Drew Fairservice: April 2010 Archives

Discount the Nationals bullpen as horrible and ineffective if you will, but this is a team on the move. But growth doesn't come without a price, and tonight the price is SHRIMP.

Brian Bruney walked two in the home half of the tenth inning in frozen Chicago, with the important free passes issued to a betoqued Aramis Ramirez with the bases loaded. 2010 is now, officially, under way. What you came for:



It should be noted that scoring this video with the "Go Cubs Go" theme would send me such on a seafood eating frenzy, your rabbi might faint.

clooney!.jpegEverybody knows relievers are weird dudes. They spend inordinate amounts of time hanging out, entertaining themselves and creating deviant ways to offend everyone outside their hermetic community. Their job security is nil, their roles and responsibilities change with the weather. Guys are great one week, awful the next. The bullpens of the world overflow of miscreants, castoffs, jagoffs, and miscastreants.

To be thought of as "the best reliever in baseball" doesn't really mean too much unless you have the fancy saves to lean on. It doesn't matter who does the high leverage heavy lifting, whoever shakes the catcher's hand at the end of the game gets the credit. Which is a shame; because Matt Thornton has only 9 career saves and is the best reliever in baseball.

Playing second fiddle to Big Bobby Jenks on the second favorite team in America's Second City is far from a glamorous job. I'd hazard a guess that many of you reading this sentence right now have, at best, a hazy understanding of who Matt Thornton might be. I'll let Jeremy Greenhouse of The Hardball Times introduce the powerful lefty:

A common mistake made by baseball fans is to call a pitcher unhittable when that pitcher is not Matt Thornton. His stuff is the best in baseball, and today, he demonstrated why his fastball is truly unhittable.

While Greenhouse raved about Thornton just a few days into the season, three weeks have passed and Thornton's been nothing short of insane. He throws that "unhittable" fastball 90% of the time yet he induces swinging strikes (whiffs) a whopping 17% of the time. Throwing a four seam fastball. Almost exclusively.

He throws that fastball at 95 while his slider sneaks in unfairly at 83. Mean, just mean. So far in 2010 his FIP (fielding independent pitching) checks in at 0.49. Less than one half of one run per 9 innings! Granted, he's only pitched 10 total innings, so take that number with a grain of salt, but watching him absolutely destroy hitters is a real treat.

Saturday night, Ozzy left Thornton in to pitch 2 and 1/3 innings in a tight game versus the Mariners. He faced 7 batters; he struck out 5 of them. His strike out per walk rate of 8 is stellar until you realize both batters were issued their free passes intentionally1. Left handed hitters shouldn't even bother, right handed hitters are simply overmatched. He's an electric arm with pinpoint control at the top of his game. Watching hitters flail away at Thornton's offerings is the most fun you can have at U.S. Cellular without having to fill out a police report.

For right now, there isn't a better bullpen beast than Matt Thornton. He's the perfect mix of eye-popping both on paper and in the flesh. Somebody will hit him hard this season, but it won't happen too often. If you're a bigger fan of your local nine than you are stuff that's awesome, your tendency might be to go for a drink or hit the head when he emerges from the bullpen late in a game. Feel free to embrace this reality, as your chosen side ain't getting nothing done for the next 3-6 batters.

Hat tip to Fangraphs and Joe Lefkowitz's database thingy for the nitty gritty nerdy.

1Ozzie, seriously, what are you thinking? Your boy here is untouchable. Pitching around Jhonny Peralta and Matt LaPorta to get the matchup in your favor is nearly as inexcusable as the absence of full blown insanity from your twitterfeed. Let him fire away.

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Being a highfalutin baseball blog artist like me has its benefits. When the good people at Major League Baseball Advanced Media decide they need to carpet bomb the electronic world with press releases, you better believe one makes its way into my inbox! As such, I'm up to date on all the latest happenings in Secaucus, New Jersey: home of the MLB Network.

That this glorious television network is unavailable in the country I call home, no matter which service provider I choose, is immaterial. I get the latest and greatest info from MLB Network and recoil with jealous revulsion after each new and exciting feature.

