A Great Day

I generally try not to write about the Mariners too much here, as I figure if you wanted to read my ruminations on Seattle’s team, you’d just go over to USSM. But, last week, Felix Hernandez‘s start against the Blue Jays sent me down a road that I found interesting, so hopefully you’ll forgive a brief Mariner-related post here.

On Thursday, Felix had some of the best stuff he’s ever had, including these two ridiculous “change-ups” (thrown at 91 MPH apiece) which should probably be outlawed in the interest of fairness. Even though the Blue Jays managed to get four runs off of him, thanks to a Vernon Wells home run, he was a dominating force for eight strong innings. On the same night that he set his season high in strikeouts with 11, he also ran a 15-2 groundball rate.

Generally, groundballs and strikeouts are substitutes for one another. Hitters tend to swing through pitches up in the zone more often, so there’s a trade off between K and GB. When you can rack up both in the same game, odds are pretty good that you’re going to win, because the opponents just aren’t going to be able to string together any kind of rally.

So, I asked David to query the game logs over the last eights years to find the performances where a starter racked up the most combined GB+K in the same game. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most impressive performance came from Brandon Webb. On September 21st, 2005, he faced 28 batters – 26 of them either pounded the ball into the ground or struck out. In fact, that start is one of only three games since 2002 where the starter got a grounder or a strikeout from 90 percent of the batters he faced.

The other two performances of that quality? Webb, again, on May 20, 2006… and Zach Day. Not the name I was expecting either. But on May 1st, 2003, he shutout the Brewers by getting a staggering 23 groundballs, while also mixing in five strikeouts. He faced 31 batters, and got a combined 28 grounders and strikeouts.

Injuries derailed Day’s career, so he’s not going to be well remembered by future generations, but for one day at least, he was a force to be reckoned with.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

14 Responses to “A Great Day”

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  1. Jacob Jackson says:

    I routinely enjoy reading your work. I am continually amazed that this site is free.

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  2. HAK says:


    We have no problems with Mariners-related content when it is interesting like this piece.

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  3. lincolndude says:

    Agreed. Nice article.

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  4. Teej says:

    While FELIX! was looking better than he’s ever looked, Vernon Wells drove in four runs. Baseball’s a funny game.

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  5. Matt B. says:

    Can’t wait to see that Brandon Webb sinker bearing in righties again!

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  6. Mitchell says:

    Zach Day… haven’t heard that name in a while.

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  7. joe says:

    I bet that “changeup” is another case of a splitter being misplaced, why not just get rid of the separation and just class it as one pitch?

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    • Joof says:

      Felix called it his change up though, so talk to him about it.

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      • joser says:

        Yep. From the AP report:

        Hernandez credited an on-form changeup for his high strikeout total.

        “The strikeouts, everything was changeups,” Hernandez said. “It was unbelievable today. First time I’ve had a changeup like this.”

        I’m not sure anybody knows what to call it, but when it’s working, whatever it is, it really works.

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  8. YC says:

    I still think Felix’s best has yet to come. The absolute best game I’ve ever seen Felix pitching still remains Opening Day 2007, where he just manhandled the A’s. 8.0 IP, 12 Strikeouts, 2 Walks, 13 Ground Balls, 1 Line Drive. For god’s sake, that day Felix was throwing 98mph SINKERS, with absolutely awesome command. I mean what kind of inhuman monster does that? If Felix can combine that kind of velocity with the great fastball command that he has thus shown in 2009, I don’t think vintage Pedro-esque performances are impossible from him. He is still 23… Scary.

    All hail the King!

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  9. Deacon Drake says:

    Zach Day and John Patterson (check out his ’05) never making it back is one of the reasons the Nationals are in the mess they are in. Both are long forgotten, but still just 31.

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  10. Steve says:

    yeah, i don’t think writing about King Felix should count towards your “mariners” quota.

    the dude is worth talking about. a lot.

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  11. Kevin S. says:

    How does it line up against the number Nolasco’s currently doing on the Braves? 15:1 K/BB, five of six batted ball outs on the ground, another ground ball that Hanley booted, and only four hits allowed. Even if all four hits were LD or FB (I’m too lazy to check), that’s a 55% GB rate, and (at least) twenty-one plate appearances resulting in either a K or a GB. In seven innings.

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