Game 5, Mariners at White Sox
Blake Beavan vs. Jose Quintana, 5:10pm
One of the big questions coming into the season was: how bad will the M’s outfield defense hurt the pitching staff? Jason Bay was a comically bad defender (by UZR) in his Pittsburgh days, and that was when he was 7-8 years younger. The last image we had of Mike Morse in an M’s uniform before he was shipped to Washington was of the newly-minted OF getting turned around by a pop fly and tearing some knee ligaments. Now, those two guys, both past 30, would patrol LF fairly regularly.
In fact, I don’t think it’s going to be *too* much of a problem, though let’s be clear: no one’s winning a gold glove here.* One reason is that the M’s probably won’t yield anywhere near as many fly balls as they did last year. The M’s posted the 27th highest GB% in baseball last year, about a percentage point higher than last-place Oakland – the M’s had only one true GB-guy as a starter in Hisashi Iwakuma, but he didn’t take a turn in the rotation until the season was half over. This year, Iwakuma figures to pitch more, and Jason Vargas has been replaced by Joe Saunders, whose career GB% is about 10 percentage points higher. But the biggest change could come in the 5th spot. 2012 Blake Beavan (like 2011 Blake Beavan) was an extreme fly-ball pitcher. After a mechanical adjustment and a new, higher arm slot, Beavan got a flurry of ground balls in the spring. Will it carry over? If it does – if his GB% looks more like the league average and less like Chris Young’s – then the M’s corner OF may have less to do this year.**
The other reason I don’t think it’s going to be too much of a problem is that the M’s OF defense wasn’t actually all that good last year. Not only did the M’s see their CFs post oddly poor numbers, the M’s had to suffer through a depressed Chone Figgins logging several hundred innings in LF/CF. Now, while this “2012 versus 2013” comparison can’t actually tell us if the M’s OF defense is good, bad or indifferent compared to the *league* average, it does show that we may not see the kind of drop-off that many of us expected. Sure, there could be a drop off here or there, particularly in RF, where the M’s won’t get a half-year of Ichiro, but this could be balanced by some standard regression toward the mean from Saunders/Guti in CF. I’d still really like the ground-ballier version of Beavan, though. Better safe than sorry, and better to have Brendan Ryan field the ball in play than anyone.
Jose Quintana’s a left-handed starter who seems unremarkable in just about every way. His FB’s 91. He throws a cutter and a curve; neither is terribly noteworthy. He doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts, and he doesn’t have Beavanesque walk rates. Even his W/L record last year was 6-6. I suppose we could talk about how he posted excellent results after his call-up in May, but faded badly down the stretch? He did those things. Uh, ok, moving on – He’s somewhat interesting in that he was pitching with the Yankees Dominican Summer League team at age 20 (already having been cut by the Mets a few years prior), and didn’t actually reach the US affiliates until he turned 20. He posted solid but unremarkable numbers as a reliever, and got cut. The Yankees moved him to the rotation, and he had a great season in the Florida State League, and so they cut him again. The next year, 2012, he began in AA and ended up making 22 good-ish big league starts. That’s something, right? Overcoming adversity, never giving up, laughing at the Yankees player development system? Not every game is Felix versus Chris Sale or something.
Have a line-up:
1: Gutierrez, CF
2: Saunders, RF
3: Morales, 1B
4: Morse, DH
5: Montero, C
6: Seager, 3B
7: Bay, LF
8: Ackley, 2B
9: Ryan, SS
* Not Gutierrez, you ask? No. He’s been hurt several times, passed 30 years old, and may not play enough to stick in the minds of voters. The playing time consideration may have been a factor in JJ Hardy beating out Brendan Ryan last year. I don’t think Guti’s anywhere near bad (you hear me, UZR? You take your 2012 math and shove it.), but he’s not the defender he was in 2009.
** There’s a school of thought that says that as total chances go up (if there are a lot more FBs), then those chances will tend to be easier. That is, if you’ve got pitchers that no how to induce contact at particular launch angles, you’ll get more easy flies and fewer liners and long HRs, because if pitchers consistently gave up contact like that, they’d never be in the majors. UZR actually accounts for this to avoid OFs with a lot of chances posting amazing UZR numbers. Still, there’s a possibility this impacted, say, Josh Reddick’s eye-popping defensive numbers. No such luck for the M’s, though, as Guti/Saunders combined to lose 17 runs, according to UZR. This has been a Blake Beavan game write-up that’s only obliquely about Blake Beavan.