Game 55, Mariners at Twins

marc w · May 31, 2013 at 4:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Mike Pelfrey, 5:10pm

When Hisashi Iwakuma was posted by his NPB team back before the 2011 season, I looked at his pitch fx scouting reports by the likes of Mike Fast and tried to find a major leaguer with similar pitches. The mix and movement of his four-seamer, two-seamer, slider, the occasional curve and splitter looked a heck of a lot like one National Leaguer in particular – Mike Pelfrey. At the time, Pelfrey was coming off a solid run, racking up 6.5 fWAR in the three previous years (2008-10). Then, the Athletics (who’d won the rights to Iwakuma) couldn’t agree on a deal, and Iwakuma went back to Japan. And got hurt.

Fortunately for the M’s, he came back the next year and accepted a fraction of the money he’d have earned in Oakland, then looked pretty broken in the spring. Pelfrey was terrible in 2011 himself, then underwent Tommy John surgery and missed essentially all of 2012. The point of all this is that I thought Mike Pelfrey represented ‘Kuma’s *ceiling* way back when. Now, Mike Pelfrey is basically the extremely poor man’s version of Iwakuma. Baseball! Pitchers!

Pelfrey throws a splitter, though not as much as he used to, but he seems to use it for a very different purpose than Iwakuma. Iwakuma uses his to humiliate and dominate hitters. Pelfrey uses it to show hitters something different, not as a true purpose pitch. With two strikes, he’s still much more likely to throw a fastball than the split. As a result, he gets very few whiffs with it (kind of like Cashner’s change), and hitters don’t have much trouble putting it in play – and in his career, they’ve hit .300 when they do. Like Iwakuma, he gets a fair number of groundballs with it, but unlike Iwakuma, that’s the extent of the “pro” side of the ledger. This is paragraph is essentially a modern way to say that a pitch sucks. Pelfrey seems to intuit that, and he’s thrown it sparingly this season.

To fit in with his new team, Pelfrey’s not striking anyone out, and his GB% dropped markedly as well. His strand rate’s atrocious, so he hasn’t “earned” the entirety of his 6.85 ERA, but not much has been working for him this season. It also doesn’t help that the Twins are one of the worst fielding teams in all of baseball. Matthew’s measure has them near the bottom in fielding. UZR has them dead last (and has the M’s close by in 28th). DER has them in 29th. Whatever you use, the conclusion is pretty clear: the Twins have added ‘outfield defense’ to ‘strikeouts’ on the list of over-rated, sabermetric-puffery stats. The Twins IF hasn’t been awful, but Josh Willingham, Oswaldo Arcia, Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks have not impressed fielding metrics. Pairing a pitch-to-contact staff with allergic-to-leather OFs hasn’t worked out well in the Twin Cities, though I’m aware that the M’s OF may end up worse than the Twins defensively. Still, at least the M’s get strikeouts. And Pelfrey’s splitter still sucks.

This has been an uncharacteristically combative game preview. Felix plus dingers just arouses the fire that’s dormant in the innermost recesses of my soul.

1: Chavez, RF
2: Bay, LF
3: Seager. 3B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Ibanez, DH
6: Saunders, CF
7: Franklin, 2B
8: Sucre, C
9: Ryan, SS
SP: Iwakuma

Still no Justin Smoak, whose oblique is still a bit sore.

Robert Andino cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Tacoma. That’s nice, but he’s not in line for more playing time or anything. As Mike Curto noted, he’s probably not going to move either Dustin Ackley or Brad Miller out of the starting line-up. Tacoma returns from their road trip to take on Sacramento this weekend.

Another week, another good crop of articles on pitch framing. I mean, we all knew we’d see more of it after Mike Fast’s groundbreaking article, and I would’ve purchased pitch framing futures if they were real, but it’s getting kind of crazy. Good crazy, though. Here’s Ben Lindbergh’s interview with museum-quality framer Ryan Hanigan for Grantland. Here’s Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs looking into why we don’t see massive runs-allowed differences with ‘great’ framing catchers. Jesus Sucre’s framing looks good from what I’ve seen, but it seems to me that the M’s care much more about game-calling and leadership than framing, and I’d guess that’s where they’d say Sucre shines. I’m still sort of amazed that Sucre, a no-hit catcher they got from Atlanta essentially for free, is now the de facto starting catcher.


44 Responses to “Game 55, Mariners at Twins”

  1. Jordan on May 31st, 2013 4:57 pm

    Any word on Morse’ time frame? Gutierrez? I realize Guti will be done w/ his rehab soon, is the obvious move Liddi/Chavez or is there any chance Saunders gets sent down to work on his swing too?

