Henderson Alvarez is a difficult pitcher to figure out. He throws very hard often ramping his four-seam fastball into the mid and upper 90s, but he doesn’t generate many swinging strikes with the pitch as it lacks movement. His two-seam fastball moves more, but he throws it in the zone too often to be a swing-and-miss pitch. His changeup is excellent for inducing weak contact, especially on the ground, but again, he’s not going to strike many Major League hitters out with it. His slider is a well-below-average pitch at this point and although that could improve, it’s nothing more than a “show-me” offering.

I’ve said often that I don’t have particularly high hopes for Alvarez succeeding in the daunting AL East. If you look at pitchers who are successful there, they have some kind of swing-and-miss offering, usually a breaking ball, which keeps hitters flailing.

Yet, despite my pessimism, Alvarez continues to pitch well. Last night, he threw his first career shut-out completely nullifying the struggling Angels’ offense. He allowed six hits, four of them singles, walked just one and struck out three while needing only 90 pitches to collect his 27 outs.

Alvarez threw mostly four-seam and two-seam fastballs, using his changeup only six times in the game or roughly half as regularly as normal. He induced only seven swings and misses (five with his two-seamer, two with his four-seamer), but had 14 groundballs on the 27 balls in play.

If you look at Alvarez’s movement chart from last night, it’s clear that his pitches just don’t move as much as they should for him to be an above-average pitcher.

Compare that to David Price’s movement chart from last night when he completely dominated the Oakland A’s for eight innings, striking out 12, and you can see one of the things that makes a pitcher like him so great.

Alvarez’s ability to induce groundballs is certainly encouraging, but it also leaves him exposed to the wily exploits of the BABIP dragon and unless you have some kind of strikeout offering, that dragon will eventually light you on fire.

Not to take anything away from last night’s performance, but his batted-ball average now sits at a miniscule and unsustainable .200. Before Jays’ fans crown him the heir apparent to Roy Halladay’s vacant thrown, it should be remembered that eventually that will catch up to him.

Still, if he can develop into a solid back-end arm, the Jays will more than likely be ecstatic.

And the rest:

Dave Cameron, czar and overlord of FanGraphs, takes a gander at the odd career path of the begoggled Vance Worley.

His colleague Paul Swydan takes a look at relievers after they leave the friendly confines of PETCO Park in honour of the recently traded Ernesto Frieri who was dealt to the Angels this week. He finds out that the drop off is not that drastic.

Joe Girardi is going to split the closer role between Rafael Soriano and David Robertson in the wake of Mariano Rivera’s knee injury [Bryan Hoch, MLB.com].

Speaking of that injury, Rivera says he’s coming back next year [Bryan Hoch, MLB.com]:

“I’m coming back. Write it down in big letters. I’m not going down like this. God willing and given the strength, I’m coming back.”

Heath Bell continues to be terrible as the Marlins closer and manager Ozzie Guillen appears to be nearing his breaking point. Guillen also believes that the struggling Josh Johnson may be hiding an injury [Clark Spencer, Miami Herald].

After running the franchise into the ground and being rewarded with a $2.15-billion sale, former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will continue to profit from the team. The rent on the parking lots he owns around the stadium is set at $14-million a year [Bill Shaikin, LA Times].

Daisuke Matsuzaka will start his rehab assignment on Monday [Alex Speier, WEEI.com]. Barring setbacks, he should be able to rejoin the team within the next 30 days.

Jay Jaffe over at Baseball Prospectus tells you which NL hitters are underperforming even Albert PuLOLZ (Gentle flyball to shallow centerfield to Dan Christopher for the new nickname).

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