Felix, redux

Dave · June 5, 2007 at 1:24 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

We’ve beaten this point to death here on the blog since my Charting Felix series last year, but I just want to point this out again.

Hitters against Felix, pitches 1-25: .364/.396/.614, 7 XBH, 1.010 OPS
Hitters against Felix, pitches 26-50: .295/.380/.341, 2 XBH, .721 OPS
Hitters against Felix, pitches 51-75: .237/.310/.316, 3 XBH, .626 OPS
Hitters against Felix, pitches 76-100: .265/.324/.471, 4 XBH, .795 OPS

Attention Rafael Chaves – for the love of God, please stop having Felix establish the fastball in the first inning by throwing 92-97 MPH heaters on every single pitch to the first 4 to 5 batters of the game.

The scouting report is out. Teams are aggressively attacking the fastballs that everyone on earth knows are coming early in the game, and they’re beating the tar out of them. Just consider a social experiment and establish the change-up in the first inning in San Diego, just to see how that works out for you.



50 Responses to “Felix, redux”

  1. Mat on June 5th, 2007 1:29 pm

    I want to give him the heat and announce my presence with authority!

  2. MarinerDan on June 5th, 2007 1:31 pm

    Interesting breakdown.

    Dave, what is your take on how Felix has performed since returning from the DL? Are his struggles to be expected or do you think it portends future trouble with his elbow? Obviously, this isn’t exactly the same as when Liriano returned briefly from the DL before blowing out his arm, but it does have me concerned that Felix just isn’t right in a way that may have consequences down the road.

  3. Dave on June 5th, 2007 1:32 pm

    If Felix’s velocity was down, his walks were way up, or his strikeouts were down, I’d be concerned about his arm.

    None of those things are true. He’s giving up a ton of hits on balls in play, though, which is partly luck, partly bad command, and partly bad pitch selection.

  4. david h on June 5th, 2007 1:50 pm

    Dave, have you charted him this year to see the breakdown of his pitch selection? If so, do you have the numbers handy to go with the numbers above?

  5. Dave on June 5th, 2007 1:54 pm

    I haven’t done the Charting Felix series this year because of the advancement of MLB.com’s advanced gameday, which lists velocity and their version of break for every pitch in a lot of stadiums. Charting the games is a lot of work, and with MLB.com already doing the work for me, it didn’t make sense to continue doing it all by hand.

    Looking back at the MLB.com velocity readings from last night, his first inning consisted of 11 fastballs, 1 pitch that was probably a slider (89 with a 10″ break) and 1 pitch that was probably a curveball (85 with a 13″ break). This is exactly in line with last year’s numbers, where he threw 84% fastballs in the first inning of games I charted.

    Same deal as always. Establish the fastball, get your brains beat in, adjust and throw offspeed pitch, give up no more runs.

  6. heyoka on June 5th, 2007 1:55 pm

    Let us all send our collective brain waves to Chaves. The skull may be thick, but it is not invincible to the power of ussmariner. Concentrate hard.
    “Chaaaaves, tell Felix to change his pitch selection. Establish the change up. Estaaaablish the chaaange uuuuppp.”

  7. jbrown8 on June 5th, 2007 2:00 pm

    I think Brian Robert’s leadoff AB last night was the epitome of the way he pitches early. Starts him off with a good 2-seamer on the inside corner for strike one, and another nice 2-seamer on the outside corner for strike two. I’m sitting at home hoping for a change-up, but of course he tries to blow a 4-seamer past him on the inner half, catches too much of the plate, and Roberts rocks a ground rule double.

  8. PositivePaul on June 5th, 2007 2:03 pm

    Heh. I thought of you last night when Bill Krueger was saying that Felix needed to do the complete opposite — something along the lines that he needed to abandon his breaking and off-speed pitches and throw more fastballs to get the batters to strike out more. Yet, he then said that the hitters were sitting fastball, which Felix was throwing up in the zone, and the hitters were destroying. But he was so adamant that Felix use his fastball more. Ugh.

    Yeah. My blood pressure doubled. I’m sure yours would’ve quadrupled.

    People will never learn that Felix’s 4-seam fastball is actually his worst pitch — and that it’s the pitch that is absolutely being killed.

