Felix, Mixing Pitches, And The Power of the Internet

Dave · July 7, 2007 at 5:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Via Geoff Baker:

“Chaves gave me a report,” Hernandez said. “On the internet, they say when I throw a lot of fastballs in the first inning, they score a lot of runs. I tried to mix all my pitches in the first inning.”

Today, Felix threw a slider on the 3rd pitch of the game, then a curveball on the fifth pitch, getting Shannon Stewart to flyout to center. All told, he threw 3 breaking balls in his first 8 pitches, threw a first pitch slider to the 5th hitter of the game, and attacked almost every hitter with a variable selection of fastballs and breaking balls.

He gave up 2 hits in 8 innings.

Now, correlation is not causation. Maybe the A’s hitters just aren’t very good, and maybe Felix is just bound to dominate line-ups like this because his stuff is off the charts.

But you know, I love seeing Felix trying something new. Its extremely encouraging that he took some information made available to him and made adjustments to improve his approach.

That Chaves was able to use the the open letter from the blog to help drive home a point he’d already been making, well, that’s just the cherry on top. But Felix deserves all the credit in the world for this. He and Chaves did the work, and they’re the ones who tossed a shutout at the A’s today. We just get to enjoy the fruits of Good Felix.

Long Live King Felix.


88 Responses to “Felix, Mixing Pitches, And The Power of the Internet”

  1. fetish on July 8th, 2007 12:03 am

    I mean, this is as big a slam dunk (sorry to mix metaphors) as this blog could achieve. Kudos for not boasting too hard…

    But God knows what has been wrought this day. Can the USSenstien ever be stopped?

  2. moocow on July 8th, 2007 12:09 am

    Wow, that is unbelievable stuff! Nice work.

    How about an open letter to Bavasi now on calling up Jones?

  3. Jordan of Boise on July 8th, 2007 12:25 am

    I understand folks excitement about the letter to Felix and his big day, but don’t think that the front office would be nearly as receptive to advice on decisions about personnel or the lineup. Helping improve the performance of the star ace is a win-win for everyone, there’s no reason for the team not to want to make that happen. But bringing players up or sitting players down isn’t so easy. ‘Baseball people’ seem to have such a problem with hearing from the general public (see Derek’s F-Rod expose and how even the Open Letter was acknowledged somewhat grudgingly, and ignored by the national press) and if anything, the increasingly loud outcry to put Turbo on the pine and bring up Mr. Jones seems to be making the team and its FSN mouthpieces defensive about the topic.

    So please, no one go handing love letters about personnel changes to coaches or players at BP – let the team think it’s their own idea to fix things up and maybe that way they’ll actually do it.

  4. mark s. on July 8th, 2007 12:29 am

    USSM has helped me become the envy of all my friends for my new understanding of baseball. (yes, I qoute my sources) Now USSM has played a part (however small) in helping the team, we are all so connected to.

    Thanks guys.
    Go USSM!
    Go Felix!
    Go M’s!

  5. BKM on July 8th, 2007 12:36 am

    I suppose this is the “one shining moment” for USSM.com, when a member of the coaching staff gives it a shoutout, even if indirectly. While you’re all busy patting Dave’s back for his great insight, do realize that even Chaves said in post-game that it’s not something they didn’t know or that they hadn’t told Felix more than once or twice. While it must have taken time and energy to slavishly monitor every pitch during a game, instead of just… watching the game, anyone could have come to that conclusion.

    The front office will call up Adam Jones when it feels Adam Jones is ready to contribute to the Mariners in the midst of what could be a great stretch run, not because some columnist says he’s ready, not because some blog says he’s ready. Like it or not, they’re the baseball professionals, and we’re not.

  6. Thom Jimsen on July 8th, 2007 12:48 am

    USS Mariner now has a prominent mention in the Times’ game story:


  7. Thom Jimsen on July 8th, 2007 12:49 am

    Chaves sounds pretty flustered:

    “Chaves also had a copy of the posting e-mailed to him by Jason Churchill, a freelance newspaper contributor who runs his own baseball Web site detailing Mariners farm prospects.

    “The one person is not telling me, or telling us, something that we don’t know,” Chaves added. “It’s just that we … I don’t know it all. That’s for sure. I’m making sure that you guys understand he didn’t give me something that I was not aware of.

