Today, the 19th of September, finds our proud site in a state of desolation. With the Chief Daily Noter still unaccountably absent — detained, as rumor has it, at some maison mal famée in the heart of Gaul — the Notes have fallen into the calloused barbarian hands of the Notgraphs staff. Like coarse-bearded Vandals they mutter and slouch amid the moldering ruins: the alabaster colonnades of Cistulli’s sortable tables, now cracked and leaning; the exquisite mosaics of his NERD scores, now reduced to a many-hued rubble; the pearlescent gleam of his Corey Kluber metaphors, strewn about like offal and soiled by brutish feet. By sundown tomorrow even these — along with what little else remains of Western civilization — will have been mangled beyond recognition, and the heathens will run orgiastic riot over what once was a temple of sober reason.
Actually now there is an editor informing me that Cistulli will be back on Monday, and that you all, being no-nonsense, numbers-driven sorts of people, would really prefer that I just shut my cake hole, and so without further ado I give you the
Table of Contents
Scanning today’s National League schedule in your usual desultory manner, you might find it wanting in intrigue. You would be wrong. It has intrigue in spades, most of it located in the city of Washington, and most of it due to the fact that the man impersonating Henderson Alvarez is on the verge of being unmasked.
You might remember that Alvarez last year was not so good. You might, in the pitiable event that you are a Blue Jays fan, even recall that he gave up a fair number of home runs: 29, to be exact, good (that is, bad) for a HR/FB ratio of 18.1%, which was second-worst in baseball. This year he is a Marlin, and he is still not so good, although he’s not so bad, either. Really, he has been about average — average, that is, with one colossal and preposterous exception. Namely: Alvarez’s total HR allowed for 2013 is 1.
That’s right: Henderson Alvarez has thrown 81 innings and faced 336 batters, and, with the exception of Freddie Freeman, kept every single one of them in the yard. That gives him an HR/FB of 1.6%. How many starting pitchers, over at least as many innings, in recorded history, have managed a lower ratio? Zero. Is there anyone less likely than Henderson Alvarez to keep this act up and set the record? Probably, but you’d have to think for a minute, and I’m guessing you won’t.
This fact alone provides ample grounds for suspicion. But there’s more. You probably do not recall, even if you are a Blue Jays fan, that Henderson Alvarez prior to this season had a grand total of 1 plate appearance, resulting in a strikeout. This year, he has 28 plate appearances, and is batting .348/.333/.565. Earlier this month, he cranked a three-run no-doubter off Travis Wood (no slouch at the plate himself) that ended up winning the game for Miami. His wRC+ is 141. How many pitchers, over at least as many PAs, have managed a higher number? Well, it’s greater than zero, but not by a whole lot. There have been only three this millennium: Brooks Kieschnick in 2003 (148), Micah Owings in 2007 (152), and of course the legendary Dontrelle Willis in 2011 (183). Is there anyone less likely than Henderson Alvarez to keep this act up and join that list? Yes, and his name is Tommy Hanson, but there’s no need to bring him into this.
Everything about Henderson Alvarez suggests that both of these streaks are going to end, and quite possibly tonight. We are talking about a pitcher who allowed 29 home runs last year. We are talking about a hitter with the following peripherals: 0 BB%, 35.7 K%, .538 BABIP. We are also talking about Henderson Alvarez. To say that he might be due for some regression would be, to understatements, approximately what Henderson Alvarez would be to right-handed pitchers from Carabobo, Venezuela, were it not for Felix Hernandez. That was a poor analogy, but you get the point.
But all of this depends on a precarious assumption: the assumption that we are, in fact, talking about Henderson Alvarez at all. Does it not at some point become more parsimonious, reader, to assume that the man wearing #37 in Miami is an impostor — a conspirator, that is, in some weird and unholy body-switching plot? Who might it be, you ask?
One suspect might be Alvarez’s putative opponent on this very evening, Stephen Strasburg, whose once-mighty bat has gone curiously missing this season. But surely such a crafty schemer as this would not risk exposure by, in effect, double-booking himself.1
No, there is a much likelier candidate. I speak of a man who also happens to be a Venezuelan; a man with proven skills in home run prevention, and whose offense has won him near-legendary renown. I speak of a man who played in Miami himself, as recently as last season; yet a man whom neither you, nor I, has seen since. Finally, I speak of a man who has wrestled demons: a man with the incentive to bend the rules, nay, to play God, in a ghastly effort to claw his way back into baseball’s inner sanctum. I speak, of course, of Carlos Zambrano. Think about it.
