Game 95, Angels at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Cupcakes Blanton, 1:10pm
Today’s starting pitchers are actually pretty similar. Iwakuma’s got a sparkling 7.67 K/9, while Blanton’s at 7.56. Both have walk rates under 5%. And both have FIPs far, far higher than you’d guess if all you saw was their K/BB ratio. Iwakuma’s given up 20 HRs on the year so far, while Blanton’s given up 22 despite the fact both pitch in HR-suppressing home ballparks.
The similarities don’t end there. Both pitchers are actually pretty good with men on, and particularly with RISP. Blanton’s HR/9 is 2.33 with the bases empty this year and about half that with men on; 15 of his 22 HRs have come with no one on. Iwakuma’s very similar, with a career HR/9 of 1.63 with no one on and 0.89 with men on. Both pitchers out-pitch is a change-up (Iwakuma’s split functions like a change), so their platoon splits are even or even reversed…and they’ve given up more HRs to righties, despite both being right-handed themselves.
We know HR rate, or HR/FB at least, is much more variable than Ks or walks. Would you instruct Blanton or Iwakuma to make fundamental changes, or would you just wait and hope for some HR regression? Blanton’s rate is so high, you’d have to expect that his coaches might be telling him to stop challenging quite so many hitters, and that they’d trade a few walks for HRs. Of course, nothing’s that easy – if he was capable of making such a trade, I’m sure he would. With Iwakuma, it’s potentially more interesting. It’s not that uncommon for a pitcher to post lower HR rates with men on, as pitchers tread carefully around sluggers. In this case, the trade off actually is as simple as trading walks for HRs. But everything in Iwakuma’s line looks better – he’s got a better K:BB AND a better HR rate. Iwakuma’s only been pitching in MLB for about a year, so it’s way too early to know, but Iwakuma certainly looks like a pitcher who likes pitching from the stretch.
Doug Thorburn at BP wrote a couple of pieces recently that involved, among others, Iwakuma. In his mind (keep in mind this is the pitching mechanics expert; these aren’t stat-heavy articles), Iwakuma’s prone to these streaks of HRs (he’s given up a staggering 10 HRs in his last four starts) because his wind-up is so complicated – a pause before he starts, another pause with his left leg in the air, etc. By contrast, from the stretch, his delivery is clean and simple, and may- MAY -help him with his timing. I don’t really know anything about mechanics, but that wind-up certainly *looks* like it could produce some timing problems. It’s something to watch, anyway.
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
That’s it for the season’s first half. Hasn’t exactly gone as we’d hoped, but it could at least be a lot more watchable, more compelling, in the second. We haven’t seen enough wins, but we’ve been treated to one of the most bizarre half-seasons on record thanks to Raul Ibanez. It’s not contention, but it was something, all right.
Today’s starters in the minors include the Dutchman, Lars Huijer, for Everett, top-10 prospect Tyler Pike for Clinton, cerebral righty Andrew Carraway for Tacoma and righty Trevor Miller making his AA debut for Jackson.