Game 46, Tigers at Mariners – Platoon Split Battle

marc w · May 20, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

Wade LeBlanc vs. Francisco Liriano, 1:10pm

The M’s close out this series against Detroit with a game against inconsistent-yet-tough lefty Francisco Liriano. Over the course of his long career, Liriano has been pretty consistently brutal on his fellow southpaws, with lefties posting a sub-.600 OPS over 1,500+ plate appearances, while righties are hitting a comparatively robust .728. On the wOBA scale, that’s .270 vs. lefties and .322 against righties.

Nelson Cruz is getting an off day after getting plunked yet again last night. In the past, that might be a concern, as the righty Cruz was key to making left-handed opponents work/suffer/struggle. Now, though, it’s a team effort. The M’s are one of the best teams in baseball against lefties, with guys like Mitch Haniger leading the way, but he’s got help from 1B Ryon Healy, who’ll take Nellie’s cleanup spot today. Healy’s still something of a limited hitter if you ask me, but he’s displayed a very consistent ability to hit lefties. He is, in a sense, the inverse of Liriano. Streaky, platoon splitted all to hell, but sometimes that’s what you need.

Liriano came up as an extremely hard thrower, but well over a decade later, his fastball velocity’s more average at about 92. He was always known for his hard, sinking slider, and that’s still his outpitch. Lower velo has changed its shape a bit, but he still throws it to lefties and righties alike, and it’s still hard to square up. Not impossible, though – from time to time, it’s a real HR pitch – he’s given up 46 HRs on it in the pitch fx era. He also throws a changeup, though the so-so development of the pitch and his overall consistency issues make it a third-or-fourth pitch.

He came up with a four-seam fastball and a sinker, both of which had tons of horizontal movement thanks to his lowish arm slot and tons of spin, but he’s transitioned to being more of a pure sinker/slider pitcher these days. That combined with a few years under Ray Searage’s tutelage in Pittsburgh means that he’s a ground ball pitcher, though less so than he was 3-4 years ago. The way he spots his fastballs hasn’t changed over that time. His slider usage is pretty standard, too, with the pitch breaking down and in to righties, and low and away from lefties.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Healy, 1B
5: Seager, DH
6: Heredia, CF
7: Beckham, 3B
8: Freitas, C
9: Romine, 2B
SP: LeBlanc

Understand the limitations and why, say, Healy’s at 4th, but man that line-up kind of peters out. Ah well, go M’s.

I’m going to be up at the Rainiers game today, where Casey Lawrence leads the R’s against Las Vegas. Rob Whalen got the win last night in Tacoma’s 10-6 win. A 5 run inning game Las Vegas a 6-4 lead, but Tacoma pulled away late. Danny Muno and Chris Herrman homered for Tacoma.

Tulsa beat up on Arkansas 8-2, as the Drillers got a HR from former D-Backs prospect Peter O’Brien. The Travs’ Joe DeCarlo hit a 2-run shot in the 9th to escape the shutout.

Visalia beat Modesto 5-3, but Evan White hit his 2nd home run for the Nuts. Kyle Lewis singled and Seth Elledge pitched a scoreless inning in relief.

Clinton lost to Cedar Rapids 6-4, spoiling a good start from Raymond Kerr; Adonis De la Cruz had a bad time in the 7th/8th. The Rapids are a Twins farm team, so their catcher is David Banuelos, the former M’s top-10 prospect who went to the Twins org for bonus pool space. He’s been awful at the plate this year, though he was always known most for defense/leading the pitching staff.

Max Povse’s been demoted back to AA, and he gets the start today for the Travelers as they take on Tulsa. Danny Garcia and Modesto take on Visalia tonight, while Clinton’s TBD takes on Cedar Rapids.

Game 45, Tigers at Mariners

marc w · May 19, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

James Paxton vs. Mike Fiers, 6:10pm

James Paxton makes his first home start since his no-hitter back in Toronto, and the M’s hope to get another series win against the Tigers. To do that, it might be nice if the offense started hitting again. Last night’s big rally was incredible, and it saved what looked like a sure loss, but despite Robinson Cano’s suspension, the team needs to rack up runs against a poor pitching club like Detroit.

Fangraphs’ playoff odds give the M’s a 16.6% chance at winning a wildcard, the same exact percentage as the surprising A’s, who just swept the Jays in Toronto. BaseballProspectus has been a bit more bullish on the M’s this year, and thus the M’s have a 27% shot at either the WC or the division (uhhhh, I’m gonna take the under on 3%). The Angels are good, no one can hit Astros pitching, the M’s rotation has been poor, and their bullpen unreliable…and they’re still, somehow, in this thing. The odds are obviously not great, and they’ll have another stretch of poor play at some point, but the team’s remarkably…decent.

James Paxton’s a big part of that, as is Mitch Haniger. They got an insane couple of weeks from Ryon Healy, and will get another big Kyle Seager surge at some point. While they’ve had some good fortune, it’s worth remembering that they’ve done this despite Nelson Cruz being injured and mediocre and with Juan Nicasio being one of the league’s least effective relievers (despite a stellar K:BB ratio). They’ve had tons of bad luck, as well.

If they’re going to make another big 8-of-10 or better run, the guy who needs to get a bit more consistent is Mike Zunino. The club’s catchers haven’t been great, and Zunino’s collapsed plate discipline has been a big part of that. We all understand by this point that Zunino’s one of the game’s streakiest hitters, alternating months of slugging tons of HRs and hits, and months where it seems like he only leaves the batters box to walk back to the dugout.

Zunino seems like the kind of hitter who’d be susceptible to off-speed and breaking pitches, but that’s not exactly the case. Mike’s hit sliders and cutters pretty well last year, and he did even better on curveballs. That’s been a big driver of his improvement – he’s learned to recognize breaking pitches a bit better, and his natural uppercut does really well against any kind of pitch that sinks: he’s always feasted on sinkers. He’s starting to see a few more four-seamers, a pitch that – perhaps because of its trajectory – he’s struggled with.

The Tigers’ Mike Fiers’ bread and butter is a rising four-seam fastball, thrown up in the zone, but at a surprisingly gentle velocity. This isn’t a perfect match-up for Zunino, but I’m hoping he’s been working with Edgar on recognizing and driving these pitches. The league’s shift towards breaking balls may be really tough for, say, Ben Gamel, but it shouldn’t be as big of an issue for Zunino. Tracking four-seamers with good spin should be a part of the M’s training (I have no idea if it is), and if so, it’d really help in a game like tonight’s.

