Stats & Info: Felix Hernandez

Prince Paxton

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
At Safeco Field there's no questioning who's King. That's Felix Hernandez who is currently riding a streak a modern major league record 16 game streak in which he's pitched at least seven innings while allowing two runs or fewer. However there is a Prince emerging in the Pacific Northwest and his name is James Paxton.

Sidelined since April 8 by a lat injury, Paxton returned to the Mariners' rotation on August 2 and has been a shot in the arm for a team with its sights on its first postseason appearance since 2001.

How good has Paxton been thus far in his short career? Awfully good. In fact after rendering the Tigers lineup hapless on Friday night, he owns a career ERA of 1.88 through nine career starts with an unblemished record of 6-0. To put that in perspective, the only pitcher over the past two seasons to make at least eight starts with a lower ERA than Paxton's is reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw who enters today's start with a 1.81 ERA since the start of 2013.

Paxton's calling card is his ability to keep the ball down. Against Detroit on Friday 71.7% of his offerings were in the bottom of the strike zone or below. This season only two pitchers, Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks (three times) and the aforementioned Hernández managed a greater percentage of low pitches in any game.

As a result Paxton owns the lowest fly ball rate of any pitcher who has made as many as five starts this season. A mere 12.7% of the balls put in play against him are in the air.

So while the Tigers (David Price) and Athletics (Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel) raided their youth to bolster their staff for the stretch run, the Mariners instead add an ace-quality arm from their own disabled list. So far he's every bit the pitcher they hoped he'd be.

Efficient Kluber spoils the King's record

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
Ken Blaze/USA TODAY SportsCorey Kluber has now thrown back-to-back shutouts, facing 28 batters in each game.
Corey Kluber needed just 85 pitches to shut out the Seattle Mariners, striking out eight hitters and issuing no walks. He's just the fourth pitcher to do that against an American League team in the past 20 seasons.

He's the first Cleveland Indians pitcher to throw a shutout with no more than 90 pitches since Charles Nagy on June 12, 1992.

Kluber faced only 28 batters, his second straight shutout in which he faced only 28 batters. He's the first pitcher with consecutive starts of nine innings and 28 or fewer batters faced since Jim Scott, who had two straight starts of that variety (with a relief appearance in-between) for the 1914 Chicago White Sox.

More than half of Kluber's pitches were breaking balls and the Mariners didn't stand a chance against those pitches. They went 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts and only one hard-hit ball in at-bats ending with a curveball or slider.

Overall, hitters chased 51.3 percent of Kluber's pitches out of the strike zone, the highest rate of his career.

Tough-Luck Loss For The King

Félix Hernández may have gotten the loss, but he broke a record in the process. He now has 14 straight starts of at least seven innings allowing two or fewer runs, breaking a tie with Tom Sever for the longest such single-season streak in the modern era (since 1900).

Hernández threw his changeup on 41.8 percent of his pitches, his second-highest rate in any start in the past six seasons. Indians hitters went 1-for-12 with no hard-hit balls in at-bats ending with the King's changeup.

This continued a trend for Hernández. He has thrown his changeup on 30.8 percent of his pitches this season, the highest rate in his career. Hitters have a .118 batting average against his changeup, good for second best in the majors (minimum 100 plate appearances).

Hernández has recorded 98 punch-outs with his changeup this season, up from 69 last season. It's already the most strikeouts he has had with his changeup in the past six seasons.

Double and Nothing

July, 26, 2014
Jul 26

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
David Price beat the Red Sox with his MLB-leading fourth 10-strikeout, no-walk game of the season, collectively pushing 2014 one step closer to history

One throws from the left, one from the right and just a few days ago it appeared that there was a chance that they could be teammates in Seattle. On Friday night David Price and Félix Hernández showed why they’re the hottest pitchers in the American League.

Pitching at home against the Red Sox, Price allowed three earned runs in eight innings to earn his 11th victory of the season, extending the Rays season-high winning streak to 8 games. He also struck out 10 batters while walking none. That gave Price four double-digit-strikeout, 0-walk games this season, breaking a tie with Chicago’s Chris Sale for the most in the majors.

Just a couple of hours later, Sale would find himself tied again, this time by Felix Hernandez who went seven innings against the Orioles, striking out 10 while walking none in a no-decision against the Orioles. Hernández did emerge with a share of an all-time record, tying Tom Seaver for the major league mark for most consecutive starts of at least seven innings pitched and two earned runs allowed or fewer.)

