Game 97, Mariners at Astros
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Erik Bedard, 4:10pm
Ah, Erik Bedard. Misunderstood? Unlucky? Guy with a flukish career year? Overly associated with Bill Bavasi? Like many of you, I actually like Bedard – I really enjoyed the brief stretches of healthy Bedard from 2009-2011, and if there weren’t enough of them, well, we can’t really hold that against him any more than we get angry at Franklin Gutierrez. He appeared to take a clear step back last year, as his ERA topped 5 and his walk rate crept back up over 4/9. This earned him a DFA from Pittsburgh, but saber-inclined fans pointed to his OK FIP and the fact he didn’t appear to have any health problems as a reason to take a flyer on him. Houston did, and they’ve been rewarded with a small uptick in velocity and new, hellish horizontal movement on his pitches. Unfortunately, his FIP’s finally regressed back to where his ERA was last year.
At his peak with Baltimore, he ran Iwakuma-like 48-49% ground-ball rates, along with great K rates. He never had Iwakuma’s command, but he missed more bats and didn’t have Iwakuma’s home run problem. Well, he’s got it now. Through the years, Bedard’s GB% has moved downward in two big jumps. It dropped precipitously upon his arrival in Seattle, then held steady at around 42% for several years. This year, it’s a Beavanish 35%. Houston’s not the park where you’d want to be a fly-ball pitcher, though, to be fair, his home park hasn’t really hurt him yet. The bigger problem has been his steadily diminishing ability to get right-handed hitters. Like Iwakuma, Bedard ran reverse splits at his peak, and his career FIP is still worse against lefties than righties. A great curve and a change will do that (or a splitter, in Iwakuma’s case). After years of dominating righties, he’s now struggling, having yielded 30 XBH to them so far in 2013 and a wOBA of .349. In 2012, his wOBA against was .342; this is a small sample, but it’s not miniscule.
The M’s obviously have a very left-handed line-up these days, but Bedard’s been worse against lefties too. In any event, this will be a great test for Brad Miller and Dustin Ackley. Miller’s coming off his best game as a big leaguer, and while it’s extremely early, I’m already starting to wonder where he’ll place on next year’s Fangraphs trade value list. Dave mentioned that he toyed with the idea of including him *this* year, which would’ve been premature, but it’s a testament to how good Miller’s looked. A lefty-hitting, gap-powered shortstop with the ability to be an above-average MLB hitter this year/next year is incredibly valuable. If he avoids the Dustin Ackley career path, he’ll be someone to build around for a decade. It’s absurd how optimistic one really good shortstop can make me.
1: Miller, woooo
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Bay, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Saunders, CF
Tai Walker had another good outing last night, throwing 5IP and giving up 1R, to *raise* his ERA to 0.86.
The big starters in the M’s system today are all in the low-low minors, as Tyler Pike takes the hill for Clinton of the Midwest League, and Luiz Gohara starts for Pulaski in the Appy league.