Game 149, Orioles at Mariners
Erasmo Ramirez vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 7:10pm
Well, it’s gotta be better than yesterday’s unwatchable contest. How’s that for a game thread introduction? Hey, it’s true. This game is going to be Noesi-free, and I think that makes it easier to get into, despite the playing-out-the-string aspect of it. And if Hector Noesi doesn’t show any improvement, then tonight’s starter is one of the clear beneficiaries. Erasmo Ramirez could be the half-decent #3 we wanted Noesi to be, and Ramirez’s development is one of the few remaining items of interest in Marinerland this month.
Opposing Erasmo is Wei-Yin Chen, the Taiwanese pitcher who came over from the Japanese leagues this season to give the Orioles a crucial, steadying 2-3 win season. The Orioles starting pitchers, especially once Jason Hammel went down, have been bad (not that the M’s have noticed), and Chen’s solid lefty stuff (combined with his durability) is a key reason the Orioles are in a playoff race. He dominated the M’s back on July 3rd, going 7+ and striking out 9 while walking none. The game ended up a contest between bullpens, with Pedro Strop blowing a lead before Charlie Furbush gave up a game-winning HR, but on that day, Chen outpitched King Felix.
He’s uses a good rising four-seam fastball along with a slider and change-up to post slightly better than average K rates and slightly better than average BB rates. He’s given up a fair number of home runs, but he doesn’t have exceptional gopheritis. He’s a solid pitcher who succeeds because he can put himself in pitchers counts. In fact, his splits by count are one of the most interesting things about him. If you just read Dave’s post about John Jaso, you know how important getting ahead is to a hitter. When Chen gets to 0-1, batters post a .244 wOBA and Chen luxuriates in a FIP of 2.54. If he starts 1-0, the story’s a bit different: batters have a .375 wOBA and his FIP’s over 6. Most any pitcher is going to have extreme splits between 0-1 and 1-0, but Chen’s are remarkable. (For the other end of the spectrum, check out Blake Beavan). He’s been successful because he’s able to *get* to 0-1 counts. Go back to his last outing in Seattle – how many batters put a ball in play when they were ahead in the count? Zero. The M’s put 14 balls in play against Chen that day (not including one HR), 3 came on the first pitch of the at-bat, 4 came in even counts, and 7 came in pitcher’s counts. Add those to his 9 strikeouts and it’s pretty clear that Chen was ahead of the M’s all night (2 of the ‘even counts’ were 2-2 counts, where the batter had to expand the zone to avoid a K). If the M’s want to avoid a repeat, they’re going to have to be smart. Don’t let him get first-pitch fastballs over.
Erasmo Ramirez is easily one of the most likeable M’s prospects in a while, and his growth from low-velo control artist to a guy who can hit 95 with some regularity while maintaining solid walk rates is perhaps the M’s player development system’s biggest success story in recent years. Here’s the righty-heavy line-up behind him (at least Jaso will be available as a PH? Right?):
4: Montero (DH)
8: Olivo (C)