    “But it’s good that sometimes you hear something from a different source,” he said of Hernandez. “It opens up your eyes a little bit.”

  8. Celadus on July 8th, 2007 12:51 am

    #38: The one major thing so far that I see McLaren doing that Hargrove didn’t is extending the starters for more innings.

    I don’t know what is motivation is, but what I’m hoping is that, if successful, it will lead to a situation in which one or two less pitchers are needed, hence one or two position players are acquired or brought up from Tacoma, thereby adding more flexibility to the bench.

  9. Thom Jimsen on July 8th, 2007 1:00 am

    Methinks Chaves bleats in protest a tad too much. There’s more to this story.

  10. hcoguy on July 8th, 2007 1:13 am

    Not sure why so many people want to rush to say “see, they knew all along, they are the experts and they know everything exactly right before us detached third party observers figure it out by pooling our collective resources…”

    Seriously. If history has taught us anything its that besides repeating itself, there is always something that is perceived to be correct that later turns out to be wrong and there was at least one person who had logical, reasonable evidence why that would be so. Saying that the M’s F.O. and coaches are completely on top of every strategy and idea tossed about on every blog is ridiculous. Of course they havn’t thought of everything, no team has. To think that they do their jobs with the greatest efficiency due to being “around” the game for decades is absurd. By that line of reasoning no one can point out anything they believe DUBYA does wrong since A. he is the president and the office holds noble distinction and B. his father also held the position and he has been “around” politics most if not all his life. Proximity does not necessarily breed true knowledge and insight.

    I am thrilled that this has reached the level it has but I fear the backlash that has already began where several scenarios play out. The M’s get embarassed for acknowledging a popularly perceived uncredible source for help or they go the opposite and start polling the general blogging public for major decisions (yeah I know this won’t happen, just making a point) or continue about their usual business of searching for a nut all by their visually-impaired squirrelly-selves. Comments such as 55 are the ones that irk me the most as they assign omniscience to the staff and really think that nobody outside the game can ever have any unique insight in to strategy and the inner workings of baseball doctrine.

    Probably none of that happens and the only consequence is that the site crashes every fifth day for the rest of the year. 🙂

    I am not saying Chaves is lying or anything, just that the current people in charge have NO results to show of that they are open to change. Hell, if it wasn’t for Guardado we probably would barely have a serviceable closer situation, let alone the best in the league. Management didnt help to teach him the splitter.

    Anyways, this is coming off far more negative than I meant it to as I’m just drunk and still happy to have seen good felix today. Well, at least the 10 seconds of coverage on BBTN as my mlb.tv premium subscription failed to cover ALL the games as it explicitly advertises.

    I can see the next bad start. Chaves in front of a congressional committee saying, “we had some bad intelligence, we thought the Tigers had some WMDs we needed to throw fastballs at early and often but it turns out that the opposite was the case. We blame that damn myspace friend Felix has that informed us”

    58. SSS. It could be just shitty lineups that our pitchers have faced since Grover left.

  11. msb on July 8th, 2007 7:10 am

    Chaves sounds pretty flustered

    I dunno– if you heard him say it, rather than reading it, he didn’t sound flustered, he was pretty matter of fact about it.

  12. Christopher Michael on July 8th, 2007 7:26 am

    Well it makes for a great story. Fan hands letter from the internet to team. Player listens.

    The publicity seems more “fun” than anything else. Since we all know that what matters is that this is the start of a great second half for Felix. And since not enough people in these comments said it. Thanks Postman -12-!

  13. Adam S on July 8th, 2007 7:31 am

    do realize that even Chaves said in post-game that it’s not something they didn’t know or that they hadn’t told Felix more than once or twice.
    I have no idea to what degree Chaves is telling us the truth and to what degree he’s covering his/the Mariners ***, but like hcoguy I’m not sure why people are so quick to dismiss the influence of the USSM letter. Think about it…
    1) If the letter was news to Chaves, what would he say? “We got this brilliant analysis from a blogger that told us things I didn’t know about Felix’s pitching pattern.”
    2) If he knew this was the problem and had talked to Felix, why didn’t he fix it earlier? Can’t he just tell Johjima/Burke to call more off-speed stuff in the early innings? Do you really believe a letter from a fan had more impact than his coach?
    3) If hearing it from a third party had magic influence, wouldn’t that have come when the letter was emailed to Chaves, not when he got it handed to him a second time?

