Weaver used to starting fast
April, 21, 2011
By Kenton Wong | ESPN.com
Jered Weaver is not new to fast starts. In his MLB debut he threw seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits in the win. Weaver would go on to win the first seven starts of his career, allowing five hits or fewer in each.
Since the live ball era in 1920, no pitcher came close to pulling off a streak like that to start his career. The next longest win streak while allowing five or fewer hits to start a career is three -- done by 11 others -- most recently by Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson last season.
So why bring up the past?
This season Weaver is trying to repeat history -- or at least come close. He has won his first five starts of the season and allowed six hits or fewer in each. The only other pitcher in the live ball era to win his first five starts of the season allowing six hits or fewer in multiple seasons is Pedro Martinez -- he pulled the trick three times (1997, 2000 and 2006).
This season Weaver has found success by throwing a bevy of strikes while avoiding the heart of the plate. In his past two starts combined, Weaver has thrown 153 of 223 pitches for strikes. An analysis of heat maps -- courtesy of TruMedia Networks –- shows Weaver was able to consistently pound the outside corner to both lefties and righties. Weaver threw just 17 pitches over the heart of the plate in those two starts –- none resulted in hits. Of the 10 hits Weaver has surrendered in his past two starts, seven came on pitches away.
Wednesday, according to Lee Singer of ESPN Stats & Info, Weaver utilized his slider against a Rangers lineup that started seven righties. He threw the pitch 32 times, half of which went down and away. On those low-and-away sliders, Weaver drew nine swings -- seven of which missed. Weaver has increased his slider use each of the past three seasons, using it 21.1 percent of the time this season.
The league's only five-game winner also leads the majors with 39 strikeouts and is holding opponents to a .150 BA. Throwing strikes and staying away from hitters is a simple game plan, but few have executed that plan as well as Weaver this season.