Jered Weaver, the surprise strikeout king

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Jered Weaver notched just four strikeouts over seven innings against the Rangers last night, however they were just enough to give him the major league lead in strikeouts (233) over Tim Lincecum (231) and Felix Hernandez (232).

Armed with a fastball that averages around 90 mph, Weaver entered the season averaging 7.3 K/9 over his first four seasons in the major leagues. This year he has fanned 233 batters over 224 1/3 innings, good enough for 9.3 K/9, fifth among qualified starters.

According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Weaver could be the first Angels pitcher to lead the majors in strikeouts since Nolan Ryan struck out 341 in 1977.

“Changing speeds with every pitch has been a key,” Weaver said.
“Anything you can do to keep the hitters off-balance is good. When you
throw 91, you have to figure out ways to get people out.”

It’s a pretty simple way of describing his success, but not far off. I mentioned his early strikeout prowess way back in June and as the season has continued, we have seen that he has relied on his curveball more than ever before. The pitch has been nine runs above average this season according to Fangraphs, easily a career-high. This alteration in his repertoire has made his fastball — which had negative value over the past two seasons — a much more effective pitch.

You know, we have spent a lot of time lavishing praise on Felix Hernandez, and rightfully so, but the 27-year-old Weaver is another prominent example of a pitcher who is having a Cy Young-type season without the shiny win-loss record to match. By the way, he’s also 13-12, like King Felix.

Note: There’s still a chance that Weaver won’t lead the majors in strikeouts. If the Giants are forced to play a tiebreaker game on Monday, Lincecum would likely get the start. At the very least, Weaver has clinched the AL lead in strikeouts. 

Kris Bryant on Joey Votto: “He’s the best player ever … He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

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The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.

As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”

Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.

Video: Daniel Descalso hits D-Backs’ third inside-the-park homer of the season

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Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.

It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.

As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.