Game 38, Mariners at Yankees

marc w · May 14, 2013 at 3:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix Hernandez vs. CC Sabathia, 4:05pm

It’s nice to be back after a short vacation break, and it’s nice to get back into baseball with a pitching match-up like this one. Both are Cy Young winners, both have been exceedingly durable and successful, and both were, at one time, the owner of the richest contract ever handed out to a pitcher. There’s another similarity as well: just as last year, Felix’s missing velocity in April was a big story, so too is Sabathia’s sudden drop. Felix’s velo had been slipping for years, and while it was down substantially in April of 2012, he soon recovered much of that missing zip, and his fastball velocity by August looked pretty much exactly like his fastball velocity in the previous year. CC’s velocity decline has been more rapid and more severe. From 2008-2011, Sabathia’s average four-seam fastball velocity *for April only* was 94mph (the range goes from 93.7-94.4). That dipped in 2012, to 92.5 mph. This year? 90.7. That’s a drop of over 3 MPH in two years, with a particularly large drop-off this season.

Now, as with Felix in 2012, this big drop hasn’t really manifested itself in poor results. His K% is down from 2011-12, but it’s right about where it was in 2010. The same goes for O-Sw%, or contact rate. From what we can tell, CC’s largely (heh) the same pitcher he’s been for the best part of a decade. It’s just he’s not blowing FB by anyone anymore. That said, there’s a reason why people get nervous about velo drops: they are often harbingers of injury*. Again, I’m *less* likely to worry about this type of thing in the short to medium term now because the Felix experience of 2012 is so fresh. You all remember everyone talking about how he was going to need surgery, or his time as an ace was over. People tut-tutted about his workload or about his his breaking balls, and then Felix kept on Felixing and the declinists shut up. That could happen here, too. But it’s just stunning to see CC Sabathia’s average velocity come in behind Hyun-Jin Ryu’s, Mike Leake’s, Wade Miley’s and Jose Quintana’s.

Of course, the one thing that CC’s always been able to do (and is still quite capable of doing) is detonate left-handed hitters. His best pitch is a hard slider at 84mph, and while he throws it to lefties and righties alike, it’s absolute death on lefties. Lefties are slugging .229 on the pitch since 2007, and they’re 2-14 with 10 Ks this year. When an at-bat ends with a slider, lefties have 87 hits and 18 walks compared to *329* strikeouts. Lefties own a career wOBA of .281 off of him, or the career wOBA of Matt Treanor. You probably know where this is going, don’t you?

Eric Wedge has tapped veteran leader Raul Ibanez to be his designated hitter today, matching the wily veteran against the left-handed Sabathia. Sure, the platoon splits here are staggering, but grit doesn’t slump. Snark aside, like many of Wedge’s moves, there’s the kernel of a recognizable, logical argument in there somewhere. It’s just hard to see past the 800lb gorilla that’s waving its arms and singing Pat Benetar tunes. Most of us would focus on the anomalous sight – the gorilla with a penchant for 80s rock. Wedge may be applying his laser-like focus to Ibanez’s 2012 home/road splits. Ibanez famously had a late-career resurgence by targeting new Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch. He hit 14 HRs there in less than 200 at-bats, good for an OPS near .900 and a free-agent contract with the M’s. Indeed, this park is great for lefties, and Mike Saunders and Kyle Seager have to like their chances. But the other part of Ibanez’s great season last year was that he was strictly platooned. 85% of his PAs came against righties. How many of his 14 home HRs came off lefties? Well, none of them. That’s not to say he couldn’t hit one tonight. But if you’re making a line-up to give your team its best chance to win, it’s exceedingly hard to argue that Ibanez should DH against CC Sabathia as opposed to, say, Jesus Montero.

1: Saunders, CF
2: Bay, LF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Morse, RF
6: Shoppach, C
7: Ibanez, DH
8: Andino, 2B
9: Ryan, SS
SP: King Felix

Happy Felix day, everyone.

