Thursday, May 28, 2009

O's-Tigers, Another Rookie Pitcher Wins In Debut

Today I've been interviewed by Liz Farmer of the Daily Record, and Nestor Aparicio of WNST 1570 AM radio... about A nice end to a crazy day is watching David Hernandez make his major league debut for the O's.

I'll let Dave Cameron of FanGraphs take care of the intro, but also note that Chris Ray (9.39 ERA) was sent down to the minors today:
"As a travel Thursday, there aren’t a ton of major league games on the schedule for tonight. However, there is one that should be worth watching, and it will take place in Baltimore, where the Tigers are in town to take on the Orioles. Making his major league debut, David Hernandez will be starting for the O’s.

Hernandez is one of those divisive prospects who puts up numbers that dwarf his physical abilities. His numbers, especially the strikeout rates, are ridiculous. In 2007, he posted a 10.4 K/9 in High-A ball. Last year, he put up a 10.6 K/9 in Double-A. This year, he’s up to 12.46 K/9 in Triple-A. He’s consistently been at the top of the league leaderboards in strikeouts at every rung of the ladder.

However, the reaction from scouts has been relatively mild. He was a 16th round pick in 2005, and even with his minor league dominance, Baseball America left him out of the Orioles Top 10 prospects over the winter. The concerns have mostly centered around questionable command of a four seam fastball and a lack of a third pitch. His slider is definitely an out pitch, and it’s the reason for his crazy strikeout rate, but heavy reliance on a breaking ball will get scouts talking bullpen very quickly.

In some ways, the Hernandez discussions are similar to the ones that surrounded Yusmeiro Petit as he rose through the minor leagues. He also ran up big numbers with stuff that didn’t match it, and created a divide between the statistical and scouting communities. The jury may still be out on Petit to some degree, but clearly, the scouts were more correct about his abilities than the numbers were. However, a good chunk of Petit’s dominance came in the low minors, and his strikeout rates decrease as he faced harder competition. Hernandez’s numbers have done the exact opposite.

It’s worth noting that Hernandez has significantly better velocity than Petit as well, sitting 90-93 on a regular basis. He’s not a low velocity guy who is just tricking minor leaguers with junk. He’s got a major league fastball and a knockout slider. He’s not John Stephens.

I’m really looking forward to seeing Hernandez pitch against big leaguers, and the Pitch F/x data should be pretty fun to look at as well. If you’re looking for some entertaining baseball tonight, check out the O’s-Tigers, and see what side of the Hernandez fence you come down on."

And the top four O's pitching prospects are still in the minors. Things should be looking up.

Top 1:

  • Not a great start, as Hernandez walks Clete Thomas.
  • Placido Polanco flies out to center.
  • Hit-and-run bouncer by Magglio Ordonez goes into right for a single to put runners on the corners.
  • 95 mph fastball just off the outside corner gets Miguel Cabrera swinging. Very nice pitch.
  • Hernandez throws his second nice change-up for a strike - this one to Curtis Granderson. Unfortunately he losses Grandy on his second walk.
  • Brandon Inge hits a long line-drive to left, but Reimold makes the catch to leave the bases loaded.
Bottom 1:
  • Brian Roberts lines a single into right-field.
  • Adam Jones hits a long flyball - just foul - down the left-field line. Then he gets his bat broken and grounds into a double play.
  • Curveball on the outside corner gets Nick Markakis looking. Nick looks like he's not seeing the ball very well at the plate right now. Seems like he's behind in the count a lot, and his walks are down.
Top 2:
  • Hernandez blows three straight fastballs by Jeff Larish to strike him out.
  • Gerald Laird grounds out to third.
  • Ramon Santiago grounds out to first. Hernandez's fastball explodes out of his hand, and he's shown a decent change. Exciting times at the yard.
Bottom 2:
  • Aubrey Huff draws a lead-off walk.
  • Melvin Mora grounds into a double play.
  • Second game in a row Luke Scott hits a home run to center-field in his first at bat. This one was a solo shot, and it gives the O's a 1-0 lead.
  • Nolan Reimold chases a slider for the K.
Top 3:
  • Thomas pops out to second.
  • Polanco flies out to right-field.
  • Ordonez flies out to center. Looks like Hernandez has settled down a little.
Bottom 3:
  • Cesar Izturis singles to left. No double play, please.
  • Roberts flies out to short left-field.
  • Jones strikes out swinging at a slider low out of the zone.

