Game 95, Mariners at Rays

marc w · July 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. James Shields, 4:10pm

Hisashi Iwakuma’s two recent starts haven’t been awful (especially not compared with Hector Noesi’s two recent AAA starts), but they’re somewhat concerning. The sterling K:BB ratio hasn’t translated to the rotation, and there’s still the manner of his ugly HR rate. His xFIP is better looking, though it’s still not exactly good. That said, given the problems Noesi’s had and the injury to Erasmo Ramirez, I’m glad Iwakuma’s getting the chance to show what he can do. He doesn’t have a whole lot of time to showcase that he’s worth a longer term deal in MLB, so let’s hope he starts making that case tonight.

Opposing him is James Shields, the change-up specialist who’s been an extremely valuable member of the Rays rotation for a while now. His brilliant 2011 campaign was blighted only by three encounters with the dregs of the AL West – two starts against Seattle in which he gave up 15 runs total, and one against the A’s in which he gave up 10 (in 4 IP!). He seems to be throwing a tick faster than he did last season, up closer to 93 than 92. He throws his change-up around a third of the time; he throws it roughly the same amount to lefties and righties. That’s actually a hallmark of his – he throws the same pitches in the same percentages to everyone. And hitters respond in kind: over his career, he’s now got a 3.91 FIP against lefties, and a 3.91 FIP against righties. Of course, if you use xFIP, then it’s 3.64 and…3.64.

These dead-even splits are anomalous, as we’d expect a pitcher to have a platoon advantage against same-handed hitters. That he doesn’t shows you how effective a good change-up can be in evening the playing field. It also shows you that, while it’s hard to complain about a guy worth nearly 5 fWAR last year, a slider/curveball would make a lot of sense. He’s toyed with a slider in the past, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck. He’s always had something of a HR problem, so hopefully the M’s can continue driving pitches the way they did in Kansas City. And while James Shields is hardly Jonathan Sanchez, the M’s managed to hit SIX HRs off of Shields last year. The 2011 M’s, in total, hit something like 9 HRs. I’m not a big fan of the style of analysis that says that the M’s “own” this guy or that “they’re in his head” but I would love some additional data to build questionable narratives on.

Speaking of Jonathan Sanchez, the countdown to the deadline began in earnest today when Sanchez was traded to Colorado for Jeremy Guthrie. Two of the worst (possibly THE two worst) starting pitchers in baseball in 2012 were traded for each other. I’m not sure I’ve seen something like this before. Both joined new teams this offseason, and both had been MLB regulars for many years. Sanchez always had a nice K rate going for him, and Guthrie was going to Colorado, but both were generally speaking seen as good candidates to put up league average numbers. Not great, and they’d get there in different ways, but average. In both cases, the players they were traded for simply went nuts and putting up video game numbers. Melky Cabrera is still hitting .357, and has already amassed 3.5 WAR (excluding defense). Jason Hammel went to Baltimore, and put up 2.8 WAR before going down with knee surgery (not arm related!). Meanwhile, Sanchez and Guthrie both have FIP’s over 6.

What a perfect move to get the uncomfortable reminder about how each team got “fleeced” in the results-based, hindsight-enabled view of each team’s fanbase. What a perfect chance at a salvaging something, however unlikely, from these disastrous trades. I really hope it works out. Having just seen Sanchez, and given the ZIP code Sanchez is moving to, I have a whole lot of doubts. But it’d be fun.

Any good parallels out there? By WAR, it’s not the trade of the two worst players – Pedro Feliz was traded a few years back, and had run up -2 WAR all by himself that year (the return in that deal, David Carpenter, was himself traded today in the 10-player swap between the Astros and Blue Jays). But that deal was rather typical of one team just jettisoning a bad veteran for a minor league lottery ticket. I’ve seen awful players traded for “cash considerations” or what have you.

The one precedent many M’s fans will think of is the Carlos Silva-for-Milton Bradley trade before the 2010 season. However, in that case, while Silva had stunk up the joint in Seattle, he’d only pitched in 30 innings in 2009. Meanwhile, while Bradley was hated in Chicago, he wasn’t an *awful* player in 2009 – a disappointment, sure. Overpaid? Yeah, perhaps. But he was a league-average hitter in 2009, so while both sides felt nothing but relief at the time of the trade (like the Guthrie/Sanchez swap), it’s not an apples to apples comparison.