  9. Bender on June 5th, 2007 2:03 pm

    I serioulsy can’t fathom why the team is doing this. They definately have access to this data, why aren’t they coming to the same conclusions?

  10. tait644 on June 5th, 2007 2:07 pm

    I agree 100%, Dave. The first thing that popped into my head after Brian Roberts hit that 0-2 fastball for a double in the first inning was:

    “Damn you Chaves!”

  11. PositivePaul on June 5th, 2007 2:07 pm

    So, is there any easy, free way to extract the velocity/break/result, etc. data from Gameday, or do you have to buy it from MLB?

  12. PositivePaul on June 5th, 2007 2:10 pm

    Dang. The Gameday’s detailed data isn’t there for the Boston game. Grrr. I’d compile the first innings of both of those games myself, if it were…

  13. billT on June 5th, 2007 2:10 pm

    Was Felix doing this in his first two starts of the season? And if he was, did he have more success because he was better able to put the fastball where he wanted?

  14. scraps on June 5th, 2007 2:12 pm

    If you were a real insider, you’d know it’s about Felix’s character and maturity. And Johjima is terrible at handling pitchers. And he’s tipping his pitches.

  15. PositivePaul on June 5th, 2007 2:14 pm

    Yeah, that’s what I meant by “both those games” — the 12-K performance on Opening Day and the 1-hitter (2 BB) performance in Boston. Both are very good examples of “Felix the KKKKKing” and “Felix the Groundballer-that-doesn’t-totally-rely-on-KKKKKs”

  16. PositivePaul on June 5th, 2007 2:17 pm

    If you were a real insider, you’d know it’s about Felix’s character and maturity. And Johjima is terrible at handling pitchers. And he’s tipping his pitches.

    Uh, What?

    That’s so blatantly ridiculous, it’s not even funny to joke about. Both of those things have improved tremendously, from what I’ve heard from ‘real insiders.’

  17. scraps on June 5th, 2007 2:18 pm

    I kid.

  18. Tom on June 5th, 2007 2:22 pm

    haha, NOW it’s so clear to me why Felix looks crap-tastic the first inning or two of most ballgames he pitches and why he looks Felix-like the last 3-5 innings he pitches.

    I never had even thought of this. Good eyes you guys.

    On the bright side though, even when he struggles through the first two innings he’s still more than twice as good as Jeff Weaver.

  19. carcinogen on June 5th, 2007 2:23 pm

    16: c’mon….let’s set our sarcasm radar to “on” shall we? I thought it was funny, myself.

    This is just another example of where “conventional wisdom” gets lazy managers (and television personam) into trouble.

  20. Dave on June 5th, 2007 2:29 pm

    The gameday stuff is all available in xml files – I know a bunch of people (David Appleman, for one, and the other non-BP Joe Sheehan) are compiling the data into databases for comparison sakes.

    The cameras aren’t in every park yet, so they don’t have data for every game. But they’re hoping to by the all-star break.

  21. Mr. Egaas on June 5th, 2007 2:31 pm

    I was thinking the same thing last night when he was getting hit pretty hard. Everything was straight and up over the plate.

    When he had success early on in the year (especially that Red Sox game) it appeared like he was throwing a lot more offspeed stuff, but I really don’t remember. I’d be interested in seeing that data.

  22. flash_33 on June 5th, 2007 2:33 pm

    Wow nice job getting these statistics together. This is close to worthy of buying you a beer. Where did you find these stats anyways? I started noticing the fastball trend as well but I am glad to see many more people noticing it as well. You think Chavez will finally realizes this?

  23. PositivePaul on June 5th, 2007 2:34 pm

    16: c’mon….let’s set our sarcasm radar to “on” shall we? I thought it was funny, myself.

    Okay. Flipped the switch. Sorry…

  24. msb on June 5th, 2007 3:05 pm

    hmm. someone should ask Geoff Baker to ask Chaves about this …

  25. AuburnM on June 5th, 2007 3:08 pm

    Who was calling the game before the injury, when Felix was unhittable? Is it really pitch selection, or is it more Felix’s inability to hit the corners after coming off the DL?

