Riddle Me This 

We pause from our regularly scheduled muscular dystrophy blogathon to bring you this week's Puzzlah. Name the two pitchers below:

Pitcher A
8 games / 54.2 IP / 11 ER / 7 HR / 18 BB / 34 K / 1.81 ERA

Pitcher B
6 games / 23 IP / 34 ER / 4 HR / 19 BB / 8 K / 13.30 ERA

Both are young starters in the NL West. One is really good. One is worse than terrible. Any guesses?


Just a couple hours later....

OK, Nick Schulte spoiled it for everyone. Both pitchers are Brad Hennessey, split into his good starts and his bad starts in 2005. Like the girl with the curl on her forehead, when he's good he's good, and when he's bad he's horrid. (Hennessey, not Schulte.)

Astounding, really, how his bad days fall apart so completely and quickly. But it gives me hope that whatever infects Hennessey on those bad days can be pinpointed and controlled. Is it a mechanical problem that keeps cropping up? Is it a persistent flaw that only certain teams have scouted well? (That's hard to believe -- it means whatever the Braves and Marlins have noticed and exploited has gone undetected by the Cardinals...twice.) Could it be matchups? Hennessey's particular combo of fastball-slider-changeup happens to flummox the Cardinals' hitters? Nah.

My guess is he's inconsistent with his mechanics; I seem to remember that when he was demoted to Fresno in June, the Giants tinkered with his delivery by cutting out some wasted motion. So it's possible he hasn't committed it to muscle memory, and his bad days happen when he reverts back to his old form or gets stuck in between. It's not unusual for a young pitcher, and not unfixable. Look what Lowry has done by fixing a tiny mechanical flaw in his footwork. (I can't remember where I heard that -- perhaps on the radio -- so correct me if you've heard otherwise.)

An interesting data point in Hennessey's statistics: in several of his well-pitched games he's allowed several solo runs. Again, the Curt Schilling theory of being aggressive, not walking batters, and knowing when it's OK to make mistakes within the strike zone. He doesn't have Schilling-like stuff, but you like to see him more aggressive than nibble, nibble, nibble.

As ugly as Hennessey's overall ERA is (5.35), it's encouraging to see that he's pitched quite well in 8 of 14 starts. It's the early KO's -- 3 starts of less than 3 innings each -- that he needs to reduce, and he'll be a capable back-of-rotation guy next year.


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