Cactus League Game 15, A’s at Mariners
Hector Noesi vs. AJ Griffin, 12:05
AJ Griffin was one of the better stories for the A’s last year, and that’s saying something considering the fairy-tale season they enjoyed. The 13th round draft pick shot through the minors last year, but was *still* unheralded, because Dan Straily – who was drafted even later – torched the minors a bit more. But after Brandon McCarthy’s injury and Bartolo Colon’s suspension, the A’s needed their minor league depth to keep them in an unlikely playoff chase. Griffin came up and gave the A’s 15 great starts, going 7-1 and putting up 1.3 WAR in 80 innings. His FIP trailed his ERA substantially, so his RA9-based WAR was actually over 2 – again, in just 80 innings! Given the paucity of MLB innings, and given the discrepancy between ERA and FIP, the projections for Griffin are kind of all over the map. Steamer and ZiPS see him regressing a bit, as his HR/FB ratio was low and he’s an extreme fly-baller. Bill James and Oliver see him essentially continuing at a pace that’s very similar to his 2012 rates. While those two systems seem optimistic across the board, it’s not crazy.
Despite a FB just shy of 90 mph and an almost pathological hatred of ground outs, Griffin was very effective in generating both strikeouts and infield flies. If you read the articles on infield pops and FIP at Fangraphs recently, you know there’s at least some research suggesting that this is a repeatable skill and an important reason some pitchers seem to “beat” their FIPs consistently. We’ll have more on that soon.
You’ve seen the match-up, so you know why I’m spending my time talking about Griffin. Yesterday saw the return to action of King Felix. It saw two of the M’s top prospects in action in a different game. It saw one of their top position player prospects go 4-5 with two HRs and 7 RBIs. Today, Hector Noesi starts. Take everything I said up there about Griffin providing way-better-than-anticipated production and being there when his team needed him and turn it 180 degrees, and you’ve got Hector Noesi’s 2012. Then, he started the Charity Game and imploded. There’s still talent in there somewhere – he appears to have much better raw stuff than Griffin, for example – but he’s taken several miles of steps backwards since coming over in the Pineda/Montero trade. There should be so much to say about this; someone needs to do the forensic autopsy of Noesi’s Mariner career, but it’s just such unpalatable work. Perhaps it’s not much of a surprise then that the weather appears to be conspiring to get this game cancelled.
If it occurs, the line-up would be:
1: Ackley, 2B
2: Gutierrez, CF
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Wells, RF
6: Montero, C
7: Zunino, DH
8: Romero, 3B
9: Ryan, SS