Let me set the scene.
Staring at each other with enough grit and gruff to make James Dean look like a mama's boy, two bearded alphamales stand twenty yards apart on a dusty and abandoned dirt road as their fingers tickle their pistols.
The tension began from the onset, slowly inching forward as the film culminates to this climactic showdown. It is the quintessential matchup of good and evil. The protagonist prevails more often than not, but the odds of survival favor neither hero nor villain. Both men lay their lives and honor on the line in what has become the truest test of tenacity, resolve, and moxie.
The air is teeming with suspense. Neither man blinks as the camera flickers from face to face at a frame per second. Noon strikes. Bullets fly. Smoke fills the air. One man stands; the other falls.
Sure, it's on the east coast, and sure, first pitch is an hour past noon, but today's matchup against the Seattle Mariners has all the makings of a Western classic... without the beards.
As the sun reaches its highest point, two of the American League's best pitchers will reach into their arsenals and duel in the dusty and abandoned ballpark known as Tropicana Field.
Felix Hernandez (7-1, 2.19 ERA, 3.39 FIP, 2.73 xFIP)
Felix Hernandez and Chris Archer share more commonalities than differences. Both pitchers strike out a lot of batters, both pitchers induce a high percentage of ground balls, and both pitchers attack hitters low and away.
Archer ranks second in the American League with 70 strikeouts (29.1% rate), but Hernandez isn't too far behind with 63 (26.5%). Hernandez, however, gets the edge in ground ball production, generating ground balls on balls in play 62.2% of the time compared to Archer's 54.1%.
Hernandez's 2015 arsenal has consisted of five pitches, relying most heavily on a 92 mph sinker (thrown 34.97% of the time) and a changeup in the upper 80s (27.62%). Hernandez's fourseam fastball doesn't simmer quite as hard as it did when he entered the league as a 19-year-old in 2005, sitting at around 92-93 mph this season (13.70%). The arsenal also features a curveball in the low 80s (19.38%) and a slider at around 85 mph (4.01%).
Chris Archer (5-4, 2.40 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 2.78 xFIP)
Chris Archer's shoulders are heavy with responsibility as he has been tasked with becoming the ace and anchor of a pitching staff that has done an excellent job of keeping the team's medical staff employed. In his new role, Archer has responded well, posting a 2.40 ERA in his first ten starts.
Yet, in today's game, he will encounter his toughest test of the season as Archer must do what aces are expected to do. He must beat the league's best and help put an end to his team's losing streak.
The Supporting Cast
Today's game will NOT be televised by SunSports, but will be carried by MLB.tv as the Free Game of the day. Tune in to Rays Radio for your audio, and you'll have yourself a nice compromise.
|SEATTLE MARINERS||TAMPA BAY RAYS|
|Austin Jackson - CF||Kevin Kiermaier - CF|
|Seth Smith - RF||Joey Butler - DH|
|Robinson Cano - 2B||Evan Longoria - 3B|
|Nelson Cruz - DH||David DeJesus - LF|
|Kyle Seager - 3B||Logan Forsythe - 1B|
|Logan Morrison - 1B||Nick Franklin - SS|
|Brad Miller - SS||Jake Elmore - 2B|
|Dustin Ackley - LF||Brandon Guyer - RF|
|Mike Zunino - C||Rene Rivera - C|
|Felix Hernandez - RHP||Chris Archer - RHP|
--Here's a great article by Kevin Van Valkenburg of ESPN regarding the dominance of Felix Hernandez. Definitely worth the read.
-- In an article published yesterday on Fangraphs, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi sounded off as to whether or not they wanted to see an end to the "win" in the pitcher's stat line. Here are their responses.
Chris Archer (5-4, 2.40 ERA, 2.78 FIP):
(Note: all four losses have come at the Trop)
"I don't know if it should be killed. The emphasis behind it isn't as great as people make it out to be. I think true baseball gurus, and players and management, know. It's how a lot of fans may judge someone, but we know there's not so much behind the importance of (an individual pitcher's) win."
Jake Odorizzi (3-5, 2.31 ERA, 2.52 FIP):
"There are a lot of variables that go into a win, so it's a stat you can't really look too much into. Wins are nice - they're the sexy stat - but peripheral stats show more than wins and losses. I wouldn't get rid of it, though. They've been there since the start of baseball, and somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose."