Game 107, Mariners at Red Sox
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. John Lackey, 4:10pm
Some times, the games follow these preview scripts eerily well, and other times, such as yesterday’s, they really don’t. Brandon Workman annihilated a better line-up than he faced a few weeks ago. Today, the M’s look to erase the memory of yesterday’s ugly eyesore behind Hisashi Iwakuma. John Lackey gets the start for Boston, and the veteran is having one of his better seasons in years. The clear pattern we’ve seen in these past couple of series against the Red Sox holds true for Lackey: he doesn’t materially change his pitch mix against lefties/righties. When he was with the Angels, he had a slider that he used against righties while sticking to a curve ball and change-up against lefties. That’s a text-book, standard, pitching-101 mix, but he started throwing more sliders to lefties when he got to Boston. This year, he’s throwing even more sliders, with his change-up now a rarity. This shift in approach looked disastrous, as he was replacement level in 2010-11 (by bWAR) and then rehabbed from Tommy John surgery in 2012. This year, however, he’s walking fewer and striking out more than he has in several years. Did the slider-heavy approach cause or exacerbate his elbow injury? I have no idea, and it’s pretty pointless to speculate, but he’s striking out more righties than he even has while limiting lefties to a 3.31 FIP.
Of course, there’s plenty of luck here. His BABIP against lefties is very low, and they’re not hitting as many HRs as they have in the past. But some of everything is luck, and we can’t just chalk everything up to random variation. He’s always been effective against lefties, and lefties have always hit fewer HRs against him. In that sense, it’s kind of amazing that he’s still the same John Lackey despite the TJ surgery and throwing completely different pitches. Against righties, his fastball’s been the key to his 2013 success – he’s getting more whiffs on his four-seam than ever. He’s always had plenty of vertical movement on it, but he’s now throwing it with essentially zero horizontal movement, perhaps making it function more like a cutter. It’s a very different pitch, but Felix’s four-seamer gradually shed horizontal movement along with velocity and stayed effective (though it’s a bit more traditional this year). He’s also throwing it a bit differently, eschewing the standard “low and away” approach and keeping it elevated. Throwing the ball up can generate more whiffs, but the trade-off is generally HRs. And Lackey’s definitely been HR-prone, but with his great K:BB ratio, it hasn’t hurt him too bad.
1: Miller SS
2: Franklin 2B
3: Seager 3B
4: Morales DH
5: Ibanez LF
6: Morse 1B
7: Saunders RF
8: Ackley CF
9: Quintero C
It’s perhaps inevitable that since Brandon Workman made my preview look silly, the M’s may attempt to make my assessment of the trade market look silly too. There are all sorts of rumors that several teams have an interest in Mike Morse, though you’d have to imagine the returns wouldn’t exactly be franchise-altering. Since April 8th, Morse has played in 50 games and hit .236/.300/.385 with 6 homers. Teams will not be acquiring him for his defense. In recent games he’s been destroyed by Workman and Robbie Erlin, so teams that put a lot of value in the most recent sample (or the ‘eye-test’) may be…concerned. Who knows, though. He’s got pop, and all of the selective end-pointing in the world doesn’t change that. If someone wanted to trade a top prospect for him, that’d be peachy.
Tai Walker’s now in his first real funk of 2013, after giving up 9 hits and 4 runs in 6 IP against Omaha last night. In his last two starts, both at relatively pitcher-friendly Cheney Stadium, he’s thrown 11 innings, giving up 15 hits, 5 walks and 9 runs. Of course, he’s thrown more than 100 IP this season, and his slide in 2012 began much sooner. It’s possible that this is nothing, just two off games in a hitter’s league, and it’s possible that his poor pitching in July/August in 2012-13 are related to fatigue.
Blake Beavan starts for Tacoma, Anthony Vasquez for Jackson and Jordan Pries for High Desert. The biggest prospect on the hill tonight is lefty Tyler Pike, who gets the ball for Clinton.