Game 79, Pirates at Mariners

marc w · June 26, 2013 at 12:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Jeanmar Gomez, 12:40pm

Felix was brilliant against Pittsburgh a few months ago, and now he has the added motivation of trying to atone for his 5 IP 7 R meltdown against the Angels on the 20th. The M’s could use a good outing, as their bullpen’s still in some disarray after Carter Capps struggles, Tom Wilhelmsen’s fall from grace and the fact that the team now relies fairly heavily on Yoervis Medina in high-leverage situations.

Jeanmar Gomez, by fWAR, has been a below-replacement-level pitcher in 2013, with a FIP pushing 5, a lack of strikeouts and a few too many walks. By fielding-dependent measures, however, he’s been a great find – someone who’s solidified the back of the rotation and kept the Pirates in nearly every game he’s started. Like Jeff Locke, he’s throwing a few more balls than he has in previous seasons (when he toiled for Cleveland), and he’s also benefiting from tremendous defense behind him. The question is how these two things work together.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Pirates throw the fewest strikes of any team in baseball. You know what else the Pirates do? They allow – by far – the fewest hits on balls in play. The Pirates defense has been a huge asset to their pitching staff. Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen are outstanding in the OF, but with so many ground-ballers (the Pirates *also* lead the league in GB%), they’ve relied heavily on Clint Barmes and Jordy Mercer at SS/2B, respectively, while Pedro Alvarez has been above average at 3rd. They’ve got solid defenders at key positions, so it’s not like this is ‘lucky’ per se, but their DER and park-adjusted defense numbers are off the charts. Tampa’s 2011 team is the best recent comp for what the Pirates are doing in 2013, but to find a team that was clearly, unambiguously better, you’ve got to go all the way back to the 2001 Mariners.

Clint Barmes and Andrew McCutchen can pick it, but to get to this level of DER while also employing Garret Jones, I wonder if something else is at work. Here’s a plot of where Gomez threw his pitches in 2012. Here’s the same graphic for 2013. Again, the shift is subtle, and the magnitude’s much lower than we saw with Locke, but quite a few pitches in the zone, particularly in the center of the zone, have been shifted to the edges – and actually off the outside edges of the plate. It’s not clear to me if the Pirates are getting more balls in play on out-of-zone pitches, but that would certainly account for a lower BABIP.

Beyond that rather speculative theory, this is another indication that there are many ways to succeed in MLB. The Pirates line-up, even with McCutchen and Marte, own a 95wRC+, pretty close to the M’s 93. The M’s came into the year determined to make a break with their approach of 2009-10, when they had defenders at SS/CF, and occasionally in the corner spots as well. Whatever you think of how those (crappy) M’s teams were put together, the Pirates are another example of a team actually succeeding with a blueprint the M’s helped to popularize and now disown: that assembling a team of great defenders can help your pitching staff outpitch their “true talent” and drive runs allowed way down. Obviously, that’s not the entire story. They’ve outplayed their pythagorean and 3rd order winning percentages thanks to timely hitting and a lock-down bullpen (Jason Grilli is putting together a historical, all-time great sort of season). They’ve got uber-talented, franchise-core types in McCutchen and Marte – two guys who would be the best position players on the M’s if they played for Seattle. But fundamentally, this club is the anti-Mariners – they field the ball, keep it close, and their bullpen’s amazing. They’re getting anti-Mariner results on the scoreboard, too.

1: Chavez
2: Franklin
3: Seager
4: Morales (DH)
5: Ibanez
6: Smoak
7: Saunders
8: Blanco
9: Ryan
SP: King Felix


96 Responses to “Game 79, Pirates at Mariners”

  1. Will Lofton on June 26th, 2013 3:22 pm

    Why can’t we just pitch to Snider? He’s not even good. Goodness gracious, Wedge is dumb.

  2. WTF_Ms on June 26th, 2013 3:23 pm

    Haven’t posted for a while, but the AAA+ bullpen we have is not going to cut it. Not sure if the coaching staff has ever seen a heat chart either.

    On the Smoak topic, he’s AAA+ too, and that’s where we should trade him…to someone ELSE’s AAA team!

  3. Westside guy on June 26th, 2013 3:24 pm

    Mariners Baseball!