1 BREAKING UPDATE: MORE INTRIGUE. Strasburg SCRATCHED from his start under mysterious and no doubt unseemly circumstances. What part does he play in this dangerous game? All will be revealed.
St. Louis at Colorado | 15:10 ET
Today’s MLB.TV Free Game pits Michael Wacha against Roy Oswalt. Oswalt was striking out high school batsmen when Wacha was, in all likelihood, still in diapers. Oswalt was written off because of his slight stature; Wacha is 6’6″. Wacha has had success this season (3-1, 2.81 ERA), while Oswalt has experienced a rather uncomfortable lack thereof (0-6, 7.71). Yet both men have names that require practice to pronounce. Both men, according to report, have gonads forged of brass. And if you feel confident picking Wacha this afternoon, that young darling of fortune, I would hasten you to a nearby statistics viewing kiosk that you might regard Oswalt’s peripherals. To wit: 10.52 K/9, 1.75 BB/9, 2.31 FIP, .463 BABIP. (Wacha’s, for comparison: 8.59 K/9, 2.98 BB/9, 3.15 FIP, .257 BABIP.)
I will not be providing the NERD scores, for the reason that I don’t know how, and also for the just-thought-up reason that I reject them and everything that they stand for. You see, the object of NERD scores is to focus attention on the extraordinary; while at Notgraphs, we believe that everything and everyone is extraordinary, even if it is Jason Marquis and he has been eliminated from contention for weeks and nobody even remembered he was pitching for San Diego or still alive. At Notgraphs, we turn up our noses at such things as “priorities” and “efficiency.” So, in lieu of the usual chauvinistic exercise, I give you: One Extraordinary Thing about each of today’s starting pitchers.
|12:35||SDG||Ian Kennedy||HBP vs. R||10||Most among qualified pitchers|
|PIT||Gerrit Cole||FBv||96.1||Highest among pitchers with >100 IP|
|1:08||SEA||James Paxton||ERA||0.75||Lowest among starters with >10 IP|
|DET||Doug Fister||GB/FB vs. R||3.23||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|1:10||SFO||Madison Bumgarner||K/BB vs. L||9.33||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|NYM||Jon Niese||NJ/C*||1.00||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|2:10||CHC||Jake Arrieta||BB/9||5.49||Highest among starters with >60 IP|
|MIL||Kyle Lohse||BB/9 vs. R||1.01||2nd-lowest among qualified pitchers|
|3:10||STL||Michael Wacha||FIP as Reliever||1.27||Lowest among pitchers with >10 IP|
|COL||Roy Oswalt||ERA-FIP||5.40||Highest among pitchers with >10 IP|
|3:40||LAD||Ricky Nolasco||High-leverage ERA||22.18||Highest among pitchers with >9 high-leverage IP|
|ARI||Wade Miley||IFFB%||3.4%||Lowest among qualified pitchers|
|7:05||HOU||Dallas Keuchel||BABIP||.342||Highest among pitchers with >140 IP|
|CLE||Ubaldo Jimenez||FIP, last 30 days||1.59||Lowest among qualified pitchers|
|7:05||MIA||Henderson Alvarez||HR/FB||1.6%||Lowest among qualified pitchers|
|WAS||Gio Gonzalez||BB vs. R||66||Most among qualified pitchers|
|7:07||NYY||Hiroki Kuroda||ERA, last 30 days||7.06||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|TOR||Todd Redmond||FB% vs. L||56.3%||Highest among starters with >60 IP|
|7:10||BAL||Chris Tillman||FA-Z||11.3||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|BOS||John Lackey||FC-X||3.6||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|7:10||TEX||Yu Darvish||K/9||11.9||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|TAM||Matt Moore||BB/9 vs. R||4.9||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|10:05||MIN||Kevin Correia||SL-Z||4.7||Highest among qualified pitchers|
|OAK||Dan Straily||Z-Contact%, Curveball||100%||Highest among all pitchers|
* Nose jobs per career.
My, look at all the intrigue here! Will Straily manage to sneak a curve past someone in the zone — for the first time all season? Will Miley pop someone up — for only the sixth time?? Will Oswalt somehow find a way to pitch even better, and fare even worse, than he has been pitching and faring?!? After allowing one earned run in his first start and none in his second, will Paxton find a way to allow negative runs??!? Hey Yu! Sit your Bum down, crack a Cole one, and get ready for a lot Moore baseball action: it’s September in America.