The M’s don’t *need* Zunino to carry the offense, and he doesn’t need to hit for average. But as we saw when Healy went off, having a bottom-of-the-order hitter who can punish mistakes makes the entire line-up much more dangerous. Rallies don’t need to fizzle out in a volley of strikeouts.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Healy, 1B
7: Gamel, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Heredia, CF
SP: PAXTON wooooo

Rob Whalen, Anthony Misiewicz, Reggie McClain and Raymond Kerr start in the minors today.

Kyle Lewis is off to a bit of a slow start, but it’s great to see him playing every day in Modesto. He’s 4 for 20 in the early going, with 10 Ks and a walk.
Evan White’s hitting .267/.347/.349 in 146 ABs.

Game 44, Tigers at Mariners

marc w · May 18, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

King Felix vs. Michael Fulmer, 7:10pm

Happy Felix Day. It’s…you don’t look happy. I know, I know, there are few things less conducive to optimism and a sunny disposition than an unreliable bullpen, and that’s the primary problem we’re facing right now. The M’s bullpen isn’t out and out *bad*” – they have the second-highest K rate in baseball. They’ve given up comparatively few hits given the innings they’ve logged. It’s just that they give up hits and walks in bunches, and when their offense isn’t running at peak efficiency, they can’t afford that.

The bullpen’s changed a bit this week. As I wrote about yesterday, they brought in Ryan Cook, who was fantastic in last night’s appearance. The other move – DFA’ing Erik Goeddel – is a bit harder to understand. Goeddel’s walked a few too many, but he had a K% over 30% in limited duty, and had been lights out in Tacoma before that. He was picked up by the bullpen-starved Dodgers, so you hada cool, under-the-radar signing that went about as well as it could’ve gone for the M’s…and now it’s meaningless. Again, the M’s have really bet on their ability to develop talent and to get more out of pitchers than their projections might assume. Whether it’s a mechanical tweak or repertoire change, the idea is that the M’s want to get the very most out of every member of the 40-man roster. James Paxton turned from frustrating enigma to the staff ace in part because of just this kind of instruction, so it’s not like this idea is bonkers; it can work, and HAS worked wonderfully for the Astros.

But the Goeddel DFA shows that they’re having serious problems connecting that development work with longer-term impact to the team. I’m not saying the M’s *wanted* to just kick Goeddel to the curb after a handful of pretty good appearances. I’m saying they didn’t do a whole lot to prevent this from happening. In order to develop pitchers like Goeddel, they’ve got to stay in the system. Bringing up an out-of-options player for a few games in May is nice, but it’d be nicer if they had a plan to help Goeddel get even better. This can’t happen if he was DFA’d just because they needed a fresher arm or because they didn’t have 25-man space. At some point, the M’s will need another fresh arm, and may turn to Shawn Armstrong, whom they got from Cleveland in the off-season. He too is out of options, and so we could see this same pattern repeat itself, which has ramifications down the affiliates. Goeddel was the R’s closer in April; they promoted Cook to that role when Goeddel went north. With Cook in Seattle, Armstrong could take the role (he’s got a save already). But if he’s ever called up, the odds are decent that the M’s *and Rainiers* will lose him if they ever need to swap out arms.

The M’s do not have the talent that Houston has, and probably don’t have the overall talent the Angels have. To compete, they really DO need to get more out of each player than their rivals. This strategy (or lack thereof) makes that impossible. Erik Goeddel – or Ryan Cook or Dan Altavilla or Casey Lawrence or whoever – will not make or break this team. Still, this wastefulness can’t coexist with a development-based strategy, not when so much of their pitching depth was moved for other things.

Felix is having his worst season by far, and it’s getting a bit concerning. His change gives him an option against lefties, but platoon splits aren’t really the problem – everyone’s just hitting him really hard. If those hits find gloves, he can get through, and it’s nice to see his K rate rebound a bit. But…man, we’re not really seeing a Verlander-style career bounce, are we? Still love you, King Felix.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Healy, 1B
7: Gamel, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Heredia, CF
SP: FELIX

Welcome back, Nellie. It is really, really good to see him back in the clean-up spot. The Tigers get a player back from injury today too: former M’s CF Leonys Martin, who’d been on the 10-day DL.

Pete Kozma is batting *2nd* for the Tigers. How the hell are the M’s 1-3 against these guys?

Game 43, Tigers at Mariners – Welcome Back, Ryan Cook

marc w · May 17, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

Marco Gonzales vs. Matt Boyd, 7:10pm

Tonight’s game is a repeat of the matchup 5 days ago, the one in which Gonzales pitched quite well before tiring and giving up the lead in his 6th inning of work. That’s two straight games that’ve followed that pattern for him – solid work through 5, and then a little slip up in the 6th tarnishing both his ERA and the M’s chances of winning. Of course, it only hurt the M’s chances of winning because they couldn’t quite figure out Matt Boyd. If you want to read up on Boyd, his evolution as a starter, and his repertoire, check the game preview from last Saturday here.

The M’s made a roster move today, optioning Christian Bergman back to Tacoma, and purchasing the contract of reliever Ryan Cook. I know some will grumble, but there’s not currently space in the M’s rotation for Bergman, but he’s presumably first in line when someone goes down. I think sending him back was always the plan, regardless of how well he did against Texas. I don’t think anyone expected 7 shutout innings, but still – can you bump Wade LeBlanc, who is ALSO coming off a scoreless start? Marco Gonzales, the guy the FO expects so much out of? Felix? C’mon. Mike Leake? Not likely. I think Bergman’s excellent work keeps him ahead of Rob Whalen and Andrew Moore,* and his position on the 40-man means he may get recalled at some point to help the bullpen as well.

The corresponding move is more interesting. Ryan Cook came up with the Diamondbacks, but was traded to the A’s in the big Jarrod Parker/Trevor Cahill trade. Almost instantly, he became one of the surprising A’s best relievers, racking up 3 fWAR between 2012-2013. He pitched a bit less and wasn’t quite as effective in 2014, and then was completely awful in 2015, which led the A’s to essentially sell him to Boston where he was every bit as bad. His velocity was down only 1 MPH, from 96 to 95, but his command had left him. The M’s signed him in January of 2016, as Jerry Dipoto tried to remake the bullpen he’d upended with his trade of Carson Smith.

