Game 125, Not Felix’s Team at Felix’s Team

marc w · August 22, 2012 at 11:38 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs Zach McAllister, 12:40pm

Dave’s summed up last night’s celebration well, but I wanted to echo something that Jeff Sullivan mentioned – last night’s game was probably the best promotion in M’s history (and I say this as someone who looked forward to bat night as a child like other kids looked forward to Christmas). The execution was perfect, the sea of yellow providing the backdrop for some of the best Felix photos I’ve ever seen. But the promotion would’ve fizzled without the Safeco crowd’s enthusiasm. I pretty much expected a happy, content crowd last night – like a larger, yellower version of any other M’s game crowd. That’s not what happened; the crowd took the set-up of the promotion and absolutely ran with it, and it was something to see. Well done Felix, well done M’s, and well done to everyone who attended last night’s game.

Ok, let’s talk about a mid-week game featuring Hisashi Iwakuma and Zach McAllister! This is actually going to be fun, if your idea of fun is wandering down the rabbit hole of rWAR vs fWAR. Yeah? All right!

Dave’s recent post on Hisashi Iwakuma performance as a starter talked about his very good xFIP – which is now 3.93. This fielding-independent metric strips out luck and defense and attempts to measure a pitcher’s true talent. One of the ‘luck’ elements it removes is a pitcher’s actual HR/FB rate; the metric uses a league-average figure instead, under the theory that HR/FB is volatile and not entirely controllable by the pitcher. That’s important, because as we’ve talked about, Iwakuma’s *actual* HR/FB has been terrible, and it’s led to quite a few HRs. Thus, his FIP – which assumes strikeouts, walks and HRs, are more or less under the pitcher’s control, is pretty bad: it’s at 4.92. Thus, his WAR at fangraphs, which is based on his FIP, is 0.0. If you think his HR/FB is a worthwhile piece of information, if you think it illuminates some aspect of Hisashi Iwakuma’s true talent, you might think he’s been fairly lucky. If you think it’s a tiny sample and that pitchers can’t really control their HR/FB, you’d think his results match up pretty well with his true talent. His rWAR (Baseball-reference’s WAR implementation based on RA) is 0.5 in his 71 innings, meaning he’d be a decent back-of-the-rotation starter. This is the mystery of Hisashi Iwakuma, and something that the M’s have a short time to ponder before they decide to re-sign him.

Zach McAllister’s another pitcher whose rWAR and fWAR diverge dramatically, but in his case, it’s not about homers. Instead, the key is unearned runs. McAllister’s K:BB ratio this year is somewhat absurd. It’s over 3.5, as he’s posting a higher K% than he has since short-season ball, and his walk rate’s below his career average, and below what he put up in the minors this season. He hasn’t given up too many home runs, which means his xFIP and FIP are pretty close, and both are excellent: they’re at 3.91 and 3.45, respectively. Thus, by fWAR, McAllister’s nearly notched 2 WAR already, despite only pitching 84 innings. These figures match his ERA, too, which stands at 3.64; by most measures, McAllister’s been one of the best pitchers in an Indians uniform this year. And yet his rWAR is…-0.4?

McAllister’s given up 34 earned runs, and a staggering *18* unearned runs, for a total of 52. His ERA’s 3.64, but his RA is 5.57. The culprit has been a terrible strand rate (56.9%), which is the worst in baseball among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 80 innings. Ultimately then, McAllister’s either been fantastically unlucky on balls in play, and his “true” talent is closer to his FIP, or, you could argue that McAllister’s never really learned to pitch from the stretch, and you could find evidence to support that. As is so often the case, it’s really up to you to decide what you want to do with these stats. What do YOU think a pitcher controls? How important are a pitcher’s splits with men on? How many innings does a pitcher have to throw before you’re comfortable saying that he’s got a gopher-ball problem?

These are really interesting questions, and there’s ultimately no right or wrong answer. They’re things we can debate, or they’re things to look at and forget. I’m not here to say that I think one WAR implementation’s definitively better – I (obviously) like looking at both. What I’m here to do isn’t argue for or against McAllister’s quality using WAR, I’m here to argue against McAllister’s quality because in McAllister’s 2nd major league appearance, he gave up 10 runs (including 2 unearned ones!) against the M’s and essentially gifted Anthony Vasquez a win in his major league debut. This is the sort of thing that sticks with you. As first impressions go, it’s a pretty forceful one. Who is Zach McAllister? Oh, you know, the guy who was out-pitched by Anthony Vasquez. I believe his RA is “true” and his FIP is “LOL” because of what happened one year ago tomorrow. This is not how baseball analysis is supposed to work, but it’s how it’s going down today.