Price, Hernández and Sale are three of the seven pitchers (with Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Zach Greinke and Corey Kluber) who have multiple games with 10 strikeouts and no walks this season. They’re all part of the 29 individuals who have done it a total of 40 times in 2014. If that seems like a lot, it is.

Looking back to 1900, there have only been two years in which there were more individual outings with double-digit strikeouts and no walks than we’ve had with six full days remaining in July. That’s ENTIRE seasons. And those came the past two years.

The standard was set way back in 2013 when 31 individuals went to the hill 45 times to rack up 10-K’s and no walks. Cliff Lee and Matt Harvey led the way with four apiece (Harvey’s came in just 26 games due to his season being cut short by Tommy John surgery) while Yu Darvish had three. That broke the old mark of 43 such games set in 2012 when nobody had as many as four.

Now we stand at 40 and there's a lot of baseball yet to be played. History will be made. By how much the old record will be shattered is the only question.

Top stats to know: 2014 MLB All-Star Game

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15

Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports The last time the All-Star game was held in Minneapolis, there were no home runs hit.

The 2014 MLB All-Star Game marks the return of the Midsummer Classic to Minnesota for the first time since 1985, when it was held at the Metrodome.

While the National League leads the series with a 43-39-2 record and has won each of the last three, the American League is 19-6-1 over the last 26 games.

Here are some of the top stats to know on the 85th MLB All-Star Game.

World Series home-field advantage
Home-field advantage in the World Series is on the line tonight, which has been fairly significant in determining the World Series champion recently.

Since 1985, the team with the home-field advantage has won 23 of the last 28 World Series, including the last five. Also, the last nine times the World Series has gone to a Game 7, the home team has won each game. The last road team to win a Game 7 was the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.

The captain
Derek Jeter was elected by the fans as the AL starting shortstop in Tuesday's All-Star game. It would be his ninth career All-Star start at shortstop, breaking a tie with Luis Aparicio for third-most all-time. His ninth start at short stop would also tie him with Joe DiMaggio for third-most by a Yankee.

Jeter has two three-hit performances in the All-Star Game. Carl Yastrzemski and Willie Mays are the only others to also have two such games.

Jeter is 11-for-25 (.440) in the All-Star Game. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, among the more than 100 players with at least 15 plate appearances in the Midsummer Classic, Jeter is tied with Ken Griffey Jr. (who also had 11 hits in 25 at-bats) for the second-highest career batting average. The two legends trail only Hall-of-Famer Charlie Gehringer, who was 10-for-20 (.500).

Only 11 players have started in the All-Star game after turning 40 (the last was Barry Bonds in 2007). Only one of them did so at shortstop - Cal Ripken Jr., who was actually elected to start at third base.

Starting pitchers
Adam Wainwright has the lowest earned run average in the majors this season (1.83) and Félix Hernández has the second-lowest (2.12). According to Elias, this is the first time since the current ERA qualifier was created in 1951 that the pitchers with the two lowest ERAs in the majors started the All-Star Game.

Wainwright will be the first St. Louis Cardinals pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Chris Carpenter in 2005. Carpenter and Wainwright would be the only two Cardinals pitchers to start an All-Star Game in the last 40 seasons.

Hernández is the second pitcher in Seattle Mariners history to start an All-Star Game, the other being Randy Johnson in 1995 and 1997.

The table on the right shows that King Félix's 2014 has been strikingly similar to that enjoyed by the Big Unit leading up to the game played at Jacobs Field in Cleveland in 1997.

Top stats to know: All-Star selections

July, 6, 2014
Jul 6
The American League and National League All-Star rosters for next Tuesday’s contest in Minnesota were announced on Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the notable statistical storylines from Sunday’s selections.

Jeter’s All-Star Finale
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is slated to make his ninth All-Star start at shortstop. That would be third-most in major-league history, trailing only Cal Ripken Jr. (14) and Ozzie Smith (11).
Derek Jeter
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Jeter would be the second player to start an All-Star Game at shortstop after turning 40 years old. Cal Ripken, Jr. was the AL’s starting shortstop in the 2001 All-Star Game at age 40, after a position switch on the left side of the infield that was orchestrated by Alex Rodriguez.

