2022 World Series – How Cristian Javier saved Astros’ season

PHILADELPHIA — Late last week, before Cristian Javier carved his name into baseball history, his Houston Astros teammates attempted to describe his fastball. By speed alone, it’s a milquetoast effort, hurling it off his right arm at 94 mph. And yet one teammate called the pitch “obscene” and another said “it looks 100” and a third thought it was “invisible”. On Wednesday night, after Javier started Game 4 of the World Series, another teammate came forward with the most apt description of them all.

“Clearly unbeatable,” said Ryan Pressly, closer to Astros.

Certain pitches in baseball are so good that they anger, upset, frustrate, and confuse hitters. Javier’s fastball tops the list. He threw Invisiball after Invisiball on Wednesday and plodded along with six no-hit innings that set the stage for Pressly to finish the first combined no-hitter in the World Series, a Philadelphia Phillies lineup. the first failed attempt at the fall classic since Don Larsen’s perfect game in 1956. Houston’s 5-0 win leveled the World Series at two games apiece and continued 25-year-old Javier’s meteoric rise from sometimes starter, sometimes breakaway to most dominant pitcher this postseason.

It’s a reputation that Javier has solidified over 11⅓ innings in the last two rounds of the playoffs, with Javier conceding one hit and no runs and amassed 14 strikeouts against the strong offenses of the New York Yankees and Phillies. In a World Series that included starts from Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, Javier twirled the best game of the group.

Javier finds himself here because of this fastball, a pitch that combines a number of key attributes to make it an entirely unique pitch — “a unicorn,” said a scout who called Javier’s fastball the best in all of baseball, one Assessment with which others agree.

The secret sauce for Javier’s fastball starts with what is known as the Vertical Approach Angle (VAA). It’s essentially the pitcher’s equivalent of the launch angle, measuring the angle at which a fastball is approaching the plate. Pitchers with extremely high arm slots have high VAAs, and those like Javier with lower arm angles have low VAAs.

What’s exceptional about Javier isn’t just a VAA, which is the third-lowest among starters, behind Freddy Peralta and Joe Ryan, two other pitchers whose fastballs play well in excess of their speed. Its high front adds some funk and deception to the delivery. Its spin rate and spin efficiency are well above average. VAA is an important factor – “a big part of it [with Javier] is the approach angle, we think,” said Astros pitching coach Josh Miller — but the other elements help give the pitch what appears to be a ramping effect.

Physics, of course, prevents a fastball from actually rising. With Javier’s VAA and spin traits, his fastball just falls less than average. And because no one else throws like him, batsmen trying to track the pitch struggle because it carries through the batting zone and looks like it’s bouncing as it crosses the plate.

“That’s just an absolute kangaroo of fastball coming off his hip,” said Astros-Relief Ryne Stanek. “And he has some of the longest arms I’ve ever seen. His fastball is obscene.”

“It doesn’t matter what the radar gun says,” said Hector Neris, an aide. “It may say he’s 94, but the heater looks like 100. It’s gas.”

That deception explains why, a day after beating five home runs from Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr., the Phillies couldn’t face Javier — or the three aides who followed him — over concerns he might have flipped his spots. Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Pressly. Ten days after his last start against the Yankees, Javier threw 97 pitches, 70 of which were fastballs. He hit nine, including a five-racer stretch where he swinged JT Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos before catching Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott, who were all looking at fastballs.

“His nickname is El reptile because he’s just cold-blooded,” said Stanek. “Nothing scares him. He could do without a pump, same face. Punch the side three innings in a row, same side. He’s just that guy. What he does is special.”

The Astros already knew that. They had seen Javier storm into Yankee Stadium on June 25 and throw seven no-hit innings with 13 strikeouts, paving the way for Neris and Pressly to end what was seen as just their first combined no- Hitter of the season ended. This one was bigger, better and far more important in ensuring the Astros return home for a Game 6 and a chance to win a championship at Minute Maid Park.

Pitching in Game 4 to his father Cecilio, who had never seen Javier pitch in the big leagues before, only added to the majesty of the night. Javier was already an unlikely success story: a failed outfielder-turned-pitcher, signed for $10,000 from the Dominican Republic at age 18, figured out how to harness his unicorn, and it wasn’t just to the big leagues, but also in the kind of rode praise that thugs seldom waste.

“It’s electric,” said Christian Vazquez, who caught the no-hitter. “It’s like playing PlayStation with him. You don’t care if it goes down and away. It will end.”

Astros players brave enough to step into the batter’s box against Javier will understand how he ended this season with a 2.54 ERA and has not scored as a starter since September 7th. In his last four starts of the regular season, Javier has thrown for 23 innings without a score. allowed six hits and knocked out 29.

“I played tag with him a couple of spring practices ago and it’s really annoying,” said Hunter Brown, another member of the Astros’ dynamic bullpen. “It’s just sort of invisible. I remember the first pair – you always want to catch them on the seat. The first pair kinda hit me in the pink zone. I think, OK, I better find out.”

In 2020, Javier’s rookie season, third baseman Alex Bregman faced Javier on a shadowy day at Minute Maid Park during MLB’s accelerated spring camp. Bregman stared at shot one, shot two, shot three and didn’t even lift the bat from his shoulder. He went back to the dugout, put his wood in the racket and said, “I’m glad he’s on our team.”

Opponents want that too. They’ll tell Bregman on third base — if they make it — and wonder how a 94 pitch can look like three figures, or how he can generate spin from his low slot so real, or how they keep swinging fastball so stupidly.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Wow, that’s just crazy stuff,'” Bregman said. “And they’ll say it’s crazy how the ball looks when it comes out of his hand.”

So, OK, this magic pitch, this miracle fastball, this World Series no-hitter-causing bit of magic: what does it looks like coming out of his hand?

“I don’t know,” Bregman said. “I did not see it.”

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34936474/2022-world-series-cristian-javier-saved-astros 2022 World Series – How Cristian Javier saved Astros’ season

Emma Bowman

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