As Ryan Divish captured in this story from March, Cook tore his latissimus dorsi (back muscle) in spring training that year as he faced his first batter. While rehabbing that, he tore his hamstring. He eventually progressed well enough to go on a rehab assignment to the M’s Arizona League team, where, again facing his first batter, he tore his UCL, requiring Tommy John surgery. He’d faced two batters, and would now be out for not only all of 2016, but 2017 as well. The M’s had signed him to a one year deal, but he re-signed with the club again, and kept working.

He was healthy enough to appear in the Cactus League this spring, which was encouraging, but as amazing as this tale of perseverance is, there are comeback stories throughout the minors. Hell, Jayson Werth is in Tacoma right now, and ex-M’s hurler Anthony Vasquez, who came back from a nearly fatal brain lesion *and* shoulder problems 6 years ago, is pitching in AAA this year. No, what makes Cook’s call-up impressive is that it’s not just a goodwill gesture to someone who worked incredibly hard. Cook’s suddenly good again:

Cook’s thrown 13 1/3 IP with 17 Ks and 3 walks. If anything, he’s getting better, as he’s yielded 3 hits, no walks and no runs in his last 6 IP (with 6 Ks). Cook always had a good sinker (that he’d mix with a four-seamer and a sweeping slider), and he’s getting tons of ground balls again. As that Mike Curto tweet notes, he can’t be a workhorse in the bullpen, but a guy touching 98 with sink sounds pretty good to me.

1: Gordon, DH
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Healy, 1B
6: Zunino, C
7: Heredia, CF
8: Gamel, LF
9: Beckham, 2B
SP: Gonzales

Tacoma’s finally back at home tonight, hosting Las Vegas. Johendi Jiminian takes the mound for Arkansas against breakaway province Northwest Arkansas. Nick Wells of Clinton takes on Peoria’s UDFA control artist Zach Prendergast. Modesto and SP Randy Bell have already dispatched San Jose 6-3.

* I thought Max Povse would be challenging for that spot, but it has been a rough, rough year for him; Povse’s given up 37 runs in 36 2/3 IP.

Game 42, Rangers at Mariners

marc w · May 16, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

Roenis Elías (!) Christian Bergman vs. Bartolo Colon (!), 12:40pm

The M’s won last night, let’s not bury the lede here. I said going in that they’d have an excuse if the game looked sloppy, and so I couldn’t be that surprised when the game repeatedly wallowed in garbage – errors, awful bullpenning, etc. Still, it’s one thing to understand that what you’re getting into may not be Baseball At Its Best ™, and another thing to watch it play out. No team should have to play three games in three days in three cities, so one more round of “Screw you, Minnesota”s are in order, but the problem is that today’s game may be more of the same. The baseball schedule is relentless, and it makes players using PEDs understandable; the schedule itself seems like it might qualify several banned substances for “therapeutic exemptions.” But in stretches like this, where make-ups, getaway days and extra innings conspire, it seems downright harmful. We lament that players feel like they need to play through pain, and then we make them do this, play a day game after an extra-inning night game that was their third straight travel day. No one will have gotten meaningful rest, their circadian rhythms are messed up, they’re tired, their clubhouse leader just got suspended, etc., etc. Give them a break, baseball.

As bad as the game was, winning takes some of the sting off of it. Nice comeback you have there, Rangers, be a shame if something were to HAPPEN to it. The M’s offense did what it was supposed to, and the Rangers pitching staff did what its done so much this year. Juan Nicasio still looks lost, and that’s a big problem, but at least the M’s are figuring out how to bounce back from one of his uh, less than idea appearances. Thus, in spite of the dread coming into the game, and in spite of that dread building as the Rangers came back in the 8th, I was left feeling something that M’s fans know fairly well: not relief exactly, but relief that the worst possible outcome didn’t occur.

Today’s game elicits another kind of hard-to-describe sadness of a type that longtime M’s fans can catalogue and that needs some great foreign loan word to describe. Roenis Elías will be brought up from Tacoma to make his first start in an M’s uniform since 2015. Elías was an afterthought of a prospect who turned in two solid years at the back of the M’s rotation in 2014 and 2015 and was then traded along with Carson Smith for the immortal Wade Miley and Jonathan Aro. Many M’s fans absolutely loved Elías and his big curve, and you can see why – he had two distinct arm slots, he mixed pitches, and seemed to get by better than hyped can’t-miss prospects. Personally, I was just this side of obsessed with Carson Smith and his incredible sinker/slider combination – he was a bullpen anchor; someone to shorten games for years and years. Club control and dominance…And then he was gone.

This is NOT one of those tales of woe like the Chris Taylor for Zach Lee deals, where the afterthought M’s prospect becomes a star, and the M’s return turns to dust immediately. We all know THAT feeling, but this is distinct. EVERYTHING went to hell in this trade. It blew up for Boston as Carson Smith’s missed essentially all of the last two years due to injury, and just now that he’s healthy again, throwing 14 IP this year (which is more than he threw in 2016-17 combined), he injured his shoulder throwing his glove in the dugout in frustration. If anything, Elías was somehow worse, throwing all of 8 innings total for the Sox, giving up 11 runs on 6 walks and 4 Ks. He wasn’t a lot better in the minors, and Boston had given up on him as a starter even in AAA. He’s back on a trade so minor, you hesitate to even call it a trade. The Sox just wanted him gone, and the M’s had a need.

I’m glad he’s back, and I hope the Sox tire of Smith, too, and that the M’s are able to reacquire him for a bag of baseballs at some point. But more than that, I’m just sort of sad. The M’s didn’t lose the trade…they just lost. Would having Smith and Elías instead of Miley and Aro helped the M’s these past two seasons? I mean, sure, no one knows, it’s hypothetical, maybe Smith was already hurting, etc., but don’t pretty much all signs point to yes? Ok, fair point: in this counterfactual, we would not have acquired Ariel Miranda, but wasn’t that a pretty obvious case of trying to get the player most like Roenis Elias in all of baseball?