The only other non-pitcher who represented the Yankees in an All-Star Game at age 40 or older is Johnny Mize (age 40 in 1953).

Jeter will tie Joe DiMaggio for third-most All-Star starts by a Yankee. Only Mickey Mantle (13) and Yogi Berra (11) have more.

A very Athletic team
The Oakland Athletics had the most players selected to the All-Star team with six (not including Jeff Samardzija, who was picked as a representative of the Chicago Cubs). It is their most All-Star selections since 1975, when they also had six.

The Athletics will only have one starting position player- third baseman Josh Donaldson (who will join Sal Bando as the only Athletics third basemen to ever start an All-Star Game). In fact, the American League’s eight starting position players will come from eight different teams, the first time that has happened for the American League in All-Star Game history (which dates back to 1933).

You don’t have to be a closer
Three relief pitchers who are not closers were selected as All-Stars—Dellin Betances of the Yankees, Tony Watson of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pat Neshek of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Betances ranks second in the American League in opponents’ batting average (.129), trailing only Wade Davis (.120) of the Kansas City Royals.

Neshek and Watson are the only two pitchers in the majors (minimum 30 innings) who have a sub-1 ERA and WHIP this season.

Neshek ranks second in the NL in opponents' batting average (.134), trailing only Jonathan Broxton (.114). Neshek’s .343 opponents’ OPS is the lowest in the majors among those who have faced at least 100 batters this season.

Home-team reps
The Minnesota Twins will have two All-Star representatives, though neither one is six-time All-Star Joe Mauer.

Catcher Kurt Suzuki and closer Glen Perkins were both selected. Perkins will enjoy the honor as a St. Paul, Minnesota native. The last player to win All-Star Game MVP honors in his home ballpark was Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Neshek, who went to Park Center Senior High School just outside Minneapolis (and who previously pitched for the Twins) will also be well-received by the home-team fans.

Who starts on the mound?
The All-Star Game starting pitchers will not be named until next week, but the managers for both leagues will have interesting dilemmas.

Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright are separated in ERA by only .04 (Kershaw is at 1.85, Wainwright at 1.89), with Johnny Cueto right behind them at 1.99.

The last Dodgers pitcher to start the All-Star Game was Brad Penny in 2006. The last Cardinals pitcher to start it was Chris Carpenter in 2005.

Mariners starter Felix Hernandez leads the AL with a 2.11 ERA, but there figures to be some clamor for Yankees rookie Masahiro Tanaka (2.27 ERA) to get the start. The only Mariners pitcher to start an All-Star Game is Randy Johnson (1995 and 1997). The last Yankees pitcher was Roger Clemens in 2001.

Kershaw, Hernandez overpowering in June

June, 29, 2014
Jun 29
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw just completed one of the most impressive calendar months in major league history. Kershaw allowed zero runs and struck out 13 in seven innings as the Dodgers blanked the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0.

Kershaw went 6-0 with an 0.82 ERA and 61 strikeouts in June. He’s the only pitcher in major league history to be unbeaten with that many wins, that many strikeouts and an ERA that low in a single calendar month.

Only three other pitchers have gone 6-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA and 50 or more strikeouts in a month: Hideo Nomo in June 1995, Randy Johnson in April 2000 and Justin Verlander in June 2011.

Kershaw's 61 strikeouts in June were the most by any Dodgers pitcher in any month since Sandy Koufax had 62 in June 1966.

Kershaw’s month included a no-hitter and ended with a streak of 28 scoreless innings. He now has 107 strikeouts and only 11 walks this season. His ERA is 1.11 with seven runs allowed in eight starts since getting pounded for seven runs by the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 17.

How he dominated
Kershaw owned the month largely because of a super sharp slider. He had 34 strikeouts with his slider and 14 more with his curveball. His 48 breaking ball strikeouts were 18 more than the next pitcher, Yu Darvish.

When he wasn’t striking hitters out, he was getting them to hit the ball on the ground. Kershaw’s 65 percent ground ball rate was the highest in the majors this month.

He wasn’t the only one who owned Sunday … and June
Felix Hernandez was basically the AL version of Kershaw, both on Sunday and in June. Hernandez threw eight scoreless one-hit innings in a win over the Cleveland Indians and improved to 3-1 with a 1.22 ERA for the month, with 54 strikeouts and only six walks. The Hernandez changeup was vintage in June and netted 57 outs while yielding only three hits and two walks.