The M’s line-up looks like this:
1: Ackley
2: Saunders
3: Seager
4: Jaso (DH)
5: Montero (C)
6: Thames
7: Smoak
8: Robinson
9: Ryan
SP: Iwakuma



49 Responses to “Game 125, Not Felix’s Team at Felix’s Team”

  1. Jordan on August 22nd, 2012 12:13 pm

    I am pretty comfortable with this lineup being the best Wedge has available. I’d be a lot more comfortable if the Mariners found another outfielder and first baseman for next year though..even if (huge if) Gutierrez could be healthy and Smoak was fixable.

    If the Mariners stayed hot, isn’t there still an outside shot at a wildcard? I mean isn’t there another 1995 team somewhere?

  2. marc w on August 22nd, 2012 12:20 pm

    Against a RHP, yeah, tough to argue with any of these choices. If Carp were healthy, you could perhaps argue for his inclusion, but that’s a minor (and counter-factual) quibble.

    If the M’s stayed hot, there’s absolutely an outside shot at the wildcard. They’re not that many games back of the WC leaders. The problem is that there are several teams in front of them. BP lists their chances at 0.3%, but who knows. Coolstandings has them at nearly 3%. What’s important in the near term is passing the Angels.

  3. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 12:20 pm

    “Not Felix’s Team at Felix’s Team”

    I sure wish I was smart enough to know what this means. Can someone please fill me in?

    The lineup looks very familiar … and why not!

    Come on Iwakuma!

  4. terryoftacoma on August 22nd, 2012 12:49 pm

    Pretty much the same lineup that Wedge has been starting for some time.

    Mike, I’d like to know what that means,too.

  5. Paul B on August 22nd, 2012 12:53 pm

    It means, Indians (not Felix’ team) are playing a game at the Mariners (Felix’ team).

    It’s too simple?

  6. terryoftacoma on August 22nd, 2012 12:55 pm

    Thanks Paul.

    Yes. That’s simple. I just don’t think that way so I didn’t get it.

  7. andybrnr on August 22nd, 2012 12:56 pm


  8. Paul B on August 22nd, 2012 12:57 pm

    I can’t believe how awesome Saunders is. I was thinking that watching him go first to third last night,

    Last year I was ready to write him off completely. And now I love watching him play.

  9. WalterNeff on August 22nd, 2012 12:57 pm


  10. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 12:59 pm

    Yep, it was too simple. And apparently, the new English.

    With my newfound knowledge and Saunders blast fresh in my mind, I shall go attack the weekly staff meeting with the requisite amount of enthusiasm … and return bleery eyed and dazed in approx 1 hour.

  11. wilchiro on August 22nd, 2012 1:00 pm


  12. terryoftacoma on August 22nd, 2012 1:01 pm

    Good luck with that Mike. I hated staff meetings.

  13. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 1:02 pm

    Came it just too late! Condor esta en fuego!

    Man, I feel so good emotionally having stuck with this guy through the crap times. Of course there’s still all the other crap players I’ve invested emotionally in… so maybe it’s not a great strategy.

  14. bavasiisgarbage on August 22nd, 2012 1:19 pm

    any chance anyone (marc?) knows where to find high-def of those felix pics?

  15. nvn8vbryce on August 22nd, 2012 1:37 pm

    Westy, came it just to late? Yoda Nostra-Westy is?

  16. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 2:10 pm

    … and it appeared I missed nothing.


    Yep Terry, I hate to wish my life away, but I long for the day when staff meetings are no longer part of every day vernacular. Budget cuts in travel/training: Check. Continuing resolution for all of FY ’13: Check. New Safety Requirements for mumbo jumbo crappola: Check-check.

    I do not like it when my 3 hour daily vacation conflicts with my 8 hour daily reality. This might be a good time to turn off the radio and watch the replay tonight free and unfettered.

  17. marc w on August 22nd, 2012 2:11 pm

    Don’t know – they’re press pics, so scan around the syndicates – UPI, AP, Reuters, US Presswire, etc.

    This image was posted by a reader at LL; it’s an AP image in a German newspaper (!), and it has a slightly higher resolution than the ones I posted. It’s a slightly different angle, too. 900×600, so it’s not exactly hi-def.

  18. wilchiro on August 22nd, 2012 2:31 pm

    This umpire isn’t giving the M’s the benefit of the doubt, that’s for sure.

  19. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 2:52 pm

    Nostra-Westy just got out of a meeting. Like Mike said, though… doesn’t look like much has happened.

  20. sodomojojojo on August 22nd, 2012 3:02 pm

    just flipped through the photo gallery on the seattle times webpage and found some nice pics from last night’s game.
    (but couldn’t pick myself out of the crowd…and I was wearing bright yellow!)

  21. Flaco on August 22nd, 2012 3:08 pm

    Am I the only one who dislikes “Condor” as a nick-name? I think it sounds terrible.

  22. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 3:13 pm

    Yes, yes you are Flaco. 😀

  23. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 3:14 pm

    I think Dave Niehaus coined the term/nickname. I don’t know if that helps frame a different opinion of things for you – but I think the nickname is fine.