That trade seemed odd from day one, and while Smith never starred in Boston the way I thought he would, but the M’s won 86 games and finished a few games out of the wild card despite Miley pitching poorly for half a year. The M’s had serious HR problems, especially in the bullpen (which put up a low ERA, to be fair to them), and you’d think Smith’s un-elevate-able sinker would’ve helped there. It certainly seems like they could’ve helped, and the guys the M’s brought back in exchange sure as hell didn’t. No, this trade wasn’t a disaster in the traditional sense – it just hurt. The Portuguese word “saudade” is probably the closest to this feeling, though the way the Japanese word “natsukashi” probably comes close, too. Both have that sense of nostalgia or reminiscence that gets to the “can’t we just rewind and NOT do the thing?” of that trade.

All of the preceding was so timely and relevant, and then the M’s changed their mind and purchased the contract of 2017 spot starter Christian Bergman instead. We’ll feel whatever loan word we’ll feel when Elías comes up, but for now, we’ll get to feel that ol’ kind of indifference we felt when Bergman pitched last year. To be fair, Bergman through a handful of really solid games in Seattle – he just mixed them in with some true disasters. Here’s hoping we get the former. If you don’t remember, Bergman’s a righty and throws a fastball in the high 80s with some sink to it. His second pitch is a cutter at 86 or so, and his best breaking ball is a curve in the high 70s. He’s got a change and sinker as well.

Hey, speaking of more traditional disastrous trades: rumors are swirling that the M’s could reacquire CF Adam Jones from the soon-to-be-in-full-tear-down-mode Orioles. Wait, you say: the M’s have no prospects to move! Pretty true, but that’s where the Orioles situation comes in: what they need is salary relief. The M’s just came into some money, so it *could* work. If other teams enter the bidding – and they’re likely to – then actual prospects might enter into the equation, which might make it tough for Seattle. But it’d be an odd outcome, though it would really get awkward in August when Robinson Cano returned. Would the M’s move Dee Gordon back to OF? Platoon? I think the odds of this are quite low, but it’s kind of funny (we need another loan word for the way “funny” gets used in Mariner contexts) to think about.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Healy, 1B
6: Gamel, LF
7: Zunino, DH
8: Romine, 2B
9: Freitas, C
SP: Bergman, not Elías, apparently.

Nelson Cruz, who was hit by a pitch on his foot last night, gets the day off thanks to that bruise/contusion, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll be DL’d. X-rays were negative.

Modesto beat San Jose last night, with reliever Seth Elledge getting his 5th save. Elledge seems like a guy who should move quickly this year, and he’s done everything you could want in High A..it’s just that Matt Festa/Art Warren are already in AA. Nice problem to have, I suppose.

On the other end of the spectrum is OF Gareth Morgan, who last night K’d 4 times, meaning he’s now 0 for his last 13 with…13 strikeouts. He’s not put a ball in play since May 10th when he homered (so, uh, not really “in play”). This has always been an issue for Morgan, but something’s gone crazy this year and especially this past week. He’s walked twice in his last 4 games, but 13 Ks in 13 ABs is…yeesh. He’s got 86 Ks and 8 walks in 35 games this year (135 ABs).

Andrew Moore threw 7 solid innings in Arkansas’ 4-2 loss to NW Arkansas, but came away with a no-decision. Oddly, he struck out just 1 to 2 walks for the second straight game after starting off the year on a strikeout tear. The Travs lost in extras.

Chase De Jong (AA), Darren McCaughan (High A), and Ryne Inman (A) get starts in the system today; Tacoma’s off.

Cano Suspended 80 Games

marc w · May 15, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

The M’s won their make-up game thanks to a great start from Wade LeBlanc and some shut-down relief work. They head home to take on a reeling Rangers club, mired in last place in the division. What could possibly bring down the M’s, save having to go back to Minnesota on another off-day? What’s that?

Oh…ohhh. Yeah, that’d qualify.

The initial reports, as they’re wont to do, made it seem like something of a hard-luck situation. Cano claimed he had a valid medical reason to use the masking agent/diuretic (Furosemide), it’s just that his doctor in the Dominican Republic didn’t know it was on MLB’s banned list of substances. Mark Feinsand’s sources say it was for high blood pressure, and that he tested clean before and after. But cracks started appearing in that defense pretty soon afterwards: in MLB – unlike the Olympics – a player can get a therapeutic exemption if the doctor can show that the substance was prescribed for a valid medical issue. That’s not what happened here. As ESPN investigative journalist TJ Quinn wrote (and talked about on 710am), MLB needed evidennce that the masking agent was used to mask an actual PED, and that it wasn’t used to lower Cano’s blood pressure. No one knows or is saying what that PED was, or what evidence MLB marshaled, but it seems like MLB was able to meet that standard, and that – not the pinky injury – is why Cano dropped his appeal.

At least if tonight’s line-up is anything to go by, the M’s are keeping Dee Gordon in CF and will go with Gordon Beckham at 2B. [EDIT: whoopsadoodle. After writing that, Shannon Drayer tweets that the M’s are indeed moving Dee back to 2B, and shows a picture to prove it. Huh.]That takes care of their alignment, but let’s be clear: this does tremendous damage to their playoff chances. The M’s don’t have much margin for error simply because the wild card race will include at least two frighteningly good teams: whoever loses the AL East, and the Angels. The M’s are running close behind the Angels, and while the Halos are better on paper, you could envision a scenario in which the M’s slip by them. With Cano now missing half the year, you’ve got to halve his production, and if the M’s contend and win ~90 games, that’d presumably be a sizable amount. There’s almost no way this doesn’t shave 1.5-2 wins off of the M’s total, unless Gordon Beckham turns back the clock to 2009. In another year, maybe that’s 1.5 wins you could make up somewhere else. When the M’s need a break or two to close the gap? This feels like a massive, massive blow.

The M’s have other players who’ve been suspended for PEDs, including Dee Gordon and Nelson Cruz. You could make the case that Cruz’s suspension in 2013 was similar, in that it impacted a pennant chase: the Rangers won 91 games that year, but lost the AL West to Oakland and ultimately didn’t make the playoffs. That probably made their decision not to re-sign him in 2014 a bit easier. The M’s and Cano are linked for a lot longer than this year, and as these two players show, fans are willing to forgive and forget after a while. Cano will be back this year – though he couldn’t play in the playoffs if the M’s made it- but the impact here isn’t so much on his legacy or fan reaction (though there will be an impact), but on the M’s playoff odds. This self-inflicted wound comes at precisely the wrong time, and I’d assume his teammates are livid, however much they want to believe their clubhouse leader.

The M’s would be playing today’s game in a daze no matter what – it’s their third game in three days in three cities, after all. But today’s news has to hit hard. I’m still not sure if it’s helpful to go out and play instead of answer questions about the news, or if playing when even a fraction of your mind is on something else is the equivalent of playing with an injury. Whatever the answer, the M’s have to focus on the Rangers now. This was supposed to be the easy part of the schedule – the Rangers just passed the M’s in HR/9, and their staff ranks 26th in MLB in both fWAR and ERA. Their offense is somehow even worse, and just today, Adrian Beltre moved to the DL with an injury, joining Elvis Andrus. With the Astros and Angels playing each other, this series is the best chance for the M’s to move up.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Healy, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Heredia, LF
9: Beckham, 2B
SP: Leake

Ryon Healy’s been red hot since the Cleveland series; this would be a great time for Nellie Cruz to break out of the doldrums he’s been in since his own DL stint back in April.

Jayson Werth had his best game for the R’s last night, going 3-4 with 2 2Bs and a HR in the Rainiers’ 8-5 win over Sacramento. That brings his season OPS up to .572, so there’s room for improvement there, but it’s nice to see signs that the rust is falling away. Rob Whalen gave up 5 R in 5 IP, albeit with 8 Ks, but Casey Lawrence reacted well to getting optioned down with 4 brilliant, scoreless IP to close it out. He K’d 5. They played an early one today, with the Rainiers again winning 8-5. They were held scoreless through 5, but scored all 8 in the 6th-8th innings. Max Povse wasn’t great, but got his ERA under 9, and K’d 9 in 5 IP (with 4 BBs). Lindsey Caughel got his first AAA win in relief.

Arkansas destroyed rebel holdouts NW Arkansas 13-5, hopefully ending this longstanding Texas-league Intrastate Civil War. Chris Mariscal hit a grand slam in the first, which is a good way to set the tone in a game. Andrew Moore starts for the Travelers tonight.

Modesto lost to Lake Elsinore 9-1, their 3rd straight loss to the Storm. Starter Reggie McClain wasn’t bad, but the bullpen gave up 5 runs, and the Nuts offense wasn’t in it anyway. They’ll try their luck against San Jose tonight, with Danny Garcia on the mound.

Clinton had a tough test, facing rehabbing MLB player/uberprospect Alex Reyes. So, uh, maybe we can forgive them for getting blown away by Reyes, who went 5 scoreless innings, striking out 12 Lumberkings. They got a couple of runs off the Peoria bullpen, but couldn’t erase an early deficit in what ended up a 5-2 loss. They played an early one today, and if anything, it went even worse than last night. Peoria ended up winning by a score of 13-1, with Clinton’s Oliver Jaskie taking the loss and reliever Adonis Cruz giving up 9 runs in 2 2/3 IP.

Game 40, Mariners at Twins: The *Real* Pitching Depth Was Inside Of Us All Along

marc w · May 14, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

Wade LeBlanc vs. Jake Odorizzi, 4:10pm

Yesterday’s game was an abject disaster. The M’s lost a game started by their ace, James Paxton, pushing the M’s season record in Pax’s appearances to just 5-4, which is somehow the worst record for any M’s starter. Worse, they lost Robinson Cano to a broken pinky finger thanks to an inside pitch from Blaine Hardy. The M’s had a perfect chance to win another series with their best pitcher facing a guy who’d never started a big league game in his life, and left with a loss and serious questions mounting about how to deploy Juan Nicasio AND with their star 2B out for several weeks.

It feels unfair, because it is. Cano’s been an important part of the M’s successful offense by getting on base like never before (his .385 OBP would be a career high). Paxton’s pitched well enough to win multiple times, only to see his bullpen lose a lead or, like yesterday, give up the winning run. Sure, sure, he’s been bailed out by his offense a few times, especially in his start in Texas, but you feel like the M’s should *win* Paxton’s start, given that James Paxton is *James Paxton* and all, but it doesn’t always work that way. Instead, the M’s have better records in the games Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, and Marco Gonzales have started despite the fact that all three have pitched worse than Pax. It kind of reminds me of the M’s of 2006-2007, when the M’s won nearly all of Cha Seung Baek’s starts despite the fact that he wasn’t exactly dominating, or when the M’s were nearly .500 in Horacio Ramirez’s starts – the games in which he walked more than he K’d and put up an ERA of 7.16.

Is that a problem with the way we look at statistics? Paxton’s peripherals paint a picture of an elite starter, but if the M’s aren’t winning his games, should that change our view of him? No. Just…no. Things like record in appearances has no predictive value, as it’s includes – is designed to include – a ton of information about things that are extraneous to the pitcher. Let’s flip it around: the M’s are 1-6 in games in which Wade LeBlanc has appeared. This has next to nothing to do with LeBlanc, who’s been oddly effective pretty much every time. It has everything to do with the fact that he started the year as the team’s garbage time reliever, and thus appeared in two blowout losses, and has one of the lowest leverage indexes on the team. It’s bad luck mixed with the role the M’s used him in, so it has no bearing on how we view him as a starter. He’s not a AAAA guy without the will to win; he’s solid starting pitching depth. Perhaps a bit boring, but *good* boring – the total inverse of the Juan Nicasio experience right now (bad-exciting).

Let’s pan out a bit here: the M’s acquired good-boring Wade LeBlanc at the end of spring training to help shore up their SP depth, something that looked like a weakness, but which the team itself was fairly confident in. LeBlanc wasn’t thrust into the role initially; he didn’t need to be. The M’s had so many off-days, they didn’t need a 5th starter, and thus Ariel Miranda could cool his jets in Tacoma while the club waited on the return of Erasmo Ramirez. The club had Andrew Moore in AA and Rob Whalen/Max Povse in AAA behind that. You can kind of see what the FO would’ve been thinking – you don’t want to bring in just any SP on a one year deal to block Whalen/Povse/Moore, but none of those guys would fetch something better in trade. They had multiple options to go to, and with the restructuring of the bullpen, you could argue that they’d need many fewer IP from 5th-6th-7th starters than ever before.

