Game 53, Mariners at Padres
Joe Saunders vs. Eric Stults, 7:10pm
The M’s begin the road portion of this home and home with San Diego with a battle of lefty pitch to contact guys. It’s not appointment television, but the M’s could use a few wins, and while they’re hobbled and beset by bottom-of-the-rotation problems, Joe Saunders in a big park is what passes for a good match-up these days.
Eric Stults is, and I checked on this, NOT Eric Stoltz. Who he IS, is a lefty fly-baller who throws a ‘rising’ four-seam fastball, a good change-up, and a curve and slider. He’s used to righty-dominated line-ups, and his career platoon splits are essentially even, just like Edinson Volquez’s. He’s got a solid FIP, though again, some of that’s to be expected pitching in Petco. Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see how the hitters fare in the new, fairer park. Both teams hit a number of homers in Seattle, but it remains to be seen how much of that was park-related and how much was Clayton Richard/Brandon Maurer related.
1: Bay, LF
2: Chavez, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Shoppach, C
6: Saunders, CF
7: Franklin, 2B
8: Ryan, SS
The big story of the day is the promotion of Alex Liddi and the option of Brandon Maurer. While it may be a very brief swap, it’s obvious at this point that Maurer has some things to work on, and I’m fairly optimistic about his chances in the long term. He showed some flashes in his M’s tenure, especially against righties, and he’ll be able to talk to coaches and – importantly – other players in Tacoma about developing his change. Brian Sweeney is essentially another pitching coach on the roster, and he may be able to pick Erasmo Ramirez’s brain a bit too. Alex Liddi’s had a strange season – he started off OK, then went into deep freeze (along with Zunino and Thames, to be fair). He’s showing some signs of coming out of it, but Liddi’s K% has jumped over 10 percentage points in Tacoma this year. I liked some of the changes he made last season, but he’s looked absolutely lost at the plate some times this year. Hopefully he’s figured something out, though he may not get too many opportunities right now.
The other big story is the continuing fall-out from Eric Wedge’s ‘sabermetrics destroyed my second baseman’ comments. Yesterday was the day for disbelief, ripostes and, yes, some snark. Today marks the more contemplative period of reflection and trying to understand where Wedge was coming from. Larry Stone’s got a good piece trying to build some more context for the quotes, and Lance Rinker (At Beyond the Box Score) and Ian Miller (at Baseball Prospectus) urge caution and begin to evaluate Wedge’s claim dispassionately. I think this is all to the good, even if I don’t agree with 100% of it. Sabermetrics or the blogosphere or whatever you want to call it often has a reputation for being a single-minded entity, out to quash dissent. At our best, I think we can lead by example in coolly evaluating claims. Not to say we have all the information, or know with certainty, but to try and figure out what data tells us about some baseball question. It’s going to be really tough to do that in a case like this where the problem (or the question) is tied to a particular player’s mental state. But we can look into Ackley’s struggles and attempt to figure out what’s happening. We can be forward looking, and then evaluate how well any changes in approach have worked. Who knows. Maybe we’ll get credit for fixing him as well as ruining him.