So, my takeaways from this dumpster-diving trade:
1: Fans and teams still occasionally overrate the “safety” of veteran players. That is, they believe veteran performance is less variable than those crazy rookies; the orbit around true-talent is much tighter. As we learned from both Carlos Silva AND Milton Bradley, that’s not always true.
2: Teams don’t do this enough. It really helps that you had two guys in virtually identical situations for similar lengths of time, but I’m a bit surprised that teams don’t trade bigger-named flops for other bigger-named flops. I know, I know: it sucks to buy high and then look to sell low, but are we done with Figgins yet? Please?

Oh yeah: the line-up:
1: Ackley
2: Ichiro
3: Wells (CF)
4: Jaso (DH)
5: Montero (C)
6: Seager
7: Smoak
8: Peguero (LF)
9: Ryan
SP: Iwakuma


129 Responses to “Game 95, Mariners at Rays”

  1. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 8:48 pm

    haha Steve.

  2. stevemotivateir on July 20th, 2012 8:49 pm

    Really looking forward to Carp’s return, assuming he replaces Smoak.

  3. jordan on July 20th, 2012 8:49 pm

    What inning you think Figgins takes the mound?

    Is it bad i hope he gets lit up?

  4. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 8:49 pm

    I think right now I’d prefer seeing Smoak go down to AAA instead of Figgins getting DFAed.

    Figgins isn’t making us suffer from game to game.

  5. stevemotivateir on July 20th, 2012 8:51 pm

    ^Totally agree. At least Figgins offers speed.

  6. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 8:54 pm

    Don’t misunderstand – I do hope Smoak can turn it around. But he needs to do it in AAA, if only for OUR sake!

  7. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 8:55 pm


    I really want to see Olivo pitch!!

  8. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 8:56 pm


    I think I’m more disappointed that we don’t get to see Olivo take the mound, actually.

  9. MissouriMariner on July 20th, 2012 8:57 pm

    Man I wanted to see Olivo pitch bad. That would have been hilarious. LOL

  10. stevemotivateir on July 20th, 2012 8:57 pm

    What makes me less confident that Smoak can turn it around, is that he’s had a ton of PA’s, and shown no sign of improvement with anything. But maybe at AAA he can start from scratch?

  11. Breadbaker on July 20th, 2012 8:58 pm

    Man I wanted to see Olivo pitch bad.

    That would have been guaranteed.

  12. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 8:58 pm

    He might’ve been semi-decent. He does have a pretty good arm.

    hahaha Breadbaker

  13. stevemotivateir on July 20th, 2012 9:00 pm

    Ackley & Smoak, combined 0-12. I hope Z and the front office watched every painful inning of this game.

    Throw Montero in there and it’s 0-17. The young guns shoot more blanks than bullets.

  14. MissouriMariner on July 20th, 2012 9:02 pm

    LOL He probably would have pitched bad but would have been interesting to see how hard he threw. Would have added humor to a bit of a boring game.

  15. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 9:05 pm

    Olivo throwing to Montero would’ve been amazing.

  16. MissouriMariner on July 20th, 2012 9:07 pm

    That would have been amazing….no passed balls I am sure. LOL

  17. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 9:08 pm

    Mariners come home on the 23rd – that would be a good time to make the switch (Carp for Smoak).

    I know Carp hasn’t been particularly good in AAA, but Smoak is currently broken. Plus I think Carp’s past performances deserve an extended “time to sink or swim” audition.

  18. Westside guy on July 20th, 2012 9:09 pm

    MM, I was thinking of exactly that – all the passed balls on Olivo’s pitches, and all the “passed balls” when Olivo fails to take Montero’s throws back. 😀

  19. stevemotivateir on July 20th, 2012 9:10 pm

    I don’t wanna see Carp rushed back, though. If he’s not 100%, I’d rather see someone else have a go at first, maybe someone from outside the organization.

  20. MissouriMariner on July 20th, 2012 9:15 pm

    LOL Westside!!! Guess they could have moved Ackley up the middle to handle those passed balls. Well anyways….catch you guys later. I am out for the night….

  21. samregens on July 21st, 2012 2:01 am

    One aspect I always rather liked about Olivo is that I thought he had a pretty strong arm.

