Game 15, Tigers at Mariners
Aaron Harang vs. Doug Fister, 7:10pm
The newest Mariner faces off today against an ex-Mariner, giving everyone a chance to sigh and wonder what the hell happened with that trade. Casper Wells was DFA’d by the Blue Jays, and Charlie Furbush is a perfectly serviceable lefty bullpen arm, but it’s always tough watching six feet eight inches of walking, talking, hitting-the-blacking evidence of the fallibility of talent evaluation, and how bad we are (bloggers, fans, GMs, analysts, talking heads) at predicting the future. Doug Fister is now throwing a bit slower with the Tigers than he did in any previous April, but it doesn’t really matter – his game was never about velocity. His ground ball rate has continued to climb, and is now solidly over 50%. A big part of this is that he’s all but shelved his four-seam fastball (which he threw almost exclusively when he first came up in 2009) for a two-seam sinker. This started before the trade, but better feel for the pitch has probably helped him. He’s made a lot more use of his curve ball since becoming a Tiger, particularly against right-handed batters, and that may account for his higher strikeout rate.
Aaron Harang is basically a fastball/slider guy, who generates a lot of fly balls. Early in his career, he got enough strikeouts to mitigate the HR problems that came with his pitching style; he put up back to back 5 WAR seasons for the Reds several years ago. But starting in 2008, the small park + fly ball combo was too much, even for his above-average K:BB ratio to overcome. Interestingly, the bulk of his HR problem has come against same-handed hitters. Almost everything in his splits are even – K rate (actually better vs. lefties), average, BABIP, etc. His walk rate’s worse versus lefties, but the big thing that sticks out is his HR rate, which is clearly higher against righties. Why? Well, I have no idea, but he throws four-seamers almost exclusively to righties, and he throws his two-seamer/sinker to lefties. And his HR problems have been worst with his four-seamer. The result is that his HR rate gives him reverse splits by FIP, and perfectly normal splits by xFIP. I’m sure someone’s talked to him about it, but I’d mix in a few more two-seamers to righties. We already know that two-seamers have much larger platoon splits than other kinds of fastball, which makes his usage patters counter-intuitive, to say the least. He’s now in what we’d assume is a good park given his skill set (though not as good as last year), but keep in mind he’s not going to run the kind of K rates he ran in recent years anymore – his K rate against non-pitchers is in the 15.5% range, as opposed to the 16.5-17% marks he posted. That’s not a huge deal, but it could have spillover effects on things like his strand rate. All of that said, it’s tough to complain about his acquisition.
I know many of you are sick to death of sports business/revenue type posts, so I’d advise you not to click on my post about the risk in the ROOT sports deal or Dave’s on the moneymoneymoney the M’s stand to gain.
With Stephen Pryor on the DL with a torn lat muscle, the M’s have brought up Yoervis Medina from AAA Tacoma. He’s gone from a bad starter to something of a joke amongst 40-man roster observers to a quietly effective reliever. Medina throws a hard, heavy fastball in the mid-90s (and you wondered why he was still on the 40-man) and gets a decent number of grounders. I still think Carson Smith is the best pitcher with this basic template in the system, but Medina’s much more ready. I’ll be fascinated to see how he does; he’s been excellent in his very, very brief tenure with Tacoma.
Good to see both Guti and Mike Morse back in the line-up. Here’s hoping they’re able to go at 100%, and that Morse’s pinky injury doesn’t impact his swing.
1: Gutierrez, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morales, DH
4: Morse, RF
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Shoppach, C
8: Ackley, 2B
9: Ryan, SS
As Dave mentioned on twitter, that’s Shoppach’s 4th start in 6 games. We’ll see if this pattern continues and if/where the M’s deploy Montero.
Ryan Divish has a good post on Ackley using his off-day to rework his pre-swing routine. Gone is that very open stance as the pitcher goes through his delivery, and he’s back to something similar to last year’s swing.
Ok, something slightly more up-beat: Larry Stone has a great interview with Mike Zunino. I saw Zunino a bit this weekend, so I’ll try to organize some thoughts on him too.