Game 115, Mariners at Angels
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Dan Haren, 6:05pm
Hisashi Iwakuma and his excellent splitter faces off against Dan Haren and his famous cutter. Haren’s been a good-to-excellent pitcher for a decade, so it’s somewhat surprising to see him struggle the way he has in 2012. He hasn’t been awful (well, he was for a while in the early part of the season), but he’s just not the Dan Haren that the Angels traded for. His FIP currently stands at 4.27, the highest it’s been since his first half-year in the big leagues back in 2003. The biggest problem for him has been right-handed batters, who’ve hit a collective .320/.353/.511 against the right-handed Haren this year. The reverse splits aren’t a massive surprise, as he’s been harder on lefties than righties over his career – but the magnitude of them suggest something’s amiss. He did take some time off with a sore back earlier in July, and he’s been better since then, but even so, a league-averagey pitcher isn’t what the Angels expected, and it’s one reason the A’s are neck-and-neck with their richer rivals to the south.
Haren’s been declining for a little while now, as his velocity’s now solidly in the high-80s, and not the 91-92 he used to work at:
Lucky for Haren, he’s never really been a pure fastball pitcher, and his cutter’s still reasonably effective despite losing a few ticks along with every other pitch. The problem is that without average FB velocity to back it up, and with the cutter itself coming in at 85mph, it’s something of a feast or famine pitch. That is, it gets a solid number of whiffs, but it no longer gets a lot of ground balls, and as a result, some cutters get hit a very long way. That’s part of the reason Haren’s suffering from a poor HR rate.
Iwakuma knows all about a bad HR rate, but he’s pitching in what’s normally a good fly-ball pitcher’s park. Of course, it’s broiling in Southern California tonight, so the ball may fly a bit further than it normally does.
Tom Wilhelmsen’s going to rejoin the team soon following the birth of his daughter last night – congratulations to Tom and his family. That should mean we won’t see the absurdist comedy of last night’s game in which the Ms didn’t use their emergency closer (Stephen Pryor) because they weren’t in a save situation.
4: Jaso (DH)
7: Olivo (C)
Looks like someone doesn’t buy into Haren’s reverse splits; the M’s have seven lefties in the line-up tonight, including the switch-hitting Robinson. Go M’s!