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Ervin Santana's No-No

The Angels' Ervin Santana no-hit the Indians on Wednesday afternoon -- but Cleveland still led the game until the fifth frame. A first inning fielding error by Erick Aybar later turned into a run when Santana uncorked a wild pitch with Ezequiel Carrera on third base, but Santana pulled off the no-no and earned the Angels a 3-1 win by allowing just one other base runner the rest of the game. Santana whiffed 10 batters and walked one (Lonnie Chisenhall in the eighth inning), joining Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander in 2011's no-no club. It was the Angels' first complete-game no-hitter since Mike Witt threw a perfect game against Texas on September 30, 1984.

A fastball/slider pitcher who features just a smattering of changeups, Santana threw 68 heaters, 34 breaking balls and three changes against Cleveland. His velocity was higher than usual, as Santana averaged 93.3 MPH with his heat (92.6 MPH overall in 2011) and 82.7 MPH with his slider (81.9 overall in 2011).

While Santana is typically a fly ball-slanted pitcher, he recorded 12 ground ball outs compared to five fly outs on Wednesday. He challenged Cleveland's lefty-laden lineup (seven swung from the left side) with fastballs on the inner half, and buried his slider at the knees:


Frequency of Santana's fastball location vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011


Frequency of Santana's slider location vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011

Santana got five Ks apiece with his fastball and slider, and seven of his whiffs were of the swinging variety:

Pitch location and release velocity of Santana's strikeouts vs. Cleveland on July 27, 2011

According to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, Santana is the first pitcher to throw a nine inning no-hitter while surrendering a run since Houston's Darryl Kile did it versus the Mets on September 8, 1993, at the Astrodome. 


In case you haven't noticed: David Ortiz is slumping

If David Ortiz started the first 32 games of the season the way he has hit over the past 32 games, Red Sox Nation would be screaming for his head. As it is, fans should start tempering their enthusiasm in the discussion of a long-term contract extension for the uni-dimensional Ortiz.

Ortiz is a hitter and that's all. When he is hitting well, the DH is a force to be reckoned with, when he isn't, his value is limited. Now, don't get me wrong he has a great smile and seems to be a great teammate but the AL, particularly the AL East, is all about hitting.

Ortiz in his last 32 games is 26-for-100 (.260) with two homers and 21 RBI. He is slugging .420 and thanks to 21 walks he still has an OPS of .808. These numbers follow his three doubles and five RBI last night against Kansas City. In his first 32 games, Ortiz hit .292 with four homers and 16 RBI. He slugged .451 and had an OPS of .833.

Ortiz since June 14Interestingly since June 14 against lefties, Ortiz is hitting .333 (11-for-33), but against righties he's gone 15-for-67 (.224). And, his only two homers have been against lefties. Ortiz last homered against a righty on June 12, off Kyle Drabek, who hasn't pitched in the majors since that game. 

The Slider

If there is any one pitch that is killing Ortiz, it would be the slider. Big Papi is 0-for-15 against it.

Ortiz has swung and missed on 36.7% of the sliders he's seen

The Sinker

The sinker has not been his friend either, since June 14. He only has a double in 13 at bats against the pitch.

He has struck out 3 times and grounded out 7 times against the sinkerFortunately for the Sox, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury have been red-hot, Kevin Youkilis has been steady, and Adrian Gonzalez is still my choice for the AL MVP. However, they can't be expected to remain that hot and the Red Sox need Ortiz to pick it up. But Big Papi certainly needs to pick it up if he wants the Red Sox to re-sign him in the off-season.




Neftali Feliz Missing His Spots

Rangers closer Neftali Feliz entered last night's game against the Twins with an 8-7 lead. Six batters, a walk and three hits later, Feliz got the hook from manager Ron Washington with Texas now trailing by a run. After eviscerating hitters in 2009 and 2010, the 23-year-old righty has suffered his share of meltdowns this season.

His strikeout rate is down, his walks are up, and on the whole, he's leaving the Rangers in a worse position to win ball games. Feliz punched out about 9.9 batters per nine innings between 2009-2010, but that K rate has dropped to 6.2 per nine in 2011. His walk rate, 2.3 per nine entering this year, has shot up to 4.8 BB/9. Feliz previously ranked among the game's best in Win Probability Added, a stat measuring how a player affects his team's chances of winning based on things like score, inning and base/out state. But Feliz has a negative WPA in 2011, meaning he's doing more harm than good on the mound.

Superficially, it's hard to figure out why Feliz is scuffling. He's still slinging upper-90s heat, and batters are still coming up empty when they swing. Feliz's 25.2 percent miss rate this year is down from his 26.6 percent mark in 2009-2010, but not alarmingly so. The big problem is that hitters aren't swinging as much against Feliz, and that's because he's missing the zone more often.

Feliz placed 49.6 percent of his pitches in the strike zone in 2009-2010. This year, he has hit the zone 46.3 percent. He's missing to the arm side more often in 2011:

Feliz's pitch frequency by location, 2009-2010

Feliz's pitch frequency by location, 2011

Hitters aren't chasing as many out-of-zone pitches this year, either. Look at opponents' swing rate on would-be balls against Feliz in 2009-2010 and 2011:

 Opponent chase rate against Feliz's pitches, 2009-2010

Opponent chase rate against Feliz's pitches, 2011

Opponents aren't going after quite as many pitches high out of the zone, and they're almost entirely laying off that spot to Feliz's arm side where he's missing so often. Overall, batters are chasing 27.7 percent of Feliz's pitches, compared to 30.3 percent in 2009-2010.

Feliz is missing his spots, and hitters are showing discipline by taking those pitches for balls. That, in turn, has led to more favorable counts: Feliz fell behind 17.5 percent of the batters that he faced in 2009-2010, but that figure is up to 24 percent this season. It's hard for a pitcher to rack up Ks, limit walks and close the door in the ninth when he's working out of 1-0 and 2-1 counts.