    Man, it would have been great to see him pitch. (If Ichiro was not allowed to).

  22. James H on July 21st, 2012 6:56 am

    Smoak and Ackley combined vs. KC/TB so far .174/240/413 with 13 k’s. Did someone forget to mention to them they’re on the road?

  23. MrZDevotee on July 21st, 2012 11:40 am

    I’m not sure I understand the desire to see Mike Carp at the major league level…

    Total numbers for 2012 (including 100+ AB’s at AA/AAA)…

    31 for 186, w/ 47 K’s
    (.166 BA, 25% K rate)

    Justin Smoak, all at the MLB level
    .195 BA, 23% K rate

    Not defending Smoak, but maybe somebody ELSE besides Carp deserves the shot?

  24. MrZDevotee on July 21st, 2012 11:48 am

    Rich Poythress?
    .299 BA, .395 OBP, with 20K’s in 167 AB’s?

    Heck, I’d rather he get a shot, honestly.

  25. Westside guy on July 21st, 2012 12:08 pm

    Any desire to see Carp is driven by two things:

    1) His pre-2012 numbers, combined with the reasonable assumption that he hasn’t been 100% healthy this year; and

    2) The fact that he’s not named “Smoak”.

    I wouldn’t be averse to seeing someone else IFF there is someone else with probable talent; but Carp has produced previously at the major league level unlike most of these guys.

  26. MrZDevotee on July 21st, 2012 12:27 pm

    I understand all that, but his pre-2012 numbers, other than a month and a half absolute TEAR, have been awful…

    (Carp and Smoak were each worth .5 WAR last year, too… and are worth -.1 and -.8 respectively this year, which is pretty much exactly the same when you figure in their time played this year)

    I’m not anti-Carp per se, just not anxious to see one under achiever replace another… Let’s base it on performance and be consistent– and Carp hasn’t earned it if we do.

    But a LOT of guys are visibly (via text) excited about seeing Carp play, and I’m not onboard with it.

    Give me Jaso/Montero/Ackley at 1B instead. Or yeah, Rich Poythress can’t be any worse, and he takes walks like neither Carp nor Smoak are capable.

    (On the bright future report– Zunino is tearing it up, with a 2 homer game, 3 homers in his first 5 games, hitting .458, .552 OBP, last I checked… 4 walks as well… Montero should dust off that 1B glove!)

  27. marcus_andrews on July 21st, 2012 1:15 pm

    Using Carp’s WAR is flawed by the fact that he was playing left. WOBA or OPS+ would be better because they’re probably relatively close to equals defensively at first. Carp is however attrocious in left so that will very negatively affect his WAR.

    Also, Montero can’t dust off a first baseman’s glove because he’s never played it at all. I hope he can learn, but people assuming it’s going to happen need to realize that it will no way be a smooth, mid-season transition. He’ll need to work on it in the spring and then we can talk about it more. Right now Montero at first would be like Liddi in left.

  28. Westside guy on July 21st, 2012 2:09 pm

    Despite everything I’ve said, I must admit I am a bit worried about Carp. Given his lack of production (as MrZ has rightly pointed out) all season and even currently, I question whether he’s truly healthy, or if he’s doing what so many baseball players do – playing through pain.

    I will not be very surpised if, come October, we hear he’s been scheduled for surgery. And, if so, the talking heads will all blather about his “grittiness” and how he “went about his business”, while ignoring the fact that he could’ve had it fixed six months earlier and maybe been contributing six months to a year sooner…

  29. eponymous coward on July 21st, 2012 5:44 pm

    Carp’s career numbers (.750 OPS) are probably pretty close to what you could reasonably expect from him as a full-time player. They pencil out to a ~1.5 WAR player over a full season (which is about what Carp has played so far in MLB).

    He wouldn’t be a disaster like Smoak has been (though I tend to think at some point, Smoak will figure it out and be a similar below-average-but-above-replacement-level player), but that’s not really a good longterm answer at 1B/DH, and the team should resist the urge to make it one. If they run out of money or options to improve the team, letting Carp play full time isn’t the worst thing you could do (so there’s no reason not to play him the rest of the year), but on most good teams Mike Carp would be on a bench behind a better player at 1B…

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