Game 30, Orioles at Mariners
Aaron Harang vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 7:10pm
The M’s made a personnel move today, sending Blake Beavan down to Tacoma and recalling lefty Lucas Luetge. This season’s been an absolute disaster for Beavan; his attempt to change his arm slot has to rival Dustin Ackley’s abortive swing change for the least successful tweak in baseball. Since he came up in 2011, Blake Beavan actually adjusted his arm angle twice. He moved it upwards in 2012 too, but that didn’t seem to do much. The pre-2013 tweak got more attention, in part because he went outside the org to work on the change and because it was thought that the change would help his consistency from pitch to pitch. During the spring, his delivery did seem to be more over-the-top, but the actual adjustment was fairly small. It was no bigger than his 2011-to-2012 change, and while it made his pitches move slightly differently, it certainly wasn’t a mechanical overhaul.
So far during the regular season, Beavan’s given away most of that increase in his vertical release point – it’s now pretty much exactly where it was in September of last year. More worryingly, while a more over-the-top delivery can produce a downward plane and reduce platoon splits, it hasn’t helped Beavan against *right* handed hitters. In his 2011 campaign, Beavan got killed by lefties (.370 wOBA), but held righties to a stingy .287 wOBA and a 4.30 FIP. That’s not great, especially as the wOBA was BABIP driven, but it’s not awful. In 2012, after increasing his vertical release point, his wOBA to righties was up to .319 while his wOBA against lefties remained terrible. So far in 2013, he’s gotten killed by right-handers. Beavan never struck out many righties, despite throwing plenty of sliders and curves, but his low BABIP may have been related to pop-ups and high flies he was able to generate. At this point, I might have Beavan go back to a much flatter, more low-3/4 arm angle and see if he’s able to get righties out again.* It’s also quite possible that his entire 1+ year record of being moderately troubling to right-handed hitters was a BABIP mirage, in which case there’s not a whole lot to do.
That’s an awful lot about a minor transaction, and I realize I probably write about Beavan too much as it is. But it’s actually odd how many similarities you can spot between Beavan and tonight’s Oriole starter, Wei-Yin Chen. Like Beavan, Chen’s been an extreme fly-ball pitcher – his 35.6% career GB rate is actually a tiny bit lower than Beavan’s 37.1%. He throws a four-seam fastball at 90-91mph, that’s generated a touch over 11″ of vertical movement, giving it the appearance of ‘rise.’ Beavan throws a four-seam fastball at 91mph getting just under 11″ of vertical movement this year. Sure, it’s not perfect as Chen’s a lefty and 90-91 from a lefty’s qualitatively different than 90-91 from a righty, but this illustrates just how fine the differences in command, deception and consistency are and the differences they can make in results. Chen struck out about 19% of the batters he faced last year, whereas Beavan…did not.
Chen’s K% is down so far this year, but he’s faced a pretty tough group of opponents: Tampa, Boston, the Yankees, the Dodgers and finally Oakland. Despite that, his RA is sterling and his FIP’s lower thanks to a drop in his Beavan-esque HR/9. That said, this is a better match-up for the M’s than Jason Hammel. It’s not a great match-up, and the Orioles line-up is still tough against a righty who’s giving up more hard contact than Brandon Maurer. I’m going to watch the Chris Davis at-bats through my fingers. OK, nevermind, this isn’t a great match-up at all. Aaron Harang looked sort of intriguing in his first start, but really, really looked like a guy who’d just been DFA’d by the Rockies recently. C’mon M’s. Poach a game.
1: Saunders, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morales, DH
4: Morse, RF
5: Bay, LF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Ackley, 2B
8: Montero, C
9: Andino, SS
I’d be tempted to put Montero at 6th, but this line-up makes sense against a lefty like Chen.
Jimmy Gilheeney was excellent in his AAA debut, throwing 6+ shutout innings with 9 Ks. Nick Franklin went 3-3 and is now batting .410/.538/.623, which is a pretty decent batting line. He’s certainly making things interesting for the FO. Andrew Carraway gets the start tonight against Tucson – it’s his first appearance since losing his no-hit bid late in the game in Las Vegas. Taijuan Walker takes the hill for Jackson, Trevor Miller starts for High Desert and Tyler Pike gets the ball for Clinton. Good day in M’s prospect land.
* Since the beginning of 2012, Beavan’s used a sinker a lot more, and his four-seamer less often. Correlation is not causation and all of that, but the sinker’s generated terrible results. I suggested he throw it more going into 2012, so it’s not like it was a terrible idea…it’s just a terrible pitch. Going back to a four-seam/curve/change/slider repertoire couldn’t hurt, I suppose.