    Hey, it looks like its time to spin a DP and then score a couple runs. Then, on to Chicago to kick the crap out of the White Sox.

  24. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 3:16 pm

    It was Niehaus, correct? He had an explanation for it while coining the nickname, too … if I remember correctly. Something about swooping over to catch the baseball (like a Condor) and grabbing it out of the sky?

    Either that, or I just re-created history.

  25. iHam on August 22nd, 2012 3:19 pm

    OK…time for a Rally (but please, no fries) to cap off this phenomenal homestand!

  26. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 3:21 pm

    I thought it went along with some mention of his wingspan…

    Anyway, I think it fits. Saunders usually gets the job done, but he doesn’t have Guti’s style and grace. He’s like a big awkward bird sometimes, even though he gets there.

  27. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 3:23 pm

    Caw, Caw!


  28. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 3:24 pm


  29. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 3:25 pm

    Seager is fast enough, in my opinion anyway.

    Plus I’d rather he be in the field for the ninth than Figgins.

    (Mike was apparently worried Wedge would read his comment and get ideas…)

  30. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 3:29 pm

    I “edited” after I realized it was only the 8th inning.

    I also googled “Condors”

    That is one, freaking ugly-assed bird, but the wingspan comment fits.

    Saunders is by no strecth an ugly-assed dude, so I can see where someone might find the nickname to be unflattering if they don’t know the back-story.

  31. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 3:31 pm


    I’m liking that guy!

  32. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 3:31 pm



    Time to go home, for me too!


  33. groundzero55 on August 22nd, 2012 3:38 pm

    Thames is really turning out to be one of those solid role-player types. I like it much better than the Pegueralternative.

  34. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 3:43 pm

    Eight in a row!!!

  35. kenshabby on August 22nd, 2012 3:47 pm

    Yay, 25-13 since All-Star break. And they’re actually fun to watch these days, even non-Felix games.

  36. nvn8vbryce on August 22nd, 2012 3:47 pm

    At least we’re sailing the Thames versus being Pegged with a loss!

  37. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 4:00 pm

    It’s a little early to be drinking, isn’t it guys? 😀

  38. Cresswell on August 22nd, 2012 4:05 pm

    So July 1 Ms 34-47 and had a better record than 4 other teams in MLB, and worse than 25 other teams (ick).

    now 61-64 and better record than 13 and worse than 16. Get into that top half! It can be done!

  39. kenshabby on August 22nd, 2012 4:12 pm

    If the M’s finish above .500 this season then I’ll shave my beard. (Which I do once a week anyway to maintain a gritty Dustin Ackley-style ruggedness.)

  40. spuuky on August 22nd, 2012 4:14 pm

    7 back…

    I know they aren’t going to make the playoffs. Just too many teams to pass, and eventually they won’t get lucky and win games where the other team gets on base a third again as much as they do.

    But isn’t it refreshing that I can actually look at the standings and wonder?

  41. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 4:19 pm

    Totally agree, spuuky!

    And it’s so much more fun to watch developing players when you actually get to see them flash some of their developing talent every once in a while!

  42. justdave on August 22nd, 2012 4:39 pm

    If you want alternatives to Condor, Eric Wedge calls him “Saundo” and someone else on the radio calls him “The Colonel”.

    But I’ll go with Condor… the fact that Niehaus came up with it proves that he was one of the best ever at coming up with funny nicknames and painting a visual picture of the game.

    Besides, Colonel Saunders makes me hungry.

  43. stevemotivateir on August 22nd, 2012 4:57 pm

    It’s the perfect time for drinking, Westy! And my single can of Brazilian beer has done the trick!

    Gotta say, it’s great to see Saunders keepin’ hot. Every time he’s been in a slump, he’s clawed his way out.

  44. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 5:16 pm

    I see what you did there, Steve.

    More good news: Chris Sale is pitching tonight. The M’s won’t have to face him this weekend.

    I wonder if the team is considering bringing Guti on the trip with a corresponding move to cut ties with Figgins. Trayvon can certainly fill the Figgy role plus tax.

    I would like to see the team get Casper Wells going again. I think they are going to need him down the stretch.

  45. Westside guy on August 22nd, 2012 6:01 pm

    Can Trayvon play in the infield?

  46. The_Waco_Kid on August 22nd, 2012 6:10 pm


  47. msfanmike on August 22nd, 2012 6:12 pm


    With that arm?

    His best defensive tool is his speed. If “guts” we’re a tool – he would get high marks there, too.

    Munenori would be the only backup infielder until rosters expand.

  48. Flaco on August 22nd, 2012 8:31 pm

    Im pretty sure it was Dave Simms who came up with “Condor” not Niehaus.

  49. bavasiisgarbage on August 22nd, 2012 11:54 pm

    pretty sure Griffey came up with condor

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