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Friday, May 11, 2012
W2W4: King Felix at Yankees (May 11)




Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMIFelix Hernandez has been all smiles when he's pitched at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees may not see a pitcher on a better roll this season than Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who faces them on Friday.

David Price entered Yankee Stadium on Thursday with a 4-0 mark and 1.55 ERA in his previous four starts, and the Yankees were able to score five runs against him.

They’ll be challenged to do that well against Hernandez, who has an 0.95 ERA and .169 opponents batting average in his last five starts. He allowed one hit in eight innings in his last start against the Twins.

What is Hernandez doing so well?
Hernandez is getting left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters out at a high rate. Lefties are hitting .184 in this stretch against him. Righties are hitting .140.

Hernandez’s fastball ranges from 90 to 94 miles-per-hour and he’s actually lost a mile or two per hour off it, but he keeps it away from hitters’ comfort zones.

Hernandez throws fastballs to the outside part of the plate 62 percent of the time, the second-highest rate in baseball for a starting pitcher. Only 16 percent of his fastballs (about one of every six) are over the middle-third, width-wise, the second lowest rate in the majors.

That limits damage, but it’s his secondary pitch that makes him great.

Hernandez will throw his changeup to both left and right-handed hitters, and though the separation between it and the fastball isn’t great (three to five miles-per-hour), it makes hitters look foolish.

In his last five starts, Hernandez has gotten 35 outs with the changeup and yielded just two hits.

If there’s hope for the Yankees, it’s that the only other right-handed pitcher with more strikeouts against both righties and lefties since 2011 is James Shields, whom the Yankees beat earlier this week.

Who has the best shot at hitting Hernandez?
Two Yankees in particular hit Hernandez well last season-- Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira.

Cano was 5-for-9 against Hernandez last season after going 1-for-9 against him in 2010. Teixeira was 3-for-6 with two home runs and four walks last season.

Teixeira’s five home runs are the most of anyone against Hernandez. Nick Swisher is second with four.

One decision for the binder could be whether to start Jayson Nix, who went 3-for-3 with three line drive hits in his start against Hernandez last season.

In terms of those who succeed against Hernandez’s best pitches, Yankeemetrician blogleague Katie Sharp notes a pair-- Alex Rodriguez has six hits, including a homer, against changeups this season, and Russell Martin has any many hits against fastballs on the outer-third (six) as he has against all other fastballs he’s seen this season.

King Felix Stat of the Day
Hernandez has made three straight starts at Yankee Stadium in which he’s allowed one run or fewer. The last pitcher with a streak of that many starts allowing that few runs on the road against the Yankees was Joe Coleman, who had four in a row from 1971 to 1973.

In those three starts, Hernandez has allowed a total of one run and 11 hits in 24 innings.

The Yankees are 2-for-43 in two-strike situations against him in those three games.