Cactus League Game 4, Mariners at Brewers

marc w · February 26, 2013 at 10:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Yovani Gallardo, 12:05

I’m dropping the ‘.5’ which denoted the charity game. Like you, I’d just assume forget about that game and all of the Noesi it contained. Since then, the M’s are unbeaten. Today, for the first time, they venture out of Peoria and play somewhere else. This also means that we won’t have pitch fx on the web or in GameDay. Couple that with the fact that the radio broadcast is being delayed until 7pm on KIRO and you’ve got a recipe for a productive afternoon spent on things other than analyzing Iwakuma’s velocity and Aaron Goldsmith’s mellifluous baritone.

(If you’d like to listen to the game live, it’s up at here)

Dave mentioned it in his ‘Spring Training doesn’t matter’ piece a few days ago, but it keeps coming up: the conventional wisdom is that Iwakuma came to camp still on the mend from his 2011 shoulder injury. He certainly gave up a lot of hits, and his start in the Tokyo Dome against a Japanese team was abysmal, but evidence that his arm was weak is actually fairly hard to find. Here’s Iwakuma’s velocity chart throughout the 2012 season. Not much going on there. “Sure, but he was used as a reliever at the beginning,” you say. This is true, but a pitcher typically gains a bit of velocity as the weather warms up, so the two effects may cancel each other out. More to the point though, Iwakuma showed pretty normal velocity in the spring last year. He started against the Dodgers on March 10th, and pitched 4 innings. In the 4th, his FB was generally 89-91. That’s…that’s pretty much what he was like in July.

I’ve been much more willing to give the M’s a break on Iwakuma, as they were watching him throw, and could assess how we was feeling after his spring starts. There must’ve been a reason for the way he was handled. The team has several sets of highly experienced eyes on players in the spring, after all. But while I can’t question their effort, it remains to be seen whether all of this intent looking reliably identifies players whose arms can’t handle the rigor of regular duty and those who can. This isn’t a knock on the M’s specifically, at least not necessarily. I just wonder what the best way to improve the process might be. I know the M’s have been using TrackMan data (which is, sadly, proprietary) – perhaps there’s a way to integrate rotation data with qualitative reports from pitching coaches or the pitcher himself. Maybe there are better ‘tells’ than simple fastball velocity, and velocity loss throughout a game – something like movement on breaking balls. To be clear, many actually are studying this, and teams are clearly doing even more (the author of the linked article now works for the Rays). A few years ago, I’d assume the M’s were doing so, and in even more ingenious, well-designed ways. I don’t assume that anymore.

Anyway, Iwakuma! Mariners, versus the hated Brewers (if you remember the series of epic brawls between the M’s and Brewers in the 80s, you know that’s not ironic spring training puffery)!

1: Gutierrez, CF
2: Saunders, LF
3: Morse, RF
4: Smoak, DH
5: Shoppach, C
6: Jacobs, 1B
7: Andino, SS
8: Catricala, 3B
9: Triunfel, 2B
SP: Iwakuma

Other pitchers today include Joe Saunders, Kameron Loe, Carson Smith and, if we’re all lucky, Hector Noesi.


25 Responses to “Cactus League Game 4, Mariners at Brewers”

  1. csiems on February 26th, 2013 11:47 am

    The Brewers are worse than the OKC Thunder. They’ve stolen Seattle’s team for longer.

  2. Westside guy on February 26th, 2013 12:24 pm

    The nascent Brewers (nÊe Pilots) gave us “Ball Four” – we should cut them a little slack.

  3. marc w on February 26th, 2013 12:52 pm

    Nice – long HR to dead center by Franklin Gutierrez in the 3rd (over the CF batters eye), and Saunders follows with another HR. M’s lead 3-2.
    Saunders gave up a number of hits in the 2nd for the Brewers two runs, though it sounds like Mike Morse’s less than stellar defense had a hand in that.

  4. groundzero55 on February 26th, 2013 12:52 pm

    Power surge!

  5. kaleyk on February 26th, 2013 12:52 pm

    Back-to-back homeruns, Gutierrez and Saunders!

  6. PackBob on February 26th, 2013 12:52 pm

    When Ichiro joined the team in 2001, there was much concern that he wouldn’t be able to withstand the rigors of a full MLB season. Whether Wedge and the coaches saw something real or not, their perception dictated their actions. But we all know that something can be perceived to be real that is not. I can see them watching Iwakuma getting shelled and thinking something must be wrong leading to the perception that something was wrong. On the other hand, there is a lot of experience there so maybe something was wrong. We’ll never know.

    But I never take what someone says at face value if the person won’t explain why. For many things Wedge doesn’t want to fully explain his rationale, which is his prerogative, and maybe there are good baseball reasons to not have full disclosure (like injury). But there are also a lot of tried and true baseball maxims that have been proven erroneous, so I can’t fully believe what he says for that reason as well.

  7. Westside guy on February 26th, 2013 12:56 pm

    Saunders hit a home run then gave up a couple runs?

  8. Westside guy on February 26th, 2013 1:05 pm

    I repeatedly have to remind myself that a manager’s job doesn’t necessarily involve telling the truth to the press – PackBob is right. If Wedge or Zduriencik had fundamental doubts about Iwakuma at the start of 2012, of course they’re not going to say that to a reporter… doing that would damage their relationship to the player. So maybe sometimes when they give a bogus explanation, the story behind it is “we know it’s B.S.; you know it’s B.S.; and although we have no compelling reason to tell you the truth, we have to say something because you’ve asked.”