Yes, yes: the M’s have scored fewer runs than their overall wRC+ or total batting line would predict. This has led to a focus on sequencing and, taking things a step further, luck (or lack thereof). But look at the bottom of that line-up and ask yourself how odd it is that the M’s have fewer runs than you’d expect given their total number of hits and walks. Ibanez/Andino/Ryan, versus CC Sabathia. There’s luck, and then there’s a line-up with a dead spot in it – a bottom of the line-up that seems scientifically designed to strand baserunners. Now sure, Ryan and Andino will most likely regress towards the mean a bit, and Ibanez may too. But it stings a bit to see Felix out there in Yankee Stadium with a chance to knock-off the bombers AND CC Sabathia…and to see the bottom of that line-up.

So I’ve been gone, and I’m just catching up on baseball again. Jeff’s articles below are great, and I wanted to take a look at the claim that Morse and Morales aren’t swinging at more pitches (which seems to possibly be a proxy for “pressing” in coachspeak). I like to use the Brooks Baseball data to help account for pitch-fx oddities and pitch type algorithm screw-ups, so let’s take a look at his hitting profile. In his career, his swing rate’s fairly high, and it’s noticeably higher low in the zone and low OUT of the zone. Normalizing for all right-handed hitters, the pattern’s the same, just more extreme. Morse *really* likes low pitches. Selecting just 2013, the pattern’s essentially unchanged. Same for Morales. Here’s the career swing rate by zone, and here’s 2013. There are occasional differences, as there would be with so few pitches in 2013, but the overall picture is clear: Morales like to swing at pitches, and he has continued liking to swing at pitches in 2013.

Aaaah, Dustin Ackley. I’ve been a bit more pessimistic on our erstwhile prospect/franchise player, but that doesn’t mean watching him struggle (and get benched to let Robert freaking Andino start at 2B) is any fun. It pretty much would be unprecedented for a guy with such good contact skills to flame out as completely as Ackley’s doing this year, but it’s also really, really hard to succeed if you can’t draw walks or hit for power. At this point, Ackley isn’t drawing any walks because he’s incapable of punishing pitchers for living in the strike zone. That can’t change unless he fundamentally alters his approach (take fewer pitches) or taps into a lot more power than we’ve seen. Essentially, both require him to be something completely different. That’s not impossible, of course. Michael Saunders was completely, thoroughly terrible for a few years, and needed to become a completely new, non-crappy baseball player, and lo and behold, he seems to have done it. It’s just really rare. He’s 25, the age Saunders was when he figured things out. You don’t want to turn 26 without figuring things out (sorry, Justin Smoak).

There’s a potentially interesting debate over WAR (no, seriously) brought up by Jon Heyman’s twitter queries going on. Colin Wyers has a piece at BP arguing that Heyman’s essentially right to point out some of the…oddities in early-season WAR, and argues that WAR should regress fielding metrics to account for their greater volatility (they tell us less about a player’s true defensive talent). You should read it. There are things to quibble with all around, and I think sabermetrics has been better about responding to critiques from sportswriters than Wyers intimates here (see the harmonizing of replacement level by Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference). But the overall point seems solid – too often, we (raises hand sheepishly here) attack a decent question because it comes from the “wrong” kind of fan/observer/reporter. This really *can* turn neutrals off, as they see these frameworks as closed boxes that no one’s allowed to tweak or question. And it’s a shame, because while I actually agree that a regression of in-season defensive numbers would be awesome, I firmly believe that the defensive run numbers are a relatively small component of the actual arguments about WAR. They are in Heyman’s example, and improving the metrics we have sounds great to me. But that just highlights that WAR *can be* a really useful way to think about player valuation, and a great way to hone in on exactly how different people value different skills. Or it can be a totem, a sacred cow that we either rally to defend, no matter what, or mock and disdain without looking into it. Just personally, I run into a lot more of the latter than the former in my day to day life, but that doesn’t mean “they started it” arguments work here.