Hernandez bested Kershaw, barely, in one statistical category in June: Hernandez enters the final day of the month with the lowest opponents’ OPS in the majors, .410, which is nine points better than Kershaw's.

Looking ahead
Both Kershaw and Hernandez will get strong consideration to start the 2014 All-Star Game. Neither has started one previously.

Kershaw is trying to become the first Dodgers pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Brad Penny in 2006. Hernandez would be the first Seattle Mariners pitcher since Johnson in 1997.

Kershaw’s competition includes Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright, both of whom have ERAs hovering around 2.00. Wainwright also had a great June and finished with a 1.16 ERA for the month.

Hernandez might also have moved a notch ahead of New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka for All-Star starting consideration. Both have 2.10 ERAs this season. Hernandez is a hair better in WHIP, with 0.92 to Tanaka’s 0.95.

Hernandez's game reminiscent of perfection

June, 8, 2014
Jun 8
“I think he was better than when he threw the perfect game.”
-- Rays manager Joe Maddon after Sunday’s game against the Seattle Mariners Yes, Felix Hernandez was that good, striking out 15 in seven innings in the Seattle Mariners' 5-0 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday afternoon.

Hernandez also experienced a bit of hard luck, since Chris Archer and the Rays' bullpen matched him, preventing him from earning his ninth win. Instead, Hernandez became the third pitcher in the past 25 years to strike out 15, allow no runs and record a no-decision, joining Nolan Ryan and Jake Peavy.

Hernandez now has 26 career no-decisions in games in which he pitched at least seven innings and allowed no runs. That’s the most by any active pitcher (second are Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson with 19) and one shy of the most for any pitcher in the past 20 seasons (Greg Maddux has 27).

Hernandez has a 1.40 ERA in his last five starts, with 46 strikeouts and five walks in 38 2/3 innings pitched.

Better than perfection?
We can take a closer look to see if Maddon’s comment about Hernandez’s stuff being better than in his perfect game two seasons ago rings true from a statistical perspective.

We’ll acknowledge that it’s close, though the perfect game would seem to have an edge based on Hernandez pitching deeper into the game.

Hernandez got 26 swing-and-misses in his perfect game, six more than he got in Sunday's start. Percentage wise, the two were virtually a match in that regard, with Rays hitters missing on 44 percent of their swings in each game.

On Sunday, Hernandez allowed three batted balls that were classified as hard hit, one more than he had in his perfect game, in two fewer innings.

The common bond between the two games was how good Hernandez’s changeup was. On Sunday, he got 13 outs with his changeup, including 10 strikeouts (the only pitcher with more in a game in the past six seasons is Alex Cobb of the Rays with 11). In the perfect game, he recorded seven outs with his changeup, six of them strikeouts.

How they won
The Mariners scored five runs in the ninth inning, with the key to that outburst being base hits that came after falling behind in the count 0-2.

Brad Miller’s triple, Endy Chavez’s go-ahead single and James Jones’ triple against Grant Balfour all came after they went down in the count, 0-2.

Balfour had held opponents to 1-for-19 after getting ahead 0-2 this season prior to those hits. Miller’s hit was impressive, considering that he was 1-for-23 in two-strike situations dating back to May 12.

Hernandez, Seager thrive in Bronx

June, 2, 2014
Jun 2
The Seattle Mariners have a couple of players who really like Yankee Stadium and we’re not talking about ex-Yankee Robinson Cano. Atop that list is Felix Hernandez, who beat the Yankeess again, allowing two runs in seven innings.

That actually raised Hernandez’s ERA at the new Yankee Stadium to 1.37, still easily the best by anyone who has made at least three starts there.

Hernandez has now allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last five starts against the Yankees. Over the last six seasons, Hernandez has had a streak of five straight such starts against them and another streak of four straight such starts against them.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that in the Divisional Era (since 1969), the only other pitchers to have two such streaks of at least four starts are Frank Tanana, Nolan Ryan, Rudy May and Mark Gubicza.

Hernandez has now won five straight decisions overal,l and the last four of those starts have been particularly good. He’s gone at least seven innings in each and allowed two runs or fewer, with 31 strikeouts and four walks. He’s gotten 35 outs in those starts with his signature changeup, a pitch that has induced misses on 44 percent of swings against it this season.