  4. pgreyy on June 26th, 2013 3:25 pm


  5. Will Lofton on June 26th, 2013 3:25 pm

    Medina sucks.

  6. WTF_Ms on June 26th, 2013 3:26 pm

    Westy, there are times I wish there was a “Like” button for each comment!

  7. GarForever on June 26th, 2013 3:26 pm

    I guess Wedge confused their shortstop with ours. Theirs can actually hit. I have so had it with that guy.

  8. GarForever on June 26th, 2013 3:27 pm

    But at least he voluntarily put an insurance run on the bases for the other team…with two outs…tomorrow’s an off day…I really hope he’s not our manager come Friday.

  9. Will Lofton on June 26th, 2013 3:29 pm

    We’ll probably have a huge inning, and then Saunders will pop out to center field.

  10. don52656 on June 26th, 2013 3:30 pm

    Wedge loves in the intentional walk, Mariners lead the AL in IBBs issued. It drives me crazy.

  11. HighlightsAt11 on June 26th, 2013 3:30 pm

    Wedgie. Thanks for pulling Felix. You allowed the Pirates into your bedroom and pull a mini-sweep. Hope they took your gold, jewelry and blow-up dolls.

  12. djw on June 26th, 2013 3:31 pm

    I’m not even convinced he can maintain what he’s doing right now.

    I don’t see why not. To his credit, he seems to have legitimately improved his approach at the plate. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have any power.

    ….something wrong with Grilli? I was kind of looking forward to seeing him.

  13. Will Lofton on June 26th, 2013 3:32 pm

    Zunino wasn’t ready. The Root Sports squad can comment about his stellar catching abilities and all, but he waves at pitched in the dirt constantly and swings in bad counts.

    …As he bloops one in to right field.

  14. GarForever on June 26th, 2013 3:33 pm

    I just looked it up: Snider’s slash line against righties is…um….249/.312/.378. Granted that gives him an OPS almost twice as high as his abysmal OPS against lefties. Uhhhh, I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. With one out, sure, maybe, set up the double play.

  15. Will Lofton on June 26th, 2013 3:34 pm

    How did he whiff on that? That’s right down Main Street!

  16. Bremerton guy on June 26th, 2013 3:35 pm


    I’ve bantered about this issue with others on this site, maybe you included, for two or so years. You claim that there is no such thing as a “clutch” hitter, and challenge anyone to provide the statistics to prove that there is. Can you provide statistics to prove there isn’t? i’m not a world class athlete, but I competed some in my younger days, and my job requires me to perform under stressful situations. Simply put, some people are unable to do what I do, even though they’re qualified and very smart. It’s just how people are built — some people perform well under pressure, others don’t. Have you ever heard of “Testing Anxiety”? It’s a real psychological condition. Why wouldn’t the same factors that cause Testing Anxiety contribute to a baseball player’s inability to perform, using the colloquial expression, “in the clutch”?

  17. Will Lofton on June 26th, 2013 3:37 pm


  18. Westside guy on June 26th, 2013 3:38 pm

    Mike’s at the game – I say we blame him for this one.

  19. stevemotivateir on June 26th, 2013 3:38 pm

    I don’t see why not. To his credit, he seems to have legitimately improved his approach at the plate. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t have any power.

    The 1400+ PA’s prior to this season are more telling than the 200 or so he has so far this season. He has looked better, and maybe he has gotten on track to mediocrity, but my expectations aren’t high.

  20. Will Lofton on June 26th, 2013 3:44 pm

    Smoak has not done enough in my eyes to be called the first basemen of the future going forward – but he hasn’t been horrible this year, and the team has other areas it needs to adjust.

    We should be looking at something along these lines this offseason:

    C – Mike Zunino
    1B –
    2B – Nick Franklin
    3B – Kyle Seager
    SS – Brad Miller
    LF –
    CF –
    RF –

    You hope that Ackley and Saunders can step up and take two of the outfield spots, but I want to see Ackley’s new approach in major league action. Plus, I think Saunders is more of a very solid fourth outfielder going forward.

  21. HighlightsAt11 on June 26th, 2013 3:47 pm

    Seager or Chavez were not clutch hitters today.

    A day off to lick the wounds.

    A part of me hopes the Cubs come in and sweep the M’s. If that wouldn’t force some major changes in the front office/managerial staff I don’t know what will.