    My hunch (and it’s all hunch), Chaves knew Felix was throwing too many fastballs early and had mentioned this to him. But he really hadn’t tried to change Felix. When he got the letter the first time, he skimmed it and dismissed it. When he got it the second time and saw the HARD NUMBERS, which he didn’t have before, he took it more seriously and met with Felix. And showing Felix the numbers, not just “they’re hitting your fastball hard”, got the point across.

  14. thowe1 on July 8th, 2007 7:40 am

    53 —- Jordan, I couldn’t agree with you more on this. Man, massive Kudos to Dave and all of the regular stat junkies here on USS Mariner for being another witness on the stand for Chavez to present his case to the young King, and hopefully we’ll be seeing returns on this by way of his pitch selection and approach for weeks to come.

    However, for all of those who are thinking of flooding the front office with cries for having Adam Jones brought up off the farm, or having Turbo plant his fat ass on the bench for a couple of months, I ask you take a quick step back and see it still won’t change a thing. M’s baseball is a business, people, and they are in the business of making a return for their investors (the fans). Just as in the corporate world, they are just as concerned with turning a buck (getting that win) as you are, however, they have their own approach, their own style, and their own ability to make decisions. The minute they start listening to the general public, sifting through fan mail while taking BP or installing vote buttons in the box seats on whether to steal or stay, all credibility is out the window, and the owners will begin that great question of “Why don’t we just bring in the USS Mariner staff as consultants????”

    Now, as I don’t see that as being a bad idea (‘Ol Bill could use all the help he could get right now), you have to understand, no one wants to look bad, especially by asking the public “What would you do in this situation?” Good on you for the Open Letter, bigger kudos on the delivery and recognition by the Times and Geoff Baker, however, I think this is the last we’ve heard of the bench and office talking suggestions from the fans.

  15. terry on July 8th, 2007 8:18 am

    #3: Lets give credit to where it’s really due……Al Gore

  16. Steve T on July 8th, 2007 9:08 am

    Congratulations, Dave. USSM is above the fold on the front of the sports section. I’m really pleased for the Mariners and for you.

  17. waitin_4_series on July 8th, 2007 9:22 am

    As the guy that was there in person, I would tend to take Chaves at his word. It’s highly possible that they previously discussed it. When Ryan Rowland-Smith called Chaves over to hand him the letter we only chatted for 10 or 20 seconds. Long enough for me to say that the letter was from the internet, they’ve been charting Felix’s pitches and he’s throwing almost all fastballs to start every game. At the time Chaves didn’t even look at the letter and all he said was “okay thanks” as he folded it up and slipped it into his back pocket, and went on to Ryan’s bullpen session.

    At the time, the way Chaves handled it, I was wondering if he already knew about it, or was not that interested in it, or would even read the letter since the it was folded in half when it was handed to him and he didn’t even bother to sneak a glance before he folded it up and slid it into his pocket. Chaves did wave and say thank-you again as he left the field when batting practice ended, but that was the entirety of the interaction.

    Based upon what he said in the Times article, its easy to believe that he’s been discussing this for some time with Felix. I didn’t get the impression that I was teaching him anything that he didn’t already know. It’s not like we sat there and went over the whole analysis as he listened intently. That’s not what happened.

    The whole time Chaves was very gracious, especially since it was time for the pitcher’s bullpen sessions. Like I said before it made my day, especially since I had brought along a co-worker who hadn’t been to a baseball game before in his life. We like Chaves!

    So why did this work? I have two opinions:

    1. Charts, Tables and Graphs are more persuasive. The detailed table in the letter is easy to understand and gets the point across quickly.

    2. Having a random fan at a out of town stadium demonstrate that they can determine your tendency is probably very alarming.

    The Postman….

  18. scraps on July 8th, 2007 9:56 am

    BKM: You appear to be the type of guy who has to tell people a bunch of stuff they already know when they get too excited.