On Monday, he threw 33 changeups. The Yankees swung at 20 and missed on 10 of them. They had one hit and nine outs against the pitch, including six strikeouts.

Seager stars with the bat
Kyle Seager became the first player in Mariners history with a home run and two triples in a game. He’s the first player to do that, with a double as well, for any team since Hal Breeden of the 1973 Expos did so against the Phillies.

Perhaps a day like this shouldn’t have been unexpected for him. Inside Edge tracks a stat for major-league teams and media outlets known as “hard-hit average.” The company rates every batted ball as either hard, medium or soft. Hard-hit average is the rate at which a player’s at-bats end with him being credited with a hard-hit ball.

Seager entered the day ranked fifth in the majors in hard-hit average this season, with a hard-hit ball in 24 percent of his at-bats.

The four players ranked ahead of him are four of the game’s elite hitters- David Ortiz, Troy Tulowitzki, Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz. Among those Seager rated ahead of entering the day were Miguel Cabrera and Yasiel Puig.

What’s held Seager down is how he’s fared not when he hits the ball hard, but when he hits the ball softly. He entered the day 5 for 67 when hitting a soft-hit ball.

That may be due to come up at least a little bit. Seager had gotten hits on 13 percent of his soft-hit balls from 2011 to 2013.

Each win stranger for Rangers

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
The Texas Rangers are living a charmed life in the early part of the 2014 season.

They’re 8-7 this season despite being outscored by nine runs, and they’ve already managed a majors-best four walk-off wins, the latest being a bizarre 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

The game lived up to its billing as a great pitcher’s duel between aces Yu Darvish and Felix Hernandez.

The Mariners lost on a combination of mishaps, the first being the inability of Brad Miller to convert a potential forceout for the final out of the game. Miller entered the day with solid defensive numbers -- three defensive runs saved for the season.

The next was a wild pitch by closer Fernando Rodney, who has averaged a wild pitch about every 19 innings for his career. His wild pitch Wednesday allowed the tying run to score.

Leonys Martin then won the game with his third walk-off hit in the past eight months, a bloop single to left field that gave reliever Pedro Figueroa his first big league win.

The Rangers went from having two outs and nobody on, a situation in which their win probability was about 4 percent, to an unlikely victory.

The Rangers continue to win despite not hitting home runs. They entered the day with only seven, which ranked 14th in the American League, and did not add to that total on Wednesday.

For the Mariners, it was another in a long line of wasted starts by their starting pitchers.

Last season, they lost 12 games in which a starter went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer (the most in the majors since the 1986 Montreal Expos lost 13). It was their first such defeat in 2014.

Hernandez has now made 17 starts in the last five seasons in which he went at least seven innings and allowed one run or fewer. That’s the most in the majors in that span. Ex-Mariner Cliff Lee kept pace with his 13th on Wednesday for the Philadelphia Phillies, tying him with Jered Weaver for the second-most such starts.

Elias Sports Bureau Stat of the Day
The Rangers are the first team with four walk-off wins by April 16 since the 2000 Kansas City Royals.

Top stats to know: For openers ...

March, 30, 2014
Mar 30

Getty Images, AP PhotoAmong those worth watching on Opening Day are Stephen Strasburg and Albert Pujols.
Three teams have had their Opening Day so far, but the baseball season really gets going Monday with a near-full slate.

Here are some of the statistical storylines we'll be keeping an eye on.

Usually a good day for the Mets
The New York Mets haven’t had a winning record since the 2008 season, but Opening Day is usually a season highlight for them.

The Mets’ 34-18 Opening-Day record is the best of any team.

They’ll face a Washington Nationals team that was picked by 12 experts to win the World Series and that has the consensus favorite for MVP in Bryce Harper (by comparison, none of the experts have the Mets even making the playoffs).

The Nationals will start Stephen Strasburg, who was 4-0 with a 1.83 ERA in five spring-training starts. He’s allowed one run in 14 innings in two previous Opening Day starts.

Cano’s debut comes in best pitching matchup of day
Robinson Cano makes his Seattle Mariners debut in Anaheim (10 p.m. ET on ESPN2) against the Angels.

Cano has contributed 34.3 Wins Above Replacement over the last five seasons, the most in baseball in that span.