And panning out still more, it’s not like this was a brand new situation. Dipoto and company inherited a team with very little in the way of starting pitching depth, and what little they had was stuck in the low-minors. In order to keep their contention window open, they needed to look for more near-term options. They weren’t in the position of the Astros, who could sell off bits of near-majors pitching depth to fill holes. The Astros probably aren’t too concerned with the fact that everyone from Teoscar Hernandez to Josh Hader were traded off; the ‘Stros got their championship, after all. The M’s didn’t have a Josh Hader, let alone a combo of Teoscar Hernandez and Domingo Santana to move. They’ve had to rebuild their pitching depth from the ground up.

Or maybe not. Yesterday, ex-M’s pitcher Freddy Peralta tossed a stunning MLB debut, striking out 13 in 5 2/3 IP of 1-hit ball. On the 9th, Enyel de los Santos, fired 7 IP of one hit ball for the Phillies AAA club, bringing his season ERA below 1, and giving him 39 Ks in 32 1/3 IP. Ryan Yarbrough starts tonight for the Rays, and he’s got a FIP of about 4 in 29+ big league innings. Zack Littell isn’t going 20-1 like he did last year, but he’s up in AAA with the Twins org, and could get a look fairly soon. Pablo Lopez has made 5 starts for the Marlins AA team, and given up just a single run in 26 IP; he has a 27:4 K:BB ratio. Evidently, the M’s had a ton more depth than essentially everyone knew about.

With the possible exception of Yarbrough, who many saw as a 5th starter, none of these guys were on prospect hounds radar. We’re not talking about Luiz Gohara or Nick Neidert, the two guys who were consensus top-10 types. Guys like Dillon Overton were on the list at one point, as were close-to-the-majors relievers like Dan Altavilla; it’s not like there weren’t big-league pitchers identfied, but . Edwin Diaz was on it in 2016, even though we didn’t know he WAS a close-to-the-majors-reliever at the time. Zack Littell and Pablo Lopez had decent stats, but were pooh-poohed by the prospect watchers. de los Santos had decent stuff, but was seen as a longshot when he was swapped for Joaquin Benoit, kind of like Peralta when he was the secondary piece in the trade for Adam Lind (Daniel Missaki was the headliner, despite the fact he was rehabbing from TJ surgery he underwent in 2015. Now, about 3 years later, he’s yet to pitch again). The good news is that the M’s system was dramatically better for pitching depth than anyone thought. The bad news is that it’s all gone.

This is not purely an indictment of the FO; I’ve written those posts before. Clearly, it’s some sort of a problem that the M’s have either not identified big league talent or not properly valued it. It could also be that these guys would never have gotten to where they are had they stayed, which just shifts blame from one department to another. On the other hand, though…that’s a lot of starting pitching depth in a system that wasn’t supposed to have any. At least a few had already showed signs of being much more than their original scouting reports thought, and that’s true for guys at lower levels as well, like JP Sears and Robert Dugger. No, not everyone who’s been moved has instantly starred – Jio Orozco and Brandon Miller come to mind. But I keep waiting for the M’s to prove the industry experts wrong. I want to not laugh when the M’s vociferously deny that their prospects are the worst group in baseball. This is intriguing evidence that, while you could use it to bury the FO, the experts aren’t foolproof any more than the teams are. The M’s weren’t responsible here, but *baseball* turned a group of org depth guys into real, actual, high-minors (or majors) SP depth. It sucks that they’ve essentially leapfrogged Whalen/Povse/and possibly Moore, but the fact that it happened gives me a bit of pause when I lament the lack of depth in the system now.

The question is, what does this mean? That the M’s had a secretly good draft class years ago? What does this mean for the future? Is this like the M’s record in Wade LeBlanc appearances, and it has no bearing on the future? Was this all due to the previous FO who signed Lopez, Littell, Yarbrough, etc.? Or does it show that the M’s have been better than previously thought at developing unheralded pitchers? I guess we’ll see.

Jake Odorizzi was an obvious trade candidate this off-season as the Rays clearly hit reset and went into a rebuild. Given his fly balling ways and broad repertoire, I thought he’d be the ideal Jerry Dipoto project. This team has already tried off-brand Odorizzis like Nate Karns and Drew Smyly – it seemed like the time to try the real thing. But given their pursuit of Shohei Ohtani and the deals to acquire Dee Gordon, the M’s cupboard was pretty bare. The Twins, fresh off a surprise playoff appearance, pushed their chips in the middle and acquired Odorizzi for a minor league OF and then picked up Lance Lynn on a bounce-back contract. It all looked like textbook GM’ing and adapting to a new, better, place on the win curve. Be more like Thad Levine, we said.

The Twins are now 17-19, and their revamped pitching staff is neck and neck with the M’s staff. The M’s “first, do no harm” approach didn’t bring in a lot of depth outside of nearly-free guys like LeBlanc and Roenis Elias. The new guys for the Twins have been the anchors of the rotation, as Lynn’s ERA is 7.34 and his FIP’s in the mid-5s, while Odorizzi ERA masks a FIP that’s worse than Lynn’s. The two are 1-2 in HR rate on the Twins (anyone who’s pitched at least 20 IP). Odorizzi’s got a rising fastball, a sinker, a slider and curve, both with solid horizontal movement, and his outpitch, a splitter. That pitch allowed him to get grounders when he needed them, and got a ton of swings on pitches outside of the zone, just the way Hisashi Iwakuma used to do. Unfortunately, his command of the pitch has slipped a bit, and now batters aren’t offering at balls. His swing rate on the pitch is way down, and the percentage called balls are way up. That means that when batters *do* swing, they’re swinging at slightly higher pitches, which may be why they’re not topping the pitch as much this year.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Healy, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Gamel, LF
9: Beckham, 2B
SP: LeBlanc

Welcome back Gordon Beckham. The ex-White Sox 2B/3B played well for Tacoma last year and got a September call-up. He re-signed with the M’s this year and he’s gotten the call to replace Robbie Cano. He was hitting .300/.412/.500 for Tacoma with more walks than Ks, and that .200 ISO is the best mark he’s put up in a long, long while – he had a .197 ISO in half a year in AA in 2009. The M’s had space on the 40 man, so they added him today without a move. They still technically have an opening on the 40-man, as David Phelps is still on the 10-day rather than 60-day dl.

Rob Whalen, Anthony Misiewicz and Reggie McClain start in the M’s minors today, but the game to watch may be in the MWL, as Clinton’s Raymond Kerr takes on former top-pitching-prospect-in-baseball Alex Reyes, who’s making his second pro start since undergoing TJ surgery in 2016; he tossed a few IP for the Cardinals’ Florida State League affiliate a little while ago.

