Game 64, Yankees at Mariners
King Felix vs. David Phelps, 1:10pm
The M’s try to salvage a split of this four-game set today behind their ace, Felix Hernandez. Another punchless home loss that blended in with so many others can be frustrating, but hopefully we’re reaching the point where we can stop talking about mitigating circumstances, splits and all the rest of it. At this point in the season, the M’s have (more or less) no splits. Against lefties, they’ve put up a .688 OPS. Vs. righties, it’s, uh, .688. At home, they’ve put up a .690 OPS, which is a far cry from the .686 OPS they’ve managed on the road. The M’s have changed the stadium, and I’ve grudgingly come around to the logic of that, and they’ve attempted to change the nature of *how* they put up that OPS, by bringing in guys like Morse to take aim at the new, closer fences. And let’s be clear: it’s worked, to some degree. The M’s are no longer historically inept batsmen. But neither are they playoff-caliber. There was no quick fix here. I’m not suggesting that the front office, or maybe even the fans, thought that a couple of mid-tier moves and an outfield alignment tweak would radically alter the team’s production, but it’s actually nice that we can talk about the hitters and who may replace them and not home/road splits, ‘confidence’, marine layers and meteorology.
Today the M’s take on David Phelps, a 26-year old righty who’s come through the Yankees system after they drafted him out of Notre Dame. His strikeout rate’s risen as he moved up, and he’s now got a 23.5% K rate over the course of 156 major league innings – good for a K/9 near 9. Impressive for anyone, but especially for someone with a fastball in the 89-91 range. It gets tougher and tougher to understand the further you drill down. Does he get batters to chase? Well, no – his o-swing rate is awful, at under 23% this year. Does he get batters to swing through a good change-up or curve? No, batters make contact at better-than-average rates, and Phelps’ swinging strike rate is about as bad as his o-swing rate. His vertical movement’s quite high, so I’d be tempted to say he gets Jered Weaver-ish swingthroughs on his fastball, but that would show up in swinging strikes. He’s got a good curve ball, and curves often get called-strikes, but nothing looks exceptional there. Sure, he’s pitched in relief a bit and that’s making his K% look better than it otherwise would be, but the K% just in the rotation is over 20%. I’m not really sure what’s going on, other than that Phelps gets whiffs with two strikes.
Against righties, he throws a four-seamer, a sinker, and cutter and curve. To lefties, he relies mostly on the sinker and adds a change-up to his breaking ball offerings. The curve’s generated the best results, but the change isn’t a bad pitch, as it’s helped him avoid platoon splits.
1: Bay, RF
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Shoppach, C
7: Saunders, CF
8: Liddi, 1B
9: Ryan, SS
SP: King Felix
Something of an odd line-up as Morales is still a bit sore from his injury running out a grounder the other day, and Morse needing another day off to rest his quadricep. That’s pushed Franklin to the 2 spot, and it’s also given Alex Liddi a start at 1B against a righty.
Good news on the farm last night, as Erasmo Ramirez went seven shutout innings with seven Ks to just one walk against Las Vegas; Tacoma won 11-0. The Rainiers finish their 4-game set with Vegas today at 1:30, with Brandon Maurer on the hill. It’s mid-june, and the team has Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman in the rotation, but at last some of the pitching depth I thought they’d have is showing up. Erasmo Ramirez, when healthy, is easily the team’s third-best starter, and hopefully he can move up to Seattle in the next few weeks.
The M’s traded Vinnie Catricala to Oakland for a PTBNL yesterday; the M’s had DFAd Catricala a week ago. Catricala was once the darling of the M’s system, having gone from 10th-round pick to top-ten prospect after laying waste to the minors, and putting up video game numbers in AA Jackson. But he never got going in Tacoma last year, and looked a lot more like the 2012 Catricala in Jackson this season than the 2011 Catricala who Southern League pitchers couldn’t figure out. Can’t really remember the last hitting prospect to progress that far, and then fall so suddenly. Alex Liddi was a better 3B defender, and Stefen Romero hasn’t suffered a PCL swoon, so Catricala didn’t really have a place in the org anyway, but hopefully he gets things figured out and has fun playing again in his home town (if the A’s send him to Sacramento).