One Night Only: Hot Game Previews for April 12th

Today’s games prove what has long been suspected: you can have your druthers and eat them, too.

Oakland at Chicago Americans | 8:10pm ET
Starting Pitchers
Athletics: Trevor Cahill
194.7 IP, 5.50 K/9, 3.10 BB/9, 4.43 FIP, 108 FIP- (ZiPS)

White Sox: Edwin Jackson
205.7 IP, 7.18 K/9, 3.50 BB/9, 4.42 FIP, 108 FIP- (ZiPS)

Regarding Trevor Cahill, Part I
A thing that, like, 55-year-old women say when they see something and are seriously impressed by it, is they say, “I watched it breathlessly.”

Regardless of your age and/or gender, breathlessness was the only reasonable reaction to the two-seam fastball Cahill was throwing in his last appearance at Toronto — a game during which he posted this line: 8.0 IP, 27 TBF, 7 K, 0 BB, 11 GB on 20 batted balls (55.0%).

Though the two-seamer got just two whiffs of the 54 Cahill threw, it was a great joy to watch. Per Texas Leaguers, the pitch averaged close to 11 inches of armside run and almost zero “rise” against Toronto — relative to league averages of 9.36 and 3.87 inches, respectively.

A brief inspection of Cahill’s use of the pitch in the chart below (against right-handed batters) reveals the righty’s main intent — mainly, to keep it low and outside:

More careful inspection reveals that, although few batters were swinging and missing at the two-seamer, it was being taken for a strike with some frequency. I count 12 two-seamers taken in or just off the strike zone in that chart above (something the PitchFx data supports) — from a total of 54 thrown. That’s 22.2%, whereas the league average for called strikes is about 16% for starters.

This isn’t surprising: Cahill’s two-seamer generally spends its entire path toward the plate outside of the strike zone. Located on the low-and-outside ninth of the zone, it becomes a pitch that’s almost useless to swing at, as the result will almost assuredly be a ground ball.

Hot Video of Trevor Cahill
You can see video from Cahill’s most recent start here. The two-seamer is featured at or near the following time-elapsed marks: 0:21, 0:27, and 0:52.

A Third and Final Thing About Trevor Cahill
FanGraphs’ own Chris Cwik is cwikly becoming the world’s leading authority on Trevor Cahill-related matters. He wrote about Cahill’s five-year, $30.5 million extension this morning.

Regarding Edwin Jackson
Reading this article by Dave Allen about Edwin Jackson’s last start (in which he struck out 13 of the 29 batters he faced), I learn three things, as follow:

1. Edwin Jackson has a minimal platoon split despite the absence of a real third pitch.

2. Generally speaking, he (i.e. Jackson) neutralizes lefties by throwing sliders down and inside to them.

3. That what follows is points No. 1 and 2 translated to Dave Allen’s native language: 10101111001010010110110100101010100100101101010010100100101, etc.

If I Had My Druthers
• Scientists would discover the great mystery behind Trevor Cahill’s two-seam fastball.
• Scientists would discover the great mystery behind Edwin Jackson’s approach to left-handers.
• Scientists would make sure that FanGraphs’ Dave Allen uses his powers for good and not evil.

Three Other Games
COL (Esmil Rogers) at NYN (Jonathon Niese) | 7:10pm ET
• Have you ever seen Esmil Rogers and Jhoulys Chacin in the same room?

KC (Jeff Francis) at MIN (Brian Duensing) | 8:10pm ET
• If my calculations are correct, the Royals have been one of the most interesting teams over the first week-plus of the season.

TOR (Ricky Romero) at SEA (Michael Pineda) | 10:10pm ET
• Making his season debut last week, Michael Pineda averaged 95.2 mph on his fastball and threw what I believe is frequently referred to as a “wipeout” slider.

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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If Cahill maintains a sub-2.0 vertical on his 2-seamer for the entire season, I think he will double his 2010 WAR. Simple as that. He had his 2-seamer diving around 1.50 last April as well – but then it slowly crept up while his 4-seamer slowly crept down, and by mid-season his fastballs were blurring together. Cahill’s “fatigue meter” will probably always be the vert differential between his FF and FT, at least during his live-arm years.