What We Learned In Week Thirteen by Dave Cameron July 6, 2009 We’re officially to the halfway point, with most teams having logged 81 games in the standings by now. The second half will certainly offer some new stories, but here are the last batch of things we learned during the first semester of 2009. Just for fun, let’s focus on the pitchers this week. Ricky Nolasco is just fine, thanks. After a rough start to the season (compounded by some bad luck), the Marlins shipped the ace of their 2008 team back to Triple-A for some tune-up work, and he’s now returned with a vengeance. In two starts last week, he threw 16 innings, gave up seven hits, walked two, and struck out 20. I think it’s safe to say he’s back. I feel sorry for teams that have to face him and Josh Johnson in the same series. Joe Saunders, on the other hand… Early in the season, Saunders helped carry the Angels pitching staff while they waited for John Lackey and Ervin Santana to return from the disabled list. Regression to the mean smacked him in the head with a pretty strong stick this week, though, as he allowed six home runs in nine innings of work over two starts. He also walked eight batters, and not surprisingly, the combination of bad command and home run problems adds up to losing. Saunders’ FIP now stands at 5.50, and while he’s better than this, he’s getting exposed as a back-end starter. The Angels have some real pitching problems. Maybe they should have traded for Brad Penny. Last week, four starting pitchers had an average fastball of 95+ MPH. Ubaldo Jimenez, Felix Herandez, Justin Verlander, and Penny. If you look at his velocity chart, there’s been a big spike over the last five starts compared to how hard he was throwing earlier in the year. Daisuke Matzusaka’s problems have given the Red Sox a reason to keep him around, and now Penny’s pitching like a guy who doesn’t want to go anywhere. If he keeps throwing the ball like this with any kind of consistency, he’s going to be in heavy demand this winter when he heads back out as a free agent. You should look at Carlos Zambrano’s velocity chart too. Speaking of recent trends in velocity, this one isn’t going to make Cubs fans happy. Zambrano’s average fastball in his last start was just 88.6 MPH, the first time all year it’s been under 90. He topped out at 92.1. Considering his career workload and some DL stints with shoulder inflammation last year, this bears watching closely.