Game 11, Mariners at Yankees
FELIX vs. CC Sabathia, 10:05
Happy Felix Day!
I talked about the spate of Felix’s Velocity is Falling, Doom Imminent articles this year (and every year), and why I don’t think it’s such a big deal back in early April. Again, this is not to say that velocity itself is irrelevant, just that Felix is such a unique pitcher that rules that work for pitchers as a whole often fail when applied to our great and glorious king. On the other hand, there’s CC Sabathia, whose velocity is in Jered Weaver-style free fall. Sabathia used to run it up there around 95-97, but in his first start, he averaged about 87 on his fastball, leading MLBAM to assume he was throwing nothing but change-ups. Sure, sure, Felix’s fastball is frequently mis-identified as a change too, but that’s got as much to do with Felix’s unusually hard change as his low FB velo. Sabathia’s FB and hard cutter now blend together – I think of the cutter as the remnants of an old four-seam fastball, while his sinker’s armside run differentiates it.
Late-career Sabathia’s been undone by an inability to get right-handers out, and it seems like FB velocity may be part of the reason why. His change is still a good pitch, with high whiff rates and lots of ground balls, but Sabathia’s got nothing to disguise it with. Unlike Felix’s cambio, CC’s doesn’t really have much vertical drop – the pitch works because of the speed differential to his sinker, leading to bad contact or empty swings. But with CC’s “fastball” now coming in at 87, batters can sit on the fastball and adjust to the change. And if they don’t, they may hit it hard anyway.
Plenty of pitchers lose velocity, but the suddenness of CC’s drop this year is kind of concerning. In his first game of last season, CC averaged right about 90 with his fastball and touched 91. That’s about where he was in April of 2014, too, though he could reach back and hit 92 on occasion. This year, he averaged 87.5, and his fastest pitch was only 88.8. We’ll see if that improves today, but as a pitcher who’s struggled for a few years now, he may be nearing the end.
1: Aoki, LF
2: Marte, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Gutierrez, RF
6: Iannetta, C
7: Lee, 1B
8: Martin, CF
9: Sardinas, 3B
SP: Felix Hernandez.
No Seager today, as the M’s stack the line-up with righties and give Seager a day off to clear his head – he’s in a 2-27 slump.
Albuquerque won their home opener last night 11-6, despite HRs from Mike Zunino and Stefen Romero. James Paxton got lit up, giving up 7 runs in 2 1/3 IP with 4 BBs to 2 Ks. That’s now 9 walks in 6 1/3 IP on the year. Hmmm. Adrian Sampson takes the hill today for the Rainiers, 6 days after his 1-hit in 6 scoreless IP performance against the Isotopes.
Sam Gaviglio’s second straight quality start helped Jackson beat Chattanooga 6-3. Guillermo Heredia had 2 hits and 2 sac flies, and Tim Lopes and Ian Miller each had two hits as well. Brett Ash starts for the Generals today.
Yet again, Bakersfield lost a one-run game to Visalia, this time a 5-4 contest in 11 innings – the Rawhide scored runs in the 8th and 9th to tie it, and then walked it off two innings later. Tyler Pike had his second encouraging start, tossing 6 2/3 IP of two-run ball and walking just one. Control problems ruined his last two seasons, so to see him walk 3 in nearly 12 IP this year is great. Eddie Campbell starts today in Visalia.
Clinton scored 5 in the first on their way to an 11-5 win over Cedar Rapids. Braden Bishop had 4 hits, while Luis Liberato had a double and a triple in the lead-off spot. Kyle Wilcox had something of an ugly start for the LumberKings, giving up 5 runs on 6 walks in 4 2/3 IP, but the bullpen was great. Joey Strain K’d 2 in 2 2/3 hitless innings. He’s pitched 3 games and 5 2/3 IP on the year thus far, and no one’s reached base on him. Nick Wells attempts to put his poor debut start behind him against Cedar Rapids’ Sam Clay.