    While you’re all busy patting Dave’s back

    You bunch of backpatters!

    for his great insight,

    Note the deftly wielded anvil of sarcasm.

    do realize that even Chaves said in post-game that it’s not something they didn’t know or that they hadn’t told Felix more than once or twice.

    Because it’s not like that very point isn’t being discussed all around you.

    While it must have taken time and energy to slavishly monitor every pitch during a game, instead of just. . . watching the game

    You geek, Dave, so busy slavishly monitoring that you fail to just watch the game.

    anyone could have come to that conclusion.

    Even you, eh? See, it wasn’t anything, really; anyone could have seen it. Including, presumably, the many people who’ve disagreed with Dave about this for the last two months.

    Why are you so desperate to downplay it? Is it more fun being the Wise Grump than it is to acknowledge a cool thing?

  19. scraps on July 8th, 2007 10:06 am

    Incidentally, according to Buster Olney, it’s a new grip that has turned Felix around.

  20. bakomariner on July 8th, 2007 10:38 am

    yanks are up 4-0 on the angels in the first…

  21. bakomariner on July 8th, 2007 11:01 am

    This was on MLBtraderumors today:

    Blog Gets Through To Felix Hernandez
    If you’ve watched any Felix Hernandez starts prior to today, you probably noticed a pattern. He tries to establish his fastball early on, throwing the pitch constantly. His heater is a fine pitch and plenty fast, but he leaves it up in the zone sometimes. And a 96 mph fastball can be easy to hit when you see ten of them in a row (relatively speaking – obviously I still couldn’t hit it). Hernandez has an amazing offspeed repertoire, especially his curveball.

    The die-hard fans at U.S.S. Mariner have been painfully aware of this trend for quite some time. Frustration boiled over on June 27th, when Dave Cameron wrote a post: An Open Letter To Rafael Chaves. Chaves is the Mariners’ pitching coach. The letter pleaded for Chaves to make Felix mix up his pitches early on.

    Cameron probably never anticipated that Chaves would actually read the letter. But he did, and the pitching coach actually gave a copy to Felix for him to read. Chaves has been trying to hammer this point home with Hernandez, but the letter helped reinforce the need for better pitch selection. Hernandez tossed eight scoreless innings today, crediting the letter for his early success. How cool is that? Blogs actually can make a difference. Open sentence to Dave Cameron: Mariners fans, fantasy baseball owners, and baseball fans in general thank you for getting through to The King. Next up, teach Rich Hill a third pitch.

  22. Lucky Number on July 8th, 2007 11:16 am

    I think it is very interesting and exciting that so many Mariner fans have differing viewpoints on this whole affair. I suppose that is the great thing about being a fan; you can comment, argue, or talk about them until you are blue in the face, but the fact remains that you still care about the team in your own way. Despite your stance on this whole thing, I think that all fans would agree that this is a very exciting time to be a Mariners fan. Go team!

    And btw #67, “Ride Postman, ride”! Sorry, but someone had to do it…

  23. lemonverbena on July 8th, 2007 11:20 am

    wow… that’s awesome. huge props also to the fan who managed to get it into Chaves’ hands.

  24. Axtell on July 8th, 2007 11:23 am


    You nailed it…and I have to admit, bkm made me laugh with his post when he dropped this gem:

    “The front office will call up Adam Jones when it feels Adam Jones is ready to contribute to the Mariners in the midst of what could be a great stretch run… they’re the baseball professionals, and we’re not.”

    Yes, because baseball ‘professionals’ are always right and never make mistakes? That’s why baseball ‘professionals’ continue to have Vidro DHing despite his abysmal power numbers?

  25. Jim Thomsen on July 8th, 2007 11:35 am

    If you type “USS Mariner” into Google News serach, you’ll see that the blog — and the Felix Affair — have gotten a bit of national media bounce.

  26. Jim Thomsen on July 8th, 2007 11:35 am

    Or even “search”

  27. Slippery Elmer on July 8th, 2007 11:40 am

    #36, Mariner Fan in CO Exile:

    I was agreeing with the postgame crew when they said if it’s obvious to fans that Felix was starting the game with nothing but fastballs, opponents must have realized it as well.

