Game 155, Mariners at Angels

marc w · September 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Felix Hernandez vs. CJ Wilson, 7:05pm

Happy Felix Day!

The Angels signed left-hander CJ Wilson to a five year, $77.5m contract this past December, getting the most sought-after hurler on the free agent market to pair with the most sought-after hitter on the free agent market. Pairing Wilson with Jered Weaver and Dan Haren instantly made the Angels rotation one of the league’s best, and with Jerome Williams continuing his improbable comeback, Ervin Santana seemingly the league’s best #4 starter and prospect Garrett Richards waiting in the wings, the Angels looked set to post microscopic runs-allowed numbers. That hasn’t exactly happened, and the Angels and M’s come into today’s game with essentially dead even starting rotations. This is true despite the fact that the Angels added another Cy Young winner at mid-season while the M’s biggest improvement was simply taking the ball away from Hector Noesi for a while.

The M’s rotation has the slightly better FIP, but the Angels move ahead in overall value when you park-adjust. The Angels have the edge in xFIP, while the M’s take a tiny lead in ERA, RA, and innings pitched. This is a statistical dead heat, and while pitching and defense has been the M’s strength (almost by default) for years now, the fact that the Angels rotation has produced mediocre value this season is the primary reason they’re looking up at both the Rangers and Athletics.

CJ Wilson’s 2012 has been a microcosm of the Angels’. Wilson’s been perfectly serviceable, with an ERA and FIP just under 4; he’s earned 2.5 fWAR thus far, or 2.1 RA-9 WAR. That’s above average performance, and he’ll likely earn every penny of his $10m salary this year. That said, Angels fans may look differently at his $20m wage bill in 2016 than they did in December/January. This isn’t sour grapes, and Wilson is young enough that he could rebound to his 2011 form. With more cable TV deals looming (including the M’s ability to renegotiate their own in a few years), it’s possible that no one will care about $20m salaries in 2016. But the Angels were buying 2011 CJ Wilson, and so far, they’ve gotten the 2010 model.

A reliever in his first few years with the Rangers, Wilson made the transition to the rotation in 2010 and turned in a surprisingly good season for the AL Champs. He struck out 20% of the hitters he faced and rode an amazing BABIP to a great ERA and 15 wins. Still, there were signs that he might regress in 2011 – the BABIP was too good to be true, and his HR rate was just as lucky. He walked too many batters, and no one knew how a career reliever would fare in his second year of a 200 inning marathon in the rotation. In 2011, his BABIP regressed and his HR rate regressed (as expected), but his peripherals improved dramatically. Not even Ranger fans projected this new, improved Wilson – the guy who somehow threw harder than in 2011 while cutting his walks AND increasing his strikeouts. Wilson posted 6 WAR (using FIP or RA) in his walk-year.

Wilson’s velocity is higher this year than in either of his two previous campaigns, and his GB% is up a bit – but other than that, it’s astonishing how much his 2012 resembles his 2010. He’s K rate’s 19.9% now compared to 20.0% then, and his walk rate’s a bit lower at 10.2% than 2010’s 10.9%. But fundamentally, he’s having a very similar season, albeit without the freakishly low HR/FB% and BABIP. One problem is that he’s falling behind more, as his strike percentage is nearly identical to his 2010 mark. And when batters swing, they make contact at similar rates to 2010 – rates that are noticeably higher than they were in 2012.

In hindsight, one of the keys to Wilson’s 2011 may have been his performance against right-handers. As a lefty, Wilson faces a steady diet of RHBs – he’s typically faced about 3.5 times as many right-handers than lefties. His xFIP against them in 2010 was 4.36, nearly identical to this year’s 4.34. In 2011, he posted a much better K:BB ratio, which more than balanced out his increased HR rate. In addition, he was able to work around batter’s counts in 2011, as his four-seam fastball was either well-located enough or lucky enough to avoid the sweet spot, whereas in 2012, hitters are able to sit on the fastball in 1-0, 2-0 counts.

As Wilson’s own career demonstrates, all of these factors – factors that often underlie a pitcher’s “true” outcomes – can be volatile. None of this argues that Wilson’s contract was foolish or that he’ll continue his slide from his 2011 peak. It’s just a recognition that free agent pitchers are a huge gamble, and that the M’s have essentially matched the production of what was once thought of as the best rotation in baseball for pennies on the dollar. This isn’t because of injury (Wilson has been extremely durable thus far, which bodes well for the Angels), it’s because veteran pitchers aren’t the safe bets that many fans think they are.

Except for Felix.

1: Ackley
2: Gutierrez
3: Seager
4: Montero (DH)
5: Smoak
6: Olivo (C)
7: Wells
8: Figgins
9: Ryan
SP: King Felix woooooooo

Wow. I know Wilson’s a lefty, and he’s got platoon splits, but the M’s sit Jaso for a Felix start to get Olivo in there? And Figgins?
Larry Stone’s got a great blog poston the MLB umpires’ strike of 1979. The recent labor unpleasantness in the NFL also reminds me of the recent *minor* league umpire strike, which affected the 2006 season. In 1979, MLB was able to call up at least a few umpires from the minors after the regular umps walked out. When minor league umps walk out, you’re really down to high school/little league umps and the results often reflected this low level of preparation. Players were often vocal about what they saw (rightly) as egregious errors of judgment and poor knowledge of the rules. The umps tended to give the players a longer leash, but struggled to gain control when all of this simmering discontent bubbled over. Birmingham Barons manager removed his team from the field -thereby forfeiting the game – following brawls, saying that the umpires couldn’t protect his players. Uberprospect Delmon Young’s notorious bat-throwing incident also occurred during this strike.

