Game 112, Blue Jays at Mariners

marc w · August 5, 2013 at 4:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. R.A. Dickey, 7:10pm

Undervalued top-flight starter against formerly undervalued top-flight starter in Game 1 of a three-game set versus Toronto. The M’s come into the game with a better record than the Jays and Angels, two teams that were expected to compete for the ALCS this year. Dickey’s return to earth following his Cy Young-winning 2012 has less to do with the Jays misfortune than other things (Josh Johnson pitching like crap, Jose Reyes’ injury, Melky Cabrera turning back into a pumpkin, etc.) but it’s a concern given the Jays owe him $24m for 2014-15.

Early in the year, Dickey’s velocity was down a bit from where it’d been in 2012 (easily his best year as a big leaguer). There were signs in June that he’d recovered that missing mile-per-hour, but he gave it away again in July. Dickey certainly seemed to be a better pitcher with the extra oomph on his knuckleball, but it’s still not clear exactly why. Keeping the ball in the strikezone was one possibility, but he threw fewer strikes in 2012 than he had in any other year. His o-swing and contact rates were unbelievable in 2012, but he hasn’t been able to recapture that form, and thus his 2013 looks a lot like his 2009-2011 average. As Dave’s mentioned, that’s not bad – the Jays aren’t paying for a Cy Young winner, they’re paying for a middle-of-the-rotation guy, and Dickey *can* return some value to them. But he’s going to have to figure out why he’s losing so many grounders. Since learning the knuckler, he’s been a slight GB pitcher, peaking in 2010 with a 55% GB rate. That slipped in his next two seasons with the Mets, but it’s fallen through the floor this year, as his GB% is down to 41%. The knuckleball’s getting a few less grounders, but his fastball’s been a serious problem this year too. It used to look great on a rate basis, as it could surprise hitters whose timing was geared to a 76mph floater. For whatever reason, no one’s fooled this year, and Toronto’s a terrible place for fly-ball pitchers.

Many speculated about how Rogers Center would affect Dickey, with several believing the controlled environment would be conducive to a knuckler. Unfortunately, he’s been awful at home, with home/road splits like a Colorado Rockies hurler in 2000. Of course, the M’s aren’t playing in Toronto tonight, but a fly-ball heavy righty (Dickey’s had standard platoon splits for a few years) seems like a decent match-up.

I realize I spend an inordinate amount of time in these posts talking about opponents, so let’s shift focus to the M’s. Without looking, what pitches are swung most often? That is, what pitches generate the highest swinging percentage from opposing batters? It’s not fastballs, and it’s clearly not curves (which have high rates of “taken” strikes after freezing hitters). The slider is pretty close to the top, as those of us who’ve seen Adrian Beltre can attest. But the answer seems to be change-ups/splits. In fact, only two active pitches have induced swings more than Iwakuma’s splitter: Alex Cobb’s splitter and Tommy Milone’s change-up. This is somewhat remarkable, given that Iwakuma generally doesn’t leave his splitter in the strikezone - that is, only ~1/3 of Iwakuma’s splits are called balls despite the fact that less than 1/3 are thrown in the strike zone. Iwakuma keeps the ball down extraordinarily well, whcih allows him to generate huge GB% on it, all while racking up swinging strikes too. It hasn’t been untouchable this year, as the A’s recently hit three HRs off of it, but it’s still one of baseball’s better pitches.

So why doesn’t he throw it more often? Unlike, say, Steve Delabar’s, it’s effective against righties and lefties, and he’s given up HRs by the dozen on his fastballs. Iwakuma pitches up in the zone with fastballs much more than you’d expect from a guy 1) with a dinger problem and 2) with great command of his other pitches. It can’t be that Iwakuma’s trying his best to keep the ball low and missing repeatedly. Instead, I think he *needs* the fastball up to effectively disguise the splitter. If he threw four-seamers at the knees, the different shape of the split would be visible to batters much earlier, and his swing rate on them would presumably drop. If the fastball’s thrown in the zone and even above the belt, it’s going to look indistinguishable from the split at the time the batter decides to/begins his swing. So yes, Iwakuma’s fastball(s) don’t have great results, but they’re not really supposed to. They’re the sacrificial anode that protects his real weapon.

1: Miller, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morales, DH
4: Morse, RF
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Saunders, CF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Ackley, 2B (!)
9: Quintero, C
SP: Iwakuma

Blake Beavan starts in Tacoma tonight as the Rainiers host Iowa. Hey, Hector Noesi turned in a brilliant outing the other day, so why can’t Beavan? Anthony Vasquez takes the hill for Jackson.

You’ve probably read more than you’d like to about the Biogenesis suspensions, but here’s a great piece from BP’s Colin Wyers about why MLB went after the Biogenesis 12 with such fervor and the need to take a step back from the edge here (“Constant hysteria is unsustainable”). We are constantly shocked – SHOCKED – to find that chemists have come up with a new, currently-untestable PED, despite the Tour de France sagas, despite Balco and despite Biogenesis. This isn’t going away.

Comments

58 Responses to “Game 112, Blue Jays at Mariners”

  1. beastwarking on August 5th, 2013 4:10 pm

    Just speaking for myself here, but I enjoy reading about other teams when you do these. I don’t watch too many other games, so it’s nice to be informed about the opponent of the day.

  2. Eastside Suds on August 5th, 2013 4:11 pm

    Mark….I really enjoy the previews and info you guys give us about the opponents!!

