Remember When Felix Was Predictable?

Dave · August 16, 2012 at 11:08 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.


20 Responses to “Remember When Felix Was Predictable?”

  1. DawgDays on August 16th, 2012 11:25 am

    After reading Woodrum’s post over at FG, two things came to mind:

    1) Your letter, and the death of “establishing the fastball”

    2) Felix and video, reported by Drayer in June. The first ten weeks and the past ten weeks of this season have been like night and day.

  2. MrZDevotee on August 16th, 2012 11:29 am

    And he’s getting BETTER… It’s really not fair. This guys stays healthy there’s a chance, since 19 years old, we’ve been watching the best pitcher to ever play the game when all is said and done…

    Someone on a different site mentioned how Randy Johnson was just figuring out how to pitch when he was 25, so the comparisons regarding “best Mariners pitcher ever” are way out of whack… (not saying “who it is” just saying it’s nearly impossible to compare them).

    But, Felix is just 26 and already 2 years removed from his first Cy Young.

    Incredible stuff we’re watching. There are only 2-3 guys out there that we know can throw a no-hitter EVERY SINGLE TIME they pitch. Felix is on that list, just like Randy was.

    Love it.

    Thanks King!

  3. lailaihei on August 16th, 2012 11:31 am

    It’s funny you characterize old Felix as “stuff guy”, when that game was perhaps one of his best from a pure “stuff” standpoint of his career.

    But it sure is great to see him develop into a perennial Cy Young candidate.

  4. Shrike on August 16th, 2012 11:36 am

    Felix is incredible, but I would not bet that he ends up being considered the best pitcher in MLB history. He has a long, long way to go before he can be considered in the same breath as Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson et al.

    That being said, the mere fact that he has a real shot at being in the conversation after his career is over is why M’s fans should have hope for the team’s future.

  5. Westside guy on August 16th, 2012 11:55 am

    Remember, Felix just turned 26 in April. He’s still got a long, long career ahead of him.

    It’s funny how – all evidence to the contrary – you still get the talking heads on TV yammering about the pitcher’s “need to establish the fastball”. Media people often really do seem to be the last guys to come around; although some of that may be due to the influence of the old jocks their employers have on the payroll to provide “expert” analysis.

  6. bfgboy on August 16th, 2012 12:07 pm

    Dave, we all love what you do at this site, and at Fangraphs. I think that I speak for more than a few people on here when I say that watching you find increased success is the same as watching a player evolve from Everett to Tacoma, the the Show. We’ve all know that you had “It,” but it is cool to see the rest of the sports world starting to take notice too.

    With that said, it has been pretty cool to see “Dave:M’s Fan” over the last twenty-four hours. Your in-depth analysis, as always, is awesome, but it is always good to see that you are still a big M’s fan at heart. I particularly enjoyed your “WOOOOOOOOO” post. It said it all!

    I look forward to more detailed analysis, as well as more unbridled joy in the future. Thanks!

  7. gerrythek on August 16th, 2012 12:47 pm

    Perfect game
    …in daylight
    …against the Rays
    …pressure of only a one run lead:

    This may be the best pitched game I have ever seen.

  8. greentunic on August 16th, 2012 2:17 pm

    I think the “sigh” on the subtitle of this blog can become “Felix!” now.

  9. wabbles on August 16th, 2012 9:17 pm

    Yeah, I don’t know how much this figures into it, but Greg Maddux could put the ball where ever he wanted, every time. Randy Johnson didn’t necessarily do that, but he could just blow it past hitters (both his fastball AND his slider). But people found The Big Unit far more entertaining to watch. My point, I’m wondering if King Felix’s worst pitch being his fastball actually works against him when being considered an “elite” pitcher.

  10. dnc on August 16th, 2012 10:24 pm

    Randy’s best pitch was his slider.

  11. hbobrien on August 16th, 2012 11:55 pm

    This quote from Longoria about the perfecto seems a propos:

    “It seemed like every pitch you thought he was going to throw at a certain point or you guessed a pitch, it was the other pitch and when you thought you would take a pitch to get into the count a little bit he was throwing strike one,” Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria said. “It makes it tough when a guy can do that.”

  12. Marinerman1979 on August 17th, 2012 1:04 am

    “There’s no doubt that if Felix could just put his fastball in better spots, he’d be significantly more successful.

    But he can’t. ”

    He can now…heh.

  13. georgmi on August 17th, 2012 12:22 pm

    To me, the best part of that post is the fifth comment:

    Here’s hoping Geoff Baker picks up on this. (And I have to say, having a beat writer actually willing to think about such things, and capable of doing so intelligently, is a truly wonderful change.)

    That, and the fact that Chaves and Felix read the letter and made the changes.

  14. Westside guy on August 17th, 2012 12:54 pm

    It’s too bad GB decided that sabermetric schtick wasn’t getting enough traction/notoriety, and switched to his current craptastic approach.

  15. georgmi on August 17th, 2012 1:32 pm

    Gotta go with the schtick that sells papers, I guess.

  16. smb on August 17th, 2012 1:36 pm

    He is like Pedro. Best pitcher I’ve seen since I watched Pedro Martinez shut out the Mariners about 80 straight times over about a 6 season span. Every pitch is filthy, he can throw it on any count or pitch of the AB, he does it without a natural physical imposition (i.e. RJ, Sabathia, Verlander or Weaver-type height) over the hitter, and he makes it look far easier, and physically possible, than it ever could be for almost every other human being on the planet.

    God Bless You, Felix Hernandez.

  17. Wolfman on August 17th, 2012 1:41 pm

    I hope Seattle can get some players to put around him this off-season. I saw in one thread Dave mentioned trading for Upton and signing Melky Cabrera. That would be just fine with me! Felix deserves a shot and some run support. He just threw a perfect game and had to win 1-0! My nerves were shot!

    One thing I haven’t read anywhere and I’m sure someone else must have said it, but I would have LOVED to hear Dave Niehaus call this game! That would have been great.

  18. greentunic on August 17th, 2012 2:14 pm

    Good call on Niehaus. On a related note, what eas Sims saying after thay final pitch? He shouted about 34 years, but then only like 150 games… was he saying Mariner years and then Felix starts?

  19. georgmi on August 17th, 2012 2:43 pm

    Will Melky Cabrera be done serving his suspension by next season? Do playoff games played by the Giants (if any) count against the 50-game total?

  20. The Hamms Bear on August 19th, 2012 11:58 pm

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