Game 26, Angels at Mariners
King Felix Hernandez vs. Joe Cupcakes Blanton, 6:10pm
Note the early start time for the game today – one hour early.
The M’s try to take a 2-1 series lead today in what looks like their most favorable pitching match-up since…well, since Felix’s last start. Joe Blanton signed a two-year $14m deal with a $1m option for 2015 before this year started, and he’s started off his Angels career with four atrocious starts. He’s given up 8 runs per 9 innings so far, with a FIP of nearly seven. As you might imagine with rate stats like that, every peripheral looks awful. His K%, which had edged up to about 20% in the NL, is safely under 10% so far. His HR rate, which was always a problem, is now Anthony Vasquez-ish, and when those two things happen, no one cares that his walk rate’s essentially unchanged.
Blanton relies heavily on a change-up, which is a big reason for his even-to-reverse career platoon splits. He also throws a sinker, a four-seamer and a slider, but lefties especially can count on seeing quite a few cambios. The M’s have about as left-handed a line-up as they can muster, so they obviously don’t put too much stock in Blanton’s career splits. Normally, that’s the kind of thing that I’d find annoying, but it’s defensible given the paucity of really good alternatives. Start Jason Bay over Raul Ibanez? Well, yeah, OK, I would, but that’s got less to do with Blanton than it does with Raul. Blanton’s got a better career K:BB against righties, but the FIP difference swings because righties have hit more homers off of him. That’s more volatile, obviously, but we are looking at a pretty long career. Still, if you’re regressing properly, I think you can make the case that lefties are the better bet, particularly at Safeco Field. Keeping Raul out of the outfield is a good step, but putting him at DH means you’re not choosing Raul over Bay, you’re choosing Raul over Kendrys Morales against a righty, and that’s even tougher to justify. Hit a dinger or something, Raul.
1: Chavez, CF
2: Ackley, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morse, LF
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Ibanez, DH
7: Montero, C
8: Peguero, RF
9: Ryan, SS
SP: King Felix
Last night’s big *positive* story in the minors was Tacoma’s Andrew Carraway flirting with a no-hitter in the hitter’s paradise of Las Vegas’ Cashman Field. He made it through 6 yielding only one walk (thanks in part to a brilliant bare-handed play by Alex Liddi on a grounder Carraway deflected), but finally gave up a clean ground ball single into the hole in the 7th to Mets’ prospect Josh Satin. The Rainiers pounded Vegas for 10 runs in a 10-1 win.
Arguably the bigger story was that LHP Danny Hultzen went on the disabled list with discomfort in his left shoulder (specifically the rotator cuff area). At this point, the club thinks it’s nothing serious, and that the rest is essentially preventative, but obviously shoulder injuries are terrifying. Hultzen’s velocity seemed to be slightly lower this year than in 2012, but it’s essentially impossible to definitively link the drop and his injury. For one, he didn’t pitch in the PCL in April last year, so I have no idea what he was throwing 12 months ago. Comparing April velo readings to July-August ones is problematic on its face. That said, velo drops are often a precursor to injury, but there’s no way to know for sure if Hultzen’s problems began before he tried warming up the other day in Las Vegas. Get well soon, Danny. Screw you, Glenoid, God of Labrums.
In today’s minor league games, Clinton scored 13 in a slugfest victory over Lake County with young 2B Timmy Lopes getting four hits. Jackson’s currently facing Chattanooga behind lefty Roenis Elias; they’re currently leading 2-1 on a pair of solo shots by Brad Miller and Abe Almonte. Tacoma faces the Las Vegas 51s tonight at 7 with Jeremy Bonderman starting.