Game 39, Mariners at Tigers

marc w · May 13, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

James Paxton vs. Blaine Hardy, 10:10am

As I missed the second game of yestersay’s twin bill and thus Felix Day, allow me to improvise and wish you an yours a very happy Maple Day.

James Paxton looks to keep his hot streak going against the Tigers and spot starter Blaine Hardy. Hardy, a lefty, throws 89 with his fastball and pairs it with a so-so change up and a good, hard slider. The overall stuff isn’t amazing, but he’s had flashes of making it play up a bit.

Or at least, he has in the pen. He was always a reliever in the Royals and then Tigers systems, but made a handful of bullpen day starts. But despite debuting back in 2014, he’s *never* started a big league game.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Haniger, RF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Healy, 1B
8: Zunino, C
9: Heredia, LF
SP: James Paxton.

It’s nice to head into today’s game having already beat Michael Fulmer *and* with Paxton on the mound today.

The M’s are still facing a lot of lefty starters…which they seem to enjoy doing.

Tacoma, Arkansas, and Modesto lost; Clinton avoided the org sweep with a 3-2 win. Tacoma’s in Sacramento, with Arkansas facing Springfield, Modesto’s hosting Lake Elsinore and Clinton’s off today before kicking off a series with Peoria on Monday.

Game 37, Mariner at Tigers – Weather Permitting

marc w · May 11, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

Marco Gonzales vs. Matt Boyd, 4:10pm

After an encouraging series beating up on Toronto pitching, the M’s face the rebuilding Tigers in Detroit. It’s raining in Detroit, and it’s forecast to last for the evening and into tomorrow, so we could see a double-header tomorrow or Sunday. That could become an issue, as the M’s off-day on Monday has already been used to reschedule a rain/snow-out in Minnesota back in April. A double-header on Sunday and then a make-up game in another city and then a home game on Tuesday is a pretty brutal 72 hours. That is, there’s the potential here for the M’s to play 4 games in 3 days in 3 different cities. Clean up your act, AL Central.

The Tigers gave up Justin Verlander and essentially entered into a rebuild last year. Their pitching staff was horrid last year, and they haven’t really tried to do much about it – they’re hoping for rebounds from the likes of Jordan Zimmermann, their free agency dud, and today’s starter, Matt Boyd, the overachiever who made the majors and may be the pitcher *least* suited to the home-run-happy era we’re now in. To be clear: they haven’t done the huge take-down that the White Sox did, so the Tigers aren’t as awful as the White Sox were last year and are this year. At the same time, there’s a bit less to look forward to; they traded Verlander, but guys like Miguel Cabrera and Zimmermann aren’t movable right now. They can wait out those contracts and try to build, but they don’t have a Chris Sale-on-a-cheap-extension or even a Jose Quintana to deal.

Thus, if they’re going to be credible, they’re going to need some of the guys who are on this team to get significantly better. Thus far, Boyd’s done just that. The lefty came up in the Jays system and pitched two games for Toronto before being sent to Detroit. He’d been a middling prospect but his stock rose after improving his velocity training at Driveline. He wasn’t throwing 95 regularly, but he used a high-spin four-seamer with solid rise, and even at 91-92, it missed some bats. His approach was designed to elicit whiffs, even at the expense of elevated contact. His GB% in 2015 was under 32%, and thus he gave up a ton of fly balls. And, given what was going on in the second half of 2015, it probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise that a lot of them left the yard. He gave up *17* dingers in just 57 1/3 IP that year, which led to unsightly ERA/FIP totals. At least he knew what he needed to work on. That off-season, he worked again at Driveline, this time on his breaking ball.

In his first season in the bigs, he threw a four-seamer, a change, a slider, and a rarely-seen curve, all from a relatively high 3/4 arm slot. The slider, his primary breaker, was somewhat slurvy at 80 MPH – it was quite effective, albeit in a tiny sample, but what killed Boyd that year was his fastball, which batters absolutely destroyed. His change wasn’t much better, so it was merciful that his slider escaped unscathed. That next season, 2016, Boyd unveiled a series of changes to his repertoire. His fastball was largely the same, but he used it up in the zone more than in 2015, letting batters get under the ball and improving his whiff rate. He debuted a new sinker to give hitters a different look. And his new slider was much, much harder, with an average velocity nearly 5 MPH higher than 2015. As a pitcher in Detroit giving up tons of fly balls, his ceiling was perhaps limited, but he put together a nearly 1 fWAR season in 1/2 to 2/3 of a year. Not good, not too bad.

The following year, Boyd reinvented himself yet again. He dropped his arm angle significantly, and used a low-3/4 slot, giving his four-seam and sinker much more horizontal movement at the expense of vertical rise. His slider was *harder still* at a cutter-ish 86-87 MPH, but he used it much less and his curve much more. His fastballs were better than in 2015, but the arm slot didn’t cure his HR problem, and both the four-seam and sinker had poor SLG%-against numbers. He’d changed the shape of his pitches, changed his mix, and while his HR rate came down (helping out his FIP), he had the exact same GB% and was, on the whole, less effective than he’d been the year before.

Thus far this year, Boyd’s split the difference in his arm angle, raising it above 2017’s level, but keeping it lower than it was when he entered the league. He’s gone back to his old slider, the one thrown at 80-81, and he’s using it far more than ever. He’s essentially tripled his slider frequency over last year. He’s avoided HRs thus far despite the fact that he’s suddenly lost 2-3 ticks on his fastball. April of 2018 was his slowest average velo ever, and while it’s improved in May, it’s still low for him. His K% is lower than 2017, which was lower than 2016, but he’s doing fine with his Chris Young imitation thus far. Of course, that’s a very difficult trick to pull off long term, and with Comerica still looking like a park that engenders a lot of good contact, he’ll have to have great command to make it work.