  26. jamest on June 5th, 2007 3:24 pm

    Felix didn’t establish anything in the hitters minds with three straight fastballs to open the game. The first two seamers set Robert’s up nicely but why couldn’t he bounce something in the dirt with the third pitch?

    I put that as much on Felix as Chaves or Joh…

  27. billT on June 5th, 2007 3:29 pm

    When he had success early on in the year (especially that Red Sox game) it appeared like he was throwing a lot more offspeed stuff, but I really don’t remember. I’d be interested in seeing that data.

    As would I, because my recollection is a bit different. I thought he was having more success then because he was able to consistently hit the corners low in the zone with his 2-seamer, which resulted in all of the groundballs. The last few games, it’s seemed like he’s been leaving the four-seam fastball up in the zone and that’s getting hit pretty hard.

  28. wabbles on June 5th, 2007 3:34 pm

    Having noticed how difficult it is to pick up those 30 mph pitches at the local batting cage, wouldn’t we want Felix to lull them into a false sense of security early with the breaking and off-speed stuff, then blow the heat by them later when their timing is off?

  29. carcinogen on June 5th, 2007 3:40 pm

    28: I think the fundamental point is that any pitcher wants to keep hitters off-balance, change their eye level, etc. The question is whether throwing the breaking pitches early does that for Felix.

    If two seamers low in the zone induce a ton of grounders, I don’t have a problem with him using that strategy early in the game.

  30. Chris Miller on June 5th, 2007 3:41 pm

    Generally, pitchers want to mix things up, try and keep people from guessing what’s coming next, that said, his 2-seamer is his best pitch for setting up the batter most of the time, the problem is throwing 10 of them in a row. He has to mix in his other pitches, early, and regularly.

  31. terrybenish on June 5th, 2007 3:46 pm

    How do you determine the breakdown between bad command and bad pitch selection?

  32. jamest on June 5th, 2007 3:53 pm

    I think the breakdown has everything to do with location. Had Felix thrown that 4 seamer to Robert’s in the first at eye level, he would have taken it or swung and missed. However, since his command of that pitch was off, he left it belt high right down the middle. I have no issue with the pitch selection, but the location left a lot to be desired.

    Command is a lot is easier to critique because the end result of a poorly placed pitch is much more evident than the type of pitch itself.

  33. Manzanillos Cup on June 5th, 2007 4:03 pm

    Here’s the thing I don’t get – pitching with Felix’s repertoire shouldn’t be that complicated. It may take a while for him to develop into a Cy Young winner, but Felix should NEVER be as bad as he was last night (as long as he’s healthy). Young pitchers with less intelligence and a lot worse stuff have had more success than he has. I think we have a case of Hargrove/Lopez here – a coach ignoring a player’s skill set and forcing a bad approach.

  34. jamest on June 5th, 2007 4:08 pm

    I don’t entirely agree with that. I think Felix has shown too much confidence in his stuff in his last two starts and made poor pitches in good counts. His stuff can carry him only so far. Nobody expects him to go strike 1 strike 2 strike 3 to every hitter, even Hargrove gets that.

    But Felix still looks very much the gunslinger when he is ahead and that scares me a little.

  35. goraniers on June 5th, 2007 4:22 pm

    To what degree can we attribute Felix’s success in “both those games” against Oakland and Boston to those teams’ apprehension of using the 2006 book on the slimmer, new and improved Felix? That plus cold spring bats could have made Chaves’ plan work for a bit maybe. I wish we could compare the pitch selection data.

  36. Manzanillos Cup on June 5th, 2007 4:24 pm

    34- If that’s true, wouldn’t the bad numbers be spread out throughout the game, instead of just the first couple innings?
    Felix’s fastball has been hit hard plenty of times – he’s smart enough to know that big league hitters can hit a 100 mph 4-seamer if they know it’s coming.

  37. billT on June 5th, 2007 5:02 pm

    If that’s true, wouldn’t the bad numbers be spread out throughout the game, instead of just the first couple innings?

    I can’t speak for the other games, but I was there last night and he was hit hard all night long. Fortunately, he was able to successfully get out of jams in the later innings.

