In the event that you somehow didn’t notice all the confetti and bunting left over from the big unveiling, I announced earlier this week the introduction of NERD to the public imagination.
Essentially, NERD represents an attempt to anticipate what games might be most appealing to the baseball nerd (read: you and you and you). It’s in its most infant stages right now, but is probably better than nothing at the moment. As such, it’s with zero apologies that I’ve utilized it to look at this weekend’s pitching match-ups.
Remember, NERD is graded on a 1-10 scale (for starters with 20+ IP) in terms of how appealing a pitcher is to the nerd aesthetic. For each day of the weekend, I’ve looked at three types of game: one that’s appealing by NERD’s standards (Behold), one that’s totally unappealing (Flee), and one that NERD might not quite yet be ready to assess correctly (Also Consider).
Friday, June 04
Behold: Mat Latos (7) at Roy Halladay (10), 7:05pm ET
• Halladay is one of three pitchers — alongside Cliff Lee and the very unlucky Dan Haren — currently sporting a perfect NERD score. Like Lee, Halladay is shockingly effective without throwing a ton of swing-and-miss pitches, relying instead on controlling the strike zone and getting grounders.
Flee: Joe Saunders (0) at Ian Snell (0), 10:10pm ET
• Saunders is a soft-tosser who doesn’t throw strikes. Snell has 1:1 K:BB and only 33% groundball rate. Together, they form a perfect storm of mediocrity.
Also Consider: Clay Buchholz (6) at Chris Tillman (NA), 7:05pm ET
• Tonight marks Tillman’s second ML start of the year after being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk last week. Also, the average age of tonight’s starters is a mere 23.5 years old. Also, did you know that Buchholz has posted about a 53% groundball rate in his last 150 major league innings? Why does no one tell me these things?!?
Saturday, June 05
Behold: Carlos Silva (7) at Roy Oswalt (9), 7:05pm ET
• The thing we know that NERD doesn’t (yet!) is that Houston’s offense, currently way last in batting runs, is officially a threat to the human spirit. In terms of just the pitching match-up, though, Silva versus Oswalt promises to be a strike fest. Quick thing: did you know that Oswalt is currently posting his highest K rate since 2002? Well, he is: 9.08 K/9. This, after posting right around 7 K/9 for like the last five years.
Also Consider: James Shields (9) at Tommy Hunter (NA), 4:10pm ET
• Dave Cameron’s favorite for this year’s Cy is essentially — in terms of product, if not process — is essentially the right-handed version of Cliff Lee right now, absolutely filling up the strike zone while getting enough whiffs to make such an approach truly menacing. Hunter, I’m not so excited about, but he is just 23 and this is just his second ML start of the season. There’s room for curiosity there.
Sunday, June 06
Behold: Javier Vazquez (5) at Brandon Morrow (8), 1:07pm ET
• While last year’s NERD leader Vazquez has fallen on hard times, Morrow is delivering on some of his potential right now, currently behind only Tim Lincecum and Clayton Kershaw in swinging-strike rate. And while it may surprise the frig out of Seattle fans, Morrow is actually throwing about a league-average rate of strikes (61.4%).
Flee: Matt Garza (4) at Rich Harden (0), 3:05pm ET
• Harden is currently sporting a below-average whiff rate — this after producing three consecutive years of 15%-plus in the same category. When he’s not producing swing-and-misses, Harden’s hard to watch. Garza’s mediocre NERD might surprise you, especially if you’re looking at his 3.08 ERA. But he’s basically a league-average dude right now: normal whiff rate (7.5%), normal xFIP (4.43).
Also Consider: Tim Lincecum (9, 1:35pm ET) and Ubaldo Jimenez (7, 4:10pm ET)
• Only problem is, these guys aren’t facing each other. Lincecum goes up against Ross Ohlendorf (0), who’s almost as unappealing to the nerd as possible. Rodrigo Lopez pitches for Arizona against Jimenez. The fact that Jimenez gets a 7 on the current NERD scale is proof that the system needs to incorporate Awesomeness into its criteria. Or at least fastabll velocity. One or the other.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.