So this write-up may lead people to conclude that the Angels and Mariners are closer than they are. Let’s leave on a more pessimistic note. Everyone knows the Angels have the far, far superior line-up, but if you remove defense (and the Angels and M’s have essentially equal team defenses), the M’s position players have been worth 110 runs above replacement level. Mike Trout, again removing defense, has been worth 78.3. The Angels position players have been worth 20+ wins more than their Mariner counterparts. The Angels had two players with negative WAR on the season; neither are still with the team, and they combined for under 30 plate appearances. The M’s have given 300 to the combination of Munenori Kawasaki and Chone Figgins.


47 Responses to “Game 155, Mariners at Angels”

  1. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 3:53 pm

    Good grief. I swear it’s as if Wedge reads these boards and then goes “Okay, you’re complaining about Trayvon Robinson and Eric Thames? Fine, I’ll run Figgins out there – see how much you like THAT!”

    At least Wells gets to start, though.

  2. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 3:59 pm

    It’s Saunders fault. Who the hell does he think he is, allowing the birth of his daughter while still in season!

  3. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 4:12 pm

    Not to mention that by being born in September rather than November, she’ll just find it that much harder to follow in dad’s footsteps.

  4. _Hutch_ on September 26th, 2012 5:11 pm

    I seriously forgot that Figgins was still on the roster.

  5. greentunic on September 26th, 2012 6:48 pm

    I seriously forgot that Figgins was still on the roster.

    Please, teach me your ways…

  6. californiamariner on September 26th, 2012 7:03 pm

    I guess the idea is to see how bad of an offense Felix can beat the Angles with!

  7. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 7:16 pm

    Wedge is trying to set a new MLB record, prepping Felix to be the first pitcher to ever win a game, with a 0-0 final score. The sooner somebody tells him it isn’t possible, the better.

  8. Paul B on September 26th, 2012 7:23 pm

    I gave up trying to figure out why Wedge does things. He’s predictable but illogical.

  9. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 7:34 pm

    Yeah, Wedge – good thing Olivo’s in there and not Jaso…

  10. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 7:37 pm

    Marc, I don’t know where you find the time to come up with these consistently detailed and extremely value-added Game Thread posts, but kudos to you, young (?) Squire.

    Thank you.

  11. seattlesonsofbaseball on September 26th, 2012 7:44 pm

    What world is Wedge living in? We’re completely out of the race for anything, including pride! NONETHELESS, he finds it relevant to play Olivo, Ryan, and Figgins all on the same day. At least Ryan brings defense, what the heck do the other two bring except a lot of headaches??? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE of calling up young players if you continue to WASTE our time with Figgins, Olivo, and Ryan?!?!?! If these three are on this team next year, at least Olivo and FIggins, I’m going to send Mark Cuban a letter every day for the rest of my life until he purchases this organization and sets it straight! SO FREAKING ASININE! Wedge… I thought Wak and McClaren were bad… you make absolutely no sense, what so ever!

  12. seattlesonsofbaseball on September 26th, 2012 7:46 pm

    2 1/2 to 1 odds that Figgins doesn’t swing the bat!

  13. seattlesonsofbaseball on September 26th, 2012 7:46 pm

    2 to 1 odds Ryan pops up!

  14. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 7:47 pm

    How many K’s this half inning for the M’s?

    Wells, Figgins, Ryan due up

  15. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 7:51 pm

    Wells took a walk – Wedge may pull him for not swinging the bat.

  16. seattlesonsofbaseball on September 26th, 2012 7:52 pm

    He swung once! He’s making progress!!! And he walked!!! He’s about to turn the corner!!! Let’s sign him to an extension!!! Figgins, that is.

  17. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 7:54 pm

    Wedge is so bloody predictable.

  18. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:03 pm

    As much as I love watching Felix pitch, I really wish they had shut him down after that last start. It was a chance for his season to end on a positive note, and give him much deserved rest. He’s over 220 innings now.

  19. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 8:07 pm

    Good rant Seattlesons. Nicely done. I was thinking the same thing … As I am sure many others were too. Figgins is getting someone else’s development time AB’s. Makes zero sense.

  20. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:12 pm


  21. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 8:12 pm

    Wow Smoak, what’s gotten into you?

    And can you manage to KEEP it there this time around?

  22. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 8:12 pm

    All over it!

  23. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:14 pm

    One thing I gotta say, he certainly seems to be seeing the pitches better. He’s making better contact, or ‘correct’ contact. Really hope he keeps it up!

  24. californiamariner on September 26th, 2012 8:18 pm

    Seriously Olivo???

