Top 30 Starts of 2009 - Part 2

In part 1, we looked at the  26th - 30th best starts of 2009.  Continuing on the countdown I now bring you 21 - 25.  If you use your memory or clicked the link you may have noticed that Jeff Niemann and James Shields were missing.  Well, not to worry, as they comprise this entire list:

25) Jeff Niemann 2.82 FIP, 0.235 wOBA

24) James Shields 2.78 FIP, 0.234 wOBA

23) James Shields 2.44 FIP, 0.254 wOBA

22) Jeff Niemann 3.03 FIP, 0.197 wOBA

21) Jeff Niemann 1.78 FIP, 0.270 wOBA

Let's dig a little deeper after the jump

25) July 10th vs. Oakland Athletics Box  Highlights  Pitch F/X

 IP  H BB SO HR HBP BF 2B 3B 1B  FIP   wOBA  R ER
       9.0 7 3 6 0 0 36 0 0 7        2.82      0.235 0 0

Niemann was pumping fastballs for strikes this night at a rate of 76% getting 7 swinging strikes (9.33%), while mixing in his slider and curve.  Niemann threw a CGSO in under 3 hours on 118 pitches, less than 3.3 per batter.  A 6-4-3 double play helped negate a couple of the runners, but Niemann was really on all day throwing less than 15 pitches in 6 of his innings.

24)  September 30th vs. Baltimore Orioles Box  Highlights  Pitch F/X

 IP  H BB SO HR HBP BF 2B 3B 1B  FIP   wOBA  R ER
       8.0 6 0 8 1 0 29 1 0 4        2.78      0.234 3 3

In what would be James Shields last start of 2009, he did his usual thing, dominant through 7, then staying out too long into an 8th; in which, he would give up half his hits including both extra base hits and all three runs against.  Seven innings, 3 H, all singles with no runs against sounds like a much better day, but these are the facts.  The 8 K's to no walks is uber sexy and a double play even erased another of those runners that got on.  Brooks has Shields getting 13 swinging strikes on 106 pitches (12%) while effectively throwing all of his pitches for strikes.

23) July 7th vs. Toronto Blue Jays  Box  Highlights  Pitch F/X

 IP  H BB SO HR HBP BF 2B 3B 1B  FIP   wOBA  R ER
       7.0 7 1 4 0 0 29 1 0 6        2.44      0.254 1 1

Here is James Shields second appearance on the list.  Not as many K's and he did walk a guy compared to the previous entry, but he didn't give up the dreaded HR and that helped keep his FIP in the great start range.  He didn't mix his pitches as much working mostly FB/SL/CH and only got about 7% swinging strikes, consequently.  This was your typical James Shields scattering hits all over, but not allowing anything to get strung together.  Again, he didn't give up a run until Chadford allowed an inherited run to come across in the 8th.

22) August 1st vs. Kansas City Royals  Box  Highlights  Pitch F/X

 IP  H BB SO HR HBP BF 2B 3B 1B  FIP   wOBA  R ER
       8.0 4 0 7 1 0 27 2 0 1        3.03      0.197 1 1

Jeff Niemann is at his finest when he's throwing his fastball and curve for strikes.  No walks is a recipe for a great start from the Big Nyquil and in this start he tossed in 7 K's as well.  He didn't get a ton of swinging strikes, but he had great command in the strike zone and got a number of borderline low pitches to go his way.  His only real mistake on the night was a David DeJesus dinger in the 6th, but he minimized baserunners all night and picked up his 10th win.

21) July 21st at Chicago White Sox  Box  Highlights  Pitch F/X

 IP  H BB SO HR HBP BF 2B 3B 1B  FIP   wOBA  R ER
       8.0 8 0 7 0 1 32 2 0 6        1.78      0.270 2 2

Our last entry on this list is once again Giant Jeff Niemann.  You may notice that this is the highest wOBA of this group, but by not allowing the longball and going 8 strong, he was able to throw up the 17th best FIP on the season.  An impressive 7 swinging strikes on 22 curveballs (32%!) helped him mow down a power heavy lineup on their home turf.  He turned a double play on a comeback linedrive and if you take out Gordon Bombay Beckham's two doubles then he pretty much owned batters all night.  After working out of trouble in the 5th, when he was touched for both runs, and again in the 6th, he retired his final six batters while striking out the side in the 7th. 

Much thanks to MLB.com for the video, Brooksbaseball.com for the pitch f/x, and Baseball-reference.com for giving me a reason to keep on keeping on.  In next weeks installment we will take a look at the 16th - 20th best starts for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009.

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