Top 4:

  • Cabrera grounds out to short.
  • Granderson with a broken bat bloop into left for a single.
  • Inge grounds to third, with Mora starting the inning-ending double play. Nice reversal there, as Inge started both of Detroit's.
Bottom 4:
  • Markakis grounds out to second.
  • Huff gets hit on the leg with an errant breaking-ball. Thankfully he had his shin-guard on.
  • Broken play, as Huff takes off and Mora takes a pitch. Obviously Aubrey is dead meat, and gets tagged out attempting to get back to first.
  • Mora lines a single up the middle.
  • Scott flies out to deep right.
Top 5:
  • Larish lines a double into right-field after just checking his swing on a nice slider.
  • Laird walks on a pitch that was almost certainly in the strike-zone.
  • Santiago drops a two-strike bunt down, but it comes right back to Hernandez who gets the force at third.
  • Thomas singles up the middle to tie the game. Jones threw to third in time to get Santiago, but Mora couldn't handle it.
  • Polanco gets jammed and pops out to Mora in foul territory.
  • Gary Thorne has mixed up sliders and fastballs at least five times already in this game - it's mildly irritating.
  • Ordonez flies out to center to end the inning.
Bottom 5:
  • Nolan Reimold deep and gone to left-field. Hanging slider in the middle of the plate and he crushed it. His fifth home run of the year gives the O's back the lead.
  • Zaun flies out to center.
  • Izturis lines a single just in front of a sliding Granderson in center.
  • Roberts lines a single to right-center.
  • Jones flies out to right.
  • Markakis flies out to left.
Top 6:
  • Rising fastball at the shoulders gets Cabrera swinging.
  • Granderson pulls a single through the right side. He steals second and moves to third as Roberts can't handle the bounce on the throw.
  • Inge walks.
  • Larish pops out to Mora.
  • That's it for David Hernandez. With runners on the corners and two outs Dave Trembley will go to Matt Albers.
  • Laird walks to load the bases.
  • Fastball on the inside corner gets Santiago looking. That leaves the bases loaded, and keeps Hernandez in line for a win.
Bottom 6:
  • Huff lines a double into right-center.
  • Mora singles to right. Ordonez fakes Huff out that he was going to make the catch, but Huff is still able to just make it to third despite returning to the bag at second.
  • Scott flies out to left, but it's too shallow to score Huff.
  • Reimold grounds to third, with Inge making a sliding stop and starting his third double play of the game. O's get runners on but fail to score again.

Top 7:

  • Thomas walks on five pitches.
  • Polanco lays down a sac bunt to move Thomas to second.
  • Magglio grounds out to first.
  • Jim Johnson will come in from the pen to face Cabrera.
  • Miggy pops the first pitch up to Roberts to end the inning.
Bottom 7:
  • Zaun grounds to second.
  • Izturis flies out to left.
  • Roberts flies out to deep left-center.
Top 8:
  • Granderson can't check his swing on a high fastball.
  • Inge grounds to third, but Mora throws the ball away. Luckily it stayed nearby and kept Inge at first.
  • Larish draws a walk.
  • Laird grounds to third, with Mora handling the tricky hop and starting the inning-ending double play. All kinds of baserunners getting erased today.
Bottom 8:
  • Jones singles through the left side.
  • Markakis flies out to center.
  • Huff draws a walk.
  • Mora stikes out looking.
  • Luke Scott does it again. A three-run bomb into the bullpen in left-center extends the O's lead to 5-1.
  • Reimold pops out to end the inning.
Top 9:
  • Not a save situation, but George Sherrill still coming in.
  • Easy 1-2-3 inning.
Solid debut from David Hernandez (5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 3 K). He showed better stuff than I was expecting, but the control wasn't particularly good. Hernandez did his job though, and the bullpen (3.3 hitless innings) and the offense (Reimold hit a HR, and Scott hit two and drove in four) backed him up. The O's have won 6 of 7 and moved their season mark to 22-26 (a 74 win pace). The rotation now has someone to watch every day, with Guthrie, Hill, Bergesen, Berken, and Hernandez all possibly being pieces for the future (unlike the Eaton's of the world).

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