Game 83, Mariners at Rangers
Joe Saunders vs. Justin Grimm, 5:05pm
So Joe Saunders last start, at home no less, could’ve gone better. Now he gets to pitch in Arlington, and while the Rangers aren’t a great hitting team (as you saw in Matthew’s series preview), they did knock Saunders around for 7 runs in less than five innings earlier this year. The Rangers have fared better against lefty starters this year, and the game time temperature will be in the mid-high 80s. On paper, it’s not a great match-up, and Saunders may sneak a glance at Rainiers box scores these days, with Erasmo Ramirez, Danny Hultzen and Brandon Maurer all a phone call away from taking his job.
Justin Grimm was a great story in April/May, with solid results and a great K:BB ratio, but he’s been knocked around in June. Of course, those of you with a good memory may point out that he faced the Mariners three times early on, compiling a 16:4 K:BB ratio in 16 1/3 innings, and then you notice that he’s faced Toronto, Boston, New York and Oakland in June and that’ll spare you the need to craft a narrative about how he’s “tiring” or “not used to the grind” of MLB. As you may recall, he throws a straight, 91-93mph fastball, a sinker, a change-up and a curve ball. Lefties have feasted on his sub-par change, while righties have enjoyed Grimm’s fastball (they’re slugging .613 on it), so Grimm’s not shown much in the way of platoon splits so far. His curveball’s been good, but he doesn’t throw it much when he’s behind in the count.
Grimm’s biggest problem this year has been sequencing. Like most pitchers, Grimm’s walk rate rises a bit with runners in scoring position. Pitchers often pitch around great hitters, and essentially trade OBP for power with men on base. With no one on, pitchers generally challenge hitters more, as a poor outcome doesn’t hurt them as much. Grimm’s got the slightly higher walk rate part of the equation down, but he appears confused about slugging with men on. With no one on, batters are slugging .436 off of him. With men on, that moves up to .526, and with RISP, it’s way up to .645. The samples here are absolutely miniscule, so this is more of a curiosity than anything. It’s tempting to point to problems pitching from the stretch as driving splits like these, but there have been too many cases (Brandon Morrow for one) where a pitcher has terrible men-on-base splits for 3, 4 years and then shuts down batters with men on for a year or two. It may not last, but the M’s should get a few runners on just to see what happens. If the M’s are lucky, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux has made these splits a point of emphasis, berating Grimm in front of his teammates for his lack of “guts” and for letting his team down, and Grimm can think of nothing else, his hands trembling in fear as he looks in for the catcher’s sign, each “you suck” from the crowd coming through loud and clear, and is the batboy laughing at me?, and the umpire’s been squeezing me the whole game.
4: Morales (DH)
7: Ackley (CF)
SP: Joe Saunders
Good to see Ackley’s injury a few days ago wasn’t serious. While it looked initially like a severe wrist sprain, it was actually his thumb, and while it’ll be wrapped tonight, he’s obviously able to play.
So Taijuan Walker’s pretty good. Another AAA start, another win, and still no runs scored off the young righty. Like most people, I think it’d be good for him to get plenty of work in at AAA and see if he can improve the consistency of his cutter and curve. Like most people, I won’t mind too much if Walker makes a really strong case for an accelerated timeline, though. Danny Hultzen pitches tonight in Tacoma vs. Colorado Springs if you’d like to get out to a ballgame locally. Everett’s in Vancouver, for those up north.