Game 154, Mariners at Angels
Erasmo Ramirez vs. Zack Greinke, 7:05pm
It’s time once again for a “Pitcher A, B, C” comparison, the lifeblood of the baseball blog. Take your valid concerns about sample size, selective endpoints and selective measures and lock them away for a minute. The M’s are going to finish last in their division for the third consecutive year, and silly comparisons based on small samples are something we can cling to in the long night of the offseason. Sure, I’d rather think about the M’s player development system’s myriad success stories and how they herald a competitive M’s team in 2013 and beyond, but the record there is mixed. You know what’s not ambiguous? This:
|Player:||Pitcher A||Pitcher B||Pitcher C|
Pitchers A and B are pretty similar in their results, but different in their batted-ball profile. Pitcher C seems like a step behind across the board. That A and B have good walk rates makes sense, as both are comfortably above the league average strike rate for starters of 62.5%. So who are they?
Pitcher A is Erasmo Ramirez, Pitcher B is Felix Hernandez and Pitcher C is Erasmo’s opponent today, Zack Greinke. Caveat time: these are Erasmo’s stats *as a starter* and this is Greinke’s line with the Angels only. I’m taking Ramirez’s 6 starts because he really seems like a different pitcher since joining the rotation, and since his call-up in September. We’ll get to that in a second. I only included Greinke’s AL stint since it gets tougher to compare K rates when one pitcher’s in the AL and the other’s facing pitchers each game. Incidentally, Felix’s stats were compiled in well over 200 innings and stacks up quite nicely with a strong six-start run from Erasmo (or AJ Griffin, etc.). Felix is completely amazing.
The Erasmo Ramirez we’ve seen in September’s similar to the version we saw in April-May-June, but he’s made some key adjustments that seem to be paying dividends. First, he’s using his change-up far more often; he used it about 18% of the time before going down to Tacoma in June, and he’s using it over 30% of the time now. Second, his velocity’s not only holding up despite moving into the rotation, it’s getting better. He averaged 93mph with his fastball in his last start against Baltimore, and averaged 91-92mph in his first *relief* appearance in Seattle back in April. We knew he could touch 94 or even 95 on occasion, but he was hitting 94-95 with regularity deep in games with the Rainiers, and that stamina’s carried over with the M’s.
Ramirez has an interesting approach in that he’s a very different pitcher against righties and lefties. Against righties, he uses his fastball more and gets fewer strikeouts but more grounders and pop-ups and very few walks. Against lefties, he uses a blizzard of change-ups to generate a lot of strikeouts, while keeping his walks low. Another nice approach, just a very different one. Of course, all of this is based on tiny samples of MLB data, but it seems to match his minor league numbers too: in the minors in 2011-12 combined, his GB% was 10 percentage points higher against righties, while his strikeout and walk rates were 4 and 3 percentage points lower (respectively). His slider’s been better since his return though it’s still not a real chase pitch, which means Erasmo could get *better*. Right now, his change-up’s been about the equal of Felix’s statistically. It’s generating ridiculous contact rates, and he hasn’t really thrown a bad one since the hanging change that Josh Hamilton hit out way back in Erasmo’s major league debut. That may regress towards the mean a bit, but Erasmo has a weapon. Sure, his strike% is actually a bit better than Blake Beavan’s, but Erasmo’s got swing-and-miss stuff. If his slider continues to develop, look out.
Zack Greinke been solid but unspectacular since coming over to the Angels. His ERA and W-L records are fine, but he hasn’t been a dominant force that could help the Angels track down the A’s. This isn’t his fault any more than CJ Wilson’s a-bit-above-average season’s the reason the Angels find themselves in 3rd. But it’s a useful reminder that deadline deals and free-agent pick ups can’t win divisions by themselves. Greinke’s been good – his velocity’s right where it has been, his contact rate’s still above average, but I wonder what Angels fans think about the move in hindsight. It was a solid, aggressive play from a team looking to get better return on their investment in Wilson and Pujols, and it nearly worked out – I don’t think anyone in the front office is kicking themselves over it – but the Angels playoff odds sit under 25% right now, despite being only 2 games behind Oakland. I’ll just say that Angels fans will think a lot more highly of the trade if Greinke’s able to shut the M’s down tonight.
4: Jaso (DH)
7: Olivo (C)
Today’s an important date in baseball history. On this date in 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe transferred a tendon from Tommy John’s right wrist into the hurler’s left elbow, and completed the first ulnal collateral ligament reconstruction, AKA Tommy John surgery.