Series Wrap Odds and Ends
1: The Mariners scored 29 runs in their 3-1 series win against Cleveland. They scored 26 in their first 14 games of July. They scored 9 runs for the 3rd time today, and have 6 games with at least 9 runs. They’ve come against Cleveland, Detroit (twice), New York and Tampa. Meanwhile, they’ve been shut down by the likes of Bruce Chen, Jason Marquis, Sean O’Sullivan and Brian Matusz.
2: The offense was led by Kyle Seager, Trayvon Robinson, and Wily Mo Pena, and the Rainiers pounded out 12 runs to get a win for Anthony Vasquez, a guy throwing 83-85 MPH. I’m still trying to get my head around Vasquez’s win; as many of you talked about in the game thread, the pitch fx/gameday algorithm was confused by Vasquez’s “fast”ball and labeled over 70% of his pitches as change-ups.
I’ve tried to go through and classify his pitches and I come up with 37 change-ups, 27 two-seam fastballs, 26 four-seam fastballs, 7 curve balls and one…something (maybe a cutter, maybe a four-seamer). Assuming my classification is close-ish to accurate (and that’s a big assumption), Vasquez’s stuff is pretty remarkable. No, those 81 MPH pitches weren’t change-ups – his change-up averaged a staggering 72.7 MPH. The pitches in the low-80s were mostly two-seam fastballs, and they averaged 82 MPH. Both the two-seamer and change had very nice arm-side run, but I can’t get over those velocity numbers. His four-seamer came in at a comparatively blistering 85.4 MPH which is, somewhat improbably, faster than the Royals Jeff Francis (who beat the M’s in KC back in April). His curve ball came in 67.6 MPH, much slower than the knuckleballs of RA Dickey or Charlie Haeger, and even slower than Francis’ slow yakker.
We’ve all been talking about comparisons for Vasquez – Jason Vargas is perhaps the most common. In terms of his arsenal and overall velocity, the closest match *might* be Livan Hernandez. The aged wonder in DC has an 83-84 MPH fastball and a curve under 68 MPH. He throws a change-up as well, but it’s much, much faster than Vasquez’s at 77 MPH. If Vasquez wants to work in an eephus pitch every now and again, I wouldn’t object.
His most remarkable (and successful) pitch was his change-up. It got 6 whiffs, which isn’t bad. It also appears to be the slowest change-up in the league, behind RA Dickey’s (this is based on the Fangraphs leaderboard, which I believe comes from BIS data – I’m comparing my own classification of pitch fx data to BIS’s classifications, so take this with several grains of salt). It’s slower than Jamie Moyer’s. It’s not a great pitch, but it’s so different, I almost have to love it. A guy with a low-mid 80s fastball appears to throw a change-up that occasionally hits the high 60s. We talk about Justin Verlander’s confidence in throwing a bunch of fastballs in a row to blow away a hitter, but how much “confidence” does it take to blow 100 MPH heat past someone? Think about Vasquez throwing a low-70s pitch that is separated from a random JV high-school pitch solely by how well he disguises it from his varsity high-school fastball. That’s confidence. I’m not sure I want to see a whole lot more of it, but I’m glad that game happened.
3: The Rainiers ended their 8-game losing streak with a 9-3 win at Colorado Springs. Michael Saunders and Mike Wilson homered for Tacoma. Alex Liddi is again scuffling after a hot start to the month. He’s now struck out 3 times in 3 of his last 5 games, and he has 10 Ks total in that stretch. His slash numbers are still OK, but he’s got 160 Ks thus far. I’d still like to see him get some ABs in September, but I’m really glad Seager’s starting to look comfortable. Liddi’s got talent, but he’s got plenty of work to do. Meanwhile, Mike Saunders now has an OPS over 1.000 since early July. I still think he’s probably playing for a contract somewhere else, but after all he’s been through, I’m rooting for him.
4: The M’s are off tomorrow, as they fly home to prepare for the White Sox on Friday. With the Indians getting swept by Detroit and then losing three of four to Seattle, the White Sox slipped into 2nd in the division and had playoff odds around 15% as recently as the 22nd. A walk-off loss and then a shut-out tonight has left them reeling – their playoff odds have been halved, and the M’s can pretty much eliminate them over the weekend. I still find it fascinating that the White Sox were contending at all; their DH has been worth two wins below replacement level, and their CF has cost them another. It’s conceivable that Omar Vizquel could post a better on-base percentage than either – the same Omar Vizquel who posted a .273 OBP for the M’s in 1989.
5: Greg Johns reports that the M’s are considering going with a six-man rotation. This arrangement would limit the innings of Pineda, Vargas and Felix, and allow Vasquez to get a few more starts in September. I’d love to see the M’s experiment with this; all of baseball seems to have decided that a 5-man rotation is optimal, and I’m not sure that that’s always the case – particularly with the M’s, who might find that some of their more marginal starters look a lot better with some extra rest. I know they’re not looking at it for next season at this point, but think about how it might allow them to exploit their depth at SP – they could work in Paxton/Hultzen slowly and manage the innings of Pineda as well, and they wouldn’t necessarily need to give Felix fewer starts to do it. A bit of creativity could pay some dividends next year. Yes, this would cost them a bullpen spot, but given the utility of the 7th man in the ‘pen, particularly given Wedge’s usage patterns, it seems like an easy trade.