Stats & Info: Charlie Haeger

Monday's 1st Pitch: Early oddities on the mound

April, 12, 2010
Today’s Trivia: With Target Field opening, name the only three remaining teams whose ballpark also is the home for a professional football team (question courtesy of Jeff Bennett)?

Quick Hits: Some fun with early pitching oddities and irregularities.

* Tim Lincecum has retired the first batter in all 14 innings he has pitched this season, including six by way of strikeouts.

* CC Sabathia has held the leadoff hitter to a .100 batting average, but he has walked an MLB-high four leadoff hitters.

* Opponents have a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .000 against Fausto Carmona, yet a batting average of .059. Confused? The lone hit was a home run, and thus was not in-play.

* Consider this the tale of two closers: Opposing hitters have taken 19 swings against Franklin Morales, but have yet to swing and miss. They’ve swung at 15 Carlos Marmol pitches and missed 10 times.

* Eight of the nine batters that Darren O’Day has faced have swung at the first pitch. The ninth was a called strike. That means O’Day has a 100.0 first-pitch strike percentage and has yet to see a 1-0 count.

* Not one of the 20 batters that Rick Porcello faced last week swung at the first pitch (12 of which were balls).

* Charlie Haeger had two batters reach on a strikeout on Sunday. That would have been tied for the second most in the majors all of last season! Felix Hernandez had four hitters reach on a strikeout in 2009, while no one else had more than two.

* Jake Westbrook already has four wild pitches and four hit batsmen. Last season, Fausto Carmona was the only Indians pitcher with four of each over the entire season.

Today’s Leaderboard: As the Minnesota Twins usher in a new era at Target Field, there are some who might be sad to see the Metrodome go. Among them? Kevin Slowey, who was 17-4 in the Twins’ old home. That was the fourth best win percentage of anyone with ten decisions. Slowey will pitch the second ever game at Target Field on Wednesday, while Carl Pavano gets the ball today. Jack Morris and Juan Berenguer were both 23-5 at the Metrodome, tied for the best record there. Berenguer is particularly interesting given that he was just 44-57 everywhere else.

Key Matchups: Both starting pitchers in today’s Astros-Cardinals game have traditionally fared well against the biggest bat in the opposing lineup. Albert Pujols is just 5-31 in his career against Wandy Rodriguez, though interestingly he has only struck out once. That .161 average is easily Pujols’ worst against any pitcher he has faced at least 25 times. However, after starting out 3-25, Pujols has a pair of doubles in his last six at-bats against Rodriguez.

In the other dugout, Carlos Lee probably didn’t circle this game to break out of his 3-23 start to the season. Lee has hit just .050 (1-20) in his career against Adam Wainwright, his worst average against any pitcher that he’s faced at least 15 times. That hit came back in 2007, and Lee is hitless in 15 plate appearances since.

Trivia Answer: With the opening of Target Field only three MLB teams share their home park with a pro football team - the Blue Jays, Athletics, and Marlins. That continues a downward trend from multi-purpose stadiums. In 1970, 17 of 24 MLB teams shared stadiums including the Yankees, Tigers, and Cubs.

Charlie Haeger is the Next Charlie Hough?

April, 11, 2010
Charlie Haeger received a no-decision on Sunday in the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-5 loss to the Florida Marlins. It wasn’t because he struggled. He pitched six innings, allowed three hits, three earned runs and struck out 12. If you aren’t familiar with Haeger’s work, he is a pitcher who primarily throws knuckleballs. He was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers in January 2009. Last season he struck out 103 batters in 144 2/3 innings for Triple-A Albuquerque and pitched six games for the Dodgers, striking out 15 batters in 19 innings.

But back to Sunday -- it's pretty rare for a pitcher who throws mostly knuckleballs to strike out 12 batters. Striking out 12 batters in six or fewer innings is rare for any Dodger pitcher. According to, Haeger was just the fourth Dodgers starting pitcher in the last 55 years to strike out at least 12 batters in six or fewer innings. He joins Chad Billingsley in 2008, Darren Dreifort in 2003 and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, who struck out 12 in six innings in a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 25, 1963.

But back to those pesky knuckleballers. In examining the highest strikeout totals for some of the game’s most popular knuckleballers, Haeger’s performance on Sunday ranks among the best.

CHARLIE HOUGH – The crafty righty threw until he was 46 years of age. Hough’s career high in strikeouts for a game came in August of 1987 when he sat down 13 Kansas City Royals in a complete-game victory for the Texas Rangers. While Haeger had one fewer strikeout than Hough, he did it in three fewer innings.

PHIL NIEKRO – The Hall of Famer won 318 games in his career and pitched until he was 48 years old. Niekro struck out 13 batters in a game on three occasions, all between 1974 and 1977 (two alone in 1977). Twice he had to pitch nine full innings to get to 13 and the other time he went eight innings.

TOM CANDIOTTI – He didn’t start throwing a knuckleball on a regular basis until 1985. The next year, he recorded 12 strikeouts in a complete-game win over the Twins. In 1991, Candiotti struck out 12 batters in seven innings for the Blue Jays against the Tigers.

TIM WAKEFIELD – The 2010 season is Wakefield’s 18th in the majors. In 563 career games (422 starts), the most he has struck out in a game is 12 batters. That came on September 11, 2005 when he sat down 12 in a complete-game loss to the Yankees.

Is Haeger’s performance more impressive because he was able to sit down so many batters in so little time? When compared to some of the greats who threw the knuckler for many years, the answer appears to be yes.