks, I guess, but Felix' historical comps Roger Clemens and Tom Seaver each threw close to 5,000 innings in the big leagues.  Hernandez has never had any injury that I know of, except the slight forearm strain in Y2 from snapping off his two-seamer too hard.  

Felix has got to be the best bet for healthy, happy Cy Young collecting that I've seen.  Watching that delivery, watching his tempo, watching the 94 fastball time after time after time, it's impossible to imagine him injured.


We were musing, during the game, about how consistent Felix' fastball velocity is.   He steps back, steps through, drives the FB through easily, and it's 94.  And 94 again.  And 94.  And 93.  And 94.  And 93.  Randy Johnson used to do this, throw his fastball exactly the same speed all the time.

Most pitchers, such as Erik Bedard, you watch them in the 1st inning to see how they're throwing that day.  Felix, you don't.  Felix' results differ only because batted balls land in random places.

Felix, Randy Johnson, and Pedro Martinez are the only three "automatic" pitchers I've seen in the AL.  Not automatic for a month, but automatic for ten years.


Zduriencik ever gets this thing on track, he's certainly got the monster Game One starter to take advantage of it.



Dr D



One of my favorite things about MLB.TV is watching the home-park announcers..   Sometimes you get the guys for the White Sox - ugh.  But sometimes, you get insights into how other teams feel about your guys.
For instance, they love Ackley.  Carp they're not sold on, but Ackley is already a monster vet in their estimation, and can do no wrong at the plate.  Listening to them talk about keeping it out of his pull-power wheelhouse, and then pause and say, "although it's not like he won't hit hard liners the other way" you can see them acknowledging that if he gets out it's more because he made a mistake than because you outsmarted or out-gunned him. Ackley is the hitter they (rightly) fear.
When it comes to Felix, though, they are a mix of bravado and trembling.  When the game starts, it's "Santana has always pitched the Mariners well.  Felix against the Angels?  Not as much."
"We can take him!  Yeah!  Our guy can kill them and their guy only sometimes kills us!"
But as the first couple innings went by and Felix was destroying them with offspeed stuff, the tension started to rise.  "The Angels have always hit his fastball well, but today he's not giving them much to hit..."
They were calling his "change-split" his best pitch, which it probably is.  And once the errors let a run across the plate, they were already in back-pedal mode.  "You can't give THAT guy (Felix) any help in this game.  He only needs a run or two."
What happened to "we hit this guy well?"
What happened was they saw his use of his arsenal and were afraid.    When there was a long fly out from Trumbo? "That's what good pitchers do, work outside to power hitters and make them hit it out to the biggest part of the park."
Felix has everyone's admiration.  Our players, other teams, other announcers...
He's just a monster.

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