A lot of people are trying to figure out what's wrong with Felix Hernandez, especially after another thoroughly average performance against the Red Sox which, of course, the M's were able to overcome with some typically stellar work out of the bullpen.
Some thought he was "fixed" after his last outing against the Pirates, but Jeff Sullivan over at Lookout Landing saw things that troubled him even in that performance. It's required reading, and it looks like he was right. There's no doubt that his stuff isn't as good as it was earlier in the year -- the data is there to prove it. (Why it's not as good, who knows. Felix says he's healthy. Sullivan's theory is here.)
But the folks over at USS Mariner have been hammering on Felix's pitch selection for some time, and given the way Jeff Weaver handcuffed the Sox last night with his array of junk, and given the way the Sox hammered away at Hernandez's steady diet of fastballs ... well, I have to believe there's some truth to that theory. (UPDATE: USS Mariner reiterates the point Wednesday.)
My take? He was able to get away with sketchy pitch selection when he was throwing a 94 mph two-seamer down in the zone and painting that 97 mph four seamer on the corners. Now that he's not doing that ... well, you see the results.
The crazy thing is that he's a guy who, for all the strikeouts, is a groundball pitcher. That should result in lower pitch counts. But his insistence on throwing that four-seamer -- which is straight as an arrow and often results in foul balls -- is killing his pitch counts, and keeping him from going deep in games. He needs to get back to focusing on getting outs early in the count, and it's probably well past time that he start using his off speed stuff to set up his fastball to do it.
Other quick observations from the night that was ...
- What to make of taking the first two from the Red Sox? I'm not sure. After all, they beat up on one mediocre journeyman (Julian Tavarez) and one overmatched rookie who couldn't find the strike zone. Is this team for real? I still can't decide. But I'm enjoying the ride.
- Mike Hargrove has done a pretty admirable job managing this team this year, but every once in a while, he does something that just leaves you scratching your head. Like batting Jose Vidro in the 3-hole. I thought we established long ago that Vidro is not a good hitter, and putting a not good hitter in the 3-hole is counterproductive -- especially when you have another hitter in your lineup who rakes lefty pitching batting sixth.
Not to get all sabermetric on you, but there's a theory out there by guys that are good with numbers that you want to get the guys who create more runs more at bats in any given game. Guys with higher OPS create more runs. Vidro's OPS against lefties is .673; Jose Guillen's is 1.079. Seriously, what's so hard to understand here?
- J.J. Putz is still the best closer in baseball.
- What is with the Mariners' defense the past two games? The third inning yesterday and various points today -- Jose Lopez's backhand ole of David Ortiz's shot sticking out in my mind -- leave me wondering when it's really going to catch up with this team to the point that it costs them a game. It also leaves me wondering who the bozo official scorer is who keeps calling those things hits. Granted, Lopez made a great diving catch to save a run, but is it too much to ask for these guys to make the routine plays?
- Why is Willie Freaking Bloomquist playing left field with Raul Ibanez hurt when there's a guy with 17 bombs and a .979 OPS playing in Tacoma? This is seriously reaching comical proportions ... except that letting Adam Jones rot away at AAA is going to start costing the team games at some point, too. And that's not funny.
- Is this the beginning of the Richie Sexson tear? He's 5 for his past 14 with three homers. If he comes around, this offense gets scary good.