Bullet Points for 8/7
Several unrelated factoids for your delectation this Tuesday. None is worthy of a post on its own, but the combined power of several unrelated notes can… well, it looks better on the screen.
1: I know, I know: I jinxed the M’s with my game preview last night. I’m still stunned that Chris Tillman was able to slice through the M’s line-up despite having demonstrably worse stuff than when he faced them in July. I didn’t mind the M’s looking lost against a guy throwing 95+ with a great curve ball, but last night, Tillman dared the M’s to hit his 90-92 fastball, and the M’s politely declined. To be fair to Tillman, he was able to halt his velocity decline, and he hit his highest velocity of the game on his final pitch – a 94 mph fastball that Munenori Kawasaki hit for a single.
Tillman has now faced the M’s three times in his career, and is 3-0 with an ERA under 1. He’s held the M’s to a slugging percentage of .173 and an OPS of .381. Against *every other team,* Tillman’s 9-16 with an ERA over 5.5. He’s given up a slugging percentage of .492, and an OPS of .856. Against everyone else, batters average out to something like Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre or Joe Mauer. The M’s, collectively, have hit a bit worse than Clayton Kershaw.
There’ve been quite a few “Mariner Killers” down the years, from Rafael Palmeiro to Vlad Guerrero – but these have generally been great players who were just a bit better against Seattle. I asked on twitter and I’ll here: can you think of another replacement-level (or close to it) player that’s been this good against the M’s? If you grew up in the 80s, you might think of Mike Gallego, the Tacoma Tigers/Oakland A’s stalwart who seemed to come up with big hits against the M’s – but while he hit better against the M’s, it wasn’t anywhere near the kind of disparity we see with Tillman. Graham MacAree brought up Jeff Mathis, but he’s got similar splits to Gallego – noticeably better against Seattle, but not even the M’s have made him look like a good hitter. Rodrigo Lopez comes to mind for his six-game run in 2005-06 in which he went 5-1 with an ERA of about 2 (in previous seasons, the M’s knocked him around, as you’d expect). Do you all remember any terrible players that’ve played like all-stars against the M’s?
2: One of the great names in the M’s system, and all of minor league baseball for that matter, is no more. No, Forrest Snow didn’t change his name or anything – I mean Rashynol Michel is gone. For a blog with an analytical bent, you just can’t help but root for a guy named Rashynol, as irrational as that may be. Michel’s an outfielder from Curacao who’s been with the M’s AZL affiliate in Peoria. He hasn’t done a whole lot, as he’s put up .515 OPS as a 19 year old in his first US action. Perhaps in an effort to jump start his season, he’s now listed as “Raysheron Michel” which is still quite a good name, but that doesn’t quite get the stathead blood pumping. Curacao’s putting out some amazing ballplayers these days, and some even better names. Jurickson Profar manages both, but while Michel can’t match Profar’s tools, I think he’s got the edge in name. I’ll be on the look out for another saber-leaning prospect (we’ve had a Joba, so a Woba can’t be out of the question, and if we’ve had a Billy Sample, I’m holding out for one of his descendents nicknamed ‘Tiny’). Until then, I’ll always have old box scores where the “Rashynol” moniker lives on.
3: Larry Stone argues that the time has come for the M’s to DFA Chone Figgins. This isn’t the sort of post that can inspire a good debate, with each side making a good case for their point of view, but it’s good to see. The M’s wanted to rebuild his value in order to induce some
sucker team to take on a portion of his remaining salary. That plainly hasn’t worked, and the team’s reluctant to use him and he’s been awful when they’ve done so. I think they gave this particularly experiment too much time as it stands, but they just need to pull the plug and move on.
Stone notes correctly that there’s really no one in Tacoma (or Jackson) who’s a natural fit to replace him, but he’s also quite right that just about any young prospect deserves the at-bats more than Figgins. Alex Liddi and Vinnie Catricala have suffered through sub-par seasons in Tacoma, but they’re at least going to be around next year. Erasmo Ramirez is going to need a 25-man spot when he’s brought back up soon (he was on a rehab assignment, but the M’s optioned him to give him a bit more time), and Franklin Gutierrez will need one when he’s recovered from his concussion.
Of the options Stone lists, I’m somewhat partial to Darren Ford, the right-handed CF the M’s got from the Giants organization this spring. Dave thought he might come up last month, but the team went with Trayvon Robinson instead, as Robinson was already on the 40-man. DFA’ing Figgins obviously opens up a 40-man spot, so it might be a good time to reward Ford for his solid (if brief) season. Ford is a better CF than Robinson (by a lot) and perhaps Wells (Ford covers more ground, but Wells’ arm keeps things close), is a good baserunner and has some contact skills that might play a bit with Seattle. He’d be somewhat superfluous if Gutierrez was healthy, but Gutierrez isn’t healthy. In any event, what’s *really* superfluous is having Chone Figgins around playing two or three times a month.
4: The stories about the M’s amazing road offense have died down, as they currently sport a 95 wRC+ on the road. That’s not bad, and it’s a far cry better than their home splits, but it shows that they’re still below average. There were a lot of stories about the M’s leading the league in runs scored on the road, but that was always driven by the fact that they’d played more road games than any other team, and now that other teams have caught up (and now that games in Arlington make up a smaller fraction of their total), the M’s have settled into the lower tier of road offenses. Again, there’s still a major gap between home and road, and something’s clearly depressed offense at Safeco this year, but Safeco didn’t destroy an above-average offense.