Tonight at 5:30, the suits at MLBN are determined to find out just how deeply your obsession runs. How low you're willing to sink, in relative terms. MLBN has cameras stationed in 13 current ballparks, with plans to install their sentient robot watchers in all 30 by the end of the year. Tonight marks the debut of their new show: Batting Practice. I'll let them explain:

...a 30-minute show featuring live footage from ballparks around Major League Baseball. MLB Network's Greg Amsinger and Harold Reynolds will host the debut program on Friday, April 16 at 5:30 p.m. ET and take viewers inside batting practice to watch and analyze position players warming up in batting cages and on the field. The show will also include live interviews on Ballpark Cam with players, managers, coaches and announcers.

A show about batting practice could be the most divisive television program of all time. Personally, I ran the full gamut in about 5 seconds flat. From giddy excitement to shameful self-loathing at my former giddy excitement. The legitimate guilt I felt over getting excited for something so strangely specific was tempered only by a strong desire to watch Prince Fielder take batting practice. ZOMG! That one almost killed Bernie Brewer!

Watching live batting practice is fun, with the free baseballs and chorus of ooohs and aahhhs. Watching a straight feed from the stadium, free of inane chatter, could be oddly hypnotic and even soothing. The chatter of H.R. and friends coupled with a bland interview might render this unwatchable. Mic up some pitchers shagging flies and the chances of hearing the words "So I bring them both back to the hotel room" on the MLB Network go up one thousand percent.

One possible way to make it appointment TV: gambling! Provide us a window into the seedy world of professional athlete prop bets. I need to know Aubrey Huff bet Mark DeRosa 1500 buck he could hit "BAL" on the AT&T out-of-town scoreboard. Did bookmaker extraordinaire Nick Swisher just offer 7-2 that Alex Rodriguez can't hit five straight onto the hitter's backdrop? Now THAT I'd pay to watch.

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Opening Day is a day for messages. Teams sends a loud and clear message to their fans, their league-wide opposition, and themselves. Who better to deliver this message in vivid, living colour than the man on the hill? A team's choice for Opening Day hurler conveys more information than all the press conferences, exhibition games, and elaborate marketing smoke-screens ever could.

Consider my recycling this post for 2010 a message in its own right: I am creatively famine-stricken in the worst way. But making fun of the have-nots is the true spirit of Easter, so gather round and ready your best F-words. Only one repeat name from last year, but it's worth it. Who wears the scarlett "FAIL" for 2010?

Always remember: Pedro Astacio died for your sins.



National League Central
Chicago Cubs - Carlos Zambrano: Post-Feast Guilt Famine
St Louis Cardinals - Chris Carpenter: Reconstructed Feast
Houston Astros - Roy Oswalt: Flagging Feast
Milwaukee Brewers - Yovani Gallardo: Future Feast
Cincinnati Reds - Aaron Harang: Progressive Famine
Pittsburgh Pirates - Zach Duke: Famine
American League Central
Chicago White Sox - Mark Buehrle: Chinese Buffet
Kansas City Royals - Zack Greinke: Full Blown Feast
Detroit Tigers - Justin Verlander: Feast
Minnesota Twins - Scott Baker: Fish Feast on a Stick
Cleveland Indians - Jake Westbrook: Write a Folk Song and Emigrate-level Famine.
National League East
New York Mets - Johan Santana: Feast
Atlanta Braves - Derek Lowe: Famineast
Philadelphia Phillies - Roy Halladay: Feast of Maximum Occupancy
Florida Marlins - Josh Johnson: Feast
Washington Nationals - John Lannan: Place-holding Famine
American League East
New York Yankees - CC Sabathia: Fast Cat Feast
Boston Red Sox - Josh Beckett: Feast
Tampa Bay Rays - James Shields: Futile Feast
Toronto Blue Jays - Shaun Marcum: Falloff Famine
Baltimore Orioles - Kevin Millwood: Famine
National League West
San Francisco Giants - Tim Lincecum: Mr. Feastastic
Los Angeles Dodgers - Vincente Padilla: Fail
Arizona Diamondbacks - Dan Haren: Feast to Set Your Watch By
Colorado Rockies - Ubaldo Jimenez: Feast.
San Diego Padres - Jon Garland: Forgettable Famine
American League West
LA Angels - Jered Weaver Floppy Feast
Seattle Mariners - Felix Hernandez: Kingly Feast
Texas Rangers - Scott Feldman: More like Fam-man, amirite?
Oakland A's - Ben Sheets: Feastential or Ligament Famine?