Charting Felix… again

Dave · May 22, 2006 at 7:02 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I have a feeling this might become a trend. I tracked each of Felix’s pitches from his start yesterday. Here’s the results.

103 pitches – 65 fastballs, 21 curveballs, 16 changeups, 1 unidentified

% of each pitch: 64% fastballs, 20% curveballs, 16% changeups

First pitch selection: 22 fastballs, 4 curveballs, 3 changeups

The mix here is actually fine. 60/20/20 is a pretty good mix for Felix, I think. However, the key is the last line – he started almost every single batter with a fastball, then went to offspeed stuff late in the count. The pattern is the same as its always been – fast early, soft late. If you go up looking for a fastball early in the count, you’re almost certainly going to get one, and you can jump on it. Which, as you’ll see below, is what happened.

Results by pitch:

Fastball – 25 balls, 40 strikes (balls in play counted as a strike), 7 groundball outs, 3 line drive outs, 2 fly ball outs, 5 singles, 1 double, 2 walks, 1 strikeout

Curveball – 10 balls, 11 strikes, 1 home run, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Changeup – 1 ball, 15 strikes, 3 groundball outs, 1 strikeout

Of the 29 batters Felix faced, 21 of them ended their at-bats on a fastball. All but one of the hits came off the FB. Roberts’ homer came on a curve that had good movement but was up a bit – I’m not really concerned about that, though, because that pitch usually isn’t swung at. Roberts’ just hit a decent pitch.

The obvious thing that jumps out here is just how dominating his change-up was yesterday. I noted that in the game thread early, and was asking for more change-ups by the third inning. It was devastating. 1 ball, 15 strikes! It was put in play three times – two grounders back to the mound, and a ground ball to shortstop for an easy out. It was the only pitch he could locate yesterday, and Johjima should have made an adjustment and started calling more change-ups.

Other miscellaneous notes:

There were three instances where Felix just threw too many fastballs in a row; he started the game with 9 straight, then 6 consecutive fastballs in the third, and finally 8 fastballs without an offspeed pitch in the 6th inning. During these three stetches where he was all fastballs, all the time, the Padres went 4 for 5 with a walk.

Felix only got 0-1 on 10 of the 29 batters he faced. The other 19 either took the first pitch for a ball or put it in play.

If ever goes back to showing the broadcast camera, I’ll add in radar readings. It looked like he was throwing fine, velocity wise. Yesterday’s problems were all about command.

Basic summary: He still needs to vary his pitch selection, especially early in the count. The change-up needs to be used more, especially when he can’t command his fastball. Which, at this point, is every start. And until he starts throwing strikes early in the count, he’s going to be pitching from behind, and they’re going to sit on his fastball. Once he starts throwing strikes early in the count, either by commanding his fastball or mixing in more offspeed stuff, the results will come – it will be a cascade, where that simple fix remedies all his problems.


22 Responses to “Charting Felix… again”

  1. DoesntCompute on May 22nd, 2006 7:13 am

    The announcers kept calling some of Felix’s pitches sliders. Was Felix throwing sliders? I know he has a good slider but I thought the M’s weren’t allowing him to throw it in games yet.

  2. Dave on May 22nd, 2006 7:19 am

    Niehaus is terrible at discerning pitches. Charting the game, that becomes even more clear. They probably got 25 percent of them wrong.

    He didn’t throw anything I’d consider a slider. His curve has a hard break, and when it tails in on a lefty, Niehaus would call it a slider, but it was always his curve.

  3. Mariner Fan in CO Exile on May 22nd, 2006 8:09 am


    Got any team email addresses that you can send your charting info to? Chaves presumably does this stuff too (right!?) but hell, looking at your info (for just two games) even a trained monkey (let alone a professional pitching coach) would change the first-pitch mix, slightly lower the fastball percentage and use the change (especially if batters are waiting for fastballs) and curve earlier in counts to make opposing pitchers cry. I mean, how can you look at tape and not figure this stuff out? I don’t care what you have to do with the kid, they need to find a way for him to get first pitch strikes in every count possible (i.e. throw the pitches you currenly have command of), even if it causes early contact in the count at first (I assume he’ll have to throw a few near the strike zone to make it work). Were he a fly-ball pitcher that’d be a problem, but with his nasty breaking stuff and effective change, it’d just give Yuni and Jose an extra chance to make some great plays. Am I right?

