Game 162, Angels at Mariners
Blake Beavan vs. Jered Weaver, 3:40pm
about the same time this game kicks off 12:35, the A’s and Rangers essentially have a one-game playoff series to determine who wins the AL West and who has to play a play-in game in order to join the real playoffs. 20 minutes after this one starts, the Orioles (!) turn to their ace, Chris Tillman (!), and try to pull off the unthinkable and move into a tie for the AL East title. The Yankees face the atrocious Red Sox and atrocious starter Daisuke Matsuzaka to try and hold on to the divisional crown. This has been a strange season, and it just feels right that so much comes down to the final day, as people like AJ Griffin make the most important start of their lives. [UPDATE: It did not go well for Mr. Griffin, but the A’s still lead thanks to Ryan Dempster and sunlight] Meanwhile, the Angels and M’s play a meaningless game 162 featuring what looks like an incredibly lopsided match-up. The Angels have the best offense in the AL, and they’re starting Jered Weaver, who’s gone 20-4. By FIP, he’s not had his best season, but against this team in this park, 80% of Jered Weaver’s best still seems like overkill.
Blake Beavan remains one of the most consistent – and least surprising – pitchers in recent memory. Like his peripherals, that’s not entirely bad, but he’s going to need to improve if he wants to remain in the 2013 rotation. Beavan’s problem is the same as it was last year. His K rate’s a bit better this year, but since so few of his PAs end in a walk or strikeout, the final numbers don’t really matter – he pitches to contact essentially every time, and it’s the nature of that contact that needs to change. He’s a fly-ball pitcher who throws fastballs in the zone on nearly every pitch. To succeed with this kind of approach, you need to do *something* to limit home runs. Beavan hasn’t quite figured out what that is; I hope he finds something during the offseason.
Bartolo Colon had a very similar approach, and very similar walk rates. He had a similar HR/FB ratio last year, and this year’s wasn’t *much* better than Beavan’s. Though he wasn’t a GB guy by any stretch, he wasn’t as fly-ball dominant as Beavan, and that made quite a bit of difference. In roughly the same number of innings pitched, he gave up 6 fewer HRs and ended his season (not by choice, of course) with a FIP over one full run lower than Beavan’s. AJ Griffin’s every bit the flyball pitcher that Beavan is, and his fastball’s even slower. He too is always around the zone, but a good slow curve, a solid change and a funky delivery mean he’s able to get far more strikeouts. Fewer balls in play, fewer home runs. He’s either got to figure out a way to become more like Mark Buehrle/Bartolo Colon (without all of the cheating) and get a few more Ks and a few more GBs, a way to become more like Jose Quintana/Kevin Correia and get quite a few more GBs, or a way to become more like AJ Griffin/Wade Miley/Dan Haren and get significantly more Ks. The latter seems totally improbable to me at this point in Beavan’s career, so he needs to really work on his sinker (which he throws already) or perhaps throw a lot more offspeed pitches (he toyed with this approach at times, particularly in his start in Baltimore). If he doesn’t, he’s going to have a hard time holding off the M’s prospects for the 5th slot in the rotation. Give him this, though: he’s clearly got the inside track over Hector Noesi.
4: Jaso (DH)
6: Montero (C)
SP: Blake Beavan
I do think it’s significant that the AL Cy Young debate centered around Justin Verlander and Felix for a while, and that it now seems like it’s Verlander’s almost by default. Maybe I’m still scarred by 1993, but I have to say I’m heartened that the guy with the most pitcher wins and the best winning percentage isn’t a shoo-in. By FIP, he’s been worth less than half of Verlander. By RA, it’s closer, but Verlander’s huge lead in innings-pitched still make for a clear, sizable gap. If Verlander wins (and I think he will), it’ll be further proof that the BBWAA has truly dropped pitcher wins as the most important pitcher stat, and that’s great. I mean, it was only 7 years ago that Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young on the strength of his win total and essentially nothing else.
I’m going to miss baseball season, but I’m pretty ready for the M’s 2012 season to be over. I’ll be honest: I feel a lot better at this point than I did a year ago, or two years ago. That’s a mighty low bar to clear, but it’s still worth clearing it.
Winter Ball this season seems more important than most. Guys like Mike Zunino can really help their case to make the 2013 roster by excelling in the Arizona Fall League, and Franklin Gutierrez really needs to show he can play baseball for a month without hurting anything. Hector Noesi needs to…do everything better. Stefen Romero can go from nice story to a legitimate 2013 option if he can continue to hit and land at a particular position. It’ll be fun to watch, and the AFL starts in less than a week. More to come, obviously, but it always helps to remember that while the M’s are done, baseball doesn’t actually stop.
Colin Wyers at Baseball Prospectus performs a quick and dirty regression to get a first stab at quantifying the impact of the Safeco fence realignment ($). The M’s estimate that 30-40 more HRs would be hit, while Wyers regression comes out with about 22. This, Wyers estimates, would increase the M’s runs per game between .11 and .20 per contest, which isn’t nothing, but would not – by itself – be enough to move them out of the AL cellar in scoring. Wyers’ work was based on a database of all parks, and specifically looked at the impact of every park that’s changed its dimensions. I’m tempted to say that the M’s change may be greater than an overall estimate given that the biggest moves are targeted at one specific, HR-suppressing area. But that’s probably been the case in most previous realignments, too. In any event, it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, and it’s great to get two concrete estimates for additional HRs, one from the M’s themselves and one from the sabermetric community.