Game 78, Pirates at Mariners

marc w · June 25, 2013 at 5:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Joe Saunders vs. Jeff Locke, 7:10pm

Matthew mentioned Jeff Locke’s very low BABIP in the series preview, and ID’d Locke as a prime regression candidate. That’s quite true, as it’s difficult to sustain this level of run prevention without a real put-away pitch. Locke’s a rare pitcher who’s achieved better results on his fastball than he has on his curve or change-up. Think about how weird that is – you typically throw your fastball when behind in the count, and batters typically hit really well when they’re ahead. If you’re pitching and you’ve got two strikes on someone, a curve or change doesn’t need to be in the zone, and you might get a stay-alive swing – swings that almost never result in hard contact. But there’s Locke, throwing a 90mph fastball no matter what the count and getting away with it. How?

Locke made a small adjustment that’s paid off thus far. Here are Locke’s “zone%” numbers for his three partial seasons – see if you can spot the outlier:
2011: 52.6%
2012: 53.5%
2013: 40.8%

Here’s the 2013 leaderboard for starters. There’s Locke, second from the bottom in zone%. Why? How can, er, NOT throwing strikes work for a 90mph ground-ballish lefty? I think it’s working, so far, because the magnitude of the change isn’t all that big. In 2012, he went after righties by throwing fastballs at the bottom of the strikezone. So far this season, he’s peppering the area just below the strikezone. I’m not sure if he’s getting more called strikes or hitters still perceive the pitch as coming in within the zone, but he’s getting some o-swings. Not a ton, mind you – his o-swing% is still below average. But if he gets ahead, maybe a pitch that a hitter would’ve laid off earlier in the AB becomes too close to take. Maybe it’s just something the Pirates have learned (the Pirates are an excellent team, and are dead last in MLB in pitches thrown within the strikezone).

This approach seemed to work for Pirates’ reliever Jared Hughes who turned not a ton of stuff into a brilliant 2012 season by throwing an absurd 35.5% of his pitches for strikes, the lowest zone% in baseball. Hughes may have helped the Pirates (and baseball) the lower bound, however. In 2013, Hughes is throwing an absurd 27% of his pitches for strikes, and while he gets more o-swings than Locke does, *twenty-seven percent.* His walks are way up, and his results have been terrible. Still, I appreciate any ballplayer who does something really weird, and I’d submit that this Pirates tendency to throw balls all the time qualifies as weird. They think you’re suckers, M’s! They may be right!

1: Chavez
2: Franklin
3: Seager
4: Morales (DH)
5: Ibanez
6: Bay
7: Smoak
8: Zunino
9: Triunfel
SP: Safeco Joe Saunders

Perhaps fewer eyes than normal will be on this game, due to it being a midweek contest between the M’s and Pirates, but even more than that, today marks Taijuan Walker’s AAA debut. The 20-year old phenom will pitch for Tacoma against the Fresno Grizzlies starting at 7, assuming the weather allows. We had wet weather in the morning, some sun in the early afternoon, and some massive showers in the south sound in the late afternoon. We’ll see.

Even younger phenom Victor Sanchez continues his 2013 season for Clinton today. He’s been sidelined since May 30th, so it’s good to see the 18 year old back on the hill.

Dustin Ackley’s been recalled, and Franklin Gutierrez has been placed on the -sigh-15 day DL.


75 Responses to “Game 78, Pirates at Mariners”

  1. jephdood on June 25th, 2013 9:20 pm

    This would be the perfect game to throw Wilhelmsen into. He can’t hurt anything.

  2. juneau_fan on June 25th, 2013 9:22 pm

    Wilhelmsen needs a clean inning…Yeah, please don’t crap your shorts.

    Of course, could be Papelbon, who’s blown 4 games in 5 or something awful?

  3. Westside guy on June 25th, 2013 9:28 pm

    I’ve wasted WAY too many hours playing Plants vs. Zombies, MrZ.

    I see I haven’t missed much…

  4. Eastside Suds on June 25th, 2013 9:30 pm

    Agreed that Locke looks very ordinary, but a 2.0 ERA is no mirage after 15 starts. The guy is obviously a bulldog. MLB hitters are only hitting .200 against him. That’s not luck. I wish we had him!

  5. MrZDevotee on June 25th, 2013 9:34 pm

    Just finished the bedtime routine… How did Wilhelmssn look? I see he had 3 K’s in his 1 inning…

    And Seager went yard.

