Game 39, Mariners at Yankees
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Phil Hughes, 4:05pm
So, last night’s game sure was a kick in the mouth, wasn’t it? Felix dominated, but came out with a classic Mariner no-decision. In addition, he tweaked his back and had to come out after the 6th. Then, the bullpen self-immolated with a big assist from the home plate umpire. And of course, Raul Ibanez decided to kick Dave and I extra hard by putting up two hits including a homer. People asked me what I thought of the home run off of CC Sabathia, and honestly, I thought it was awesome/hilarious. To be honest, I was still giggling a bit from Ibanez’s 2nd inning infield single (!). I mentioned it on twitter, but Ibanez’s performance last night was the greatest troll in this blog’s long history. I’m sorry Mr. Unethical!!! pizza dude, you’re now in second place.
It highlights that everything we talk about – from Nick Franklin’s possible promotion, to Tai Walker’s chances of making it a MLB starter to line-up decisions – comes down to probabilities. The people who say that you can’t know anything, and that baseball’s too unpredictable to be reduced to a spreadsheet are completely right, of course. None of us would actually like baseball if this truism wasn’t, er, true. So while it’s frustrating to see a team put out a sub-optimal line-up, reducing their chances of winning from, say, 55% to 48% or whatever, that doesn’t mean we can’t root like hell for an anomalous event. If Brendan Ryan hits three home runs tonight, I think I might actually, physically die, but if he hit two home runs tonight, I’d find it hilarious and welcome and beautiful. I would not like to build a team that depended on such rare events, however.
So let’s talk a bit more about Nick Franklin and his chances to outhit RyAndino. Dave’s post below is well-reasoned, and the overall point is clearly, clearly right: you need to regress Ryan/Andino’s performance before you can figure out how much better/worse any replacement (Triunfel, Brad Miller, Nick Franklin) would be. The problem is that projections have a narrower spread than actual MLB players. There are perfectly valid statistical reasons for this, and it’s one reason you essentially never see anyone forecast to hit 40-45 HRs. Projections are going to have a higher floor than baseball players, and some of that is because part-time players won’t get the opportunity to regress towards the mean, and some of that is because teams find a few guys on their midst who are, in fact, *ex*-baseball players.
I’m not ready to say that Brendan Ryan is totally kaput as a major leaguer. The man still appears to have good range in the field. But is it crazy that a 31-year old with a best-part-of-a-decade long career of having a bat that *nearly* outweighs his amazing glove may have tipped over the line and become replacement level? The two players I associate with Ryan most are Jack Wilson and Adam Everett, two amazing fielders and not-so-hot hitters who had long careers thanks to their defensive exploits. Everett was beset by injuries at 30, but stuck around to have a half-decent half-year at age 32 in Detroit, but was done as a regular at 29. And even at 31-32, Everett made much more contact than Ryan. At 31, Wilson had a great year in the field and a bad-but-acceptable year at the plate (split between Pittsburgh and Seattle). The following year, his performance in the field and the plate slipped, and he only got into 61 games. In 2011, at 33, he was essentially done. Here’s the funny thing though: you know what his ZiPS/Steamer projections are? For this year, 2013? About a .254 wOBA. Essentially right at Brendan Ryan’s rest-of-season projection. Brendan Ryan’s ROS projection essentially ties him with retired, formerly awful hitters. The Wilson Line is basically the projection system’s floor.
The point here is that we need to know what mean to regress Ryan/Andino’s toward. This is where scouting could help, but there’s probably no way to definitively resolve the question. It’s possible, and it’s looking more possible each day, that Brendan Ryan just isn’t an everyday player anymore. That’s tough, because he’s still likely an asset in the field, but it’s possible that the non-slumping version of Ryan just isn’t worth waiting for. Robert Andino is younger, but offers less defense, and his declines in contact and K% are starting to become concerning. In any event, he’s a replacement level player, and not getting younger. Nick Franklin likely isn’t a SS, but at this point I doubt his lack of range is going to be the difference between the M’s finishing at .500 or not. At some point, the M’s need to figure out who *can* play SS going forward. No matter how they do from now through September, Ryan and Andino are not in the running.
The M’s face Phil Hughes tonight, a fly-balling righty. As you’d imagine, a guy who pitches in New Yankee Stadium and has ground ball rates right around 30% has a bit of a home run problem. He’s got decent stuff, however, so he’s managed to carve out a frustrating but decent career. He’s been a fastball-curve-change guy his whole career, but seems to have switched to a slider thus far in 2013. That hasn’t helped his platoon splits, and it’s a bit early to know what to make of the change. It’s clearly something he worked on; this isn’t a pitch fx algorithm glitch, he made this change deliberately. He’d had a cutter for years that wasn’t quite MLB-caliber, but he’d all but abandoned it by 2012. The change in 2013 is using the slider in lieu of his hook – particularly to righties. In any event, he’s got to worry about his fastball, as he gave up 25 HRs on the fourseam last year, and he’s at 6 so far this year in just over 40 innings. Let’s go Seager/Saunders.
1: Saunders, CF
2: Ackley, 2B (!)
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Morse, RF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Ibanez, LF
8: Montero, C
9: Ryan, SS