  22. mossi on June 26th, 2013 3:56 pm

    djw- certainly not a psychologist, but sometimes it seems that Mariners’ fans are not the only contingent who could use a support group. Perhaps this is the wrong forum to suggest intangible issues which affect a player’s disposition/performance. But what else is there to talk about today? All i see is another (wasted) solidly-pitched game by Felix. But i guess you’re right. It’s not an issue any one here can answer. Perhaps it will never affect him. I just wanted to bring this up because while many are fearing that Ibanez is re-signed, my fear is that eventually the motivation will be harder to summon for a king with a very limited army. Obviously, since no one else is bringing this up or replying besides you, nobody is really too concerned with the future of the King, (as in “He’s the last thing we need to worry about”) and i see that this is the wrong place to throw conjecture around about players’ emotional make-up. But it must be frustrating for him. I guess “that’s Mariner baseball” sums it up best, thanks.

  23. Westside guy on June 26th, 2013 4:06 pm

    Hi Mossi,

    I would’ve thought that, if Felix were prone to such despondent thoughts, he would have had enough long before he signed the new contract! So I’m going to believe that, with regards to Felix, there is one thing that’s right and good in the Mariners organization.

    Someday maybe we’ll be lucky enough to have TWO good things in the org…

  24. djw on June 26th, 2013 4:09 pm

    Can you provide statistics to prove there isn’t?

    Bremerton Guy,

    Dick Cramer, to my knowledge, was the first to show that success at clutch hitting varied from year to year at rate you’d expect something randomly to be distributed back in the 70’s. The basic approach he used–regressions to see if there is a relationship between past and future “clutchiness”–have pretty consistently shown no relationship, except for a few studies, including Elias’s initial foray into this area, that defined their parameters in ways that created unreliably tiny samples. I’m away from home for the summer so I don’t have access to my baseball library, but there’s good stuff in baseball between the numbers and some hardball annuals, IIRC (as well as one of James’s abstracts). The best evidence for clutchiness is the Tango/Lichtman/Dolphin study in The Book, but the findings there are pretty thin.

    This article is a good historical overview of
    research on the question:

    But really, the burden of proof lies with the affirmative claim. I can’t prove ghosts don’t exist, and lots of people believe in them, too. I shouldn’t say with such certainty that clutch hitters “don’t” exist. The T/L/D stuff is weak, but it’s enough to reasonably keep the possibility alive. At best, we can say we don’t know if clutch hitters exist or not, and on balance current evidence offers more support for the “clutch hitting isn’t a skill that varies meaningfully” than the opposite hypothesis.

    I absolutely believe, as you do, that performing under pressure is a skill possessed to varying degrees by human beings. But we shouldn’t infer from that general observation that it’s a skill that varies meaningfully amongst a very small and specialized population. My personal suspicion is that those who really can’t handle pressure very rarely make it as far as the major leagues.

  25. jephdood on June 26th, 2013 4:38 pm

    “A day off to lick the wounds.”

    Uh.. is it any use to lick a gaping festering puss-oozing gangrenous gash?

    This team needs an amputation. Make that SEVERAL amputations.

  26. nvn8vbryce on June 26th, 2013 4:55 pm

    Jephdood, I think we’ve already had an amputation from the neck-up, considering the acephalous-ness of our current team…

  27. jephdood on June 26th, 2013 4:59 pm

    Nah, the head’s still there. It’s just a lobotomized lump.

  28. jephdood on June 26th, 2013 5:09 pm

    Moves that need to happen SOON, IMO (ignoring front office personnel for the moment):

    1. DFA/trade (snicker) Brendan Ryan. Call up Miller.

    2. DFA/trade (snicker) Joe Saunders. Call up Erasmo.

    3. Send Michael Saunders back to AAA (assuming he has options).

    4. Play Zunino more, Blanco less. Felix, get used to it.

    5. Make a play now to give Morales a 2-3 year deal. If their side won’t play, see what you can get for him.

  29. Bremerton guy on June 26th, 2013 5:18 pm


    Thanks, that was a very thoughtful and reasoned response to my comment. I will check out the literature. The opportunities for ballplayers to truly come through in the clutch are so limited that it’s likely that any statistical survey of the issue would be suspect for SSS, I would think. I do generally agree with you that those suffering from performance anxiety would tend to fall by the wayside on their way up to the big leagues, but baseball history is replete with flaky characters, so I don’t think that one could completely dismiss the possibility that someone afflicted could make it there. Steve Blass, although not a flake, probably suffered from performance anxiety, although it manifested long after his big league career was underway. I’m sure there are others.

