Jeff Weaver, Junkballer

Dave · August 13, 2007 at 7:18 am · Filed Under Mariners 

After yesterday’s performance, Jeff Weaver now leads the American League in complete game shutouts. I bet you could have gotten 1,000-to-1 on that being true back in May. To close out a successful 5-1 road trip, Weaver threw his best game of the year, dominating the White Sox in a way that makes you ask how it happened. Weaver’s been a lot better since his return in early June, but he hasn’t had any starts like this. What made the difference yesterday?

To try and answer this, I dove into the Pitch F/X system to look at the velocity and movement of his pitches yesterday in handy sortable form. There are some pretty noticable trends that jump off the page.

Breaking Ball, thy friend is Weaver.

Thanks to Weaver’s repertoire, categorizing his pitches is extremely easy. Unlike Felix, who has an assortment of pitches that travel in varying velocities anywhere from 78-99, there’s a significant velocity difference between Weaver’s pitches. He threw 51 pitches with a velocity between 87.0-92.6 MPH, but his 52nd fastest pitch was 83.6 MPH. He didn’t threw any pitch between 84-87, making the distinction between fastball and offspeed pitch very easy to recognize.

On the day, not counting the two HBPs that the Pitch F/X system didn’t register, Weaver threw 51 fastballs and 62 off-speed pitches. The slow stuff was an assortment of mostly sliders and curve balls with a few change-ups mixed in, but he clearly decided to attack the White Sox with breaking balls.

This became even more dramatic as the game wore on. Of his final 30 pitches, 25 of them were offspeed pitches. That’s 16% fastballs and 84% offspeed stuff. On the day, of the 113 pitches the Pitch F/X system recorded, only 22 of them were 90+, but 36 of them were 79 or slower.

The best pitch is strike one.

Here’s how Weaver started each hitter he faced:

Owens, fastball, called strike
Fields, fastball, called strike
Thome, curveball, swinging strike
Konerko, fastball, ball
Pierzynski, curveball, ball
Dye, fastball, called strike
Podsednik, fastball, foul
Uribe, fastball, called strike
Cintron, curveball, ball
Owens, fastball, called strike
Fields, fastball, called strike
Thome, curveball, called strike
Konerko, fastball, called strike
Pierzynski, curveball, called strike
Dye, fastball, ball
Podsednik, hit by pitch (no data)
Uribe, fastball, swinging strike
Cintron, slider, double play
Owens, curveball, called strike
Fields, slider, swinging strike
Thome, slider, ball
Konerko, curveball, called strike
Pierzynski, fastball, called strike
Dye, slider, called strike
Podsednik, curveball, ball
Uribe, fastball, called strike
Cintron, curveball, called strike
Owens, fastball, groundout
Fields, slider, pop out
Thome, curveball, called strike
Konerko, fastball, called strike
Pierzynski, curveball, called strike
Dye, fastball, called strike

The White Sox were content to go up to the plate staring at Weaver’s first offering, only swinging six times. 19 times, they stared at strike one. He only went to six 1-0 counts the whole game. When you’re working 0-1 on almost every single batter, you’re at a huge advantage.

Don’t throw anything straight.

Even when Weaver threw a fastball, it was moving. Without getting too deep into the complexities of how the Pitch F/X system calculates movement (essentially, it takes the movement minus the expected break of a hypothetic pitch with no spin), you can look at the PFX value and see that he only threw one pitch that could be defined as arrow straight, and it was out of the strikezone. When he put it in a hitters zone, it was diving all over the place.

Essentially, yesterday, Weaver pulled a Moyer. He commanded everything with movement, threw strikes, mixed his pitches, and attacked the hitters with offspeed stuff.

It worked to perfection, obviously. The White Sox aren’t a good offense, but as we saw, that ballpark is a total joke in the summer, and even ordinary flyballs can get out of there once they get up in the air. Weaver avoided pitching to contact and took advantage of Chicago’s take-then-hack philosophy, peppering them with pitches they weren’t expecting nor could they do anything with.

We probably won’t see a better pitched game by a Mariner all year long. The August 12th version of Jeff Weaver is a testament to just how successful you can be with command and movement. Let’s hope Felix was taking notes.


155 Responses to “Jeff Weaver, Junkballer”

  1. argh on August 13th, 2007 6:02 pm

    Well, I’m off to Safeco in a few minutes to study Mac’s latest defensive contraption up close and personal — row 139, row 6 so my opportunity to be killed by a foul ball while watching Willy is low (perhaps only 5 in 50,000) but still on the table.

  2. joser on August 13th, 2007 6:24 pm

    Santana’s splits vs M’s

    Santana has more wins against the M’s than he has against any team not in the AL Central. Though he only has one start at Safeco — the game in April(?) where the M’s were beaten by a double steal, of all things. Well, that started the slide anyway. If MacLaren gets as outmanaged in that game as Hargrove clearly was, I’ll scream.

  3. DMZ on August 13th, 2007 6:34 pm

    Game comments pruned: there’s a game thread for this now.

  4. Dave on August 13th, 2007 6:48 pm

    Sorry about the contract screwup – that’s what I get for going from memory and not looking things up. I withdraw all support for a Contreras trade, in lieu of the extra year tagged on the end of that deal.


    Even when Jeff Weaver is pitching well, it is still torture to watch him throw. He could have easily blown the game in the first two innings but he got very lucky and got out of a bases loaded jam.
    Only time will tell if Jeff Weaver can pitch like that every fith game. Its the same with Sexson.
    If Weaver starts winning consistently and Sexson starts hitting in clutch sitiuations, the Mariners have a good shot at the playoffs

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