Game 90, Red Sox at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Allen Webster, 7:10pm
Allen Webster was the major prospect moving from the Dodgers to the Red Sox in the blockbuster trade a year ago involving Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez. Rated as Boston’s #4 prospect heading into 2013, the righty has a mid-90s fastball and can touch 97-98, along with a slider, a curve and a change-up. Unlike, say, Brandon Maurer, Webster uses his change-up a ton, and will throw it to righties and lefties alike. In the minors, he was rumored to have a great breaking ball while the change was a work in progress, but in his very brief MLB career, he’s thrown a ton of changes, and it’s worked reasonably well. Given that, you’d assume he’d have even platoon splits. Unfortunately, like, say, Brandon Maurer, Webster’s been annihilated by lefty bats. Again, he hasn’t faced many batters in total, so splits just drive down the sample further, but the same was true of Maurer. In 56 plate appearances against southpaws, Webster’s yielded 18 hits, including five HRs, another five walks against only seven strikeouts. When your walk rate is creeping up on your home run rate, that’s a problem.
He’s got a three-quarter delivery, and his release point’s 2 – 2.5 feet towards third base, so lefties get a long look at the ball, but it’s by no means extreme – his delivery itself doesn’t scream “platoon splits” the way Carter Capps’ does. And the change-up really has been effective, even to lefties – he hasn’t racked up a lot of K’s despite using it a ton in two-strike counts, but he hasn’t been hit hard either. Instead, the problem’s been his fastball. Looking at his overall minor league splits, you may not have seen the splits problem coming. They’re completely unremarkable, the way Maurer’s were. It’s notable that his walk rate was always higher vs. lefties, and more telling in hindsight that his splits deteriorated in AAA. But this would be something cool to study – are there shared characteristics of pitchers without much of a history of splits vs. lower level hitters who get blasted by opposite-handed hitters in the bigs? And, would you be able to detect which samples of 50-100 batters were “real” and which were small sample weirdness?
The M’s are trotting out a lefty-heavy line-up more out of necessity than choice, but that’s fine – they’re in a good position to take another series against another good ballclub, and I’ll take that given how many losses we’ve been subjected to.
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Saunders, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Ackley, CF
SP: All-Star Iwakuma
I mentioned Gohara, Paxton and Pike in yesterday’s preview, and they each pitched well. James Paxton threw his first professional shut-out, a five-hit, four-K CG gem in Tucson. Gohara went 5 shutout innings himself, giving up three hits, no walks and striking out *nine*. Pike’s outing was clearly a step behind the other two, which is saying something, as Pike went 5 IP with only an unearned run scoring. He walked four though, against five punchouts.
It’s not exactly a shock, but the Rainiers have placed Danny Hultzen on the DL again after he “couldn’t get loose” before his last start. Hopefully, he won’t miss as much time as he did the first time this happened, but the M’s have to be thinking about just shutting him down and trying again in winter ball or even next spring.