Game 93, Angels at Mariners
Joe Saunders vs. Jerome Williams, 7:10pm
Even in a losing season, there are games you look forward to – interesting tests for young prospects, for example, or Felix Day. Then there are games started by Joe Saunders and Jerome Williams on a Friday night. C’mon, uh, Brad Miller! More hits! Hope your knee feels better, Mr. Franklin!
I’ve wasted far too many pixels on Jerome Williams over the years, but I wouldn’t be my charmed-by-subpar-starters self if I didn’t point out that his velocity has indeed continued to rise. The first time the M’s faced Williams, I noted that his velocity has crept upwards since reappearing, miraculously, from long stints of injury, the Taiwanese league, and just being awful. His FB velocity may hit 94mph by the end of the year, which isn’t bad. It also hasn’t stopped him from regressing a bit. His K% has fallen from last year, and his nice run of, er, run prevention has stopped too. His ERA and FIP are looking more like replacement level than average. Again though, he’s been the Angels pitching depth – they keep turning to him not because they’ve really wanted to, but because Plan A and Plan B keep turning out so poorly. And, because Angels, he was pretty successful there for a while.
A year after having losing out on a playoff spot in large part due to a crappy rotation, the Angels have made wholesale changes and…have a crappy rotation. Most of this has nothing to do with Williams, who is more like their Blake Beavan than their Joe Saunders. But while their Joe Saunders (Cupcakes Blanton) has been awful, and well-remunerated to boot, their Blake Beavan is still a perfectly acceptable 5th starter. Still, that’s not quite what he was last year, or even early this season – what’s changed?
Not much, really. He’s still a fastball/sinker/cutter guy, who’ll throw a change and a rare curve as well. The cutter makes up about 1/3 of his total pitches to righties, and over 1/5 to lefties as well, and it’s this pitch that’s given him problems recently. He’s yielded 5 HRs on the cutter, 4 to righties. The numbers are so small, it could be a complete fluke of course, but it’s not like the pitch generated materially better outcomes the year before. He’s still quite effective against righties – and he’s given up more dingers than doubles, so he may be both effective and unlucky against them. But lefties are still hitting him, and they feast on his sinker and change. The numbers bounce around, but I think what we see is what we get with Williams: his stuff isn’t really good enough to get lefties, and he’s made a few bad pitches to righties. When the ball stays in the yard, he can be effective.
Joe Saunders is an odd one. Can anyone else thing of pitchers who’ve hung on this long and had a modicum of success despite not being able to get out opposite-handed hitters? I mean, this is Saunders thing, and it’s not going away. He’s been lights-out against lefties again this year, which is critical, because righties have a .387 wOBA against him. Adrian Beltre has a .387 wOBA. Josh Donaldson and Matt Carpenter are in that neighborhood. Charlie Morton was going down that path, but his splits are preventing him from becoming a dependable SP. I suppose Justin Masterson would be the poster boy for this, which isn’t surprising given his arm angle.
1: Miller, 2B
2: Saunders, RF
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Ackley, CF
9: Ryan, SS
SP: Joe Saunders
The M’s today sent Erasmo Ramirez to Everett and Blake Beavan to AAA Tacoma, while recalling Hector Noesi and Bobby LaFromboise. This is one of those classic pre-All-Star Game moves, which should allow Erasmo to stay in his current rotation slot when play resumes (as the M’s won’t need a 5th starter for a while, he could’ve been sitting on the bench for some time), and getting more bullpen help after Boston bulldozed the M’s starters in the past three games.
Ramirez’s lackluster debut may have been a blip, just a one-off bad outing. But while I’ve been encouraged by the M’s pitching depth improving, it must be said that it’s looking shaky once you get past Erasmo. James Paxton’s improvements in the past month are great, but Brandon Maurer’s taking the opposite path. He started last night’s game in Tacoma, and left after allowing all seven batters he faced to reach. All told, he pitched 0 IP, giving up four runs, three hits, two walks and a hit batsmen. In his last five games, he’s thrown 17 1/3 IP and yielded 24 hits, 12 walks and 18 runs. Danny Hultzen would actually be a great mentor in this situation, having experienced a similar run for Tacoma last year. If he wasn’t shut down with shoulder pain. C’mon Erasmo! Taijuan Walker’s amazing, and I’m excited to see him in his 2nd MLB futures game, but it’s kind of bizarre how far up the depth chart he is right now.