  2. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 5:09 pm

    There’s something somewhat surreal about how the lineup seems more cohesive without the head-scratching effect of Ackley and Montero. Expectations and results were so far away from one another, it feels more “comfortable” to look at this lineup, and have a good idea of what you’re going to actually get, and what is realistic to expect. Even if that in itself is a lower expectation. Smoak too.

    With Ackley, Montero and Smoak in the lineup it always felt like expectations for them were .100 pts higher than the reality. Which was so frustrating.

    And now, with Franklin we don’t have high expectations, anything he does above “meh” is a treat, with Sucre we don’t have high offensive expectations but get our best defensive catcher, and with Morales we get a guy who has been one of the most solid players of the year.

    Much easier to get my mind to absorb this lineup. Even if it’s not ‘great’, so much.

  3. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 5:43 pm

    I think Gutierrez can be stretched out another week in Tacoma on his rehab. Morse is day to day, never went on the DL. Smoak’s in the same boat.

  4. californiamariner on May 31st, 2013 5:52 pm

    Brendan Ryan has a higher batting average than Michael Saunders.

  5. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 5:53 pm

    Still trying to figure out why Wedge had Chavez bunt. Maybe he didn’t realize Chavez is a lefty, or that Bay has struggled with RHP?

  6. spuuky on May 31st, 2013 5:55 pm

    If I was a major league (AL) manager, which I’m obviously not qualified to do, I’m pretty sure I’d call for maybe 3 sacrifice bunts a year.

  7. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 6:05 pm

    Nice job by Ryan and Sucre!

  8. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 6:17 pm

    You and I may not be qualified to manage, spunky, but Wedge really isn’t either. I won’t pretend that I could do a better job, but there are plenty of candidates that could.

    We’ve heard the pros and cons over Wedge getting canned now, and I don’t expect that to happen, but I really look forward to the day it does.

    I really don’t care if Brown replaces him on an interim basis, or if the team tries to hire someone like Acta. I just want him gone. The sooner, the better.

  9. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 6:22 pm

    Just read…
    Official Mariner site says Bonderman is starting Sunday. They don’t confess that it’s because we lose him tomorrow otherwise… Wedge says it’s becauce “he’s been pretty consistent down there.”


  10. californiamariner on May 31st, 2013 6:35 pm

    MrZ it is funny you say that about expectations, because I was just thinking that same thing yesterday. I don’t expect much so it is fun when they actually do something. It is kind of relieving but in a very sad way. It is getting to the point where I just want to see what guys like Franklin do and eventually the other guys they’ll be calling up.

  11. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 6:39 pm

    It’s the 40 man move they’ll make for Bonderman that’s more interesting for me. They’ll have to make a move for Kinney as well, though I would guess Medina will get the axe for him.

  12. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 6:44 pm

    Yeah, I was trying to figure out why the last couple games had been so much more “relaxing” to watch.

  13. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 6:46 pm

    Well, this is the side effect of sacrificing defense in hope for a cheap offensive alternative.

    Really have to wonder what the outfield is going to look like next year. Guti will likely be gone. Morse, Bay, and Ibanez are on one year deals, as is Chavez, but suck in the field.

    Maybe Romero will be able to take a corner? I’d love to see the M’s land Pence, though I don’t expect that to happen.

  14. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 6:47 pm


  15. wilchiro on May 31st, 2013 6:47 pm

    Gosh, I love Kendrys more and more by the day…

  16. californiamariner on May 31st, 2013 6:48 pm

    Can we please just resign Morales?

  17. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 6:48 pm

    My man Kendrys–
    Is it my imagination, or since he’s taken over 1B has he really been lighting it up. You always read the “it’s hard to DH and be successful” comments…

  18. pgreyy on May 31st, 2013 6:48 pm


  19. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 6:48 pm

    Over the fence in Center field at Target field….

    That’s power.

  20. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 6:50 pm

    He’s probably a couple years away still, but I like the tooly-ness of Morban from our own farm system.

    Morban, Romero and Saunders could be a quite athletic outfield.

    2013 at Jackson so far (age 21):
    .336 .377 .516

  21. wilchiro on May 31st, 2013 6:53 pm

    I don’t think Wedge is doing any favors by running Saunders out there everyday at this point. He needs to sit him for two or three days and let him clear his head. I can be more patient with Saunders than Ackley or Montero because of what he did last year, but he’s pretty much an out every time he steps up to the plate right now.

  22. californiamariner on May 31st, 2013 6:55 pm

    Wilchiro, that sounds good in theory, but who would the starting outfield be without him?