  25. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 8:19 pm

    I realize Olivo is fast for a catcher, but – having him attempt to steal every game might not be the best idea.

  26. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 8:20 pm

    His timing is “on”. Not sure how it got there and I don’t care, but he is covering pitches and squaring them up while being “on time.” Great to see he is capable after being so bad for so so so long.

    Baseball is weird.

  27. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:21 pm

    Figures. Wells walks after Olivo’s caught stealing. I know Olivo has decent speed for his age, but why would you send him, unless it was a blown hit & run?

  28. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:23 pm

    No kidding, Mike! Baseball is really weird sometimes. Whatever it is that’s working, I hope it sticks this time.

  29. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 8:33 pm

    If Smoak ends up winning player of the month for September, wouldn’t that be about as big a surprise as anything that has happened this year.

    I hated his performance – all year and was screaming for him to be benched/shutdown. Just goes to prove that I don’t know shit, sometimes. I suppose I should remind myself of that, occasionally.

    I am going to give credit to next years hitting coach, Jeff Pentland.

  30. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:37 pm

    To be fair, he deserved to be benched and shut-down. It may very well have been his time in Tacoma with Pentland that has him where he’s at right now.

  31. californiamariner on September 26th, 2012 8:42 pm

    In other news, tonight the A’s set the AL record for their hitters striking out the most times in a season. And they probably will make the playoffs.

  32. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 8:43 pm

    He was bad when he got back from Tacoma for quite a while, but whatever they have been working on with his stride/hands and turn sequence – is producing results. Would the team consider keeping him in a groove by playing some Winter ball for at least part of that season?

  33. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:53 pm

    Yeah, he was still a work in progress. I wasn’t thrilled about him returning when Carp got injured. But whatever the plan was with him, something finally seems to have clicked.

    Having said that, it’s still hard to get real excited. He did this last season as well, then reverted back to his old form.

    Funny you mentioned winter ball. I had the same thought!

  34. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 8:56 pm

    Wow, I got duked on that last AB. I thought it was going out!

  35. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 9:04 pm

    Must be a South America thing. Up here in North America, I got deeked

  36. TherzAlwaysHope on September 26th, 2012 9:05 pm

    Just thinking about last season and glad the M’s have made some progress. Remember Adam Kennedy batting third and Brendan Ryan batting second so they could show the kids what a major league AB was like? Remember Milton Bradley being nearly tackled by Wedge? Oh, and Bradley trying to throw a ball to third base instead of into the dugout? MB with his ear plugs. How about Jack Cust lofting those fly balls to the warning track? Michael Saunders flailing at the plate? Hoping Luis Rodriguez was going to make it at short? Not to mention Jack Wilson. Surviving watching Carlos Peguero start hurricanes. Chone Figgins batting .188 with 313 PA’s and Olivo with 507 PA’s.

    Things are so much better.

  37. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 9:06 pm

    Get this Mike, I just saw an article Greg Johns posted about Smoak’s recent success. He credits something his dad taught him… keeping both hands on the bat. Hard to believe that’s the only difference.

  38. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 9:10 pm

    Well, to be fair – you probably do hit better if you keep both hands on the bat.

  39. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 9:11 pm

    Okay, Wells made an out – bench him.

  40. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 9:13 pm

    I assume you mean instead of having a “top hand release”.

    I never liked the top hand release, but it works for a lot of guys and it occurs after contact, so …. Hey, whatever works. Whatever a player thinks is working “is working”. At least for a while.

    I used to rely on my Dad for swing tips all the time and thankfully still could if I needed to. I know Smoak has to rely on memories in that regard. Tough sledding for a young guy.

  41. stevemotivateir on September 26th, 2012 9:14 pm

    Of course you do! But had he not been doing that? Maybe he struggled to do that with a specific pitch(es), but did nobody notice? And is that really all it was? I’m not buyin’ it. There has to be more to it.

  42. msfanmike on September 26th, 2012 9:28 pm

    Great AB by Hunter. He has been great this season

  43. henryv on September 26th, 2012 9:40 pm

    Felix may never win 20 games in a season.

    Is there a 300 game winner that has never won 20 in one season? I don’t know, but damned, if I were Felix I’d be practicing my opposite field power, because Jesus… Runs man…

  44. Sports on a Schtick on September 26th, 2012 9:43 pm

    Another Felix win disappears into thin air. How deflating — and predictable.

  45. californiamariner on September 26th, 2012 10:06 pm

    Great job Olivo!

  46. Westside guy on September 26th, 2012 10:12 pm

    Well that was depressing… but not surprising.

  47. vetted_coach on September 26th, 2012 10:20 pm

    Eric Wedge is the worst manager in MLB.

    I dare him to explain the absolutely stupid decision to send Miguel Olivo against a LHP with a 2-0 count on Casper Wells and no outs in the 3rd inning. That set up this late inning loss of another game that Felix Hernandez left with a lead.

    For that matter, why is Olivo your primary catcher? A decent high school catcher could have blocked Pryor’s 59-foot fast ball in the ninth. Why isn’t Felix finishing his own game?

    But good luck finding a reporter with either the integrity or the intelligence to ask any of these questions.

    Wedge. Dumbass!

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