Game 86, Mariners at Reds

marc w · July 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Aaron Harang vs. Mike Leake, 4:10pm

Aaron Harang was once a near-elite pitcher for Cininnati, averaging nearly 5 fWAR per year in his three-season peak from 2005-07, but a combination of health and aging has left that peak an isolated, sort of bizarre outlier in a journeman-type career. He topped 2 WAR only once outside of those three years, and while he hasn’t exactly been awful, his status as the cream of the DFA crop is sort of understandable at this point. It’s the sort of precipitous drop that cries out for an explanation – why did a guy throwing 230IP per year and averaging about 5 WAR suddenly turn into a 1-2 WAR #5 starter? Harang himself points to a four-inning relief appearance midway through his 2008 campaign as the major turning point. Indeed, he’d been pitching decently through late May ’08 when he pitched the 9th-12th in a game against San Diego, but he faded badly the rest of the season, struggling with a HR problem that became an unwanted calling card for him.

Cininnati’s Great American Ballpark is a great hitter’s park, with insane HR factors according to Statcorner (look at the RHB factor!), but the fly-balling Harang had fought his home park to a draw during his peak. In only one season though (2006) did he post really noticeable home/road power splits. Even after his homer problem started in earnest in late May of 2008, it wasn’t something linked to GABC – he gave them up everywhere. His opponent today, Mike Leake, stands in stark contrast to Harang’s ecumenical spirit.

Leake’s got a great ERA this year, and as Eno Sarris noted, it’s not that he’s been incredibly lucky. He’s running a normal-ish BABIP, and while his K% and BB% are very close to career averages, they’re both slightly improved. The big difference is in his HR rate. Even though he’s a slight ground ball pitcher, Leake’s struggled with HRs in the past – his HR/9IP is far and away a career best, and is actually half what it was in 2012. Not surprisingly perhaps, his home park isn’t driving that change. He’s still giving up homers at home, but his road HR/FB and HRs allowed have fallen dramatically.

Is it sustainable? I’d tend to doubt it, but that’s sort of the sabermetric stock answer, isn’t it? Scott Weber and Sarris both note that he’s got a slightly different pitch mix this year, using more change-ups/curves and less sliders. That’s a possible driver of an improved HR rate, but there are two problems there. First, a chunk of the difference probably’s due to the batters he’s faced. In 2011, he faced more right-handers than left-handers (362-331), so it’s not surprising that he threw more sliders overall. This year, he’s facing more left-handed hitters (222-200), and so it makes sense he’d throw fewer sliders and more changes. That doesn’t explain 2012, but maybe he’s a slow learner. Second, it would help the theory if his slider was a particularly bad pitch for HRs – it’s not. He’s given up HRs on 3.8% of at-bats ending with a slider and 4.9% of at-bats ending on a change (again, this makes total sense when you remember what hand the batters in these ABs presumably hit with), and 3.7% of at-bats ending with a curve. That plus his fairly normal HR/FB at home lead me to think that his true-talent HR rate is pretty much where it’s always been – his command is still excellent, but when he makes a mistake, hitters have been able to punish him.

Interesting line-up today:
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Morales, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Saunders, rF
8: Ackley, CF
9/SP: Harang

The M’s get an extra lefty bat with Saunders in right in lieu of Bay, I suppose. It also helps the M’s rest the aging, Yuni-destroyed legs of Endy Chavez, which is among the many things I never thought I’d be writing this season.

I mentioned Scott’s article above, which reminded me: Scott Weber, Patrick Dubuque et al have been doing great work at Lookout Landing of late. Completely different place than it was when Jeff/Matthew ran it, which is to be expected, but good stuff.

Good day in the minor league system with Erasmo Ramirez making a start in Salt Lake, Victor Sanchez pitching at home for Clinton, and Thyago Vieira pitching for Everett.

Go M’s


67 Responses to “Game 86, Mariners at Reds”

  1. Westside guy on July 5th, 2013 6:36 pm

    Actually I guess BR and FanGraphs should mostly agree in terms of their respective WAR calculations now.

    I don’t know how to find base running WAR, but that supposedly brings his total down a little more (although if you’re hitting tons of dingers, those trots around the bases aren’t going to hurt you!). In any case, FanGraphs has his total WAR now at 0.9 – his June has been unreal offensively.

  2. Westside guy on July 5th, 2013 6:39 pm


  3. Longgeorge1 on July 5th, 2013 6:43 pm

    gopilots70 – I actually am a fan of Billy (Martin) ball so I don’t disagree it is just that Wedge might have been thinking 5 runs might not be enough with our bullpen. I am not real big on Wedge either but it is awful easy to manage after the fact. Also the bunt play could have gone bad too. (These are the M’s)

  4. Westside guy on July 5th, 2013 6:46 pm

    Another dinger would be nice, Mikey.

  5. Longgeorge1 on July 5th, 2013 6:51 pm

    Perez this is interesting

  6. Longgeorge1 on July 5th, 2013 6:53 pm

    Down goes Frazier!

  7. G-Man on July 5th, 2013 6:53 pm

    Oliver Perez!

  8. msfanmike on July 5th, 2013 6:55 pm


  9. Slats on July 5th, 2013 6:55 pm


  10. Westside guy on July 5th, 2013 6:56 pm


  11. gopilots70 on July 5th, 2013 6:56 pm

    Awesome Oliver!! Nice win!

  12. naviomelo on July 5th, 2013 6:59 pm

    Sweet win. Bunting with a man on 1st and 0 out increases the probability of scoring at all, but decreases the number of expected runs scored. It’s a good strategy if you’re playing for one run. Which, with a 4-2 lead, is a debatable goal.

  13. gopilots70 on July 5th, 2013 7:00 pm


    I agree about the lack of confidence in the bullpen! And yes a successful bunt is not guaranteed.

    I would like to think I am not hindsighting because I was screaming at the TV (laptop actually) for Wedge to bunt Chavez both yesterday and today.

    Great win for the young up and comers today!!!…Miller, Franklin, Saunders (still hoping)

  14. Will on July 5th, 2013 7:01 pm

    Oliver Perez FIP for this game: -2.93

  15. naviomelo on July 5th, 2013 7:03 pm

    And…apparently not. That’ll teach me for posting before checking. Apparently it only works for going from a man on 2nd with 0 out to a man on 3rd with 1 out.

  16. gopilots70 on July 5th, 2013 7:06 pm


    Thank for that info on the bunting probabilities.

    My side of the debate is that in the seventh inning, up by two, with your number nine slot up (good hitters coming up in theory), and a good bunter and a low OBP guy up, good speed at first. You definitely bunt there.

    Great win!!

  17. sawsatch on July 5th, 2013 9:29 pm

    It takes a lot for me to give up an out.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.