Game 41, Mariners at Indians

marc w · May 17, 2013 at 3:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Brandon Maurer vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, 4:05pm

Dave mentioned it on twitter, and Matthew mentioned it in his series preview, but because the Indians can stack their line-up with quality left-handed bats, this game represents the toughest test Brandon Maurer’s faced since his abbreviated start against Baltimore. Maurer’s last start marked a noticeable change in approach, as he largely ditched his slider to left-handers and instead relied on his curve ball, a pitch without the large platoon splits that sliders carry. It wasn’t a great start by any stretch, but the new strategy looked quite promising. He fanned a few lefties, kept the team in the ballgame, and while he gave up another two homers, he didn’t look completely helpless against left-handed line-ups.

That Maurer’s still in the big leagues, overhauling his approach on the fly, speaks to both how injuries have ravaged the M’s pitching depth and to Maurer’s ability to learn and adapt, perhaps the best qualities a young hurler can have. On the one hand, it seems counterintuitive that this should work – that you could pick up a new pitch, or radically alter your pitch-mix from start to start in the majors. On the other hand, failing on a big stage can be a hell of a motivator. Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez should know – he’s gone from a 6+-WAR pitcher to replacement level in the past three years (!). The prime suspect for this mid-career collapse has been his diminished velocity. In 2010, his two- and four-seam fastballs averaged 97mph. In 2011, that fell to 94. In 2012, 93, and so far this year, he’s between 92-93. That’s a pretty big drop in a short time frame. Sure, King Felix’s velo’s dropped a similar amount, if not more, but it’s happened gradually, and his off-speed stuff and command mean he hasn’t paid a price in terms of results. Jimenez though…Jimenez has paid a price.

Jeff’s piece on him here and Kyle Boddy’s here have focused on the mechanical changes Ubaldo’s made since 2010. I’m not an expert on mechanics, though you can clearly see he’s made some changes. Whether they’ve in some way caused or accelerated the velocity drop, I couldn’t say, but recent changes haven’t (as yet) reversed it. Through most of April, Jimenez’s decline looked to be nearing a terminal phase, as he followed two awful starts against New York and Boston with a just-as-bad-in-context start against Houston. But since then, over the span of all of three starts, he’s been good again. Maybe he just needed Scott Kazmir to talk to him about how far it’s possible to fall, or maybe the raised front-shoulder thing that Jeff’s article mentioned actually helped in some way, but his K:BB ratio in those three starts is 20:6, and he’s given up only three runs.

Since I don’t know about mechanics, I thought I’d talk about his pitches. One way Jimenez has changed since his days as a Rockie is that he’s developed a split-finger fastball that’s all but replaced his change. He had one in 2010 with Colorado, but he started throwing it a lot last year, and that’s continued in 2013. He now throws it about 25% of the time to righties and lefties alike. The other change since 2010 is an increased utilization of his two-seam fastball, and this highlights how difficult it is to isolate variables in something like pitching. Not only did Jimenez use his sinker more with Cleveland, he used it in a specific way. Check it out in his usage tab at BrooksBaseball. Particularly against lefties, he’s used the pitch much more when he’s behind in the count. This may indicate he had more confidence in his ability to command the pitch, or it may be a decision to go for a grounder and not a K. Whatever the reason, it’s produced ugly, ugly results from the two-seamer – results that are ugliest this year. That’s to be expected in a way, though – every pitcher looks bad when they’re behind in the count, and if he uses a specific pitch in those situations, it’ll look like a bad pitch. Jimenez is perhaps more extreme than most pitchers in that the gap in his FIP in PAs that start 0-1 is about 3 full runs lower than it is when they start 1-0.

The M’s needed to make a 40-man move today to get some bullpen help. Yesterday’s spot start by Hector Noesi and 4+ innings of bullpen work that followed hollowed out the M’s pen, particularly righties. Thus, the M’s brought up Danny Farquhar today,* one of the two small righties they acquired in the Ichiro deal last year. Farquhar had a 30:4 K:BB ratio in just 20 innings, numbers which underscore how much he’s thrived since moving to the M’s org. Farquhar can touch 95 and has a funky delivery – something that’s helped him get lefties out as well as righties. But its his improved control since 2012 that’s really helped him get back to majors – he always walked too many, especially lefties, but the walks have dried up since moving to Tacoma (his combined K:BB with Tacoma in 36 2/3 IP is now 46:9). To make room, the M’s moved Stephen Pryor to the 60-day DL. Ryan Divish’s story on the move points out that a big part of his success has been trusting his curve ball more. Pryor was eligible to come back on May 30th, and though this move is retroactive, he’ll be out another month. He may be ready before then, but this allows the M’s to put off some potentially painful decisions – Francisco Martinez still isn’t hitting in AA Jackson.

1: Saunders, CF
2: Ackley, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Ibanez, LF
7: Shoppach, C
8: Chavez, RF
9: Ryan, SS
SP: Maurer

Michael Morse was scratched with “eye irritation.”

I had a great time in Tacoma last night, but I was gutted that Oscar Taveras didn’t play for Memphis. Sounds like he won’t play again tonight, but if you’d like to catch him, it sounds like he’ll play this weekend. Michael Wacha was really impressive last night, blowing away Mike Zunino with high fastballs. Zunino’s clearly struggled with breaking stuff, but he’s struggled against just about everything at home, fastballs included. He’ll get there, but he’s going to need some time. Stefen Romero impressed me, though, making hard contact a few times when no one else on the team could figure Wacha out. Andrew Carraway looks to quiet Kolten Wong and the Redbirds tonight.

* Full credit to Shannon Drayer for essentially calling this on twitter last night. I was wondering who they’d bring up and what the corresponding move was, and she called both sides of the equation. Again, twitter is awesome.


32 Responses to “Game 41, Mariners at Indians”

  1. Paul B on May 17th, 2013 4:04 pm

    Morse was putting in eye drops after his homer yesterday.

    I have scratched a cornea before, quite uncomfortable, if that is what he did.

  2. Westside guy on May 17th, 2013 4:09 pm

    Morse is making a lot of money – there was no reason he should’ve been using a home Lasik kit.

  3. Prozach on May 17th, 2013 4:52 pm

    So um, Brendan Ryan has a 4 game hitting streak.

  4. jordan on May 17th, 2013 6:00 pm

    Ibanez is the future of this team.

  5. californiamariner on May 17th, 2013 6:00 pm

    Raul! He keeps defying all logic!

  6. californiamariner on May 17th, 2013 6:05 pm

    Wtf Brendan Ryan

  7. jordan on May 17th, 2013 6:05 pm

    XBH for Ryan!!!!!!!

  8. bigsmooth on May 17th, 2013 6:15 pm

    Fantastic inning from Maurer. Three tough lefties sent packing, two via the K. Beauty.

  9. Westside guy on May 17th, 2013 6:16 pm

    I think somehow I’ve wandered into a game thread for the Bizarro Mariners…

  10. dekjo on May 17th, 2013 6:25 pm

    Movie trailer voice: in a world free from dingers, one man’s determination to dinger opened eyes, changed minds, and broke hearts. Raul Ibanez stars in the Ding.

  11. jordan on May 17th, 2013 6:37 pm

    Wedge, you idiot

  12. Slats on May 17th, 2013 6:38 pm

    Bunting LOL.

  13. californiamariner on May 17th, 2013 6:39 pm

    Bunt over the speedy Ibanez to let the great Brendan Ryan drive him in what could go wrong

  14. jordan on May 17th, 2013 6:40 pm

    Good thing we got that bunt down.. Great call Wedge.. now we have 2 chances to get him in on a base hit.. and our best two hitters coming up. Chavez and Ryan.

  15. Hammy57 on May 17th, 2013 6:41 pm

    Can Morse really not see? Seems like he could pinch hit….

  16. jordan on May 17th, 2013 6:47 pm

    Oh man.. who could have seen that result coming….

    Sad thing is, now Wedge is just going to babble about how they “failed to execute”.

  17. Hammy57 on May 17th, 2013 6:47 pm

    I don’t think there is anything more painful to watch than a Brenden Ryan at bat.

  18. Slats on May 17th, 2013 6:55 pm

    Is Sims going to shut up about the hotdogs?

  19. Hammy57 on May 17th, 2013 6:57 pm

    I would rather hear him talk about hotdogs again than see another Brenden Ryan at bat.

  20. Westside guy on May 17th, 2013 7:17 pm

    Times like that, I’m happy Chavez is out there in right and Morse is not.

  21. Westside guy on May 17th, 2013 7:24 pm

    Come on Raul, continue with the improbable!


  22. stevemotivateir on May 17th, 2013 7:34 pm

    I really hope people in the front office not named Jack, as well as Jack, are taking careful notes of these decisions Wedge makes.

    I also hope those people are competent enough to realize they’re not good decisions. (eh, referring to the bunting, crap like that.)

  23. Hammy57 on May 17th, 2013 7:41 pm

    Anyone just see the chick with the red shorts?!

  24. G-Man on May 17th, 2013 7:42 pm

    I remember when we used to talk about a game in extras.

  25. Jake on May 17th, 2013 7:44 pm

    Red shorts chick was the highlight..holy moley.

  26. Westside guy on May 17th, 2013 7:46 pm

    And the game ended not with a whimper, but with a bang.

    (Rewinding the TiVo to look for red shorts chick…)

  27. stevemotivateir on May 17th, 2013 7:47 pm

    Well, it’s not like Luetge was in trouble and should have been pulled. He only gave up one walk and one base hit -both lefties- before giving up the game-ending home run.

    Who can really say they saw something bad happening?

  28. Westside guy on May 17th, 2013 7:48 pm

    Those were more maroon than red…

  29. Hammy57 on May 17th, 2013 7:49 pm

    You were actually looking at the color of the shorts?

  30. Westside guy on May 17th, 2013 7:50 pm

    Had to make sure we were talking about the same chick, Hammy.

  31. SonOfZavaras on May 18th, 2013 2:59 am

    How can this be the Game 41 thread when the result leaves the team 20-22?

    Side note: I am going to catch the replay if possible for another look at that woman. Damn.

  32. charliebrown on May 18th, 2013 12:47 pm

    Thank God for dingers and voodoo.

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