  6. Bodhizefa on June 25th, 2013 9:37 pm

    Blowers just said that Carl Willis told him that Carter Capps would be working on his change-up over next winter so he’d have a better arsenal against lefties. Is this how it normally works? Why wouldn’t he work on it now? If he’s not ready to play a role against hitters from both sides of the plate, why is he in the major leagues? Why can’t he develop a change-up in the minors?

    I don’t understand this organization at all. Our development process is decidedly mercurial.

  7. MrZDevotee on June 25th, 2013 9:37 pm

    Capps has suddenly become the master of the low/inside fastball… Which we all know where THOSE end up…

    He’s either up and middle of the plate, or low, inside part of plate– NEITHER are a good place to pitch in the majors for a fastball pitcher.

  8. Bodhizefa on June 25th, 2013 9:38 pm

    MrZ, Wilhelmsen looked pretty darned good. He located his curve extremely well and had great results because of it. He still had a couple of errant fastballs, but he looked light years better than we’ve seen him in the past few weeks. Let’s hope he keeps it up.

  9. MrZDevotee on June 25th, 2013 9:39 pm

    Thanks! I was hopeful the curve was back if he had 3 K’s… Which is why I asked… That’s good news.

  10. Eastside Suds on June 25th, 2013 9:42 pm

    Willy has just been mental. Good decision to get him in this game to see if he can regain some confidence. This staff needs him to be the “BARTENDER” again, not just some bartender.

  11. MrZDevotee on June 25th, 2013 9:50 pm

    I believe that covers BOTH of Capps problem areas… (points to “up and middle” pitch)

  12. nvn8vbryce on June 25th, 2013 9:51 pm

    Are we trying to throw the game or what? Dingers for all!

  13. The_Waco_Kid on June 25th, 2013 9:52 pm

    The score of this game is:
    Seager, Franklin, and Wilhelmson did well
    Zunino and Capps did poorly.

  14. Roscoe on June 25th, 2013 9:54 pm

    Mr Walker had a very nice debut. Six scoreless innings.

  15. Westside guy on June 25th, 2013 9:58 pm

    Maybe we’ll package Walker and Franklin and pick up another veteran.

  16. Eastside Suds on June 25th, 2013 10:00 pm

    So…someone setup the poll this week or next. Who do the M’s move before the trade deadline? Raul…..Morales…..Perez…..Ryan…..Saunders?

  17. Westside guy on June 25th, 2013 10:03 pm

    It would sure make sense to trade Raul given how he’s hitting… but I think Wedge really wants him here, so Jack won’t even consider it.

  18. Westside guy on June 25th, 2013 10:07 pm

    Hey now, Justin Smoak! Greetings and well met!

  19. juneau_fan on June 25th, 2013 10:07 pm

    Nice. Always good when it’s less embarrassing.

  20. nvn8vbryce on June 25th, 2013 10:08 pm


  21. nvn8vbryce on June 25th, 2013 10:10 pm

    Eastside, I would hazard a guess that it would be Wedge and Z gone before the deadline…

  22. Westside guy on June 25th, 2013 10:14 pm

    After 78 games…

    2012 Mariners: 33-45, 312 RS, 337 RA (diff -25)
    2013 Mariners: 34-44, 281 RS, 343 RA (diff -62)

    The WAR arguments do seem supportable when you’re looking at the end results…

  23. Eastside Suds on June 25th, 2013 10:18 pm

    Stop being a tease nvn

  24. nvn8vbryce on June 25th, 2013 10:38 pm

    Tease? I can only hope, right?

  25. bongo on June 26th, 2013 1:49 pm

    Bodhizefa said:

    “I don’t understand this organization at all. Our development process is decidedly mercurial.”

    It’s not mercurial, it is non-existent. Players who show a semblance of out-performing their AAA peers are called up before they’ve developed all the tools they need to survive in MLB. Looking back, Montero, Smoak, Ackley, Capps, Morrow were all brought up prematurely. My bet is we will say the same of Zunino pretty soon. Of the recent promotions, only Franklin looks ready to me.

    After watching Walker in Tacoma last night, I’m scared that they’ll promote him this year. Yes, he has good velocity (95+ fastball) and reasonable control (2 walks vs. 4 Ks) but he needs to work on a changeup and he doesn’t have good enough control of his curveball (though he did get 2 Ks out of it last night).

    What *exactly* is the coaching staff doing in AAA? If they can’t teach Capps (and Walker) how to throw a changeup, why can’t we get someone who can?

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