  4. Dave on May 22nd, 2006 8:17 am

    Got any team email addresses that you can send your charting info to?

    The M’s have way better data than this. Every major league club charts every pitch thrown by their guys, with velo, location, pitch type, count, result, the whole kitchen sink. They even tie these charts to the video, so they have a database where they can pull up every fastball between 92-96 MPH thrown to left-handed batters on Thursdsay afternoons, if they wanted.

    But, yes, the M’s should be able to see the same things we’re seeing. The question is if the whole “establish the fastball” mentality has taken hold to the point where they see all the fastballs early as a good thing, which is what I suspect to be the case.

  5. Churchill on May 22nd, 2006 8:37 am

    Problem with the theory is, he did the same thing last August and September with glorious results.

    Check it out.

  6. Safeco Hobo on May 22nd, 2006 8:42 am

    Maybe i don’t understand the game as well as those “professional experts”….But from watching most of Felix’s and Meche’s starts this year it seems like it seems pretty obvious their most unhittable pitches have been the changeups. why is the staff so affraid of throwing too many changeups? I’m not suggesting a drastic change in the number, but what could it hurt?

  7. Mr. Egaas on May 22nd, 2006 8:43 am

    Rumors flying around that Felix twisted an ankle in yesterday’s game and that’s some of his problem.

    Also read something about Chavez saying it’s all command issues.

  8. hub on May 22nd, 2006 8:44 am

    Hopefully in the next three years he can work these kinks out. Right about the time he’s eligible for arbitration raises.

  9. Dave on May 22nd, 2006 9:00 am

    Last August and September, he had command of his fastball. For the first time ever.

    Whenever that comes back, forget it, he can throw whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and we’ll just bask in the glory of his awesomeness again.

    But for his entire career, minus those two months last year, he hasn’t been able to throw his fastball for a strike. When that’s the case, he needs to adjust, rather than just pounding the fastball over and over and hoping it goes where he wants it.

  10. plivengood on May 22nd, 2006 9:10 am

    I dunno — I was at the game, and at least early, there were a couple of batters where maybe one pitch out of a 5-6 pitch sequence was over 85 mph. Now I was not in a position to see the location or really even the movement of the pitch, but I’m pretty sure those weren’t Felix’s fastball. The numbers look about right, but I remember more first-pitch off-speed stuff, at least early in the game.

  11. Dave on May 22nd, 2006 9:15 am

    To end the first inning, his last five pitches were change-fastball-curve-curve-curve. In the second inning, facing Adrian Gonzalez, he went curve-change-curve-curve-change.

    So, yes, there were times when he threw offspeed stuff. But it was almost always late in the count, going for strikeouts.

  12. plivengood on May 22nd, 2006 9:19 am

    Yep, those are the two I was thinking about — didn’t realize it was *that* early, but just remembered thinking about your pitch chart from last game and thinking maybe they had noticed the same thing. Those nubbers out in front of the plate came on pretty good sequences, too.

    Thanks, Dave, for doing this.

  13. DMZ on May 22nd, 2006 9:29 am

    The Safeco gun had the fastball at 96/97 throughout.

  14. Mike Snow on May 22nd, 2006 9:39 am

    Right, velocity is not the problem, hasn’t been for at least the last several starts. There may have been a few starts early on where it was, perhaps because of the shin splints, but Felix can throw as hard right now as ever.

  15. Dave on May 22nd, 2006 9:40 am

    The nubbers were when he was throwing the Changeup of Doom in the second inning to Gonzalez and Barfield. He only threw one fastball to those two hitters that inning.

  16. gwangung on May 22nd, 2006 9:44 am

    Isn’t the mantra for facing high heat pitchers “Look for the fastball first and always”? And, thus, being so, if they’re looking for it all the time, they WON’T back off on it until they get a diet of change and curves?

