The Quietly Breathtaking Mike Adams

Seattle, WA, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Mike Adams (37) pitches to the Seattle Mariners during the 8th inning at Safeco Field. Texas defeated Seattle 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

You've heard of Mike Adams, and you might even know that Mike Adams is good, but you might not appreciate just *how* good. Which, whatever, no big deal to Mike Adams.

Koji Uehara has registered 16 strikeouts and one walk on the season. This is nothing particularly new for Koji Uehara, who's always been a champion of maximizing strikeouts and limiting walks. Mark Lowe has registered 18 strikeouts and four walks on the season. Yoshinori Tateyama has registered two strikeouts and one walk, but he's appeared in just one game after being recalled from the minors. A year ago, Tateyama registered 43 strikeouts and 11 walks, four of which were intentional. These are three relievers on the Texas Rangers who haven't been used as often as you'd think.

Why? Because the Texas Rangers have even better relievers. I'll pass along a tweet from Wednesday morning:

Among those better relievers is Mike Adams, and he's the guy about whom this post is being written. Adams is a guy who's been called underrated fairly often, even here, a year ago, and he's by no means an unknown. Many baseball fans and most hardcore baseball fans understand that Mike Adams is a good reliever. But the matter of how good Mike Adams really is ... people might not understand that, and I was reminded of it Tuesday night.

FanGraphs keeps track of a stat called wOBA. That stands for Weighted On-Base Average, and you can read about it here. It's probably the best measure of offensive productivity we've got, but if you'd like to be spared the details, a lower wOBA is bad for a hitter, and a higher wOBA is good for a hitter. Baseball's highest wOBAs are posted by baseball's best hitters. Okay, you get it, it's very simple.

Since 2008, 342 different pitchers have thrown at least 100 innings against right-handed batters. To put that another way, 342 different pitchers have retired at least 300 right-handed batters. Rafael Soriano has allowed the lowest wOBA of all of them. In second place, unsurprisingly, is Mariano Rivera. In third place is Mike Adams.

Since 2008, 249 different pitchers have retired at least 300 left-handed batters. Mariano Rivera, again unsurprisingly, has allowed the lowest wOBA of all of them. In second place is Brian Duensing. In third place is Mike Adams.

If you don't really care for wOBA for some reason, since 2008 the right-handed Adams has allowed 11 homers to righties, with 131 strikeouts and 27 unintentional walks. He's allowed five homers to lefties, with 148 strikeouts and 32 unintentional walks. Even when you factor in that Adams long pitched in Petco Park, these numbers are outstanding numbers. These numbers are Rivera-level numbers, and Mariano Rivera is the greatest reliever in the history of the game.

It would be one thing if Adams were just ultra-effective against righties. Give a righty reliever a fastball and a slider and he'll do a good job of shutting righties down. Maybe not as good a job as Adams, but there's no shortage of relievers with big platoon splits. Mike Adams hasn't shown any platoon split. As good as he's been against righties, that's as good as he's been against lefties, and that's what vaults Adams into the stratosphere.

What's his secret? Against righties, sure enough, Adams is basically fastball/slider. Specifically, fastball/cut fastball/slider. Against lefties, Adams introduces another fastball. A two-seamer that he proudly put on display against the Mariners Tuesday.

I'm going to show you a bunch of images of that two-seamer now because after Adams threw them I couldn't stop thinking about them. Here's one to start off an at-bat against Justin Smoak:


Let's slow that down. The camera angle isn't optimal, but here's where the ball was at one point:


Here's where it ended up:


It was an absolutely perfect pitch from Adams, and Smoak couldn't have done anything with it. Now here's how Adams put Smoak away in a full count:


Adams missed his spot and Smoak chased ball four, but while Smoak was perhaps a wee bit impatient, look at the run on that pitch. Out of Adams' hand, Smoak might've thought he'd need to protect the outer edge of the plate. The pitch ended up a bat length away from him.

Now look what Adams did to Kyle Seager. Adams fell behind Seager 3-and-1, and then he threw what I think was his best pitch. Seager was in a fastball count with two runners on base.


Slowing it down again:


Kyle Seager thinks he's getting a low, hittable fastball over the plate. Something he can drive into the outfield, maybe into a gap.


The pitch runs away, off the plate. PITCHfx confirms that it was well out of the zone, and while umpires have been known to call that pitch a strike against lefties, that didn't end up a pitch for Seager to drive. It ended up a pitch Seager probably should have taken.

The next pitch, in a full count:


Again, an outside, running fastball. Seager does the same thing as Smoak, and the inning is over. The Mariners swung themselves out of a run-scoring opportunity, but when you recognize what the ball does out of Mike Adams' hand, you kind of get how it all happened. Smoak and Seager aren't forgiven, but Smoak and Seager are understood.

Against lefties, Adams throws a wicked two-seamer in the low- to mid-90s. He throws a four-seamer in the low- to mid-90s. He throws a cutter in the high-80s to the low-90s. And, for the hell of it, he's also got a slider and a changeup, to keep hitters honest. It's the fastball that are the weapons, though. Around the same speed, Adams can throw a fastball that breaks in, out, or down, and good luck to any left-handed hitter trying to figure out which Adams has picked.

That's Mike Adams' secret against left-handed batters. He works with a similar secret against right-handed batters. And thus Mike Adams is one of the best secrets in baseball. You thought you knew the truth about Mike Adams. He's even better than that.

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