Haren vs Millwood, 7:10 pm.
The Mariners aren’t going to the playoffs this year, but they just might be able to ensure that the Angels aren’t either. Anaheim is currently 3 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the second wild card spot, and their September schedule is brutal – after they leave Seattle, they get three against Detroit and four against Oakland. They finish up the season with three against KC (okay, so it’s not all hard work) six against Texas, three against Chicago, and six more against the Mariners. Odds are good they’re not going to be able to make up a lot of ground playing teams like the Rangers, A’s, White Sox, and Tigers, so they need to play really well against Seattle and KC. If the M’s win a bunch of these games against the Angels, there’s a good chance they can play spoilers, and ensure that year one of the Albert Pujols Era ends in disappointment.
In terms of the line-up, Saunders is back in the line-up, and has moved to RF to accommodate Guti’s return to CF, which leaves LF for just one of Thames and Robinson. For at least night one, Wedge went with Robinson. Here’s hoping that’s not a sign of things to come, because Thames is a useful player against right-handers, and Robinson is a fifth outfielder if we’re lucky.
Duensing vs Beavan, 10:05 am.
Morning baseball featuring two of the least interesting pitchers in the sport. Feel the excitement.
Vargas vs. Deduno, 5:10 pm.
Deduno, who was as wild as his track record would lead you to expect last time against the Mariners, managed to throw mostly strikes and only walk one in his intervening start. However, it took place in Texas against the Rangers, so the tradeoff was that he suddenly became a lot more hittable. We’ll see which version of him the Twins are sending out tonight.
I don’t know when Saunders will be back in the lineup. Lately, it seems like the team tends to talk hopefully about day-to-day injury guys, and it always seems like they still take a few days longer. That means in order to rest Franklin Gutierrez, we get Figgins in center.
Iwakuma vs Diamond, 5:10 pm.
Scott Diamond is exactly the type of pitcher you expect the Twins to have – a soft-tossing command lefty who doesn’t miss bats and outperforms his FIP. For years, the Twins have been building rotations with guys exactly like this. This year, it all fell apart, and Diamond is the only guy they have doing this. He’s also not likely to keep doing it for that much longer.
Diamond’s ERA is pretty sparkly, but look at his splits in the various baserunner states:
Bases Empty: .306/.331/.456, .339 wOBA
Men On Base: .225/.274/.343, .272 wOBA
RISP: .217/.281/.348, .276 wOBA
With the bases empty, Diamond has been a below average strike thrower. When people have gotten on base, his BABIP has gone through the floor and he’s managed to leave them there. This isn’t really a sustainable skill, though – Diamond’s splits are going to even out, and his ERA is going to go up, even if he doesn’t do anything differently.
He’s probably a decent #5 starter given his strikes and groundballs approach to the game, but he’s not as good as his 2012 numbers look. Of course, Liam Hendriks 2012 numbers were terrible and the Mariners got one run off of him, so who knows.
In Mariners history, there have been six seasons where a pitcher has thrown 150+ innings and posted an ERA- of 70 or below, meaning that they (and their defenders) prevented runs at a rate 30 percent better than average.
1997 Randy Johnson: 51 ERA-
1995 Randy Johnson: 54 ERA-
2010 Felix Hernandez: 57 ERA-
2009 Felix Hernandez: 58 ERA-
2012 Felix Hernandez: 62 ERA-
1994 Randy Johnson: 68 ERA-
Current vintage Felix fits right into the peak of Randy Johnson’s career as a Mariner. He might not be quite to 1997 RJ levels yet, but he’s close. If you didn’t get a chance to see Randy Johnson pitch back then, this is what it felt like. I can’t believe we get to do it again.
Hernandez vs Hendriks, 5:05 pm.
Happy Felix Day!
On a day to day basis, baseball is fairly unpredictable. The spread in talent even between good and bad teams is small enough that the result of any match-up can go either way without it being too much of a surprise. The Astros have beaten the Rangers this year. They’ve beaten the Nationals too. They won two out of three from the White Sox. The Astros are baseball’s very worst team, and they’ve got a bunch of wins against playoff teams. On any given day, any team can beat any other team.
That said, this is a game the Mariners really should win. The difference in quality of pitchers is astounding, with Felix being among the very best in the game and Liam Hendriks being among those who are never mentioned as being the very best in the game. The Mariners are a better team than the Twins even without considering the pitching match-ups, but when it’s Felix vs Hendriks, the odds move pretty significantly to the Mariners side.
