|King Felix Pitches to Perfection!|
|AL or Nothing|
|Written by Ryan Carey|
|Thursday, 16 August 2012 12:41|
If you haven’t already heard, Felix Hernandez was perfect yesterday. The King pitched himself into the record books by hurling the first perfect game for the Seattle Mariners franchise and the 23rd perfecto in baseball history. It was also the third perfect game we have seen this season, which is the most we’ve ever seen in one season before. Phil Humber was perfect against the Mariners back in April and San Francisco’s Matt Cain tossed his gem against the Houston Astros in June. This was also the sixth no-hitter in the majors this year.
The victim of Hernandez’ brilliance yesterday was the Tampa Bay Rays, and he disposed of them with a level of brilliance few have topped in the history of the game. He struck out 12 Rays, including five of the last six hitters he faced. The Rays have become all too used to getting shut down in recent years, as this marked the third time an opposing pitcher tossed a perfect game against them in since 2009. Throw in Edwin Jackson’s no hitter from 2010, and that’s four no-hitters over the same span. Ouch!
Hernandez was dominant, throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes. The Rays came out with an aggressive approach early in the game, as Joe Maddon’s team came out swinging early and often against the King to start the game. King Felix recorded only two of his twelve K’s in the first three innings and four Rays put the first pitch they saw into play during the first third of the game. It seems like Hernandez (and catcher John Jaso) took note of the Rays aggressiveness and began to try and expand the strike zone by tossing out more breaking stuff.
It obviously worked, but it is still worth noting that Hernandez did not shut the Rays down with his typically explosive fastball. He only recorded two swinging strikes on fastballs all game long. Most of his swinging strikes came on curves, breaking balls and change-ups. In fact he threw his change-up more than any of his other pitches in the last three innings, and the Rays failed to adjust to the fact that Hernandez basically stopped giving them good pitches to hit.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is that this was a close game that the Mariners ending up winning 1-0. So, despite being hitless heading into the later innings the Rays were never truly out of the game. So with two outs in inning number seven, and Matt Joyce at the plate, Tampa bay's manager Joe Maddon tried his best to disrupt the rhythm of the game by getting ejected for arguing ball and strikes. To be fair, the first-pitch called strike to Joyce which got the Rays' skipper run was both high and outside, and followed a couple of other borderline called strikes, but when a pitcher is flirting with perfection, they often get the benefit of a somewhat generous strike zone, especially when they are pitching at home. Maddon got his money’s worth, as the saying goes, but the possible tactical maneuver didn’t work.
After Maddon’s lengthy discussion at home plate, Felix got Joyce to ground out weakly to first base. He then came out in the eighth and struck out the side. He got Evan Longoria with a nasty breaking ball for out one. Ben Zobrist swung over a change-up that dropped off the table. Carlos Pena then came up and was disposed of with a filthy curveball for the tenth strikeout of the game.
In the ninth inning he got back to work. Desmond Jennings came in to pinch hit for Joe Lobaton. Hernandez sent him back to the dugout with strikeout number eleven with yet another change-up that Jaso practically scooped out of the dirt. Jeff Keppinger somehow managed to put a 1-2 change-up in play, but it was an easy play for SS Brendan Ryan. Sean Rodriguez stepped up as the Rays last chance. He worked the count to 2-0, but the King didn’t waver. He delivered three straight strikes, the last two catching Rodriguez looking for strikeout number twelve. Hernandez thrust both his arms up into the air and was mobbed by his teammates in celebration.
Ever since he entered the league we have been waiting for King Felix to deliver a no-no. He has come close before only to be denied by late game heroics. But yesterday he was masterful, and would not be denied his place in baseball history.
As news of King Felix’s achievement spread last night, perhaps the happiest person to hear it was none other than Bud Selig. The historic achievement by the Mariner left-hander helped take some of the spotlight off the news that San Francisco Giants OF Melky Cabrera had been suspended for 50 games for testing positive for testosterone. While this was obviously the big news throughout the day, the perfect game at least pushed in to the background somewhat by this morning.
While I don’t really touch on National League players in this column, I am compelled to write about the Cabrera suspension, mainly because I am quite heavily invested in him this season. He was a valuable member of two of my first place teams, who I will now need to replace. Luckily, these two teams are relatively shallow 12 team industry leagues rather than my deeper NFBC teams that are currently in contention, so finding replacements will be a little easier.
Still, it’s hard to find a comparable replacement to what Cabrera was delivering this late in the year. All you can try to do is grab a guy with opportunity in hopefully a good offense and hope for results. A good example might be a guy like Andy Dirks in Detroit. He’s been hitting the ball very well ever since he returned to the Tiger lineup. He has taken hold of the coveted number two spot in that lineup, which will give him plenty of chances to be productive.
Ezequiel Carrera of the Cleveland Indians is another potential replacement, particularly if you are looking for some speed. He has taken over as the new left fielder for the Indians, and should get a pretty long look the rest of the way. He doesn’t offer any power, but he has plus speed and can hit for average, so he could provide a spark in a pinch. His lack of power makes him more of a deep-league or AL-only option however.
While King Felix was writing his name into the history books, another Hernandez quietly made his return to the mound yesterday. Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona, made his return to the big leagues after serving his suspension for identity fraud that was discovered last year. Needless to say the rust on his game showed as he allowed 8 runs on 10 hits in 6 innings of work. He didn’t walk anyone, but he also didn’t record a strikeout either. He should be left alone except in the deepest of leagues, and even there you will probably want to wait another start or two before trusting him to deliver better results than this.
Ryan Dempster and Anibal Sanchez were two of the bigger names that switched leagues at the trade deadline. Both have struggled badly in their new homes and owners in AL-only leagues who broke the bank to bring them on board can’t be too happy with the results.
Sanchez has been terrible since arriving in Motown, and the Tigers may already be regretting dealing away top pitching prospect Jacob Turner for a two-month rental player who is being exposed by stronger AL lineups. Drew Smyly is getting back into shape down in Triple-A, and if Sanchez can’t get his act together soon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jim Leyland make a change at some point.
Dempster’s struggles were somewhat predictable as well after he landed in Arlington. A good example of how far he has slid in fantasy circles came yesterday in Todd’s latest Roundtable over at KFFL. A bunch of us were asked to choose between various pairs of players. One choice was Dempster or Joe Blanton. Blanton was the overwhelming winner of that matchup, as no one has much faith that Dempster will be able to entirely overcome his new surroundings. If you own either of these two in an AL-Only league, all you can do is hold on and hope for better results. Anywhere else, and you may want to explore other options.