I was looking at the standings today, and noting how freakishly similar things stand to the way they were a year ago. One year ago today, the M’s were a bit under .500 and sitting in 3rd place behind the Rangers and the roughly.500 Oakland A’s. The Angels were really struggling, and sat quite a ways back in fourth. Today? Yeah, all of that still applies. Sure, the division’s been child-proofed by having a new floor installed made of soft, non-toxic Astros, but other than that, 2013 looks a hell of a lot like 2012.
* Not that pitchers really need harbingers of injuries. The act of pitching puts someone at greater risk of injury, so we’re just arguing about degrees of risk here.


105 Responses to “Game 38, Mariners at Yankees”

  1. jryoung222 on May 14th, 2013 3:22 pm

    I’m trying really, really hard to imagine what Wedge’s “rationale” is for have Ibanez rather than Montero as DH, but can’t come up with even a completely irrational rationale. In a game where one run could easily be the difference, and that Montero actually WAS the difference in a one-run game the last time Felix pitching, well, WTF?

  2. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2013 3:22 pm

    “grit doesn’t slump”

    We need a Raul Ibanez night, with that shirt as the giveaway! It could feature a “crime scene” like outline of Raul slumped over, slamming into the left field wall with the ball careening towards centerfield, hitting the wall six feet from where he thought it would.


    Or maybe a train car giveaway? Is there a “medic” car on trains?

  3. Mariner Melee on May 14th, 2013 3:26 pm

    What real harm could come from finding Jesus Montero, and Dustin Ackley AB’s down in AAA. They certainly aren’t gaining anything of value up here.

    Even with Zunino manning the plate everday down there, they still have a DH slot and if the Mariners are dead-set on getting Jesus innings behind the plate, let him take Zunino’s off days.

    The team won’t suffer from the loss of either player, these transactions are probably well past due.

  4. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2013 3:36 pm

    Except we’d need another catcher at the MLB level to do that. And it’s too early to bring Zunino up.

    Basically a team that is running Robert Andino out there as a regular starter at various positions probably isn’t going to send guys like Ackley and Montero down a level to work on their swing. Especially when their problem is hitting major league pitchers- there’s nothing to be gained by hitting AAA pitchers at this point.

    Unfortunate, but probably true.

    If we had legitimate replacements for them, that would be one thing. I’d be for sending them down because they’re not playing well enough to take someone’s position. But it’s just not the case. We have a dearth of talented position players.

  5. GLS on May 14th, 2013 3:52 pm

    Ibanez at DH makes less sense than Andino at 2B. Given CC’s numbers against left-handed batters, I can see how Andino could be seen as the least bad option. But Ibanez? Against Sabathia? It doesn’t even compute.

    7,8, and 9 in the batting order are more or less automatic outs.

    Maybe both pitchers will throw shutouts through 9 and we’ll go into extra innings.

  6. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 4:09 pm

    Sometimes I wonder why Felix loves Seattle so much. But I’m really glad he does.

    MrZ – Raul’s train car would have to be designed to resemble the aftermath of a really bad collision.

  7. marc w on May 14th, 2013 4:13 pm

    Todd Dybas at the TNT reports that Ibanez is in the line-up because he’s had success off of Sabathia in the past. That’s a .766 OPS against CC in 52 at-bats. 2 HRs, 14Ks. This factoid was the basis of that article of Dave’s I linked in my (too long) post above.

    Batter/Pitcher match-up data: essentially always worthless.

  8. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 4:14 pm

    BTW welcome back, Marc. I really appreciate your just-the-right-length game intros.

  9. don52656 on May 14th, 2013 4:17 pm

    It’s incredibly hard for me to believe that a left-handed Ackley is a worse option than Andino, even against Sabathia. Ackley is batting .233/.299/.353 liftime against LHP. Andino is .252/.308/.339 lifetime.

    That’s before considering that Ackley is a better fielder and faster baserunner.

  10. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 4:22 pm

    We have a dearth of talented position players.

    Yet it is oft repeated Z has done an outstanding job stocking the farm.

  11. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 4:27 pm

    King is generally excellent getting out of trouble.

  12. Sports on a Shtick on May 14th, 2013 4:29 pm

    HAHAHAHAHA Rauuuuuuuuuuuul run that ish out!

  13. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 4:31 pm

    Raul beats CC in the race of speedsters.

  14. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 4:33 pm

    I do think Ackley could work on getting back to what he used to be in AAA.

    Saying there nothing for him to learn is saying his career is over.

  15. raul_podzednick on May 14th, 2013 4:34 pm

    If we call up Franklin now,can he get here before Andino has to bat again?

  16. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 4:36 pm

    Nice job getting Morse in…NOT. The bottom of the order makes me puke.

  17. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 4:40 pm

    But Andino hit .327 in spring training! He’s great!

  18. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 4:43 pm

    Raul must’ve read USSM before today’s game.

    “Lumping me in with Ryan and Andino… I will NOT tolerate that!”

  19. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 4:46 pm

    Seager is the bomb!

  20. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 4:47 pm

    Seager! and Saunders!

  21. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 4:51 pm

    The ol strikeout double

  22. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 5:00 pm

    Shoppach falls; Felix picks him up.

  23. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2013 5:02 pm

    Paul B-
    I don’t think Ackley has nothing left to learn, I was trying to say that what he needs to learn (hitting major league pitching) he won’t learn going back down to AAA.

    He’ll have the same problems when he comes back up, and just be further behind.

    We could do a lot worse than a team full of Seagers and Saunders. I’d love to see a team like that, which is probably what Z has been trying to build all along.

  24. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:03 pm

    King gets the M’s out of trouble again.

  25. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:06 pm

    what he needs to learn (hitting major league pitching) he won’t learn going back down to AAA.

    Can say that for half the roster.

  26. Woodcutta on May 14th, 2013 5:09 pm

    Ackely doesn’t “need to learn how to hit major league pitching”. He needs to be more aggressive early in the at bat b/c he keeps getting squeezed by umps.

  27. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:11 pm

    I’m seeing Ryan & Andino reaching base in the same inning. Something is wrong… must be the allergy meds.

  28. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:15 pm

    Michael…I know you’re top of the order, but when you have the bases loaded, two outs or not, you have to do something productive, if you’re wanting to defeat the evil-rich yanks.

  29. G-Man on May 14th, 2013 5:21 pm

    Debating interference?

  30. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 5:23 pm

    Wow ridiculous call

  31. Woodcutta on May 14th, 2013 5:24 pm

    Ummm…is there some monkeys in a lab we can replace these umps with?

  32. Sports on a Shtick on May 14th, 2013 5:26 pm

    Could Wedge have protested the game after that call? I don’t think the rulebook allows for interference after the runner is declared out…

  33. eric on May 14th, 2013 5:26 pm

    He was out by 3 steps before he ran into Felix.

    The last couple weeks have not been good for umpires

  34. Woodcutta on May 14th, 2013 5:27 pm

    Weeks? How about since the WBC.

  35. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:28 pm

    Waiting for the offensive onslaught to begin…from either squad.

    Guess will have to wait for third game of series.

  36. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:32 pm

    The king is KING

  37. G-Man on May 14th, 2013 5:32 pm

    Felix shrugs and strikes ‘em out to get out of it.

  38. The_Waco_Kid on May 14th, 2013 5:36 pm

    I’m not big on questioning managerial moves. It’s overdone. That being said, I’m not sure I ever want to see both Ryan and Andino start. Also, I wish we had a clearly better option than Raul vs. a lefty.

    Bottom 3rd: .203, .169, .131. Maybe they’ll each get another hit and prove me wrong.

  39. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:38 pm

    M’s batters are giving away almost EVERY first pitch.

  40. Woodcutta on May 14th, 2013 5:49 pm


  41. The_Waco_Kid on May 14th, 2013 5:49 pm

    Shows what I know :)

  42. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 5:49 pm


    Wedge 1, Us 0

  43. JasonJ on May 14th, 2013 5:49 pm

    Raaauuuul! Wedge is a genius!

  44. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 5:50 pm

    It was a really bad pitch by Sabathia, but Raul hit it well. Gotta give him props for that.

  45. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 5:50 pm

    Raul!!!! Wedge knew what he was doing. HA

  46. texasmarinerfan on May 14th, 2013 5:52 pm

    And Ibanez will be a starter for the next several weeks now…

  47. Bodhizefa on May 14th, 2013 5:53 pm

    Eric Wedge: 1
    Dave: 1,000,001

  48. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 5:57 pm

    Ok Raul, you just qualified to play another game as a Mariner.

  49. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 5:59 pm

    Yup, Raul will probably play this whole series.

  50. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 6:02 pm

    King with 8 KO’s and CS with 10.

    What matters is the W.

  51. spuuky on May 14th, 2013 6:04 pm

    I don’t think anyone will complain about 8 K’s vs 10 K’s when they can see the 3 hits vs 9 hits right next to it.

  52. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2013 6:07 pm

    I go eat dinner and LOOK what happens!

    I told you guys Raul was gonna kick ass tonight! (oh wait… er… no I didn’t…)

  53. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 6:09 pm

    That was scary.

  54. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2013 6:10 pm

    So looking at the box score– what was Felix’s error? It says “interference”? Did he get in a guy’s way covering first or something?

  55. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 6:13 pm

    Yes interference is exactly what it was. Although Overbay was out by 3 steps and it was a bad call

  56. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 6:14 pm

    The runner ran into Felix at fjrst, but the runner was already out.

  57. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 6:18 pm

    Hopefully Felix is okay. He seemed a little shaken up. Bullpen is gonna have to hold this one

  58. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 6:20 pm

    Yup, Felix js out. But he’s still in the dugout so probably precautionary.

  59. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 6:25 pm

    Paul seems to be typing on a Norwegian keyboard now. ;-)

  60. jordan on May 14th, 2013 6:31 pm

    What happened to Felix?

  61. The_Waco_Kid on May 14th, 2013 6:41 pm

    Is it me, or did Medina come of nowhere? I mean, he’s been in the system a while, but I heard no real buzz. Suddenly, he’s up and doing pretty well.

  62. jordan on May 14th, 2013 6:43 pm

    10 innings, 2 runs, and 13 K’s. I’d say he’s doing OK.

  63. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 6:44 pm

    Think Felix might have had a leg muscle tighten up. He looked odd on a play off the mound.

  64. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 6:45 pm

    Who is this Kelley guy the Yankees have?

  65. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 6:46 pm

    Wow this ump sucks. That was strike 3

  66. Paul B on May 14th, 2013 6:46 pm

    Need robots to call strikes.

  67. Woodcutta on May 14th, 2013 6:48 pm

    Can we just IBB Cano?

  68. G-Man on May 14th, 2013 6:48 pm

    Well shoot.

  69. jordan on May 14th, 2013 6:49 pm

    Son of a B

  70. Grayfox3d on May 14th, 2013 6:49 pm

    Absolute bullshit on all of these calls, im beyond pissed off at this “umpire”…… what is he seeing? how many calls do the f**king yankee’s need to have? ugh…

  71. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 6:49 pm

    Bullshit bullshit bullshit. Another umpire mistake costs

  72. msfanmike on May 14th, 2013 6:51 pm

    Big Trouble …

  73. charliebrown on May 14th, 2013 6:53 pm

    Why is Furbush still in the game? Its obvious the ump won’t give him a decent strike zone. Get him out of there for Capps, who can at least generate swinging strikes and take the ump out of the equation.

  74. Richie sux on May 14th, 2013 6:54 pm

    Just turned off the game. It feels like a show. not a sport anymore with this ump. Might as well be watching a donaghy basketball game

  75. nvn8vbryce on May 14th, 2013 6:56 pm

    It almost feels like Wedge is in cahoots with the ump to lose the game…

  76. HighlightsAt11 on May 14th, 2013 6:57 pm

    “I go eat dinner and look what happens!”

    me too.

    Furbush has been a negative this season.

  77. charliebrown on May 14th, 2013 6:58 pm

    absolutely no excuse for leaving Furbush in the game there. None what so ever.

  78. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 6:59 pm

    Furbush struck out Gardner so who knows how this inning would have ended up if the umpire wasn’t incompetent

  79. msfanmike on May 14th, 2013 7:01 pm

    It’s time for an Ackley PH appearance.

  80. msfanmike on May 14th, 2013 7:04 pm

    Come on Ackley – drive the ball

  81. Coolalvin206 on May 14th, 2013 7:05 pm

    You can just feel this is the road series that puts us back to a bunch of games under .500 for good . I feel so bad for Felix

  82. msfanmike on May 14th, 2013 7:08 pm

    Sweet – a break!!!

  83. G-Man on May 14th, 2013 7:08 pm

    Lucked out

  84. msfanmike on May 14th, 2013 7:10 pm

    That was a complete shit at bat by Saunders.

  85. juneau_fan on May 14th, 2013 7:11 pm

    The pinch hitting on this team makes my head hurt.

  86. msfanmike on May 14th, 2013 7:12 pm

    It’s time for a Christmas Miracle.

  87. juneau_fan on May 14th, 2013 7:13 pm

    And not for a DP.

  88. G-Man on May 14th, 2013 7:15 pm

    Well so much for that threat.

  89. msfanmike on May 14th, 2013 7:15 pm

    That was a very Mariner outcome even though he did hit the ball pretty hard.


  90. juneau_fan on May 14th, 2013 7:16 pm

    Oh, a DP, but not the way I expected. Uh…

  91. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 7:16 pm

    The shittiest luck

  92. spuuky on May 14th, 2013 7:16 pm

    Juneau, I’m going to have to ask you to stop saying “dp” or “double play” any time when Smoak is at bat or on deck. He can hear you.

  93. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2013 7:18 pm

    Man oh man… Why did Felix come out? I leave to do a little work and come back and the yungins done give up a bunch ‘o runs?


  94. juneau_fan on May 14th, 2013 7:20 pm

    Sorry, spuuky. It won’t happen again.

  95. LanceWWU on May 14th, 2013 7:27 pm


  96. The_Waco_Kid on May 14th, 2013 7:29 pm

    W T F ?

  97. LanceWWU on May 14th, 2013 7:30 pm

    That last ball was a foot inside. This ump is complete garbage.

  98. californiamariner on May 14th, 2013 7:30 pm

    Of course that’s how this game ends

  99. dc24 on May 14th, 2013 7:30 pm

    Damn umpires didn’t help us at all. We missed a chance late, but we should have won that ballgame.

  100. MrZDevotee on May 14th, 2013 7:31 pm

    Well that was about as anti-climactic as you can get.

    And nothing like former Mariner pitchers getting the win against us.

    Let’s get ‘em tomorrow, Kuma.

  101. andybrnr on May 14th, 2013 7:32 pm

    How many critical outs did our pitchers lose in this game to horrifically bad calls? At least 2? And that last “call” was utterly unacceptable.

  102. The_Waco_Kid on May 14th, 2013 7:35 pm

    Umps have been scandalously bad all over the league.

  103. fallingceilingtiles on May 14th, 2013 7:44 pm

    have to chime in from NYC. watching on YES – unbelievable how the announcers made a point to say the home plate umpire had done SUCH a great job all night and missed only ONE call…yeah. thanks. tomorrows another day GO M’S

  104. Westside guy on May 14th, 2013 7:52 pm

    ^ and I’m guessing that “one call” went against the Yanks.

  105. killeverything on May 14th, 2013 8:42 pm

    Is it too late to add how much I hate Andino?

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