  38. billT on June 5th, 2007 5:35 pm

    For anyone who’s interested, here’s the xml file for Felix’s first start. The game against Boston doesn’t include pitch speed, so for what we’re looking at in this thread it’s kind of useless.

  39. milendriel on June 5th, 2007 5:36 pm

    The idea that any pitch needs to be “established” during a game sounds like crap to me.

  40. terrybenish on June 5th, 2007 5:40 pm


    Last night Felix mostly missed in the zone and yet it probably was the wrong pitch selection…only Felix or Joh should know. Flat 94 mph four seamers at the belt get hit, yet its a strike. Whereas two strike 94 mph four seamers chest high get swung at and missed.

    He had very little command last night early on.

  41. scraps on June 5th, 2007 6:10 pm

    I don’t understand why anyone would insist that it’s only about location. Sure, if he’d located his pitches beautifully they wouldn’t have been hit. But if you mix up your pitches better, your location can stray, because the hitters will be off balance. If he starts the game throwing all fastballs and everyone knows he’s throwing all fastballs, then he has to be near perfect.

    Just because he’s good enough at his best to overcome a dumb plan doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to go with a dumb plan. You can’t always hit the corner you want to hit, but you can always throw the pitch you want to throw. Some of you sound like you don’t think there’s anything to be gained by pitching smart.

  42. bhsmarine on June 5th, 2007 6:28 pm

    The pitch selection has not been good, not just for Felix either. Hindsight is 20/20 though so it is easy to criticize now. At least a few AB’s a game they seem to try a certain pitch one to many times in the same location to a hitter and they get beat. Some of that stems from a lack of control and having to throw fastballs(usually) for strikes once you fall behind. It is also not the worst I have ever seen, but room for improvement.

  43. scraps on June 5th, 2007 6:43 pm

    Hindsight is 20/20 though so it is easy to criticize now.

    Dave has been criticizing Felix’s (or Chavez’s) early-game pitch selection since last season.

  44. scraps on June 5th, 2007 6:46 pm

    er, Chaves’s

  45. Beniitec on June 5th, 2007 6:57 pm


  46. milendriel on June 5th, 2007 7:46 pm

    42: Yeah. The best example I can think of recently was the Hillenbrand homer off Feierabend. Nice fastball on the inside corner for strike 2, a fastball inside around the ankles for ball 1, then another attempted inside fastball that was left over the middle of the plate. I don’t think good pitch selection is necessarily easy, but it seems obvious to me that a pitcher’s approach to a hitter needs to change for 2-strike counts.

  47. terrybenish on June 6th, 2007 7:42 am

    41 But if you mix up your pitches better, your location can stray…

    You think? Most of Felix’s trouble the other night were belt high flat four seamers…brought on by bad mechanics that have returned with his returned pounds.

  48. The Ancient Mariner on June 6th, 2007 9:40 am

    I’d be curious to see what Johan Santana would do throwing 85% four-seam fastballs in the first two innings if everybody knew they were coming . . .

  49. joser on June 6th, 2007 11:44 am

    Yeah, the Santana comparison came to my mind too. Santana is the perfect example of a guy with a good fastball but a fantastic changeup who knows that it’s more important to keep batters off balance than to demonstrate your cajones by fireballing everybody early.

    I wish somebody would run through a couple of game tapes of Santana’s games (his good starts, from later in the season) with Felix — but that would presume that somebody in the M’s organization gets what Santana does and from the way they’re handling Felix it’s pretty evident that they don’t.

  50. terrybenish on June 6th, 2007 1:12 pm

    96 is great, 98 is fantastic, 94 and flat with a slider that’s morphed to a slurve is not awesome…

    It doesn’t matter what the choice is, if he can’t locate in the zone and shows the pitches through different release points.

    The premise articulated early on is that he has five pitches that are 80 each on the 20-80 scale and he just needs to vary his repretoire to be Cy Young again. That has not been the case since his return. His mechanics are not what they were before he was hurt. Get some video and look at it, he was controlled and directional, now he rushes and has no control of his front side, causing his arm to drop. He can’t locate his fastball at all. You must locate your pitches or they get hit if you throw them in belt high. He did not do that last year and he’s not doing it now. The start before this he had an excellent curve ball, night befor last it was non-existent.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.