Game 94, Angels at Mariners
King Felix vs. Jered Weaver, 7:10pm
This is one of the better pitching match-ups in the American League, and despite Weaver’s injury this year, despite both hurlers losing a few ticks on their fastball and despite each of them suffering a few bad games against the Angels/Mariners, respectively, this is still compelling stuff.
Weaver missed a few months with an elbow fracture, and looked to be throwing in the mid/high 80s upon his return. But he’s touched 92 recently, and he’s getting great results: he’s allowed two runs in his last 20 2/3 innings, with 17 Ks and just 4 BBs. Unlike with Felix, velocity never really played much of a role in Weaver’s success. He uses a deceptive, funky low 3/4 delivery to hide the ball and a rising fastball that generates a ton of pop-ups and lazy fly balls. His fastball has essentially no horizontal movement, but the vertical movement’s nearly unparalleled. These kind of movement stats commonly belong to the truly over-the-top hurlers, from Clayton Kershaw to Josh Collmenter. That Weaver’s able to do it with a delivery that verges on side-arm is freakish, and it’s probably helped him post consistently low BABIPs. It makes sense, when you think about it – most all balls in play are in the air, and fly balls have a lower BABIP, and pop-flies have a BABIP approaching .000. This skillset should have a trade off in the form of home runs, but whether it’s a park effect, crazy movement or several years and several thousand innings of luck, that hasn’t troubled Weaver. Look at his HR/FB on fangraphs or his expected home runs on statcorner – he should be allowing way more dingers, and he simply hasn’t.
For years, he was seen as a regression candidate by some segments of the stathead community, and while he hasn’t always posted absurd strand rates, he also improved markedly from his first year or two through 2010, his best season. Since then though, he’s fallen back. Injuries have had something to do with that, and lower velocity may be playing a role as well. But again, this hasn’t made him a bad pitcher. Thanks to his infield fly balls, his BABIP’s been low, and that means he’s given up fewer earned runs than his FIP would expect. Not each and every year, but the odd years are balanced with 2006 and 2012, when his ERA was over a full run lower. He’s posted nearly 30 WAR in his career, and if you included IFFB% in FIP, that number would rise.
Unlike the Red Sox pitchers, Weaver’s been effective by throwing almost exactly what you’d expect. Versus righties, he’s a four-seam/slider guy. The fastball may be his best pitch, as it’s generated better results on contact than just about anyone’s. Against lefties, he uses a sinker and a change-up. The sinker has more horizontal movement than his four-seam, and while sinkers often have *higher* platoon splits, Weaver’s been doing this for years and it’s clearly working for him. His career splits are fairly even, and his success against lefties plays a huge role in his overall value.
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, yay!
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Saunders, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Ackley, CF
SP: El Cartelua
Luiz Gohara’s pitching for Pulaski at the moment. James Paxton gets the nod for Tacoma tonight as they host Reno. Rigoberto Garcia goes for his fifth straight win in Eugene tonight for Everett.