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April 19, 2009 at 9:59 AM

Huge test for Silva

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Just over 11 months ago, Carlos Silva took the mound at Safeco Field against the Detroit Tigers. Two outs later, he was done for the night and the Mariners trailed 7-0. Just 10 days prior to that, Silva had lasted just four innings in Detroit, also giving up seven runs. While he figured the Tigers out a little the following July 3, allowing just five runs over five innings, it was hardly a breakthrough of major proportions.
The bottom line for Silva against the Tigers in 2008: a 0-3 record with a 17.69 ERA. He allowed 25 hits and three walks over just 9 2/3 innings while striking out only three.
How could this be?
Well, one reason is that the Tigers are a serious fastball-hitting club. Deadly serious, in fact. They wield some serious lumber and can be a huge mismatch for pitchers relying primarily on their fastball.
It has been noted throughout the blogosphere that Silva has thrown roughly 85 percent fastballs this year. That is not a surprise. It realIy shouldn’t be, because he’s a sinkerball specialist and a sinker is a variation of the fastball. At least, that’s how it gets measured. As a fastball.
To be effective with a sinker, a pitcher usually has to spot his four-seam, straighter fastball with accuracy. The problem Silva faces today is that if he starts throwing fastballs in the strike zone early, the Tigers are liable to hit them someplace deep.
And if he tries to throw too many sinkers early in the count, the Tigers are just as likely to lay off them and take them for balls.
Sliders and change-ups? Silva hasn’t had nearly the same success with those.
So yes, this is a huge challenge for Silva today.
The pitch selection and game calling could prove key to him avoiding another disaster like the kind the Tigers kept giving him in 2008. He’ll have to make pitches and mix them up as well. He’ll have to change speeds and the eye-level of his pitches. If he goes in there trying to establish his regular fastball for early strikes, the Tigers will know what to do with it. You can blow fastballs by some teams. But not this one. One thing the Tigers do extremely well is jump all over fastballs in the zone.
Should be an interesting afternoon.

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