Remember When Felix Was Predictable?
Back in 2007, when Felix was struggling to live up to his talent level, I wrote an open letter to Rafael Chaves, asking him to confront Felix about the predictable patterns he was using to attack hitters. After charting all of his starts, it became very obvious to me what pitch he was going to throw in certain situations, and he followed this pattern almost without fail. If I could figure it out, so could MLB hitters.
You probably know the rest of the story. Chaves got the letter, gave it to Felix, and he gave us some credit a week later after he shutout the A’s and said he tried to mix his pitches better. He would have figured this out on his own, of course, and I have no interest in taking any credit for anything Felix has done since, but it was still nice to see the results match the stuff after some frustrating outings.
Anyway, that’s all ancient history now. We’ve seen Felix develop from a guy who pitches off his fastball into one who uses his whole arsenal, and he really knows how to pitch now. Never was that more evident than yesterday. As Jaso said after the game:
“I’ve been on the Rays before,” Jaso said. “I know their approach against Felix. It’s to hit that fastball and hit it early. You don’t want to go to the secondary stuff because that’s what gets you out.”
Felix just didn’t give the Rays fastballs yesterday, even in situations where you’d almost certainly expect him to throw them.
11 times, he fell behind 1-0. His pitch selection on 1-0 pitches: 5 fastballs, 4 sliders, 2 curves
3 times, he fell behind 2-0. His pitch selection on 2-0 pitches: 1 fastball, 2 sliders
6 times, he fell behind 2-1. His pitch selection on 2-1 pitches: 2 fastballs, 1 slider, 3 curves
He still used his fastball, mostly on the first pitch of an at-bat. 19 of the 27 batters he saw got a first pitch fastball. But, instead of just falling into a pattern of “Fastball Until I get Ahead” followed by “Breaking Balls To Get A Strikeout”, all bets were off after 0-0. You might get a 2-0 slider, or you might get a 0-2 fastball. There was no way to know what Felix was throwing next. And it was awesome to watch.
Felix Hernandez, Pitcher. Far more fun than Felix Hernandez, Stuff Guy.