Game 87, Mariners at Reds
Jeremy Bonderman vs. Mat Latos,
4:10pm uh make that 1:10pm pacific
It’s been raining like crazy all morning in Cincinnati, but it may hold off long enough to get the game in. If they play, the M’s face right-hander Mat Latos, the ex-Padre who was solid in his first year in Cinci (and Great American Ballpark) in 2012, and is enjoying an even better 2013 season.
In spacious Petco Park, Latos used a good, hard four-seam fastball along with a blizzard of sliders. He mixed in the occasional change and curve, and also threw a sinker occasionally, but his bread and butter was a mid-90s four seamer with essentially zero horizontal movement. Since moving to the not-so-spacious GABP, he’s thrown quite a few more sinkers instead, and now the four-seamer is reserved mostly for RHBs. Latos’ fastball is really somewhat strange, as his extreme over-the-top delivery gives it slight arm-side movement. 99.9% of pitchers have glove-side run on their fastballs – more on sinkers, less on four-seamers – and that’s why pitches like cutters can be effective. Similar velocity but an opposite break is a good way to confuse hitters. Latos’ fastball has about 1″ of horizontal movement *away* from righties, which looks an awful lot like the 2″-3″ of horizontal movement his slider gets. The trade-off is that his over-the-top, old-school pitching machine delivery generates a lot of “rise,” or vertical movement – this can minimize platoon splits and occasionally generate more whiffs. His release point is essentially directly in the center of the plate, and well above 7′ – it’d be interesting to see if this straight-line-from-the-rubber-to-the-plate approach gets him more called strikes, as umpires don’t have to guess where a pitch coming in from the right or left side crossed the plate.*
Latos’ change-up isn’t a great pitch, so he uses a fair number of sliders to lefties as well. That’s part of the reason why, despite his over-the-top fastball, he’s always had normal platoon splits. His FB’s generated good results against lefties, but his sinker and change have not. He’s given up 5 HRs to lefties this year, all on the the sinker and change. Thanks to his slider, he’s been a very effective pitcher against lefties, with about 21% Ks since moving to Cincinnati, and a good walk rate. Like Mike Leake, a portion of his success this year is due to incremenetal improvement in his K:BB and a big improvement in the ever-volatile HR/FB rate, but Latos is legit: he’s got a BABIP over .300 and a FIP under 3, pitching is a tough park. The M’s have a challenge today, and they’ll be without Nick Franklin, who bunted a ball off of his knee in yesterday’s game and looked like he was moving in pain the rest of the game. Brad Miller slides to 2B and Brendan Ryan starts at SS.
1: Miller, 2B
2: Chavez, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Saunders, LF
6: Zunino, C
7: Ackley, CF
8: Ryan, SS
Didn’t end up making a separate post about it, so I should mention that the big international signing day, July 2nd, recently passed, and the M’s have signed a couple of Latin American prospects. Baseball America ranked OF/IF Greifer Andrade the #21 prospect eligible to sign this year, and the M’s signed the Venezuelan last week. The M’s also nabbed Dominican catcher Onil Pena for just under $400,000. Just as with the amateur draft, each team has a bonus pool – the amount they can spend to sign players, with fairly severe penalties for exceeding it. This year, the bonus pools are based in part on a team’s record in the previous year, so the Astros had a lot to spend and the Nats/Yanks having quite a bit less. In a new twist, the Collective Bargaining Agreement assigns values to slots within a team’s bonus pool (more like the draft) as opposed to an undifferentiated mass of money – and, importantly, allows teams to trade those slots. The Cubs made the first trade for international bonus space when they sent Scott Feldman to Baltimore for Pedro Strop and Jake Arrieta. The cash coming to Chicago allowed them to get the top two international free agents available, OF Eloy Jimenez and SS Gleyber Torres. If you’re interested in the international market, you’re probably already reading Ben Badler’s coverage at BA -it’s outstanding. And don’t miss Dave’s post at Fangraphs on the precedent-setting Feldman deal.
Erasmo Ramirez got the win last night for Tacoma, but had one of his worst outings of the year in doing so. The Nicaraguan walked 6 in 5 1/3 IP, gave up 7 hits and lot of loud contact, and struck out 4. He left having surrendered 2 R, and that moved to 3 when Bobby LaFromboise gave up a HR to the first batter he faced. His command was off the whole night, and he looked like he didn’t trust his change-up, going with the breaking ball instead even to lefty hitters. Oh well. Brandon Maurer starts tonight for Tacoma at Salt Lake.
* This theory is hurt by Felix Hernandez’s history. Felix also throws a straight four-seam FB with very little horizontal movement, and he’s famously one of the most victimized pitchers out there – he gets an inordinate number of called balls on pitches located within the pitch fx strike zone. Some of that has to do with the crew of catchers the M’s have employed, and some of it has to do with his darting, devilish change-up and sinker.