Game 101, Indians at Mariners
Joe Saunders vs. Scott Kazmir, 12:40pm
Early game today as the Indians continue to try to figure out the suddenly invincible M’s. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game turn on a base running error like Drew Stubbs’ last night. They looked certain to tie the game, at minimum, against a struggling Tom Wilhelmsen, but then Stubbs decided to make that kamikaze dash for home.
Today’s game features Scott Kazmir, perhaps the feel good story of the spring, and I suppose the feel-good story of the summer now that Jeremy Bonderman got DFA’d. It’s just stunning to see how much Kazmir looks like, well, “classic” Scott Kazmir. His release point’s the same, the pitch mix is essentially the same (though he’s got a new curve), and his velocity’s better than it was in 2008. He’s striking people out again, and if his walks are a bit high, well, they always used to be back when he was good. On the other hand, the problems he had back in 2008 are still the same problems he has now.
Now, I said the problems he had in *2008*. His problems from 2009-2012 (all filed under the overarching category of “being a terrible pitcher”) were much, much bigger, and he would happily trade garden variety MLB pitching problems for “I’m-really-letting-down-my-fellow-Sugarland-Skeeters” problems. But even when he was an exciting young talent, Kazmir had big platoon splits and an on-again, off-again home run problem that went with those splits. Elite velocity kept things manageable early on, as he gave up 11 HRs to righties in 2005 out of 648 batters faced. His walk rate improved in 2006 and then he put it all together in 2007, maintaining a decent walk rate and HR rate to righties. All told, he held them .334 wOBA/3.42 FIP, which is great for a fastball/slider pitcher facing opposite-handed batsmen. Then 2008 happened. A low BABIP makes the wOBA look OK, but 22 HRs in 500 batters faced pushed his FIP vs. righties over *5*. He’s always been dominant against lefties, so his results hinge on what righties do. So far in 2013, it’s looking like a repeat of 2008. Like Ubaldo Jimenez and last night’s starter, Zach McAllister, Kazmir keeps the ball down and away from same-handed batters, while trying to go up and away to righties. And like them, he’s got very different GB rates to RHB/LHBs. Given his problems, I’m surprised that he’s employing this strategy, but I’m not a pitching coach. To be fair, when he reaches up and away zones, righties have fared poorly. The problem is when he misses his spots and leaves when up and out over the plate; not surprisingly for a guy without top-flight command, Kazmir’s done this rather often.
Righties have 13 HRs in 276 PAs, and a .374 wOBA. Lefties are still hitting like Brendan Ryan against Kazmir, but righties are hitting like Raul and Yadier Molina. You have to figure Kazmir’s circled this game on his calendar as a potential good match-up. He got knocked around by the M’s back on May 20th, but that line-up was heavily right-handed, with Kelly Shoppach, Jesus Montero, Mike Morse, Brendan Ryan and Robert Andino and Jason Bay. Only one of that group suits up today, and if the M’s are much more left-handed now, they are also not irredeemably awful (Andino AND Montero AND Ryan. Ouch). This is not a great match-up for the new-look Mariners, but I would rather watch the new-look Mariners than see if Robert Andino can slap another single off of Kazmir.
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Bay, LF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Saunders, CF
8: Chavez, LF
9: Blanco, C
The M’s are going for their 9th straight win, something they haven’t done since 2003. You may recall they also won 8 in a row in the second half of last season.
Edwin Diaz is the notable pitcher in the system tonight, as he starts for Pulaski in the Appy League against the Princeton Rays.
Ex-top 10 M’s prospect Vinnie Catricala was DFA’d by Oakland today after putting up a .219/.292/.297 in 128 ABs for Midland of the Texas League. Have no idea what happened to the guy who tore through the SL a few years ago, and hope Catricala can get back to that form with someone. Man, that collapse was as thorough as it was quick.
Jack Z mentioned on the radio that he still doesn’t know what happened with M’s skipper Eric Wedge. This is as good a time as any to say that while we’ve all had our issues with Wedge, the pale in significance to a health scare like this. Get well soon, Wedge.
Great stat article from Bill Petti here about when pitchers get strikes called on “Edge” pitches – those on the outer portion of the strike zone. Most interesting, at least to me, was the finding that RHPs get more “Edge” strikes called when facing LHBs. We’ve known about the “left hand strike zone” for a little while, and this is a complimentary but distinct finding. If sabermetrics ruined you, Dustin Ackley, they can also really help you understand why sticking to your own sense of the zone on outside pitches wasn’t working. So, we’ll call it even, right?