  23. wilchiro on May 31st, 2013 6:57 pm

    I had never heard of Dylan Unsworth until tonight, but the guy has a 2.22 FIP and 0.32 BB/9 as a 20-year-old in Clinton right now. Not exactly tearing it up with the Ks with a 5.95 K/9, but those BB/9 numbers are crazy.

  24. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 6:57 pm

    Morban is interesting. Abe Almonte is interesting right now as well. But I really don’t want to see this team stall any longer. They had a golden opportunity to address the outfield last offseason, as well as the run production, and went the cheap route. Morales is obviously getting it done, but he doesn’t help the outfield and they’ll need to figure out how to keep him around.

    They have to land ML-proven players. Morse really isn’t an outfielder. If they re-sign him, he should DH or play 1B. Even Saunders is still a question mark right now, so this team could be in a lot of trouble next year.

  25. wilchiro on May 31st, 2013 6:58 pm

    You might have to live with Chavez in CF for a few days. If that is what it takes to possibly get Saunders back on track, I’m all for it.

  26. Slats on May 31st, 2013 6:58 pm


  27. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 6:58 pm

    Jesus is having a nice game.

  28. Section329 on May 31st, 2013 6:59 pm

    it’s just so wonderful to not have to watch Montero try to hit or catch. Go Sucre!

  29. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 7:01 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Saunders was sent down when Guti comes off the DL. Whether that’s the right move or not, it buys them time to make a roster move.

  30. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 7:03 pm

    I could see Smoak or Morse going on the 15 day DL too, although that’s obviously short term and doesn’t solve the problem.

    Although that’s probably more likely to happen to give Bonderman a start or two…

  31. californiamariner on May 31st, 2013 7:15 pm

    Iwakuma sure is good. And efficient: fewest pitches per inning in the AL coming into today and today sure hasn’t hurt him in that department.

  32. juneau_fan on May 31st, 2013 7:29 pm

    10 thousandth airing of the Old Spice ad with the Angels. What does handsome smell like?

  33. stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2013 7:31 pm

    Imagine if the A’s had been used for that ad, with Reddick in place of Hamilton.

  34. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 7:37 pm

    That’s the way Nicky… Ball in the middle of the plate, make ’em pay. Nice.

  35. msfanmike on May 31st, 2013 7:37 pm

    The Great Kazoo … rips a single.

  36. californiamariner on May 31st, 2013 7:38 pm

    Franklin sure seems to have a good grasp of what he’s doing up there. Trying to keep my expectations low, but I like him so far!

  37. msfanmike on May 31st, 2013 7:40 pm

    Errrrrr “Gazoo”

  38. zeebfan on May 31st, 2013 7:42 pm

    Handsome smells good.

    CJ is adorable. Get used to it.

    Girls like it.

  39. kimalanus on May 31st, 2013 8:13 pm

    Read this at the end of the game, wilchiro. Yes, to give Saunders a day off, you have Chavez to take center field. BUT all you have for left and right is Bay and Liddi/Ibanez. Not much better choice when Morse is healthy again. Until Guti comes back, Saunders plays….

  40. MrZDevotee on May 31st, 2013 8:40 pm

    I know it’s an incredibly small sample size, and he’ll regress heartily (reverse psychology), but given the other options of what the outcome could be, I’m okay with Nick Franklin having the highest OBP and SLG% on the team in his first week. So much nicer than if he came out of the gates struggling mightily.

    Nice job, Nick. 1 for 2 with 2 walks is a good line any night of the week.

  41. SonOfZavaras on May 31st, 2013 10:28 pm

    I’m really begging for a young player to say “EFF going back to the minors, I want a job HERE!”.

    I hate to admit it, but I’m gathering hope from Nick Franklin thus far.

    He’ll struggle at some point, I’m sure. But please God, let not the struggle last months and months and be a lingering issue season after season.

  42. scraps on May 31st, 2013 10:55 pm

    Well, Seager was too.

    Even Ackley was good at first, too.

    Not saying that Franklin is something that to get excited about; so am I, I admit. Just saying Franklin is not the only.

  43. furlong on June 1st, 2013 7:04 am

    Franklin is doing surprisingly well on defense and no more lollypop throws from Ackley. Might be time to think of moving Ackley to the outfield. In watching the game last night I was very impressed with the center field camera angle, why can’t that be done at Safeco?

  44. scraps on June 1st, 2013 1:20 pm

    Again with the Ackley-to-outfield angle, only now with Ackley-as-bad-second-baseman twist, which makes me think the commenter hasn’t watch Ackley play for the last two years.

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