Game 100, Indians at Mariners
Erasmo Ramirez vs. Zach McAllister, 7:10pm
Wooo, 100 games! Through 99 games last year, the M’s were 43-56. Through 99 games in 2011, the M’s were 43-56. In 2010, they were 39-60. It’s been rough in recent years, and the play of Brad Miller/Nick Franklin and the incremental improvement to today’s 47-52 mark is welcome. The M’s recent hot streak has seen them retake 3rd place from the Angels, and while that’s a somewhat meaningless consolation prize, I suppose we’ll take it. There have been no prizes in recent years, with the exception of every day of Felix Hernandez’s existence.
Erasmo Ramirez gets a second chance to lay claim to a rotation spot today. His first start wasn’t good, as he was wild and largely pitched without his change-up…the pitch that got him to the big leagues and that he used to great effect after joining the rotation in 2012. Only ten of his 100 pitches against Boston were cambios; he used it on over 22% of his 2012 pitches. Could’ve been a one-game fluke, but it was a pattern I noticed in his last start in AAA Tacoma, immediately prior to his start against the Red Sox. I’m not sure if he’s having trouble getting a feel for the pitch after his injury layoff, or if he’s not commanding it, or what. After that game in Tacoma, I speculated that Seattle may have asked him to throw more curves/sliders, but that obviously wasn’t it. In any event, that’s a pitch he’s going to need if he wants to get back to where he was down the stretch in 2012. His command is obviously critical as well – the Red Sox (a good hitting team, of course) didn’t chase pitches and forced Ramirez into bad counts (last year, 38% of his pitches came when he was ahead in the count compared to just 28% the other day).
I feel like I’ve talked more about Zach McAllister in these game previews than just about any other pitcher, with the exception of Jerome Williams. If you’ll remember from last year, McAllister garnered some attention by posting an almost absurd gap between his ERA (4.24) and his RA (5.60). His ERA and FIP were dead on, but McAllister allowed a ton of unearned runs. You can argue that this wasn’t his fault, but he’s now pitched 208 MLB innings, or about a full season. And in that time, he’s allowed 29 unearned runs. 29! CJ Wilson’s another guy who racks up unearned runs, but not even CJ can match McAllister’s pace. Ok, ok, this has nothing to do with the game, or his performance against the M’s, but for reasons I don’t really understand, I find this fascinating.
McAllister’s a fastball/slider/change pitcher who throws his four-seam around 70% of the time. In that respect, he reminds me a little of Doug Fister, who came up throwing nothing but fastballs and gradually morphed into a (very good) pitcher with command of several breaking balls.* He throws his FB about 92, and has fairly normal movement for a guy with a 3/4 delivery. Somewhat unusually, he uses it differently to righties and lefties. Against right-handed bats, he’s strictly by the book: he likes to keep the pitch down and away, though he throws middle-away too (perhaps because his command isn’t exactly pinpoint). But against lefties, he keeps the fastball UP and away, not down. As a result, his batted-ball profile changes a bit. Righties hit a few grounders, lefties almost none. It’s a somewhat unusual pattern, but something his teammate Ubaldo Jimenez has employed this year as well. Both of them have GB% that are lower vs. lefties than against righties. As of yet, it hasn’t really hurt him – that is, he hasn’t yielded a flurry of HRs to lefties, and his fastball’s appears to be one reason why. When the batter’s ahead, they are essentially guaranteed to see a four-seam FB. Despite this AND the platoon advantage, lefties haven’t annihilated his fastball. His change isn’t used enough to say much, but in the tiny sample, lefties haven’t had much of a problem driving it. It’s the FB that they’re only so-so against. That’s going to be interesting to watch tonight, as the M’s lefty-dominant line-up will see quite a few fastballs. And after years of being historically futile against FBs, the M’s are suddenly 2nd in MLB in pitch type run value against them.**
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
In the minors tonight, Jimmy Gilheeney starts for Jackson, who would just like to play a $#@%ing baseball game one of these days. Steven Ewing starts for Everett who play host to Tri-Cities. Tacoma played this morning, with Andrew Carraway starting against Tucson. Perhaps inspired by Erik Bedard’s bizarre outing against the M’s, the command artist walked five in five innings but didn’t give up a hit. He left with a 4-0 lead, and before the quips about his “guts” or pain tolerance, he’s just back from injury. Unfortunately, the bullpen allowed six runs to score in the sixth, and the R’s are currently behind. Josh Kinney did most of the damage, though the just-demoted Bobby LaFromboise let all three inherited runners score, then gave up a HR in the following inning. Ouch.
Today’s rehabbers include Mike Morse, who knocked a double vs. Tucson, and Franklin Gutierrez, who’s 0-3 as the DH today.
* And, I’d guess that part of Fister’s fastball-reliance was due to pitching coach Rick Adair’s belief in establishing/commanding the FB.
** Yes, I’ve been wary of using pitch type run values in the past, but at a team level I think it could be relevant.