Game, er, 124 – Mariners at Rays
Furbush vs. Hellickson, 4:10pm
(Please note: the Seahawks preseason game preempts the M’s on 710AM radio, so if you’re looking for the game, head to 770AM instead)
So, uh, THIS is game 124 I think. And again, the M’s face a solid young righthander who throws in the low 90s. Hellickson and Wade Davis were both highly regarded, but while Hell Boy’s tRA/FIP aren’t much to write home about, Hellickson’s probably surpassed Davis at this point.
The difference is that Hellickson has a legitimate plus pitch in his arsenal – the change-up – that Davis doesn’t. As a result, Hellickson’s able to get more strikeouts (though not as many as I would’ve thought) and thus keep his strand rate a bit higher. Hellickson throws his curve about 1/3 of the time, and gets whiffs on over 20% of them – that’s over 1/3 of all swings on his change. That sort of stuff has his change-up’s value up with teammate James Shields or Ricky Romero in the Fangraphs leaderboard. No, it’s not as good as Felix’s or Hamels’, but it’s up there.
You’d think this would help Hellickson stay out of trouble against lefties, but he’s run FIP/xFIPs in the 5s against lefties in his brief career. Oddly for a pitch with good arm-side run, Hellickson uses his change-up more often against *righties* and he’s generated more whiffs against righties than lefties. His big problem against lefties has been control. Hellickson had great walk rates in the minors, but they’ve been quite pedestrian this year, and he’s given up about as many free passes to lefties as he’s struck out. He hasn’t shown command problems against the M’s, of course, walking only 2 in 14 1/3 solid innings in 2 starts against Seattle (both walks came against lefties).
Like Charlie Furbush, Hellickson’s a fly ball guy, so he’s going to need to keep Carp/Wily Mo/Ackley in the ballpark. I’d love to see Pena attack the catwalks at Tropicana, but I fear Hellickson’s change might make this a poor match-up.
Wedge put together a lefty-heavy line-up today, as Dustin Ackley’s back after his day off:
* Brendan Ryan came off the DL as Jack Wilson went on it, but Rodriguez gets his second consecutive start
at SS (Rodriguez got the start, but Seager’s at SS tonight after Rodriguez took a pitch off his elbow in his first AB).
* Nick Franklin went 3-4 with a triple in his return to AA.
* Tacoma got swept at home by Omaha, and now head to first-place Reno for a big series – Mike Curto talks about it here. They’ve got a lot of ground to make up in 17 games, so they really need to win/sweep this series.
* Today’s a big sports day in Seattle, with the M’s game, the sole Seahawks preseason game and a Sounders match all competing for eyeballs.