On the face of it, it’s not all that bad a line: 3-2, 4.28 ERA, BB 16, K 47, WHIP 1.34, opposing BA .240. The problem is, this isn’t just any pitcher’s line – it’s Jose Fernandez’ 2016 line so far. The ERA alone is about two and a half times his career number coming into this season, but the really telling stats are how many pitches he’s thrown and how few innings he’s lasted. He’s only pitched into the sixth once, I believe, and despite his high strikeout number, he’s having a lot of trouble putting away hitters when it counts. You only have to watch him struggle through innings he used to breeze through, catch the repeated expressions of frustration on his face after walking hitters in crucial situations, and feel the feeling in the stands that just because El Keed is taking the mound today, a win is nothing like the sure thing it was even after his return from TJ surgery last midseason.
It was a troubling orfseason, too – the rumors that he was going to be traded, that he was in Scrooge McLoria’s doghouse for any number of conflicting reasons (many to do with his agent, the monstrous and terrifying Scott Boras, who won’t consider team-advantageous contract extensions for his clients), the as-usually anonymous accusations that he was a prima donna his teammates diskliked. It may well be that something was going on but not much of it, beyond the quotidian loggerheads at which teams find themselves with Boras, really made sense.
Last night, the Feesh beat the Snakes 4-3 largely on the strength of the resurgent Iron Giant’s two run bomb orf Rubby De La Rosa, his ninth, deep into to the utility alley in dead center field, and his double and run scored two innings earlier. The Giant also made a terrific play on Yasmany Tomas in the sixth, taking his carom out of the rightfield corner on one bounce, wheeling around and gunning Tomas down at second on a blistered peg to Adeiny Hechavarria.
El Keed, meanwhile, gave up three runs on six hits, including a two run shot by Peralta, with two walks and seven strikeouts in five innings. He was pulled after five for Jose Urena after throwing 99 pitches, 60 for strikes. This has been typically what he’s done – had trouble locating his breaking stuff, especially, and running up his pitch count. Part of his short leash is solicitude for his reconstructed elbow, but part of it is also the premonition that the next time he comes out he’s going to have a debacle of an inning because of how often he has been falling behind in the count.
So, I have to wonder if new Feesh pitching coach Juan Nieves has been diddling around with El Keed’s delivery, or if Fernandez himself is being overly cautious with the strength of his pitches himself. He ackcherley pitched much better than this last season when he returned from the DL. Is he trying to adjust to a new, less strenuous move to the plate, especially with his breaking stuff? His strikeout numbers are still impressive, yet it’s his put-away pitch that he often can’t seem to find. He used to hit his spots, especially the corners, at will, but he can’t seem to do that as easily now.
A new wrinkle was added this past week with the ascendancy from Nawlins of pea-throwing Adam Conley, an aggressive, no-nonsense mound presence whose appearances have been dominating and who threw 7-2/3 no-hit innings against the Brooze. El Keed is a notorious competitor; you gotta wonder if Conley’s young-gun challenge to the Rainbow Warriors’ established ace will push El Keed to solve his issues – or, perhaps on the down side, to become more aggressive and even reckless himself to keep his status in the rotation intact.
From the Med cart: first baseman Justin Bour, who dislocated his left pinkie diving into second base on Tuesday night, went to Macondo-Jackson hospital to see a hand specialist today to see if he’ll need a stint on the DL. Stay tuned.
And now the big news: tonight while being interviewed by broadcaster Craig Minervini following the game, the Iron Giant was surrounded by three teammates wearing rubber masks – one a pig, one a monkey, and the third was – really – Jar Jar Binks! Obviously, that made my night.
Well, the Feesh are on a roll, anyway. They’ve now won 9 of 10 and are sniffing the Miracle Feelies ensconced ahead of them in third, 1.5 games up. Though I’m not quite ready to pronounce the team at escape velocity, the gossamer reality waves of the strange attractor are losing their grip as the Feesh pull away: