Stats & Info: Randy Wells

Windy City woes for Carlos Marmol

July, 15, 2011
On Thursday Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol blew his seventh save of the season, the most in the majors. Entering the game with a 2-0 lead against the Florida Marlins, Marmol allowed five earned runs while failing to get a single batter out.

He walked four batters, and eight of his first nine pitches in the inning went for balls. His first two walks came on the slider, a pitch that has spelled control issues throughout 2011. Among relievers who have utilized the slider at least 100 times this year, Marmol’s walk rate of 12.8 percent is the highest in baseball, and second-highest including starters. The Cubs closer has thrown the slider over 100 times more than any other reliever this season, so it’s certainly a concern.

Marmol blew only five saves in over 77 innings of work last year, a mark he has equaled in just his last 20 appearances this season.

Gone in a New York Minute

Fans will see Francisco Rodriguez in a different uniform for the second half of the season after the closer was traded from the New York Mets to the Milwaukee Brewers. It was huge news when New York signed Rodriguez as a free agent in December of 2008, and opinions will likely vary on his level of success with the Mets. In his years as the Mets closer Rodriguez’s 83 saves ranked as the ninth-most in the majors. That number pales in comparison to his previous three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, when he notched a staggering 149 saves and posted an ERA of just 2.24.

According to Inside Edge, there have been several areas where Rodriguez is finding success this season. He’s allowing just 8 percent of runners to score, 4 percent below league average. He’s also using his offspeed pitches effectively: his changeup and curve have been converting for strikes 70 percent of the time (league average is 61 percent).

Stranger Than Fiction

Elias had an interesting note that came from the All-Star Game this week: Tyler Clippard was the winning pitcher, the second straight year a Washington Nationals pitcher was credited with the win (Matt Capps earned the win last season). Both Clippard and Capps won by pitching just 1/3 of an inning. Clippard got the All-Star Game win even though he faced only one batter – Adrian Beltre. He gave up a single to Beltre, but Jose Bautista was thrown out at home plate on the play to end the inning. That feat (pitcher faces exactly one batter, gives up hit, gets the win) has never happened in any other All-Star Game or in any postseason game.

Sabathia looks to keep rolling on the road

June, 19, 2011
CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia leads the New York Yankees into Sunday night’s rubber match against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

In each of Sabathia’s last three road appearances, he’s lasted eight or more innings and allowed one earned run or fewer. He’s just the fifth Yankees pitcher to do so since 1970.

The last pitcher with four straight road starts of eight innings pitched and one earned run or fewer was Chris Carpenter in 2005. The last American League pitcher with four straight? Mike Mussina in 1995 with Orioles.

However you have to go all the way back to Spud Chandler in 1947 to find the last Yankees pitcher to do so in four straight road games.

Still one month shy of turning 31, Sabathia already has the third-most wins before age 31 of any pitcher in the last 30 years. With a win Sunday, he’d match Greg Maddux’s total of 166 before he turned 31.

Sabathia is 1-2 career against the Cubs. The only teams against whom he has worse records are the two teams he’s pitched for: he’s 0-1 vs the Brewers and 1-8 against the Yankees.

Sabathia has dominated left-handed batters this season. Lefties have just two extra-base hits in 94 at-bats against CC Sabathia this season. Their slugging percentage against him is .277.

The only American League starting pitchers whose opponent slugging percentage against lefties is lower are David Price (.235), Josh Beckett (.241), Tim Wakefield (.250), and Justin Verlander (.273)

While Sabathia garners many of the headlines, Sunday night is a special occasion for Cubs starting pitcher Randy Wells. In 2009 on Father’s day Wells picked up his first career victory.

Wells has struggled since coming off a stint on the disabled list. In four starts since rejoining the club he is 0-1 with a 7.00 ERA while allowing three home runs.

He has really struggled this season against leadoff hitters. The No. 1 hitter in the batting order is 5-for-13 with two walks against Wells this season.

That’s part of a career pattern. The No. 1 hitter in the batting order has a career .330 batting average and .396 on base percentage against Wells.

Cleanup hitters crushes Wells too notching a.325 batting average with eight home runs in 163 career at-bats.

This Date In Baseball History:

Lou Gehrig was born in June 19, 1903. In the 1932 World Series against the Cubs, he hit .529 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in 4 games.
The Alex Rodriguez 600 Home Run Watch continues. Rodgriguez faces Brandon Morrow on Monday, against whom he has one home run in 15 previous career at-bats.

In 5 July starts, A.J. Burnett posted a 2.00 ERA, with 20 K and nine walks. During the month, righties hit .156 including .133 against the fastball, while lefties hit .315 overall and .368 against the fastball.

Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko has had plenty of trouble hitting breaking balls this season. Konerko is batting just .057 (2-35) against curveballs and .182 (10-55) against sliders.

John Lackey finished July with a .218 batting average against his breaking balls for the month, his lowest such batting average against those pitches in a month since he allowed a .097 average in June of 2008.

Hitters are batting .208 against Tim Hudson's offspeed pitches this season. The New York Mets enter Monday hitting .232 against sliders and .277 against changeups, which are 11 and 30 points higher than the league averages, respectively.

From April through June, opponents hit .524 (22-42) against Randy Wells when they swung on the first pitch. In July, opponents hit .118 (2-17) when they swung on the first pitch (the league average is .338). 61 percent of Wells' first pitches went for strikes.

The .258 opponent's batting average that Colby Lewis gave up in July was his highest in any month, as was his .311 BABIP.

Hiroki Kuroda's chase percentage has increased each month, and was at 31.0 percent in July. Kuroda has thrown his splitter more each month as well, with a 36.9 overall chase percentage against the pitch.

Bobby Abreu's 32.0 swing percentage is second-lowest in AL among qualifiers (Brett Gardner); his 13.2 chase percentage is third-lowest among AL qualifiers, behind Daric Barton and Marco Scutaro.
Josh Beckett threw fastballs on 81 of 98 pitches on Friday, a season-high 82.7 percent. His season average is 70.6 percent (644/912).

Randy Wells throws fastball 56 percent of the time (MLB average 62 percent); as hitters are batting .322 against it overall (MLB average .283) and .402 early in the count (MLB average .338).

Alexei Ramirez is hitting .529 (9/17) when ahead in the count in July (MLB average is .343)

According to, Joel Pineiro's home run/fly ball rate is 4.9 percent (3/67) at home and 16.1 percent (10/62) on the road.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda has a .500 record (25-25) for his career, but has had good success against the Padres. Kuroda is 4-2 all-time against the Padres. Kuroda, however, has struggled against Padres slugger Adrian Gonzalez, who has a .333 BA (5-15) with 2 home runs and 3 doubles against Kuroda.

On the road, right-handed batters are hitting .297 (33-111) and slugging .514 (14 XBH) against A.J. Burnett. At home, right-handed batters hit .239 (21-88) and slug .352 (5 XBH).

Alex Rodriguez is hitting .182 (2-11) against fastballs since hitting home run number 599 on July 22. He hit .292 (66-226) against fastballs prior to 599 (13 of 16 HRs this season against fastball).

Rapid Reaction: Cubs 5, Cardinals 0

July, 23, 2010
The Chicago Cubs shut out the St. Louis Cardinals for the second time this season (also beat Cardinals 5-0 on May 29) as Randy Wells throws seven scoreless innings for the second straight start. Wells is the first Cubs starter to throw at least 7 scoreless innings in consecutive starts since Rich Hill in 2007. 2010 is the first year the Cubs have shut out the Cardinals twice at Wrigley Field since 1996. Alfonso Soriano hits his 18th HR of the season and 100th for the Cubs. The Cardinals have lost 2 straight following an 8-game winning streak.

Jeff Suppan (6 IP, 10 H, 5 ER) falls to 0-6, matching David Aardsma for most losses by a winless pitcher this season. Suppan has dropped 8 straight decisions dating back to last season.

How Randy Wells shut out the Cardinals:
- Cardinals missed with 31.5% of their swings, including more than half against changeups. Wells got four strikeouts with his change, matching a season high; all were swinging. Wells' 17 swinging strikes also matched a season high.
- Limited damage: Despite four of the five base hits coming to leadoff batters, St Louis went 0-for-12 with runners on base. Wells retired the next two batters after all of those leadoff hits; the Cards got only one runner into scoring position with fewer than two outs.

1st Pitch: 600 HR and other hits

July, 23, 2010
Today’s Trivia: Alex Rodriguez hit his 599th career HR Thursday night, this one off Kansas City’s Robinson Tejeda, the 365th different pitcher he’s homered against. A-Rod also hit his first and 500th career home runs against the Royals. Who were the pitchers that gave up each of the long balls?

Quick Hits: Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced that, effective immediately, minor league players will be subject to random blood testing for the detection of human growth hormone under Major League Baseball's Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Major League Baseball is the first United States professional sports league to conduct blood testing. All blood samples will be collected postgame from the non-dominant arms of randomly selected non-40-man roster players at select Minor League affiliates.

Carl Pavano pitched a five-hitter to earn his career-high seventh straight victory as the Twins beat the Orioles 5-0. In 32 starts since coming to Minnesota in a trade with Cleveland during the 2009 season, Pavano is 17-10 with 5 complete games. After signing a 4-year, $39.95 million deal with the Yankees in December of 2004, Pavano made only 26 starts for New York, going 9-8 with one complete game.

Cliff Lee allowed two runs in 8 1/3 IP in the Rangers' 3-2 win over Los Angeles. Lee - who won for the first time in three starts since joining the Rangers - extended his streak of at least eight IP and one or fewer walks to 7 straight starts. In the divisional era (since 1969), only Ferguson Jenkins in 1974 had a longer streak (eight).

The Kansas City Royals traded third baseman Alberto Callaspo to the Los Angeles Angels for two pitchers Thursday: Sean O’Sullivan and minor-league lefty Will Smith. According to the Kansas City Star, plans call for O’Sullivan, 22, to join the big-league rotation — possibly as soon as Sunday’s series finale at Yankee Stadium. O’Sullivan made his season debut Tuesday against the Yankees (despite knowing he was being called up, he did not know until he got to New York that he was starting that night). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only four other pitchers since 2000 have started against one team...for two different teams (within a span of seven days or less): In 2000, Andy Ashby started against Baltimore while pitching for the Phillies and Braves; Kris Benson in 2004 started against the Braves as a Pirate and a Met; Cory Lidle threw against the Rockies as a member of the Reds and Phillies in 2004; and Carl Pavano faced Detroit in 2009 as an Indian and a Twin.

From ESPN Stats and Information: Red Sox starter John Lackey threw 7 2/3 innings of no-hit ball against the Mariners before allowing a Josh Bard single. That tied the longest no-hit bid for the Red Sox this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka also went 7 2/3 IP with a no-hitter on May 22 at the Phillies. Lackey represents the 13th time a pitcher has taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning this season. So that means 33 percent of the previous 12 instances ended up finishing off the no-hitter.

Additional Notes from ESPN Stats and Information: Jason Bay is being overly aggressive against fastballs compared to previous years. And in this month, he's striking out frequently and unable to get the ball in the air, which obviously doesn't help his chances of hitting more homers.

Before his injury this season, opponents were hitting .500 (10-20) against Josh Beckett’s change-up. Last season, opponents hit just .198 against Beckett's change.

Opponents are hitting .250 (10-40) against Randy Wells' fastball in July after hitting .348 (63-181) against the right-hander's heater in the first 3 months of the season.

Opposing batters are only hitting .200 (9-45) off Mark Buehrle's fastball this month (MLB avg .279) after hitting .377 (29-77) off heater in June.

Joe Saunders is walking just 4 percent of his batters faced in July (3/82) compared to 10 percent during the first three months.

In Vicente Padilla's first five starts (through June 19) opponents hit .325 (25/77) against his fastball. In his last five starts (since June 19) opponents have hit .165 (13/79) against his fastball.

Johan Santana looks to continue his July success. From April through June (5-5, 3.55 ERA in 16 starts), opponents hit .286 (61/213) against his fastball. In July (2-0, 0.58 ERA, 4 starts) opponents have hit .175 (11/63) against his fastball.

C.J. Wilson: On first pitch of the at bat: .333 BA, .854 OPS, PA/EBH 11.5. On all others: .230 BA, .603 OPS, PA/EBH: 18.92

Notable Elias Sports Bureau notes from Thursday night:
As mentioned above, the Twins defeated the Orioles, 5–0. That raised their record against Kevin Millwood to 9–0. That’s the most victories without a loss by any team against an active pitcher, breaking a tie with the Dodgers, who are 8–0 against Matt Cain. The Senators/Twins franchise won its first nine or more decisions against only three other pitchers: Sid Monge (their first 10, 1975–1981), Ted Blankenship (1922–1925), and Gordon Rhodes (1929–1933).

Josh Johnson lowered his ERA to 1.61, allowing one run in 6 1/3 innings in the Marlins’ 3–2 win over the Rockies. But for the fifth time this season, Florida’s bullpen cost Johnson a victory. That tied Johnny Cueto for the highest total in the majors this season, and it matched Johnson’s total of squandered wins in 2009. In fact, he’s the first pitcher in the Marlins’ 17-year history to lose five or more potential wins in consecutive seasons. It was also the fifth time this season that Johnson failed to win a start in which he allowed fewer than two runs. The only other pitchers with at least five such starts are John Santana (six), Gavin Floyd (five), and Randy Wells (five).

Matt Holliday’s fourth-inning single off Cole Hamels was the Cardinals’ only hit in the Phillies’ 2–0, 11-inning win at St. Louis on Thursday. It was only the third game since 1900 that went beyond the 10th inning in which a team allowed only one hit. One was the game in 1959 in which Harvey Haddix of the Pirates was perfect through 12 innings before losing, 1–0, to the Braves, with Joe Adcock’s baserunning blunder turning a potential home run into a game-winning double. The other was a 2–1 Yankees victory over the Angels in 1962 in which Whitey Ford pitched seven hitless innings and Jim Coates allowed a ninth-inning single to Buck Rodgers. That was also the game in which Roger Maris set an AL record that still stands when he was walked intentionally four times.

Derek Jeter hit his first inside-the-park home run since his rookie season in the Yankees’ 10-4 win over the Royals. Jeter’s previous inside-the-parker was also against Kansas City (Aug. 2, 1996). Only two other active players have more than one IPHR against the same team: Randy Winn against the Yankees and Chase Utley against the Reds (2 each). At age 36, Jeter became the oldest Yankees player to hit an inside-the-park home run since Earle Combs did it against the Washington Senators in 1935. Combs was 20 days older at the time than Jeter was on Thursday.

Today’s Leaderboard: As we know, Alex Rodriguez is 1 HR shy of becoming only the 7th player in baseball history to hit 600 career HR. A-Rod would probably prefer to hit the milestone HR in front of adoring Yankee fans rather than on the road (the Yankees start seven-game road trip through Cleveland and Tampa Bay on Monday). Luckily for A-Rod, there are 3 more games this weekend against Kansas City, a team he hit milestone HR No. 1 and 500 against (he also hit HR No. 499 and 599 against KC).

A-Rod’s 41 career HR against the Royals are second-most among active players and tied for 2nd with Rafael Palmeiro among ALL players.

Key Matchup: Brian Bannister takes the hill Friday night for the Royals at Yankee Stadium. Among pitchers he has faced at least 10 times in his career, Alex Rodriguez's best AB per HR rate is against Bannister. Overall, A-Rod is hitting .571 (4-for-7) with 3 HR and 6 RBI while posting a 1.857 slugging percentage against the righty. According to ESPN Stats and Information, on Bannister’s most common pitch, the fastball, Rodriguez is batting .500 with a 2.000 slugging percentage, .600 on-base percentage and two home runs in four at-bats.

Trivia Answer: Alex Rodriguez hit his first career HR on June 12, 1995 against Tom Gordon. His 500th career HR was on August 4, 2007 off Kyle Davies.

The Closer: Pitching not perfect Saturday … but close

July, 4, 2010
How Red Sox starter Jon Lester improved to 12-0 lifetime against the Orioles:
- Lester got 13 groundballs against 5 fly balls. At 72.2 pct, that’s his highest percentage since April 23 (also against Baltimore).
- The Orioles did not put 1 of Lester's 13 two-strike fastballs in play and struck out 4 times against the pitch.
- Lester got 6 of his 7 strikeouts on pitches low in the strike zone. He kept the ball out of the middle of the zone vertically, with 92 of his 100 pitches judged by Inside Edge to be either up in the zone, down in the zone, or out of zone high or low.

How Tigers starter Justin Verlander beat the Mariners:
- He had a miss pct of 27.9 (2nd-best this season).
- His chase pct was 34.0 (2nd-best this season).
- He threw and offspeed pitch on his first pitch 34.5 pct of the time (2nd-most this season).
- His offspeed stuff set up his heater: 8 swings-and-misses (2nd-most this season) and 7 K (most this season) vs fastball.

Ubaldo Jiménez had a rough 3rd Inning. How rough?

- Allowed 1st career grand slam (Travis Ishikawa).
- Allowed as many earned runs (7) as he did in April and May combined.
- Had given up 7 ER in a start just twice in career prior to Saturday
- ERA rose from 1.83 to 2.33<>Through 3rd inning (not after)

Stephen Strasburg struck out 5 in 5 innings. His 53 strikeouts in his first 6 games are 3rd-most all-time.

Saturday’s Longest No-Hit Bids
Saturday was the 2nd day this season that 2 pitchers each took a no-hit bid into the 7th inning. The 1st was June 13, when Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd did it in the same game. Randy Wells and Bruce Chen each made it through 6 full innings before allowing a hit leading off the 7th. Chen had been perfect through 6, which was the first time in 7 starts this season that he took a perfect game bid beyond the 1st inning. In all 6 of his previous starts, he allowed a hit in the 1st inning.

Rolling Rookie
How about the consideration for a rookie, with 3 weeks of major league experience to make the All-Star team? We’re not talking about Stephen Strasburg, but Indians rookie Carlos Santana, who ranked 2nd among the teams’ hitters in WAR. The catcher position for the American League, with injuries to multiple players of significance, is a bit on the depleted side, and there’s a vacancy for an Indian with Shin-Soo Choo headed to the disabled list. Santana was 0-for-3 Saturday, but his 2 walks gave him 17 in 21 games and kept his on-base percentage well above .400

Managing similarity
Saturday was Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson’s 2nd game. In his 2nd game as a player, his team won, 14-1. Today in his 2nd game as manager, his team lost, 14-1.

Mike Leake has allowed a .529 (9-17) opp BA (league average: .314) on 1st pitches during his current 4-game losing streak.

Mark Teixeira has not had a hit against Toronto's right handed-pitchers (0/8). He is batting .111 when behind in the count (1/9), batting .000 when ahead in the count (0/5) and 2 of his 3 hits against Toronto in 2010 came off the 1st pitch of the at-bat.

The Closer: Dice-K leads the way

May, 23, 2010
Daisuke Matsuzaka dazzled Phillies hitters Saturday night, throwing 7 2/3 hitless innings before Philadelphia's Juan Castro ended the bid with a bloop single just over the reach of Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro. That starting stint without a hit is the longest no-hit bid of Matsuzaka's career, surpassing his four innings without a hit vs the Angels on September 15, 2009. It has been 32 years since the Phillies have been no-hit (Bob Forsch, 1978).

Matsuzaka's outing also ties CC Sabathia for the longest no-hit bid this season that did not go on to finish as a no-hitter. In other words, only two pitchers have no-hit bids longer than 7 2/3 innings this season -- Ubaldo Jimenez and Dallas Braden.

Why Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka won:
- Had three innings of fewer than 10 pitches and zero with 20 or more. In his first four starts, Matsuzaka made it through just one inning with fewer than 10 pitches.
- The Phillies swung at 33.9 percent of Matsuzaka's offerings outside the strike zone, a season-high for Daisuke. Two of Daisuke's three swinging strikeouts were on fastballs outside the strike zone.
- Matsuzaka had success working up in the strike zone against the Phillies. Four of his five strikeouts were on high pitches, and the Phillies missed on five of their 15 swings against his offerings up in the zone.

Why Cubs starter Randy Wells deserved the win:
- Effective with off-speed stuff, particularly his slider. Rangers hitters were only 1-7 (.143) against the slider and the opposition is hitting only .204 against Wells' slider this season. His strike pct on all off-speed pitches was 74 (MLB average: 61 pct). Plus, Rangers hitters chased 46 pct of off-speed stuff out of the zone tonight (MLB average: 31 pct).
- Economical. Five of his 8 completed innings were 1-2-3 (62 pct; double the MLB avg.)
- Control. Went to a 3-ball count to only 4 of 31 batters faced (13 pct; MLB average: 19 pct).

Why Rockies starter Jeff Francis won:
- No solid contact. Of the 21 pitches that ended at-bats, Inside Edge determined only 2 balls were "well-hit." That .095 well-hit percentage is miniscule compared to the MLB average (.267).
- Dominated with slow stuff. Royals hitters were 0-11 against Francis' curveball and changeup. For the season, hitters are 2-for-21 against Francis' off-speed deliveries.

Why Athletics starter Gio Gonzalez won:
- Season-high first pitch strike percentage of 70.4. Giants hitters were 0-5 when putting the first pitch in play.
- The Giants were 0-7 with four strikeouts against Gonzalez's curveball and took just eight swings against it, despite the fact that he threw 38 of them on the day. Gonzalez got 12 called strikes with the curve, including three for strikeouts.
- Gonzalez retired the leadoff hitter in each of his eight innings..
- Gonzalez kept his curveball down in the zone, throwing 31 of his 38 curves in the lower third. The Giants were 0-4 with three strikeouts on low curveballs. For the season, opposing hitters are 0-35 with a whopping 29 strikeouts against Gonzalez curveballs in the lower third. On the season, Gonzalez has thrown 84 low curveballs before two strikes, and not a single one has been put in play. With two strikes, Gonzalez has thrown 85 low curveballs, with only six being put in play, all for outs.

Why Giants starter Matt Cain deserved better:
- Dominated with his curve and changeup. With a combined 0-for-7 performance against the two pitches today, opposing hitters are now 6-48 (.125) vs. Cain's curve and change in 2010.
- He got out of trouble. Cain retired only 3 of 8 leadoff hitters (38 pct; MLB average: 68 pct) but only allowed 1 to score - however it ended up being a big one.
- He put hitters away in all situations. When counts got to 2 strikes, 88 pct of at-bats ended in outs (MLB average: 72 pct). When counts got to 2-0, 2-1, or 3-ball, 82 percent of at-bats were outs (MLB average: 54 pct).

Why White Sox starter Gavin Floyd won:
- Commanded the inner half of the plate: 20 of Floyd's 24 pitches on the inner third went for strikes, and the Marlins were just 1-12 against those pitches. Six of Floyd's seven strikeouts came on inside pitches.
- Fooled the Marlins with his off-speed pitches (curveball, changeup, slider): Floyd threw 35 of 54 off-speed pitches for strikes, with 14 of the 35 strikes being of the called variety. The Marlins took 21 swings against Floyd's curveball, changeup, and slider, missing on 11.
- Five of Floyd's seven strikeouts were with off-speed pitches.
- Floyd retired the first six leadoff hitters he faced.

Why Angels starter Scott Kazmir won:
- A season high 79.5 pct (89 of 112) of his pitches were fastballs, with the Cardinals hitting just 2-18 against the pitch. Cardinals hitters missed on 14 of their 42 swings against Kazmir's fastball.
- Kazmir retired six of seven leadoff hitters he faced and retired the side in order in five of seven innings.
- Kazmir reached a 2-0 count on just one of the 27 hitters he faced.
- All five of Kazmir's strikeouts came on pitches on the outer third of the strike zone, with the Cardinals hitting just 2-16 against outside pitches.

FanGraphs: Hanson, Wells do it differently

April, 9, 2010
It was a treat to watch a matchup Thursday night between two sophomore hurlers: the Atlanta Braves' Tommy Hanson and Chicago Cubs' Randy Wells. Hanson finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting last season, while Wells was sixth. Clearly, both pitchers have the potential to play large roles in their respective organizations' futures. However, when they take to the mound, these two hurlers employ very different, yet effective, approaches.

Last season, Hanson's fastball sat at 92 mph, while his slider came in at 83 mph, his curve at 75 mph and his seldom-used change-up at 83 mph, according to Pitch Type velocities at FanGraphs. In the first inning of last night's game, the 23-year-old came out like a man possessed and was throwing his fastball 96-97 mph, his slider 89 mph and his curve 75 mph. The Cubs hitters were simply overmatched, and Hanson struck out the side (with a walk of Derrek Lee mixed in).

Hanson came out in subsequent innings and took a little off his pitches; the adrenaline had clearly drained a bit. Even so, he was still pumping his pitches in at a higher velocity than last season's averages. When all was said and done, he had struck out seven batters in 5 1/3 innings, while issuing three walks and two solo homers. Along with the seven K's, another seven of his outs came on fly balls and two were via the ground ball.

A former minor league catcher who couldn't hit, Wells is already 27 years old. The late bloomer came into the first inning of last night's game showing respectable velocity at 88-92 mph. His approach, though, was to induce contact with his heavy sinker. Wells' ground-ball rate was just shy of 50 percent in 2009 (while Hanson just scraped 40 percent). The Cubs pitcher had his good sinker working Thursday, and he made the Braves hitters look like they should all take up new careers on the mound. And he did it without mid-to-high-90s heat.

Wells induced 13 ground ball outs; that's important because it means none of those batted balls were a threat to go over the wall for a home run, or to split the outfield defense for a bases-clearing triple. Just two of his 18 outs came in the air. When Wells did get into trouble, he was able to defuse the situations with three double plays. Jason Heyward, Atlanta's rookie phenom, was rendered impotent by Wells' approach. The right-fielder could not get any lift on the ball. He rolled into a force play in the second inning and then, after breaking his bat, grounded weakly back to Wells in the fourth. All the Braves hitters shared his frustrations.

In 27 starts in '09, Wells posted a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 3.0, while Hanson came in at 2.6 WAR in 21 starts. While the Braves right-hander is clearly a crowd favorite for his radar-busting velocities and eye-popping counting stats, Wells has shown that he can be an equally effective big league pitcher -- albeit with a lower overall ceiling -- by pounding the lower half of the strike zone with sinkers and pitching to contact.