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5/31/2007 11:45:00 AM

AL West: King Felix vs. Dream Weaver

Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez suffered his worst outing of the season against the Angels.
By Gennaro Filice

As I noted in an earlier post, the AL West is chalk full of talented young arms. In said post, I ranked the division's top 10 pitchers with a birth date in the Reagan Administration (1981-89). At the time, my most difficult decision was who to rank higher between Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver. While King Felix boasts endless potential with his once-in-a-generation arsenal of pitches, Weaver is coming off a fabulous rookie season in which he posted an ERA (2.56) almost two full points lower than Hernandez's 2006 mark (4.52). Weaver also beat Hernandez in both of their '06 showdowns. Still, in the end, I bought into the hype and slotted "King Felix" above "Dream Weaver."

On Wednesday, the pitchers faced off for the first time this season, and I found myself with the perfect chance to revisit the question of superiority. I DVR'd the game in order to give myself ample time to break down each pitcher's brilliance.

Unfortunately, neither pitcher showed up with "A" stuff -- not even close. Hernandez took the loss by giving up seven earned runs on nine hits (including three homers) in six innings. Weaver managed to pitch just 4.2 innings, yielding five earned runs on nine hits.

My late-night film session ended up being a clinic on how not to pitch at the major league level.

Each hurler committed three cardinal sins in pitching:

1. Early emotions
Weaver: Jeff Weaver, Jered's brother, has always been known to wear his emotions on his sleeve -- a dangerous trait for any pitcher. After giving up a run in the first, Jered ferociously slapped his glove and was visibly upset as he walked off the mound. Though this was nothing compared to his counterpart's outburst ...
Hernandez: After giving up four runs in the first, Hernandez threw a violent tantrum at the far end of the dugout, repeatedly slamming his glove on the bench before pitching coach Rafael Chavez came over to settle him down.

2. Failing to locate the fastball
Weaver: Throughout his rookie season, Weaver spotted his fastball with pinpoint accuracy. On Wednesday, though, the right-hander was all over the place with his heater, throwing off his approach to every hitter.
Hernandez: He may have one of the most electric arms in the American League, but nobody can consistently get away with elevating fastballs. Gary Matthews Jr. and Vlad Guerrero each turned letters-high fastballs into three-run bombs.

3. Walking the leadoff
Weaver: In the fourth inning, Weaver got ahead of leadoff Ben Broussard 0-2, but ended up walking him. Sure enough, the Mariners went on to score two runs in the inning.
Hernandez: Felix walked Reggie Willits to start off the fifth, and the Angels proceeded to score three runs in the inning.

With a pair of performances like this, it's hard to argue for either pitcher's supremacy. For now, I'll continue to be a slave to hype and rank Hernandez a bit ahead of Weaver.

  • Although Hernandez and Weaver looked like they were throwing batting practice on Wednesday, there's definitely no shortage of dominant pitching in the AL West. Need proof? Just take a quick gander at the AL ERA leaderboard, where four of the top five hurlers hail from this four-team division: 1. Oakland's Dan Haren (1.64); 2. Oakland's Chad Gaudin (2.32); 3. Los Angeles' John Lackey (2.36); 5. Los Angeles' Kelvim Escobar (2.64).

  • Who leads designated hitters in hits thus far this season? Gary Sheffield? Nope. Travis Hafner? Not so much. David Ortiz? Close, but no cigar. New Seattle DH Jose Vidro paces the bunch with 61 hits in 48 games.

  • After 2 1/2 years of ill feelings, the Jose Guillen-Mike Scioscia feud may be over. The MLB Experts Blog at Yahoo! Sports reports that Guillen sought out Scioscia prior to Wednesday's series finale.

  • Ron Washington performed a managerial rite of passage on Monday night, publicly chastising a player's performance for the very first time. After Robinson Tejeda lasted just three innings for the second straight start, Washington vented to the Star-Telegram: "He just didn't show me no guts. He's got good stuff -- there's no reason to run away from bats. "It's time to start growing up and throwing the ball in the strike zone. Because after a while, there ain't going to be no more scholarships."
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    posted by SI.com | View comments |  


    Posted: June 1, 2007 1:49 PM   by Anonymous
    "Chock full."
    Posted: June 1, 2007 2:47 PM   by Anonymous
    Gennaro must be the publisher's kid or nephew or something. His picture looks really young, his writing is so-so, and there are certainly people that know a lot more about baseball than he seems to.

    And before you say it: sure, I'm jealous. I'm a better writer, I know more, yet he's got a job writing for SI.
    Posted: June 2, 2007 12:44 AM   by Anonymous
    Clearly you are jealous. I look forward to Gennero's columns every week, and I learn something every time...
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