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Pro Sports Wrap - Sports Personality of the Day:Seth Smith

The Mariners are hanging around in the AL West race thanks to some great starting pitching that has overcome the league's worst offense. The M's simply can't hit. They bring out their ace to face James Shields. Yours truly predicted a huge bounce-back season for Shields after he had a poor 2010. So far, Shields has been lights out, and Felix Hernandez is also pretty good. He only won the Cy Young Award last season.

Among starting pitchers, Felix has the 5th best WAR and Shields the 7th best WAR mark in the Majors, but there are quite a bit of ties. Although Shields has an ERA of 2.15 and King Felix a 3.19 ERA, Hernandez's FIP is 2.78 and Shields' 2.96. This game is in Safeco, which is obviously one of the three best parks in the game for pitchers. This is a pitching matchup through and through. The numbers above show that Shields has been luckier than Hernandez, and Hernandez's numbers will rise while there will be a slight fall in Shields' overall production.

Hernandez does benefit from the ballpark though, because he has a very low home run rate with an average groundball rate. Both pitchers will reap Safeco's rewards today. Shields is better at limiting his walks and has been slightly better at striking out batters. Hernandez is better at getting hitters to chase out of the zone and is among the best in the league at doing so. However, Shields throw less "bad" pitches inside the zone. In other words, Shields is more consistent.

I am really only focusing on the pitching matchup, because we know the Rays are the better hitting team. Shields and Hernandez have two of the best curveballs in baseball, but Shields' curve has been more effective this year. I mean, it's been terrific. Hernandez's power curve is also dangerous. Shields' changeup has fooled hitters throughout the season. It has been nothing short of unhittable. The thing is, Hernandez has the best changeup in baseball. His change is incredible and is a wonder to behold.

This game is going to be all about pitching with two of the best aces in the game duking it out. My money's on the Rays because they have a much better offense.
Facing King Felix


5/2011 Starting Pitcher Rankings

May 22nd 2011 14:01
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Roy Halladay
3. Josh Johnson
4. Cliff Lee
5. CC Sabathia
6. Adam Wainwright
7. Jon Lester
8. Felix Hernandez
9. Justin Verlander
10. Dan Haren
11. Josh Beckett
12. Ubaldo Jimenez
13. Jered Weaver
14. Clayton Kershaw
15. Chris Carpenter
16. Cole Hamels
17. David Price
18. Matt Cain
19. Zack Greinke
20. Tommy Hanson
21. Francisco Liriano
22. Yovani Gallardo
23. Roy Oswalt
24. Trevor Cahill
25. Wandy Rodriguez
26. James Shields
27. Chad Billingsley
28. Jaime Garcia
29. Clay Buchholz
30. Ryan Dempster
31. John Danks
32. Max Scherzer
33. Jake Peavy
34. Mat Latos
35. Johan Santana
36. Jorge De La Rosa
37. AJ Burnett
38. Shaun Marcum
39. Brett Anderson
40. Phil Hughes
41. Ricky Romero
42. Zach Britton
43. Michael Pineda
44. Jeremy Hellickson
45. Ricky Nolasco
46. Matt Garza
47. Jonathan Sanchez
48. Johnny Cueto
49. CJ Wilson
50. Madison Bumgarner

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