So, yeah, losing three one run games in Chicago? I’m okay with that. Losing tonight would be a bit more of a letdown, though. This is one they should win, and probably win pretty easily.
He was the forgotten man in the Jackson rotation to begin the year, but an excellent start got him promoted to AAA – where he was forgotten again, at least as soon as Danny Hultzen and Erasmo Ramirez arrived. That’s nothing new to the cerebral Andrew Carraway. A right-hander with a fastball in the mid-upper 80s is going to be dismissed by prospect hounds, and Carraway understands this well. As a result, he’s had to work on his location, deception and sequencing to succeed in pro ball, and it’s worked pretty well for him so far.
It’s great to hear about a guy with a 96mph fastball who’s working on his command or a new pitch. But I wanted to hear from someone at the other end of the natural talent spectrum – someone whose stuff is marginal, and who needs to figure out how to work around that. Incidentally, I see that this interview with Trevor Bauer just went up today at Fangraphs. I think it’s fascinating to read them together – both are very intelligent and clearly think about pitching a lot, but the specific aspects they think about are completely different. (Bauer and Carraway faced each other in Tacoma earlier)
Interview after the jump:
The Mariners activated Franklin Gutierrez from the disabled list today, and to create a roster spot for him, Casper Wells was sent back to Tacoma again. I’d vent about Wells continually being misused this year, but in reality, he’ll be back in a week when the minor league season ends and rosters expand. That the team is still willing to go through roster machinations like this while keeping Chone Figgins around is pretty maddening, though. There is literally no argument that Figgins helps the team more than Wells at this point, and given the defensive problems that both Thames (range) and Robinson (arm) have, having Wells around would have been useful.
But, whatever. For various reasons, we’re apparently stuck with Chone Figgins on the roster, regardless of how much actual sense that makes.
This is the penultimate minor league wrap of the year, which is in no small way an excuse to use the word “penultimate.” The regular season ends for a lot of teams on next Monday, so the last or ultimate edition will probably come Tuesday or Wednesday depending on what I’m up to. I’m usually up to something. There’s also a pretty solid chance that I won’t be around to answer any questions until later because I’m out/away from the computer.
External links! The Mariners are the best at catching runners stealing! John Sickels was hanging out at a Lumberkings game and has since written about RHP Mayckol Guaipe, OF Jabari Blash, and LF Guillermo Pimentel.
To the jump!
Losing three games in a row by a single run each time really sucks. Losing on Friday night because two outfielders ran into each other sucked. Losing last night because Chone Figgins couldn’t catch a fly ball and then couldn’t get a bunt down sucked. And losing today because Kevin Millwood gave up a home run pitching in weather that baseball was not meant to be played in sucked.
Inevitably, someone is going to say or write something tomorrow about how losing these games shows that this team just isn’t quite ready for prime time. That they fattened up on the weak part of the AL Central, but when it came to playing with the big boys, they just didn’t have that kind of winning mentality that you need to overcome adversity. That they’re too young to win, and these are the kinds of games they’ll learn how to hang onto when they’re older.
It’s all going to be BS, and if you want proof, just look at the records of MLB teams in one run games this year. The two teams that met in the World Series last year are 13-21 (STL) and 16-16 (TEX) in one run games this year. Presumably, these two teams are veteran enough to know how to win and all that jazz, but in close games, they’ve lost more than they’ve won. The defending World Champions actually have the fourth worst record in one run games in all of baseball, coming in just ahead of the Blue Jays, the Cubs, and the Astros.
You know who’s been really good in one run games? The Orioles, who are 23-6, and not exactly a club loaded with veterans who have been through the wars. You know who else has been really good in one run games? The Indians (15-8), who are a legitimately bad baseball team and dumped their older players as the season went along.
The Yankees are one of the most veteran teams anyone has ever seen, as they have the oldest group of hitters and the second oldest group of pitchers in the AL. They are 15-18 in one run games.
Think a progressive manager makes a huge difference, and lets you squeeze out wins that an old school guy does not? Well, the Rays are 18-21 in one run games despite having Joe Maddon at the helm, so they don’t really support that theory very well.
The reality is that the results of one run games are mostly random, with the deciding factors often being something like two outfielders running into each other and knocking the ball loose so the winning run can score from second base. Okay, so that specific situation doesn’t happen all that often, but the idea is that things mostly out of a team’s control are often crucial factors in picking the winners of games decided by a single run.
The Mariners got swept this weekend. That sucks. The Mariners went to Chicago, threw three pitchers not named Felix Hernandez, and were outscored by a total of three runs in three days. That’s pretty good.