Game 91, Mariners at Royals
Jason Vargas vs. Jonathan Sanchez, 5:10pm
In a November 2011 for Fangraphs, Dave wrote that Sanchez had the fourth-highest K rate of any starter in baseball in recent years – behind Tim Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw and Yovani Gallardo. He also wrote that he wasn’t as good as that K rate suggested. Still, when Kansas City acquired him in exchange for Melky Cabrera, most thought he’d continue to be something like a league-average pitcher, albeit one who got to league-average in a roundabout way. Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera has put up 3.3 WAR (he’s hitting .350!) and Sanchez has utterly collapsed.
That high K rate was always something of an oddity, given that Sanchez throws softer than Hisashi Iwakuma. Dave’s piece mentioned his habit of throwing up in the zone, where whiff rates are higher, but that can’t be all of it. In any event, whatever alchemy that allowed 24% K rates on so-so velo fastballs didn’t make the plane to Kansas City (or maybe it did?). His K rate has dropped 10 percentage points from his career mark, and he’s now in Barry Zito/Clayton Richard/Kyle Lohse/Rick Porcello territory. His poor command was always a problem, but it’s degenerated to the point where he makes Kyle Drabek look like a Twins pitcher. Among all pitchers with 50 innings, Sanchez’s walk rate’s of 16.7%’s the worst. He’s walked 42 hitters unintentionally (and plunked another 5), and he’s struck out 34. His FIP’s over 6, which is really, really hard to do.
His fastball’s no longer 91-92; he’s worked in the 88-90 range since coming off the DL with tendinitis (AKA the Jeff Weaver memorial “just clear your head a while” diagnosis), and if he was bad before the DL trip, he’s been pretty much exactly the same after it. Before: 25 1/3 IP, 22 BB, 18 Ks, 2 HRs. After: 26 2/3 IP, 21 BB, 16 Ks, 4 HRs. I’m not going to kick a player when he’s down, in part because it feels mean to point out the failings in the Kansas City org after all they’ve suffered through, and in part because I write about the Mariners – but this is the definition of a winnable game. Unwatchable, perhaps, but winnable.
With the lefty on the mound, the M’s get both Olivo and Montero in the line-up. I’m glad to see Montero back behind the plate, and I don’t mind Olivo in the line-up against a lefty who really struggles against righties, which… no, OK, I’ll level with you: during the Felix-vs-Darvish/USSM-LL meet-up thing, Jeff Sullivan tweeted “Could Yu Darvish could walk Josh Hamilton?” Well, this is essentially another version of that hypothetical. Jonathan Sanchez appears incapable of jogging the ball into the strike zone, and Olivo has 2 walks in his last 114 plate appearances.
Matthew’s series preview at LL includes the slightly depressing fact that Jason Vargas and Bruce Chen have identical career xFIP marks. Vargas last pitched a homerless game on May 9th, at home (duh), versus Detroit. He’s also on a mini-roll, with 22 Ks in 23 2/3 IP in his last three starts (though two of them came against the change-up-phobic Athletics, so, add an extra asterisk to the one you already applied to a stat based on a pitcher’s last three starts).
4: Montero (C)
7: Olivo (DH)
SP: Jason Vargas
The surging Anthony Fernandez starts for Jackson tonight against Tennessee, and Steve Garrison leads the Rainiers against Sacramento at Cheney (7:05 start time – you should go). As JY already mentioned, Clinton played early and last week’s no-hit star Jordan Shipers got knocked around in a 10-4 loss. Jose Valdivia leads Everett into Salem-Keizer, Min-Sih Chen starts for Pulaski and while someone may know who’ll take the ball for High Desert and Arizona, I’m not that someone.