  30. lalo on June 26th, 2013 5:50 pm

    C – Mike Zunino / Jose Molina
    1B – Morales / Montero
    2B – Nick Franklin
    3B – Kyle Seager
    SS – Brad Miller
    LF – Ackley
    CF – Can we trade for Peter Bourjos? I´d give up
    Brandon Maurer and Stephen Pryor in exchange…
    RF – Nelson Cruz?
    DH – Montero vs leties / Ibanez vs righties? /

    Saunders 4th outfielder
    Ryan, utility
    They could sign Chris Young too, maybe Cruz gets hurt and he can hit lefties too.

    Vs RH pitching


    Vs LH pitching


    Obviously, based on performance, Montero and Ackley could make a lot of appearances, not only vs lefties or righties…

  31. stevemotivateir on June 26th, 2013 6:53 pm

    Where’s all this crazy rosterbating coming from?! I know weed is now legal in Washington State, but damn!

  32. eponymous coward on June 26th, 2013 7:45 pm

    There isn’t a lot more exciting to talk about than rosterbation.

  33. scraps on June 26th, 2013 7:54 pm

    Bremerton guy: My response to the Testing Anxiety argument is simply, major league players have gone through testing many, many times, and by the time they’ve reached the major leagues, testing anxiety cases have been long since left by the wayside.

  34. stevemotivateir on June 26th, 2013 7:57 pm


    Keyword: Crazy.

  35. scraps on June 26th, 2013 8:02 pm

    And yes, Steve Blass was an arguable case (and Steve Sax, Rick Ankiel, etc). I think they’re rare; the condition of the major league player is supreme confidence.

  36. Bremerton guy on June 26th, 2013 8:14 pm


    I think we’re saying the same thing.

  37. pgreyy on June 26th, 2013 10:54 pm

    Post-game interview highlights from Wedge. He basically says that we’ve got to start hitting. He’s sick and tired of talking about approach and process, he’s sick and tired of breaking things down and then breaking them down again…we’ve just got to hit and we’ve got no excuse for not hitting.

    OK. When a manager has no clue how to make things better…he’s done.

    When a manager says that, in general, the team isn’t performing…then he’s putting the blame on those who put the roster together. (Shame that this roster stinks of Eric Wedge.)

    This is a lost season. Does it make any sense to cut Wedge free now? It won’t change anything and no one that we’re really thinking about to replace him should take on the lame duck duties. How much harm can Wedge do by sitting in the seat and manning the press conferences until the end of the year?

  38. scraps on June 27th, 2013 12:29 am

    Wedge probably senses that his major league managing career is very close to the end. (Maybe sometime he’ll get a interim job.)

  39. scraps on June 27th, 2013 12:38 am

    Bremerton guy: Right, I read the dialogue between you and djw after leaving my comment; I only initially read your first comment (the Testing Anxiety one). Sorry about that.

  40. MrZDevotee on June 27th, 2013 9:04 am

    I agree. Arguing his virtues as a manager aside, the way he’s representing his roster at the moment is detrimental to the team. I don’t expect him to hold the players’ hands, and coddle them, but he’s basically drawing a line in the sand and pointing over it saying “they suck, and it’s not my fault”.

    He’s throwing the whole team under the bus. He doesn’t recognize the abilities (or lack) of his roster and he’s asking them to do something they are incapable of doing– being a winning/contending team. Instead of recognizing which players need help in which parts of the game, and putting them in the best positions to succeed.

    That’s actually where he seems to fail the most in my eyes– recognizing the particular gifts of his players and putting them in the best position to make use of those talents. Instead he approaches the game as “this is what needs to be done, and uh… YOU… It’s YOUR turn to try…”

    Weird analogy coming, but sort of the difference between traditional learning (largely ineffective, except for kids who ALREADY are exceptional learners) and Montessori teaching (highly effective)… ie, Lecturing and expecting widespread absorption of the material, or fostering and supporting the intellectual interests of the child, and pursuing those talents/interests to fruition.