  17. beckya57 on May 22nd, 2006 11:05 am

    This is all consistent with what I’ve been saying all along: they rushed him up here too fast, and, not surprisingly, he doesn’t have a clue how to pitch. (That the M’s coaching staff apparently is equally clueless is much more surprising, and makes a strong argument for firing Hargrove and his staff; I’m including here the idiot hitting coach who’s just now noticing that Beltre can’t cover the outside of the plate.) I’ll say it again: he needs to come down here to Tacoma and work on pitch selection and setting up hitters, away from the intense pressure and publicity. I’ve also wondered about his conditioning; he looks overweight to me, and that could be contributing to problems like shin splints.

  18. joser on May 22nd, 2006 11:15 am

    I went to a couple of his last starts in Tacoma last year before being called up, and frankly he looked bored. Every so often he’d get into a hole and have to pay attention long enough to get out, but mostly he looked like the smart kid who’s goofing off or dreaming in class because he’s already far ahead of the other kids. I don’t know that leaving him in AAA would have helped him learn what he needs to know; his pitches were so good against minor league batters that he didn’t need to learn how to sequence them. But is there anyone in the organization that can teach him?

    Maybe we can kidnap Leo Mazzone while he’s in town? (It’s a shame he’s not going to be across the diamond for one of Felix’s starts)

  19. plivengood on May 22nd, 2006 11:44 am

    Ditto, joser. Sending Felix to Tacoma won’t help, and more importantly, it will never happen given what Bavasi said he thought about the organization’s tendency to baby prospects in the past. In the end, struggling at the major league level will probably do more to teach him how to pitch (if it doesn’t kill his confidence) than sending him back down will. Think Mike Maroth, or Jeremey Bonderman….

  20. taro on May 22nd, 2006 11:51 am

    “Last August and September, he had command of his fastball. For the first time ever.”

    He didn’t really have command but he was throwing it for strikes. His fastball was also consistently in the high 90s and he threw predominantly two-seams.

  21. msb on May 22nd, 2006 1:43 pm

    #17 This is all consistent with what I’ve been saying all along: they rushed him up here too fast, and, not surprisingly, he doesn’t have a clue how to pitch.

    he was moved up at each level because he didn’t have any trouble handling the batters at each level, which meant that he didn’t have the chance to “work on pitch selection and setting up hitters”

  22. BelaXadux on May 23rd, 2006 12:57 am

    I’m all in favor of Felix mixing his pitches, as that is the best way to be effective over an extended period for a pitcher: don’t let the batter know what’s coming, and don’t become dependent upon one pitch to get your outs.

    This isn’t a question of Johjima’s pitch-calling, or of Felix’s desires and/or lack of pitching experience, though. I’m quite sure that, as you allude Dave, the organization has a set-in-stone pitching plan for him. This is pre-determined, and Felix has to pretty much toe the line at this point. The same pitching pattern exists when Rivera catches Felix, as you’ve also noted. “Establish the fastball”: the Ms are determined to have Felix buzz in the heavy two-seamer until he starts burying the ball down in the zone, damn it! And it’s true, that if and when he regains that command of it, the League can just forget it, he’ll be unhittable. When. If.

    Part of this is the “Don’t be Freddy” syndrome for the Ms org folks. Garcia had the heavy two-seamer, also, also lacked consistent ability to keep it in the zone, and in his later years year would throw a look-at-that fastball, then dink away with offspeed stuff trying to get the batter to swin. Of course they hitters laid off his offspeed pitches, Freddy would get behind, then come in with a fat pitch. The Ms seem determined to force Felix to throw the fastball and make the batters swing at it. Well, they’re doing a good job of that.

    The organization needs to get smarter. Their pitching plan is pretty dumb, and way, way too predictable. What we’ll really see with Felix, I think, is that in a year or so as he gains experience, he’ll start shaking off his catcher and throwing what he wants. And at that point, we’ll see him mixing pitches at an appropriate level. He’s inexperience, but he’s a smart guy with a feel for pitching; he’ll learn. But I’m not sure the organiztion will learn since they have plenty of information now that they’re not using. Bah.

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