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We Are All Rowing the Boat of Fate: Next Series Pitchers Preview: Seattle Mariners

Well, after dropping two games that they easily could (and certainly in the case of the Saturday's game, if not Friday's as well, should) have have won, the Jays did manage to salvage the last game of the series behind a strong performance from Brett Cecil.  We leave the Centre tonight, in favor of a West Coast swing starting in Seattle (in fact, many of the folks from this site, including Mr. Dakers will be in attendance).  As these games take place on the West Coast, those of us on Eastern Daylight Time will be heading into work bleary-eyed this week.  

Tonight's game begins at 10 pm Eastern and features Ricky Romero starting against Felix Hernandez.  At the same time tomorrow night, Marc Rzepczyinski gets the nod for the Jays and Jarrod Washburn will be pitching for the Mariners.  Finally, Doc gets the start in the getaway game on Wednesday afternoon (4 pm Eastern) against youngster Ryan Rowland-Smith.

27 July

Felix Hernandez (11-3, 2.45, 1.110 WHIP)

It is easy to forget that Felix Hernandez is still just 23 years old because the kid has already logged over 800 major league innings since his debut back in 2005.  Hernandez is one of those pitchers that I find myself trying to watch all of his starts because he combines an ability to miss bats with an ability to get grounders that makes games breeze by.  The hard-throwing righty has been absolutely sensational this season, striking out 137 (9.2 K/9) and walking just 38 (2.6 BB/9) over 139 2/3 innings.  An extreme-groundballer since he came into the League, Hernandez's groundball-rates have been down a little the past two seasons, but at 51.2%, he is still doing an excellent job keeping the ball out of the air and in the park (0.54 HR/9, helped by a 7.0% HR/flyball-rate which should go up a bit, but is not impossibly low).  KingFelix has been somewhat lucky this season (it is hard not to have some luck when your ERA is 2.45), as opponent BABIP is just .288, which is a bit lower than average, and his strand-rate is a very high (even for his skill-level) 78%.  Nonetheless, at just 23 years old, Hernandez has been Cy Young-calibre this season, sporting an FIP of just 2.85 and ranking sixth in the American League in innings pitched.

So far this season, Hernandez has logged PQS-scores of 5, 3, 4, 5, 5, 3, 0, 5, 1, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 and 5.  Yep, he's PQSed a 5 in each of his last six starts (6-0, 45 1/3 IP, 47 K, 9 BB, 31 H, 1.79 ERA).  He's awesome and he's on a hot streak.  We could be in trouble in this one.  Additionally, Hernandez has given up three runs in a start just once since a rough outing on 19 May.  RickyRo will have to be at his best tonight.

Lefties (.238 / .298 / .354; 3.08 K/BB) have had a marked advantage against Hernandez, though that is based more on his utter dominance of righties (.211 / .264 / .256; 4.50 K/BB) than in some difficulty that he has against them.  Righthanded batters have seven extra-base hits (261 plate appearances) against him this season.  Looking only at his splits against lefties, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that Hernandez was a southpaw.  No, he's just awesome.

Hernandez brings heat.  His bread-and-butter is a two-seamer that he throws in the mid-to-upper-90's.  He mixes his change in a healthy amount and also throws a nice, tight slider.  Depending on situation, he'll show the curve on the outside part of the plate, but his fastball is really his best pitch.

28 July

Jarrod Washburn (8-6, 2.71, 1.063 WHIP)

If you saw "Jarrod Washburn" and expected more pedestrian numbers, I'm sure you're not alone.  Although Washburn has managed to be a competent, if not excellent, pitcher throughout his career, he has never quite "put it together" (read: combined a strong performance with excellent luck) quite so well as in 2009.  Over 19 starts, the veteran has logged 126 innings and struck out 78 (5.9 K/9) and walked 30 (2.3 BB/9).  In doing so, Washburn has posted his best strikeout-rate since 2002 and the best walk-rate of his career.  So there is certainly something of skill in Washburn's fine season so far, however, he has also been on the receiving end of some good luck as well (.247 BABIP, 79% strand-rate and 7.5% HR/fly).  Seattle has improved their defense this season (particularly in the outfield), but not that much.  So what we're seeing with Washburn is that he has actually elevated his performance some, but he certainly isn't as good as he looks at first glance.

Over his 19 starts, Washburn has PQSed 4, 5, 5, 0, 5, 5, 3, 3, 5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 5, 3, 4, 3, 3 and 3.  He hasn't had many clunkers this season, though that is partially thanks to excellent luck on balls-in-play (which helps him score points to reach six innings and suppress hits).

Opposing teams have stacked their lineups with righties this season, and with good cause.  The southpaw has kept lefties very much at bay (.172 / .213 / .273; 7.00 K/BB), though thanks in part to a .209 BABIP, while righties, whose .259 BABP is also quite low, have enjoyed a bit more success (.243 / .298 / .365; 1.72 K/BB).

Washburn is one of those pitchers with a wide arsenal, throwing a four-seamer in the upper-80's to low-90's that he uses to set up his off-speed and breaking pitches.  He throws a change to righties.  He throws two kinds of sliders (a tight, hard one and a looser, slower one), as well as a big, slow curveball.

29 July

Ryan Rowland-Smith (0-1, 3.48, 1.355 WHIP)

The Aussie has not pitched much in the majors this season (just two starts and 10 1/3 innings), but since coming up to MLB in 2007, he has accumulated about a full season's worth of stats (167 1/3), splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen.  Across those three seasons, Rowland-Smith has struck out 122 (6.6 K/9) and walked 68 (3.7 BB/9).  His career FIP of 4.48 is nothing to write home about so hopefully the Jays can hit him hard.

In the majors, Rowland-Smith has exhibited strong reverse platoon splits, having a great deal of success against righties (.235 / .305 / .387; 1.71 K/BB), while lefties have hit him much better (.293 / .369 / .460; 1.92 K/BB).  Those numbers are not in line with his minor-league career and are drastically affected by his .257 BABIP vs. righties and .340 BABIP vs. lefties.  As luck evens out, Rowland-Smith's splits should be more consistent with his performance in the minors.

The lefty is a classic four-pitch pitcher, who throws a fastball in the upper-80's and mixes a pretty effective change in with regularity against righties.  He throws a big, slow curve to both lefties and righties and uses the slider mostly to get lefties to chase off the plate.