Jered Weaver will be charged with stopping Cano, who is 12 for 32 against the Angels ace in his career. Weaver has won his last three Opening Day decisions and has a 1.93 ERA in five Opening-Day starts.

Felix Hernandez has started all but one of those openers for Seattle (this will be his sixth straight). He’s 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA on Opening Day (five of the six starts came against the Oakland Athletics)

The Mariners have won seven straight Opening Day games. With the Diamondbacks losing their opener earlier this season, the Mariners’ Opening Day winning streak is the longest current one in the majors.
Milestone Watch: Most Opening Day HR
Opening Day in Chicago means a matchup of the two teams at the bottom in the AL Central last year with the Twins facing the White Sox.

White Sox designated hitter Adam Dunn will be trying to set the major-league record for most Opening-Day home runs. Dunn’s eight are tied for the most all-time with Frank Robinson and Ken Griffey Jr.

In terms of season milestones, the most notable one on the horizon is that Angels first baseman Albert Pujols is eight home runs from 500 for his career.

Pujols would become the fourth player to hit 500 home runs within his first 14 seasons, joining Mark McGwire (522), Alex Rodriguez (518) and Willie Mays (505).

Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Day
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that the Athletics are the first team to lose nine straight season openers since the Atlanta Braves did from 1972 to 1980. No team has lost 10 straight.

Oakland has been beset by pitching injuries, most notably to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, and will start rookie Sonny Gray, the ninth pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Athletics in the last nine seasons.

Gray, who impressed in last year’s postseason, will be making his 11th career start.

That won’t be the fewest of anyone on Monday. The Rangers, also beset by injuries, will start Tanner Scheppers against the Philadelphia Phillies. Scheppers will be the first pitcher to make his first start in a season opener since Fernando Valenzuela for the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers.

Scherzer dominates in wins, stats

September, 9, 2013

AP Photo/Charles KrupaDetroit has scored only one run in both of Max Scherzer's losses this season.
With the talk about end-of-year awards heating up in baseball, it’s worth taking a closer look at Max Scherzer.

He’s undoubtedly the favorite to bring home the AL Cy Young Award. But the conversation surrounding Scherzer’s candidacy has focused on one point: the importance of the win statistic.

Traditionalists cite Scherzer’s 19-2 record as all the evidence needed. The opposite side argues that connecting a pitcher's wins with value is outdated.

You don’t need wins to show Scherzer is the best
But this is no longer an old school-versus-new school argument. Take away Scherzer’s win/loss record, and you’re still looking at the best pitcher in the American League this season.

Scherzer ranks among the league leaders in numerous significant advanced metrics.

Although he is not No. 1 in any category besides wins, he’s among the top two or three in just about all of them -- something no one else can say.

He’s second among all AL pitchers in WAR, while also ranking second in strikeout rate (28.3 percent), second in opponent batting average (.196), third in ERA (2.88) and third in FIP (2.72).

FIP stands for fielding independent pitching, taking a pitcher's strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed and converting them into a number scaled to resemble ERA.

His competitors are falling off
A few weeks ago, Felix Hernandez and Yu Darvish were the two pitchers in position to challenge Scherzer’s hold on the award, with even Hiroki Kuroda getting some Cy Young buzz.

All three have come upon hard times -- or at least not advanced their cause -- while Scherzer has arguably been better in the second half than the first half.

Aces rocked on Wednesday

August, 29, 2013
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsAdam Wainwright was one of three aces to struggle on Wednesday.
Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez and Hiroki Kuroda ranked fourth, sixth and eighth in ERA before taking the mound on Wednesday. Each ace struggled mightily and none would rank inside the top eight in ERA at night's end.

Wainwright's early exit
The ace of St. Louis Cardinals allowed a career-high nine earned runs over just two innings. Wainwright allowed all nine runs before he recorded four outs. The shortest start in Wainwright’s career also produced a rare instance in Cardinals history.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Wainwright is just the fourth Cardinals starter in the past 100 seasons to allow nine earned runs before recording four outs. Jason Marquis (2006), Jason Simontacchi (2002) and Bob Gibson (1967) are the others.

Wainwright struggled to put hitters away on Wednesday, as opponents batted .500 against him with two strikes. That’s the highest average he has allowed with two strikes in a single start all season and it’s tied for the second-highest average he has allowed with two strikes in any start over the past five seasons.

