Game 91, Red Sox at Mariners
Aaron Harang vs. Felix Doubront, 7:10pm
For all the talk of the M’s rotten luck – injuries to Morse, Morales, Hultzen, Erasmo, the abysmal hitting of Ryan/Andino/Ackley, etc. – it’s worth remembering how much has gone *right* for this team. I feel like we, or baseball in general, isn’t paying enough attention to just how bonkers Raul Ibanez’s season has been, and what it would look like if he didn’t stumble his way to a 43 wRC+ plus atrocious defense through April. The fact that his season numbers look great – and they do – is astonishing given how little time he’s had to essentially make up for a lost month.
Dave hits on the other pleasant surprise of the year so far with his Brad Miller post below. Miller’s (tiny sample) success on defense has logical explanations, and we talked about them before his debut, but the fact is that he could’ve come up and booted enough balls that Wedge would feel compelled to bring back Ryan. In Miller and Franklin, the M’s had two competent defenders with a penchant for missing easy chances, and they’ve both come up to Seattle and improved defensively. One could quibble with these improvements being talked about in the context of “good luck” but it’s certainly something that could’ve gone wrong and didn’t.
The M’s have had good luck and bad, and they’re in 4th place, 10 games under .500. I’m not going to lie and say that the past month or so hasn’t been encouraging, or that scoring 19 runs in two games against Boston hasn’t been fun. It’s exciting to see the outlines of the 2014 team coming together, and how the M’s shopping list has shifted from “good luck” positions like SS/C to places where they may be able to comparison shop (COF). But the team’s still *4th* and the gap between them and Oakland/Texas looks somewhat daunting, despite Texas’ even-worse luck and Oakland not having household names. Things can change in a hurry, though, and you can envision a much better pitching staff for ’14, but the M’s have quite a hill to climb.
Felix Doubront is a lefty with a 91mph fastball and a fairly standard array of pitches: change, slider, curve. He’s somewhat interesting to me though in that 1) he gets more strikeouts than you’d think (21-23%), and 2) he doesn’t materially alter his pitch mix to RHB/LHB. With a change and a slider, he’s got the tools to do so, but he throws the change over 10% of the time to lefties and gives righties a dollop of sliders. This hasn’t hurt him too much, if it all, and I’m not sure whether it’s just a coincidence or a consequence of a somewhat different strategy that he’s posted essentially no platoon splits in his career. Take out BABIP and they’re a touch more normal, as his worse walk rate and a tiny bit higher HR rate to righties give his FIP splits a more traditional look. But this is a guy who’s faced overwhelmingly righty line-ups this year, and I’m not sure that there’s a huge advantage to rejiggering a line-up like that. Of course, the M’s can’t do much of that, but they won’t mind that this is a pretty good match-up, given that they’re going to be throwing a lefty-heavy line-up at a lefty pitcher.
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Bay, RF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Saunders, CF
9: Blanco, C
Greg Johns reports that Stephen Pryor’s throwing a simulated game today against Mike Morse, Franklin Gutierrez and Dustin Ackley. I wonder if Pryor will be spooked by the sight of batters running at full speed when he comes back.
Sad news from Trenton, where the AA Thunder’s beloved “bat dog” Chase died after a battle with cancer. The Thunder honored Chase’s service with a retirement party three days ago. Chase’s puppy, Derby, will take over the duty of actually grabbing bats and balls and passing water to umpires, while another of his offspring, Ollie, serves in the same capacity with AA New Hampshire.
Not much of note in the minors today. Brian Sweeney vs. Sean O’Sullivan in AAA, which is one of the most AAA-ist possible match-ups. Sweeney will pitch to Mike Wilson, and O’Sullivan will face Carlos Peguero and the lights of Tucson will seem to say, “PCL 4 Life.”
Carter Capps is not right, and he may be looking at a trip back to AAA Tacoma sooner than later. His awful numbers against lefties are well known, and at the very least partially explained by his arm angle, but he’s getting hit hard by righties too, and that shouldn’t be happening. His velocity’s down nearly 3mph vs. last year, though of course that’s not a perfect comparison given when he was promoted in 2012, but 96mph from a foot behind your head should be death on a stick against righties, and instead Jose Iglesias looked comfy and confident in pulling a line-drive RBI single against Capps yesterday. Someone mentioned on twitter that he’s getting more of the plate this year, but it’s hard to see that consistently – his zone percentage is down, fractionally, though looking at his zone profile at Brooks Baseball, he looks to be leaving more pitches centered. Whatever the case, it may be time to work on fixing him somewhere else. Logan Bawcom and Brian Moran are pitching well for Tacoma but aren’t on the 40-man (though there’s an open spot on the roster now), and Josh Kinney’s familiar, at least. Carson Smith figures to get a long look at the MLB bullpen next year, so he’s someone who could get a chance later on in 2013.