  9. Mid80sRighty on February 26th, 2013 1:08 pm

    I REALLY wish some player or coach would actually say that to the press sometime, Westy. 🙂

  10. marc w on February 26th, 2013 1:17 pm

    Really well said, PackBob.

    The weird thing about the Iwakuma situation was that although they didn’t come right out and say “his arm strength is far, far below what we expected” they made their displeasure known. After the fact, they’ve been crystal clear about the reasons for his usage. I always believed them. Now, I’m not sure.

  11. Pilate on February 26th, 2013 1:49 pm

    The Iwakuma history lesson is nice background, but that was last season, and I think he put up a zero today, something I can’t say for the pitchers who followed him so far.

    Anybody else trying to “watch” the game on MLB Gameday? Five minutes between updates. This is BRUTAL. One of Selig’s better ideas for promoting the game; you’re not allowed to listen in unless you pay, and if you’re not already a hard core fan you’re going to shut it off after two minutes.

  12. Westside guy on February 26th, 2013 2:00 pm

    I agree it’s annoying Pilate – although for me, today, it actually isn’t too big an issue because I’m working and only checking back occasionally. 😀

  13. Pilate on February 26th, 2013 2:33 pm

    Wish I was working today. Oh well, guess I don’t have any excuses not to get back to my studying. I can listen to it tonight. Goldsmith and Rizzs. That alone might make this season worth it.

  14. aj2013WS on February 26th, 2013 2:38 pm

    Smoak bomb! off of Axford, M’s lead 6-4 in the 8th now

  15. stevemotivateir on February 26th, 2013 2:56 pm

    Regarding the Iwakuma situation last year, does anyone (else) think it’s possible they were more bent on having a look at Noesi and Beavan, knowing they weren’t really going to compete, and figured Iwakuma was a better back up plan -especially because of all the hits he gave up last spring?

  16. stevemotivateir on February 26th, 2013 3:11 pm

    I guess I’m hinting at poor talent evaluation and the possibility that they didn’t see a huge difference, or risk, starting the season with Noesi and Beavan.

  17. TopOfTheDome on February 26th, 2013 3:47 pm

    While I will refuse to drink the whole bottle of Justin Smoak Kool-Aid, I’m beginning to take larger sips. I remember last year in spring training he hit a lot of singles, but had zero power. Watching some tape of him the other day, he looks much more comfortable. Oh hell, I poured myself a full glass. I’m in!

  18. Pilate on February 26th, 2013 4:59 pm


    The way I remember it, Iwakuma was coming off some kind of arm surgery/rehab, was in a “pitcher’s prime (31 yo)”, and signed for $1.5M for one year, so basically a trial signing. Between the arm thing and pitching in Japan, I’m sure the M’s never expected him to be dominating out of ST. They brought him along slow, starting him out mopping up for Noesi and Millwood in non-stress situations, and eventually plugging him into the rotation where he actually performed much better. They liked what they saw and signed him to a two year contract with a third year option. So, I guess I’m saying I agree with you that management figured they’d get at least one, if not two passable starters out of Noesi, Beavan, Ramirez and Furbush, and things went pretty much the way the M’s hoped they would.

  19. georgmi on February 26th, 2013 5:11 pm

    Like you, I’d just assume forget

    It is nitpicking, but that should be “Like you, I’d just as soon forget”

  20. SonOfZavaras on February 26th, 2013 6:13 pm

    I’ve always cut the Brewers a little slack because if it weren’t for them, Ball Four wouldn’t exist.

    Although those events in that book were pretty long before I was born, that book and Ken Griffey Jr.’s arrival made me a fan of this game for life.

    It’s still one of the funniest, sharpest, most honest BOOKS on any one subject I’ve ever read.

    I still have to remember to steal my copy back from my mutually-baseball-loving little brother!

  21. SonOfZavaras on February 26th, 2013 7:05 pm

    You know, they seem to be giving Catricala a lot of ABs early on. Maybe they hope he can prove himself to be an internal-option 25th man on the roster, as a righty-hitting corner defender (1B,3B,LF,RF)?

  22. bookbook on February 26th, 2013 8:26 pm

    For 2014, one could imagine any number of combinations where whichever 2 of Smoak, Catricala, Romero survive end up manning 1b and LF. I stubbornly continue to think of Catricala’s upside as higher than 25th man.

  23. stevemotivateir on February 27th, 2013 5:50 am


    That’s exactly how I thought they saw it going into spring last year. But, as Dave pointed out, bringing him along slowly wasn’t really the case, as they simply didn’t use him at all for a considerable amount of time.

    But yeah, for me it still seems to come back to a more simple explanation…. that they didn’t think they’d get much from him to begin with, or just didn’t care, as they didn’t expect to really compete.

    In the end, they found a decent starter, so I suppose it doesn’t matter much now.

  24. Pilate on February 27th, 2013 9:02 am


    Yep, academic argument now, but a low risk move that paid off. 8-4 and a 2.65 ERA in 16 starts at the end of the year, even though he was the last player in either league to enter a game in 2012.

    @book & SonOf,

    More likely they’re giving Cat a long look for future reference. Notice they are also playing Martinez a bit in center (billed as a 3b in the trade), Miller, Franklin and Triunfel at the middle infield positions, and Jacobs at first. In a week or two when minor league assignments (cuts) are made, these guys will go down and we’ll see more of Smoak, Ackley, Ryan and Seager. Might even see Morales wearing a 1b mitt in a game or two before the season starts.

  25. bookbook on February 27th, 2013 12:31 pm

    Martinez has the wheels for center and, it turns out, probably doesn’t have the bat for 3b. Hopefully, he finds enough bat to contribute as a 4th OF who can play all three positions.

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