Rangers dominate King Felix
Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez also allowed a career high in earned runs, giving up eight over three innings Wednesday afternoon. Hernandez became just the eighth starter in Mariners history to allow eight earned runs in three or fewer innings pitched at home, and the first in five years.

The Texas Rangers have given Hernandez fits all season, as he is 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA against them compared to going 12-4 with a 2.19 ERA against all other opponents. The Rangers are batting more than .140 points higher against Hernandez than all others this season.

King Felix has allowed 10 or more hits in a start four times this season. Three of those instances have come against Texas.

Kuroda trending downward
Hiroki Kuroda, the de-facto ace of the New York Yankees this season, allowed seven runs for the second consecutive start. Prior to his past two starts, Kuroda had allowed seven runs just five times in his entire career.

Kuroda appears to have hit a wall after having a stellar month of July. After leading the MLB with a 0.55 ERA in July, his ERA ballooned to 5.12 in August. He lost four games in August, his most in a single month as a Yankee, a far cry from going undefeated in five July starts.

The fastball did not fool the Blue Jays on Wednesday, as they batted .538 when putting Kuroda’s fastball in play, the second-highest average he has allowed in a single game this season. Opponents hit .333 off Kuroda’s fastball in August, much higher than the .280 they batted off his fastball for the season entering this month.

How they won: Cy Young contenders

July, 21, 2013
Sunday was quite a day for good starting pitching. Thirteen different starters went at least seven innings and six pitchers who can make a case as a Cy Young contender pitched great en route to an eventual victory.

Here’s a statistical snapshot of what those pitchers did best.

Kershaw makes them chase
Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw held the Washington Nationals to two runs and two hits in seven innings in Sunday’s sweep-completing win.

Kershaw made Nationals hitters chase his pitches. They swung at 22 of 50 thrown out of the strike zone. Kershaw’s 44 percent chase-rate was his highest in any start this season.

Nationals hitters were 0-for-9 against the pitches they chased, with six strikeouts.

They missed on nine of 18 swings they took against Kershaw’s curveball and slider.

Harvey dominant
What made NL All-Star starter Matt Harvey so good against the Philadelphia Phillies? Try this combo:

23 swings-and-misses, 1 shy of his career high set April 3, 2013 vs Padres

An average fastball of 97.4 mph (career-best)

Nine strikeouts with offspeed pitches (ties career-high)

Four strikeouts with his changeup (ties career-high)

Went to 2-0 count on only one hitter in seven innings

Harvey has owned the Phillies from the start of his career.

He’s yielded only four earned runs in 33 1/3 innings against them.

Locke’s key: shutting down righty bats
Pittsburgh Pirates starter Jeff Locke dropped his ERA to 2.11 with a six-inning effort in which he allowed one run and one hit in a win over the Cincinnati Reds that averted a Reds sweep.

Locke shut down the Reds right-handed hitters, holding them to 0-for-11 in this contest.

Righties are hitting .186 against Locke this season, the lowest of any of the 29 lefties who are currently qualified for the ERA title.

Wainwright handles Padres … again
Adam Wainwright beat the San Diego Padres, holding them to two runs over eight innings. He’s now 5-2 against the Padres with a 1.47 ERA and 4-0 with an 0.84 ERA in four home starts against them.

Wainwright won without his best curveball/slider combo. He allowed six hits with those pitches, his most in any start in the five seasons for which we have pitch-performance data.

Wainwright has thrived recently because of his escapability. In his last six starts, he’s held opponents to a .161 batting average and .434 OPS with men on base.

Colon cruising
Bartolo Colon threw his third shutout of the season, and his second since he turned 40 on May 24. In the past 25 seasons, only 3 other pitchers threw multiple shutouts in the same season after turning 40—Nolan Ryan (1989, 1990, 1991), Dennis Martinez (1995) and Randy Johnson (2004).

Colon won in his usual method, by spotting a fastball that he threw 101 times in 110 pitches and was tough to hit far. Colon induced 12 fly ball outs. In his last three starts, Colon has generated 23 fly balls. Of those, 22 have been caught.
Also consider this about Colon: His road ERA (2.54) is almost identical to his home ERA (2.50). Eighteen other ERA-title qualifiers have an ERA as good or better than Colon at home this season. But only seven have a road ERA as low as his.

Astros easy work for King Felix
Felix Hernandez pitched six scoreless innings in a win over the Houston Astros. Hernandez has a 1.54 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in his last five starts.

Like with Wainwright, Hernandez has found a way to escape tough situations. In his last five starts, opponents are 1-for-16 against him with multiple men on base, including 0-for-3 on Sunday.

Losing Greinke has Dodgers blue

April, 12, 2013
San Diego Padres slugger Carlos Quentin rushed the mound and wrestled Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke to the ground after getting hit by a pitch Thursday night. A bench-clearing brawl ensued, but in the melee Greinke suffered a fractured collarbone.
Greinke Quentin
This wasn’t the first time Greinke and Quentin have had a run-in.

July 18, 2008: With two on in the bottom of the first, Greinke hit Quentin to load the bases, and the Chicago White Sox went on to score five runs that inning. Quentin then led off the second inning and homered to left field.

April 8, 2009: In their first meeting the next year, Quentin struck out in the bottom of the first, in an at-bat that included a high-and-tight pitch. Greinke then hit Quentin between the shoulders in the fourth inning. Quentin took a step toward the mound before plate umpire Bill Hohn jumped in front of him. Greinke said afterward, "The first at-bat kind of scared me because you never want to do that to anyone. It happens. You hit guys sometimes."

April 9, 2013: In the first game of this series, Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario hit Quentin with a high and tight fastball, right in the right wrist. Quentin had to leave that game and missed the next one recovering from the bruise.

Greinke is the fourth pitcher to hit Quentin three or more times, and in total 18 pitchers have hit Quentin at least twice in his career.

In fact, getting hit is nothing new for Quentin who led MLB in hit-by-pitch in both 2011 (23, in 118 games) and 2012 (17, in 86 games).

While losing Quentin’s pop at the plate is a big deal for the Padres, the loss of Greinke to the Dodgers’ rotation could have a bigger impact. Greinke signed the fourth-largest total value contract by a pitcher this offseason.

Plus he’s been durable and effective on the mound.

Greinke is one of six pitchers who threw 170+ innings and struck out 170+ batters each year from 2008 to 2012 (CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, Matt Cain). His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which considers a pitcher's three true outcomes of HR, K and BB) is the third-best in MLB since 2009.

So who will replace Greinke? Here are a few options from the Dodgers 40-man roster.

LHP Ted Lilly: 53 starts for Dodgers since 2010. He threw 90 pitches in Triple-A rehab start on Thursday.

LHP Chris Capuano: 33 starts for Dodgers last season. He replaced Greinke on Thursday.

RHP Stephen Fife: five starts for the Dodgers last season. He started for Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday.

Verlander's contract richest for a pitcher

March, 29, 2013

Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesVerlander has led all starting pitchers in most statistical categories the past four seasons.
Since 2009, Justin Verlander ranks first in all of baseball in:

• Starts (135)
• Wins (78)
• WHIP (1.08)
• Strikeouts (977)
• WAR (26.0, highest among pitchers)

Those are just some of the reasons the Detroit Tigers rewarded Verlander with the richest contract for a pitcher. His $180 million deal is the largest for a pitcher in terms of total value -- $5 million more than what the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez signed for earlier this offseason.

The $180 million deal over seven years averages out to $25.7 million per season. The only pitcher in major-league history who had a higher average annual salary was Roger Clemens, but that's only because his $28 million "average" was the result of a one-year contract he signed with the New York Yankees in 2007.

Including the postseason, Verlander is the only pitcher since the start of 2009 who has thrown more than 1,000 innings (1,002⅓), and his 16,225 pitches are more than 1,000 more than the next closest pitcher, CC Sabathia.

Also since 2009, Verlander has hit 100 MPH on the radar gun 170 times (including 73 in the seventh inning or later). All other starting pitchers in the past four seasons have combined to throw just 109 pitches that have registered 100 MPH.

Verlander's Game Score since 2009 is 61.4, the highest in baseball. Game Score is a metric created by Bill James that measures the quality of a start. Every pitcher begins with a score of 50, and points are added for getting outs (with a bonus for strikeouts), and subtracted for baserunners and runs allowed. The typical major-league average is 49-51.

So while Verlander has the largest contract by a pitcher in major-league history, it's still not even the largest contract on his own team. When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder before last season, they gave him a deal nine-year deal worth $214 million.