    Wedge’s managing technique:
    “I told you what you need to do, why didn’t you do it?”

    Rather than having a plan, knowing “these are the types of skillsets we need to have at our disposal” and building the roster with the guys who already possess those abilities. A somewhat deeper assessement than “here’s some guys who swing hard… here’s some scrawny guys with lots of heart… what about reclamation project pitchers!? Yay, reclamation pitchers!”

    I know he doesn’t personally acquire the talent, but BEST CASE scenario with Wedge, giving him the benefit of the doubt (for no apparent reason), his being ineffective at communicating what he needs on the roster is just as problematic in a GM/Manager relationship as not even knowing what he needs.


  41. scraps on June 27th, 2013 10:10 am


  42. casey on June 27th, 2013 10:25 am

    I wonder how much a role Wedge has had in acquiring the talent. There seems to be a lot of players that fit his gritty hard work veteran mindset and always wonder how much roster makeup is given to him (here’s Montero / Ackley now play him and make it work) and how much he says this is the kind of roster I need – go get them for me.

  43. casey on June 27th, 2013 10:33 am

    I can imagine Wedge saying something like “you want me to bench Endy – been one of our best hitters – know he doesn’t hit the homers but bench one of our best bats and a great rightfielder to boot for Ackley – kid has never played outfield and has scuffled to hit .200. We’re adding yet another Zunino kid bat to lineup that already won’t hit…you are killing me”

  44. GarForever on June 27th, 2013 11:03 am

    I’m mostly kidding here, but it’s been a long time since the bigs had a player-manager, and we all hear what a great leader Ibanez is. I mean, after all, fuck it: it would at least make the Mariners more interesting to watch, if only because it’d be an interesting spectacle 🙂

  45. Eastside Suds on June 27th, 2013 11:59 am

    The “blame” lands squarely on both Z and Wedge. They knew what we had to work with before the free agency period. The goal of this year (please correct me if I am wrong) was to bring the young kids along and provide some “gritty” veterans to act as role models while adding some “POP’ to the offensive lineup. This failed miserably as many here saw coming back in December.

    Morales is obviously a good get. Bottom line is this guy is a professional hitter and our best clutch guy hands down. Z gets a big thumbs up for this one. Wedge gets no credit here as this is a no brainer to play him every day in the middle of this lineup.

    Ibanez has been better than advertised offensively, so let’s give Z some credit here. However, Wedge has poorly utilized him as a DH/1B/OF. This is all Wedge and he must take the fall for this. His continued love affair with an arguably maxed out Justin Smoak has a great deal to do with his lineup decisions regarding Raul.

    Endy Chavez was an invited TC opportunity which he took full advantage of mixed with serendipity. Z gets a pass, but no college credit for this one. Just good fortune. However, Endy is getting way more playing time playing for this offensively challenged team than he would almost anywhere else. Wedge has played him out of necessity due to slumps/injuries.

    Oliver Perez was a good pickup and has competed well in his roll. Z gets a thumbs up here. Wedge gets a C for not going to him quicker when the Bartender started to struggle.

    Morse (no…its not Morris Mr. Blowers), Bay, Andino, Shoppach, Blanco, Harang, and Joe Saunders have all been busts. Basically this is a AAA rehab team. Z gets a Fail. Wedge has been dealt this over-the-hill gang, so I give him a pass.

    The rest are just over-zealous, pie-in-the-sky wishing’s. Michael Saunders, Smoak (again and again), Ackley, Montero, Ryan, Maurer, Beavan, Zunino and Capps have all under-performed with varied degrees. Some due to necessity to call up early and some because they just aren’t very good “yet”. I totally blame Wedge for his lack of professional assessment on these kids (except Ryan). His continued support for Smoak is laughable now, especially when anyone is on base when he comes to the plate.

    I think it’s a foregone conclusion that “Zurwedgek” will finish out the year given the lack of concern the ownership has shown in recent years. Let’s hope for a total direction change in October. It’s just too painful to watch.

  46. pgreyy on June 27th, 2013 2:25 pm

    And in total randomness, today on ESPN’s “Around the Horn” Kevin Blackistone reacted to the Blue Jays sending Munenori Kawasaki down to the minors (after the return from injury of Jose Reyes) by saying “If they want to keep him around for morale, they can make him a mascot.”

    We know, KB. We know.

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