Marco Gonzales arm angle and movement look pretty similar to Boyd’s 2017, though hopefully he can improve upon Boyd’s 2017 results. Gonzales’ cutter has seemed to make a huge difference, and you kind of wonder if that’s what Boyd was thinking about when he added 6-7 ticks to his slider. What’s tough is that if Gonzales’ cutter is making a difference, it’s probably going to show up in the results of his *other* pitches. His average against and SLG% on his cutter are so-so. But watching the games, you can see that batters react to his change and even fastball *differently* than they did last year when he didn’t have the cutter. Here’s hoping his BABIP can start regressing down towards average one of these days, though of course Comerica’s not a great park for that with its expansive OF.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Haniger, RF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Healy, 1B
8: Zunino, C
9: Heredia, LF
SP: Gonzales

The M’s are one of the league’s best teams against left-handed pitching, which may not be a huge surprise given their big righties like Haniger and Cruz. Having Heredia start over the slumping Ben Gamel probably helps those numbers as well. Kyle Seager’s no slouch against southpaws either, though:

Game 36, The Loneliness Of the Middle-Inning Reliever

marc w · May 10, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners

Mike Leake vs. JA Happ, 4:05pm

Juan Nicasio has a 19:1 K:BB ratio, and an ERA of 6. Nicasio’s fastball has induced whiffs at scarcely believable rates, and his fastball has been hit very hard when batters make contact. This is in some sense the issue with small samples, and early in the year, anyone’s numbers are small sample, but that goes triple for relievers. I know I’m not exactly comfortable watching the game when he’s in, but it’s also hard to pinpoint why. He’s missing bats and not walking anyone! The BABIP will regress! Everything’s fine justpleaseputinDiaznow.

Can the new statcast numbers uncover something about the way he’s throwing or shed some light on how much of his BABIP has been “Earned” through crappy pitches? Uh, no, not really. To be fair, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what’s really predictive in the great wave of new data we’ve got access to. I console myself by thinking that the same is true for other, smarter, analysts. I think they can help show that sometimes a pitcher’s BABIP looks bad because *he’s pitching bad* and you can’t wait for the regression fairy to just magically fix him. Other times, the results seem to show just how incomplete our picture is if we look *just* at speed off the bat and angle, however much better it is than using fly ball/ground ball/line drive buckets to bin batted balls. Here’s an example. Here are two M’s hurlers, with their performance in 2018 in three familiar statcast metrics, expected wOBA, average launch angle, and average exit velocity:

Pitcher xwOBA Launch Angle Exit Velocity
A 0.309 21.2 90
B 0.309 17.5 88.6

Slight differences in velo and angle, but not much, and the exact same expected results based on angle/velo.

How about since May 1?

Since May 1st xwOBA Launch Angle Exit Velocity
A 0.387 18.3 92.5
B 0.277 17.1 91.3

Now the difference in xwOBA is massive, even while the other numbers aren’t much different. And pitcher B’s xwOBA’s way better despite giving up harder contact.

The reveal: A is of course Juan Nicasio, who has not enjoyed May at all. His ACTUAL wOBA-allowed this month is nothing like .387, which’d be bad: it’s .614, which is ridiculous. B is a guy named James Paxton, who’s given up some loud contact, but much of which has been hit at people, or at least within diving range (luv you Kyle Seager). Overall, they’re pretty similar by any number of measures: they’re missing bats, and they’re missing bats *with fastballs*. As a result of their approach and perhaps a philosophical adjustment, both have seen their ground ball rates tumble this year, and thus, both have high HR rates (remember again though about the whole small sample thing). The more you dig, the more similar they look. It’s the 30,000 foot view – the “how many runs did they give up?” type question – that makes them look completely, utterly dissimilar. I’ll try to remember that as I watch Nicasio and realize that I’m unconsciously watching through gaps in my fingers.

You know who looks absolutely awful by Statcast measures? Mike Leake. Yet another hurler with a GB% that’s fallen through the floor, and he’s someone who’s given up some of the hardest hit balls in the game. Mike Leake is better than he’s looked thus far, that much is clear. He just hasn’t pitched like it in recent weeks. He’ll get back to his normal, somewhat boring, predictable, reliable self, but it’s been a rough go, really since his first start against Cleveland.

1: Segura, SS
2: Haniger, RF
3: Canó, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Healy, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Zunino, C
8: Heredia, CF
9: Romine, LF
SP: Leake

I don’t get playing Andrew Romine in an OF corner, I really don’t. Taylor Motter had options, isn’t good, etc., I know, but don’t we pretty much know that Romine can’t hit? I’d think even Romine would argue he helps in other ways. A no-hit, glove-first back-up SS/3B/2B is…well, it feels very 1983, but whatever, I grew up with those guys. A no-hit glove-first OF corner/1B…what…who ordered that?

The Rainiers beat El Paso 8-5 behind a good start from Rob Whalen and HRs from Taylor Motter and Cam Perkins. The R’s also got solid relief from Darin Gillies for 2 scoreless IP before a man named Tucker Healy finished up, giving up 3 meaningless runs in the 9th. The M’s apparently picked him up from the A’s org a few days ago after he’d been released from the Midland Rockhounds (AA Texas league). Huh. Max Povse starts for Tacoma tonight against Luis Perdomo, a mainstay of the Padres rotation the past few years. He stunk up the joint in April and was optioned to the PCL not too long ago.

Arkansas was off yesterday, but they’re starting up another series against Springfield tonight with Andrew Moore on the mound opposite the Cardinals’ Chris Ellis. Ellis was part of the big Andrelton Simmons trade, as he and Sean Newcomb went to the Braves org in exchange for the SS. Then, he was part of one of the many, many deals involving Jaime Garcia the past few years, this one sending him from the Braves to the Cards org. He got knocked around a bit last year in AA/AAA, but he’s been solid in the Texas league this year.

San Jose beat Modesto 9-5, scoring all 9 runs in a huge 6th inning explosion. Reggie McClain was cruising up to that point, but stumbled and then Jack Anderson couldn’t staunch the bleeding. Gareth Morgan homered, but as Rick Randall noted on Twitter, he’s now got 70 strikeouts in 117 at-bats (and just 6 walks). Danny Garcia starts tonight against the Giants’ Conner Menez, who’s been tough thus far: he’s got 37 Ks in 25 1/3 IP, and sports a RA/9 of 1.42.

Clinton lost to West Michigan 8-5, as noted in yesterday’s post. On the plus side, OFs Jack Larsen and Dimas Ojeda ran 4th and 5th in OPS in the Midwest League, and figure to get a look in the California league before too long. Ryne Inman starts for the Lumberkings tonight against Javier Assad of South Bend, as Clinton kicks off a series with the Cubs affiliate.

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