Game 138, Red Sox at Mariners
Kevin Millwood vs. Aaron Cook, 7:10pm
This is not a match-up anyone’s marked their calendar to watch. Millwood’s been a steady presence in the rotation, and his results have been mediocre to good- he’s already over 2 WAR using FIP, and even going by RA/9, he’s at about 1 win, which isn’t bad for a cheap #5 starter. But given his lack of a future with the club and his so-so stuff, he’s not a guy who commands attention.
Aaron Cook’s stuff is worse, and since shutting out the M’s on 2 hits in late June, he’s thrown 54 sub-replacement level innings for the Red Sox, with an RA near 7, and 11 walks and 9 HRs against 9 Ks. He was a great story for everyone but M’s fans in July; from his recall on 6/24 through 7/21 (selective endpoints alert!), he threw 33 1/3 bizarrely effective innings, including a K rate that often threatened to go negative. He struck out a grand total of 3 batters in that stretch, with 2 of them coming in the shutout in Safeco. Dave tweeted this last night about Blake Beavan, but it’s even more true of Cook: “Pitch to contact always sounds like such a good plan until you see what contact can look like.” Remember that Aaron Cook’s K rate is *one-third of Beavan’s.*
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Aaron Cook commands a modicum of attention at this point. It was a little over one year ago that I wrote this about Anthony Vasquez, and how he had the opportunity to finish a season with more HRs allowed than strikeouts. As it turned out, he ended the year with 13 of each – saving him from becoming the first Mariner since Glenn Abbott and the first pitcher with more HRs than Ks with a minimum of 10 HRs allowed since the early 1930s. Part of this was clearly just the tiny sample – perhaps because of his extreme gopheritis, Vasquez didn’t get 30 innings with the M’s in 2011. So imagine my surprise that in the very next season , Aaron Cook is making a serious run at history here. The way he’s gotten to this point is completely different to Vasquez; he’s been far stingier with the HR, but his absurd – literally, there’s no other response to a K% under 4% than laughter – K rate means his strikeouts and HRs are just about even. What’s more, he’s allowed 12 walks, which means he’s got a shot at ending a year with something like 80 innings pitched in which he gives up more HRs AND WALKS than strikeouts. This is remarkable. Cook’s monomaniacal approach makes up in fascination what it lacks in artistry or beauty.
Today’s line-up features only one of the two M’s to strike out against Cook in June: Jesus Montero. Of course, Montero’s been a far better hitter since the break, so here’s hoping he gets the HR to bring Cook’s HRs/Ks into equilibrium. For reference, Chone Figgins was the other Mariner batter to K against Cook, which is about as perfect a summation of Figgins’ 2012 season as you can get.
4: Jaso (C)
5: Montero (DH)
SP: Kevin Millwood
In the minors, Victor Sanchez got roughed up last night, and the Aquasox are a game away from elimination.
Brandon Maurer was named the Southern League’s most outstanding pitcher of 2012, which is amazing given his competition included James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Taijuan Walker and even some pitchers who didn’t play for Jackson or Mobile. The former 23rd-round pick went 9-2 with a FIP just over 3. Paxton and Walker were close in innings-pitched, but Walker ended the regular season with a FIP over 4, and Paxton’s was a bit higher than Maurer’s as well.
The SL playoffs start tomorrow, and as of right now, the rotation will go Paxton, Gilheeney, Walker, Fernandez, Garrison. Bold move, Jackson: so overconfident that you don’t even give the most outstanding pitcher a start in the playoff series? I hope Maurer can slot in for someone during the series, but that’s the rotation the Generals have announced.
Clinton begins their playoff series in the Midwest League this evening, where they host the Beloit Snappers. Right-hander Robert Shore starts tonight against uberprospect Miguel Sano and Beloit.
On the other end of the spectrum, Danny Hultzen ended his season on a sour note, with another 5 walks against Fresno back on Monday. In his last three starts of the year, Hultzen went 7 1/3 innings, and gave up 12 runs on 10 hits and a ghastly 14 walks. 14! In all, he walked 43 batters in his 48 2/3 AAA innings, which produced a FIP of 4.29 despite a good strikeout rate. He was probably the most confounding prospect I’ve seen. He clearly had stretches of his AA self – great command, very good change-up, better than average velocity – but they were punctuated with total lapses in control. This was not a case of a guy missing his spots, or giving up one walk most innings. He either set down the side with ease, or he walked three in a row. The suddenness of these lapses, and the suddenness with which they disappeared, was like nothing I’ve seen. I’m no scout, but I couldn’t discern anything in his mechanics that would explain it. There was some chatter in late August that he might get called up to make a start or two with the M’s this month, and as a result, the M’s started increasing his pitch counts after dropping them in late July. And then, with a lot of the M’s brass watching (including Tom McNamara, who’s hopefully identified a mechanical flaw or two), he walked four and gave up four runs in 2/3 of an inning against Las Vegas. Thus, the feel-good story is Luis Jimenez and not how the M’s #2 draft pick ‘solved’ his issues and made his MLB debut.