Matt Harrison strikes.

v\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
o\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
w\:* {behavior:url(#default#VML);}
.shape {behavior:url(#default#VML);}

Want some
numbers?  Here’s some that a standard box
score won’t reveal:

 

Jeremy
Guthrie started the game off by retiring Ian Kinsler and David Murphy on
flyouts to center. 

 

But it took
him 21 pitches to do so.  That proved to
be huge.

 

Guthrie
would blank Texas in that first inning, but Kinsler, Murphy, Michael Young,
Andruw Jones, and Hank Blalock made him throw to the plate 37 times.  The tradeoff for that zero in the line score
in the first was an end to the Baltimore ace’s night after 101 pitches over
five innings and an opportunity to get to the soft underbelly of the Orioles
bullpen.  Matt Albers came into the game with
a 5.19 ERA and opponents’ average of .371, and to suggest that’s a pitcher you’d
rather face than Guthrie is something my four-year-old can understand.

 

Flip side: Matt
Harrison, not looking particularly sharp in the first two innings (50 pitches
and a 4-0 Baltimore
lead), found his command and a better rhythm in the third (“I slowed down my
delivery, but not the tempo.  I wasn’t
trying to change my stuff, just my demeanor”), and retired Baltimore in order on 13 pitches.  It was his first 1-2-3 inning of the
season. 

 

In the
fourth, he repeated, on just nine pitches. 

 

The fifth,
the same again, on 10 pitches. 

 

In the
sixth, having watched his club turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead
against Albers, Harrison once again went three up, three down – on nine
pitches.

 

While it
took Guthrie 37 pitches to get through a scoreless first, Harrison
faced the minimum in the third through the sixth, needing just 41 pitches.  It was the difference in the game.

 

Actually,
if you dial back to the second inning, after the walk-double-lineout-single-single
sequence that the six-through-one hitters slapped on Harrison,
in hindsight we might assess that a transformation took hold.  Baltimore’s most threatening hitters, Adam
Jones and Nick Markakis (both of whom had singled the previous inning) were coming
up with a 4-0 lead, one out, and the fleet Brian Roberts on first.  The odds of the three-run inning getting even
worse were pretty good.

 

But Harrison retired both Jones (on a 9-6 fielder’s choice) and
Markakis to stop the bleeding.  Three
pitches to each.  Five strikes (including
strike one to both) and one ball.

 

Then came the
perfect third through sixth.  Breaking Harrison’s work down even further, he started those 12
hitters off with strikes eight times (including all six Orioles in the third
and fourth, making it eight straight hitters to whom he threw strike one).  T.R. Sullivan noted over the weekend that the
league was hitting .440 against Harrison when
he started 1-0 in the count. 

 

Strike one does
so much good.  The sabermetrics will bear
that out.  And the camp that buys into
momentum, into feel, into clutch, will tell you that getting ahead on the first
pitch can turn a mediocre pitcher into an effective one. 

 

Even in the
midst of one game, as with Harrison last
night.  Strike one and a positive change
in tempo and demeanor: a baseball chicken and egg.

 

Sullivan
also pointed out that opponents were hitting .381 against Harrison
in two-out situations before last night, when they put together a harmless 1
for 8.

 

Give Harrison a DVD of innings three through six, not as a
keepsake, but as a manual.

 

By the way,
Texas pitchers
faced 36 hitters last night.  One of them
walked.  More of that, please.

 

I did a
little game-by-game research: Rangers pitchers have an ERA of 4.75 in “shutdown
innings.”  Would the sabermetrics crowd
suggest that that’s a decent-looking split, considering the overall team ERA is
5.99?  And would the other camp see that
4.75 mark as a disappointment, a momentum-killer?  I sure would like to see that number come way
down.

 

On April 7,
2007, I wrote: “On the spectrum of basesliders, you and I and everyone else who
has ever played the game at any level sits between Dean Palmer and Michael
Young.”

 

Taylor
Teagarden is a lot closer to Young than Palmer. 
Money slide at the plate on Murphy’s pivotal sixth-inning single last night.

 

Love watching
Teagarden call a game, too.  Love every
aspect of his defensive game, and on nights when he adds a couple hits, even if
it doesn’t include a huge game-tying single, you can’t ask for more.  This is not to overlook the strides that
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has made this season, but Teagarden is a rookie who makes
his pitching staff better.

 

Pretty sure
today is when we should learn the fate of Josh Rupe: traded, claimed by another
club off the waiver wire, or outrighted to the farm after clearing waivers.

 

Despite a
couple mentions by the national media to the contrary, the Rangers are
apparently not interested in righthander Pedro Martinez. 

 

Righthander
Luis Vizcaino, whom the Cubs designated for assignment on Thursday?  Reportedly some interest there, but only if
he clears waivers and would accept an Oklahoma
City contract.

 

Hickory righthander Wilfredo Boscan’s trip
to the seven-day disabled list was prompted by some sensitivity in the ribcage/oblique
area of his right side.  Much better news
than if it were an arm issue.  Boscan was
the number 12 player on Friday’s
Baseball
America
Hot Sheet.  Frisco lefthander Kasey Kiker, the Texas
League Pitcher of the Week, was number 10.

 

It’s early,
of course, but righthander Neftali Feliz has run into the worst command issues
of his career.  In 14.2 Oklahoma City innings, he’s issued 14 walks and
averaged 22.4 pitches per inning. 

 

Tap the
brakes on any thought that he’s going to be up here soon.  Derek Holland was ready, Feliz is not.  And that’s OK.  Feliz is the youngest player in the 16-team
Pacific Coast League.  He’s not
overmatched (.283 opponents’ average, 14 strikeouts, positive G/F, no home runs
allowed), but he’s got more work to do than just refining his breaking ball, fielding
the position, and holding runners better. 
AAA lineups may not all be more talented than AA lineups, but they’re
smarter, and that’s good for Feliz’s development.

 

The Rangers
released first baseman-outfielder Scott Thorman from Oklahoma City.  He hit .188/.297/.406 in 32 at-bats.

 

Philadelphia signed infielder David Newhan as a player-coach for AAA Lehigh
Valley.

 

The White
Sox released first baseman Ben Broussard, who hit .130/.222/.130 (3 for 23) in
seven games for AAA Charlotte.

 

Righthander
Kendy Batista has a 9.00 ERA in two starts and two relief appearances for High
A Inland Empire in the Dodgers system.

 

Milwaukee signed catcher Patrick Arlis.

 

The
Winnipeg Goldeyes of the independent Northern League signed lefthander Daniel
Haigwood.

 

Speaking of
former Texas and Boston farmhands, more bloggy
golden gold today from RedHawks reliever Beau Vaughan
.  Don’t miss anything Vaughan writes.  Ever. 
Instant mood boost.

 

I’m usually
not one to look ahead too far, but Kevin Millwood’s start tonight against Brett
Anderson has me a little less intrigued than Sunday night’s matchup, on
national television, between Millwood and John Danks.

 

And I’ve
gotta say, I’m looking forward to seeing Matt Harrison-Jose Contreras on
Saturday night, eager to see if we get the Harrison that ran out of the dugout
in the middle of third inning last night with an idea on how to attack hitters
differently from how he did in the first two frames, an idea that he executed like
a pitcher you sure would like to be able to depend on a bit going forward.

 

 

You can read more from Jamey
Newberg
at www.NewbergReport.com.

 

1 Comment

Thanks for the always insightful statistical analysis combined with such a great “feel” for the game. Look forward to reading your blog daily.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 63 other followers

%d bloggers like this: