Game 46, Mariners at Angels
Aaron Harang vs. Jerome Williams, 7:05pm
Aaron Harang’s ailing back is all better, so he’s back in the rotation tonight in Anaheim. That’s great news for Aaron Harang, I guess. Opposing him is Jerome Williams, meaning I’m obliged to link to this, from back when he first completed his journey from broken/ex-ballplayer to MLB swingman.
Scott Kazmir’s in the major leagues, and Ubaldo Jimenez is suddenly kind of good again, so it’s not like baseball’s short on these longshot comeback stories, but there’s still something about Williams that makes me do a double-take every time I see his name in the probables. It’s not like he, or Kazmir, or Jon Garland, or Jeremy Bonderman, is legitimately awesome again. Over three partial seasons adding up to just over 200IP, Williams has been worth 1.5 WAR, or 1.7 RA-WAR, if that’s how you roll. That’s a touch below average, thanks to some home run problems and a so-so strikeout rate, but…Jerome Williams gave the Angels, a team that famously has zero rotation depth thanks to the Dan Haren trade, a perfectly acceptable 200 IP after washing ashore in 2011. Every team gets production from unlikely sources (Jason Bay?), but Jerome Williams was so-so with the Uni-President Lions in 2010.
There’s some evidence to suggest that Williams isn’t content with just making it back and being a nice story. His fastball velocity is up markedly this year (just shy of 1.5mph over last year), which is remarkable given that velocities are lowest in April/May. Since 2007, Williams arm slot has made the opposite journey of Danny Farquhar, going from a standard 3/4 to very low 3/4/sidearm. But as he’s further and further from rotator cuff problems, he continues to gain velocity, going from 88-89 in 2007 to 91-92 in 2011 to near 94 this year. Williams has pitched in relief a bit this year, so I initially figured the velo boost was just the result of shorter starts, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. He’s averaged about 94 in his three starts, touching 95 in two of them. I know you’re probably sick to death of my enthusiasm for Jerome Williams, but listen: Williams is a living, breathing, pitching reset button on pitcher attrition, “TINSTAAP”, and prospect flameouts. I’m a Mariners fan. You do the math. If Williams can make it back, can we *really* close the book on Chris Snelling? I mean, how closed *is* that book, and how hard is it to open again?
Williams is using his sinker and cutter a bit less frequently this year, and that’s caused his GB% to drop a bit. Still too early to know if that’s just an early season blip, or if he’s trying something new. He’s benefited from some luck in his HR/FB%, as his HRs allowed has dropped thus far despite the increase in fly balls. In any event, he’s sporting a decent RA and FIP, which is something noteworthy on an Angels staff that’s essentially being carried by Jason Vargas at the moment. The M’s start Aaron Harang who’s in the perfect ballpark to ease his home run problems, but we could’ve said the same when he faced the Halos in Safeco, and that didn’t go so well. Still, I’m moderately excited to watch a ballgame that doesn’t take place in Cleveland, so Harang’s got that going for him.
1: Saunders, CF
2: Ackley, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Morse, RF
6: Ibanez, LF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Shoppach, C
9: Andino, SS
SP: Aaron Harang
The Rainiers host Nashville and ex-Angels prospect Jonny Hellweg tonight. Hellweg’s 6’9″ and throws 99, but hasn’t yet harnessed that stuff and become as frightening as he could be. He’s got poor control and doesn’t miss near as many bats as you’d think, but he’s 6’9″ and throws 99mph and so the Brewers hope he’s one mechanical tweak away from dominating. Jimmy Gilheeney starts for Tacoma, who won the first game of the series yesterday. Mike Zunino hit his first home run at Cheney Stadium over the weekend, bringing his SLG% at home up to .193.
John McGrath had a nice story on Tacoma utility IF/OF/anything Nate Tenbrink.
The Yankees are partnering with English club Manchester City to purchase an expansion team in Major League Soccer, to be based in New York. Manchester City’s the majority owner, but the Yankees will own about a quarter of the club, which still needs to find a stadium to play in (cross-town rivals NY Red Bulls just built one, but it’s not clear they want to share with the upstarts). The Times story notes that the tentative plan is to build a stadium in Flushing Meadows park. Many of you don’t follow soccer, especially English soccer, but let me just say that this new team is about as easy to hate as any expansion team in any sport. City have the highest total salary in England (the only team over $200m GBP in 2012), and the Yankees have had the highest in baseball for years (until now). Now, two of the richest clubs in the world want to start a new team and eliminate a public park to do so. If you don’t hate this club, you probably don’t get irate about random sports business news, and you are well adjusted with blood pressure readings in the normal range. Good job.