  28. scraps on July 8th, 2007 11:47 am

    [T]he postgame crew […] said if it’s obvious to fans that Felix was starting the game with nothing but fastballs, opponents must have realized it as well.

    It’s a good point, and I’m glad Chaves used it with Felix. But if it is so obvious to everyone in retrospect, why did we never hear it from announcers, analysts, post-game talking heads, etc?

  29. Paul B on July 8th, 2007 11:51 am

    I was looking at Felix’ splits this year on baseball-reference. Something that kind of confused me (I’m easily confused):

    First, something that makes sense regarding this whole topic, hitters against Felix this year have been .345-.383-.517 in hist first 25 pitches in games, completely horrible and reinforces this whole topic. In pitches 26-75, hitters are about .250-.320-.350 (more or less, I just roughly averaged the second 25 and third 25 pitches) which is great at least as far as slugging goes.

    But here’s the strange stuff. Hitters do better against Felix in their second plate appearance as compared to their first (.330-.371-.459 in second plate appearance, .259-.306-.393 in first plate appearance). That is opposite of what I would have expected.

    But, by inning, Felix has done really really well in the second inning (.208-.264-.313) compared to a horrible 1st inning (.358-.404-.528) so that must explain the strange numbers in times facing opponent in game.

    Looking at the by inning splits, the second inning is the best, and the one inning that is worse than the first inning is the 6th (the 7th, 8th, and 9th are great, but those are only a few games where he went that far, and are only in games where he was dominating the other team). The OPS by inning for innings 1 thru 6 (AL average OPS is .756):

    .932 (ouch)
    .577 (yay!)
    .785 (meh)
    .877 (meh^2)
    .709 (ohh kay)
    1.076 (yikes)

  30. Paul B on July 8th, 2007 11:58 am

    2) If he knew this was the problem and had talked to Felix, why didn’t he fix it earlier? Can’t he just tell Johjima/Burke to call more off-speed stuff in the early innings? Do you really believe a letter from a fan had more impact than his coach?

    If this had happened, wouldn’t we have seen Felix shaking off the catcher a lot in the first inning, like every third pitch or so, when they called for something off speed and he wanted to throw a fastball?

  31. Dave Clapper on July 8th, 2007 11:59 am

    Speaking of google searches of USSM, looks like someone is grabbing your content again: Striketwo.net.

  32. _David_ on July 8th, 2007 12:02 pm

    So Triunfel’s in High Desert now…Is that permanent? Is it good?

  33. bakomariner on July 8th, 2007 12:10 pm

    82- it’s good for me…i’m going to at least two of the three games in bakersfield this week…i’ll check the kid out…

  34. davepaisley on July 8th, 2007 12:16 pm

    JMB – “The Internet, is that still around?”

    I hear they have the internet on computers now…

    And Jim T in 76 – que serach, serach…

  35. Sammy on July 8th, 2007 12:27 pm


    Scraps, I’d heard the M’s announcing crew mention Felix’ predilection for early fastballs at least three or four times.

  36. scraps on July 8th, 2007 12:32 pm

    Sammy: Okay, good to hear.

  37. John in L.A. on July 8th, 2007 4:08 pm

    Two things from me…

    First, this is very, very cool. As mentioned, it is the kind of cool you can tell people about… people who don’t really follow any of this, and they get it.

    I’m very happy that Felix said it, so that it isn’t subject to a hundred posts ridiculing the idea that the blog had anything at all to do with it.

    Which leads me to my second point, to post #55…

    BKM, that is one of the most petty, small-minded posts I have read. What on earth would make you want to come into a thread like this and belittle it?

    No one made more of it than it is, but what it is, is pretty cool.

  38. mwick243 on July 9th, 2007 10:58 pm

    I heard about this site while I was watching the Mariners on MLB Extra Innings. I live in Massachusetts, and have been a lifelong Sox fan, but my liking to Felix has made me a Mariners fan. I love seeing them make a run in the West. I hope they keep it up.
    Also, my buddies over here on the east coast are tough to convince that Felix is a legit pitcher already, even after the King 1-hit the BoSox at Fenway.
    I can’t wait for Felix’s trophy case to be packed with Cy Youngs. I hope the M’s can throw a few AL Champ trophies in there too.

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