    That being said, yet another dark day for MLB. Let’s hope this most recent scandal sparks a new resurgence of clubhouse peer pressure, fear of long-term suspensions, and the possible loss of millions in contract money.

    Some irony today when watching Aaron Boone rake PED users over the coals with Rick Sutcliffe! I found it very awkward.

  3. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 4:19 pm

    I wonder if something is wrong with Franklin?

  4. Eastside Suds on August 5th, 2013 4:28 pm

    I think management is letting the young man clear his thoughts and take a mental break. I would doubt he has ever gone 0 for his last 25+. He obviously is really hard on himself. Good use of s few days to re-group, watch some film and work in the hitting cage. He’ll be back tomorrow or Wednesday I would bet.

  5. Westside guy on August 5th, 2013 4:52 pm

    Who is that young man at second base tonight?

  6. terryoftacoma on August 5th, 2013 6:02 pm

    well, Tommy Milone’s change up is in the minors.

  7. GhostofMarinersPast on August 5th, 2013 6:48 pm

    I don’t like the back to back days off. Could be a confidence killer

  8. Paul B on August 5th, 2013 6:50 pm

    Ackley is now a 5th outfielder backup 2B type. Expect him to take some practice at 3rd when they think of it.

  9. ivan on August 5th, 2013 6:57 pm

    I look forward to these previews every game. You are doing a great job here, Marc. You’re a terrific writer, and I admire your work very much. Thank you.

  10. terryoftacoma on August 5th, 2013 6:59 pm

    Why stop there? Could practice pitching,too. Could he really be worse than our bullpen at times?

  11. msfanmike on August 5th, 2013 7:41 pm

    Yes … My god yes. Ackley could be very bad at pitching.

  12. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 7:44 pm

    He would need a cut-off man

  13. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 7:47 pm

    Who’s that? Oh, our 18th catcher this year.

  14. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 7:48 pm

    Worst pitcher, Ibanez or Ackley?

  15. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 7:51 pm

    Ibanez would rock! His big loopy Alley-Oop throws in…As a pitch.

  16. Paul B on August 5th, 2013 7:51 pm

    Smoak.

  17. Paul B on August 5th, 2013 7:53 pm

    That waffle big stack thing looks blech. I would have to be pretty messed up to order one.

  18. msfanmike on August 5th, 2013 7:55 pm

    I thought the same thing George, but he had just recently turned the DP, so I refrained. Then again, if he did pitch – someone could DH for him. That could work out after all.

    He better get that bat going. A 3-4 position utility guy would be helpful, but a good hitter would be even more helpful. If Smoak can figure it out against RHP, Ackley can too. I hope.

  19. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 7:56 pm

    Bobby Ayala

  20. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 8:07 pm

    First time all season Iwakuma walked 2 guys in an inning!

  21. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 8:29 pm

    I love the reasoning to lineups. Gotta sit Franklin because he’s young and inexperienced, having some bumps in the road right now…But let’s let Miller bat tonight.

  22. msfanmike on August 5th, 2013 8:31 pm

    How about a run, boys!

  23. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 8:49 pm

    This game is never going to end.

  24. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 8:55 pm

    What language do Q and Kuma use on the mound?

  25. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 8:59 pm

    SMOAKED

  26. pgreyy on August 5th, 2013 9:01 pm

    My wife swears she just heard Sims say “The One-Swing Fairy comes through” when Smoak launched that…

    I hope she’s wrong.
    Justin hopes it doesn’t catch on.

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.)

  27. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 9:03 pm

    Hahaha Sims did say something like that. I didn’t exactly catch it, but it definitely included the one ____ fairy!

  28. pgreyy on August 5th, 2013 9:03 pm

    You can’t teach speed!

  29. pgreyy on August 5th, 2013 9:05 pm

    On the way out of the inning, Sims said, I think, “one-swing THEORY”…but my wife hasn’t conceded anything yet.

  30. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 9:06 pm

    One more inning from Kuma and then Farq!

  31. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 9:07 pm

    Hee, pgreyy.

    Sims just got totally overstimulated because he’d been droning about about how one swing of the bat was going to win it, and the the One Swing Fairy sprinkled magic dust on Smoak and it worked!

  32. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 9:08 pm

    Argh!

  33. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 9:12 pm

    For this conversation, they bring the translator…And yet it takes only 2 seconds?

  34. SeattleSlew on August 5th, 2013 9:16 pm

    For the first time ever Sims got the trivia question right. I think they finally decided to just feed him the answer.

  35. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 9:19 pm

    Reyes was out.

  36. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 9:23 pm

    Hilarious, Q cussing out Medina.

  37. Westside guy on August 5th, 2013 9:24 pm

    CB Bucknor – worst umpire in baseball

  38. pgreyy on August 5th, 2013 9:29 pm

    We can’t have nice things.

  39. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 9:29 pm

    *sigh*

  40. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 9:30 pm

    So, how many runners do the Mariners have to pick off before there’s an out?

  41. jordan on August 5th, 2013 9:31 pm

    holy crap. we’re getting screwed

  42. pgreyy on August 5th, 2013 9:31 pm

    Harder to play this game than it should be when you have to get five outs to get out of an inning.

  43. Breadbaker on August 5th, 2013 9:31 pm

    The umps are obviously intimidated by the hometown Blue Jays fans.

  44. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 9:35 pm

    I have 2 crazy ideas.

    1. More instant replay. You mean there’s technology in the world that could help get calls right in a matter of seconds?

    2. Use your best bullpen pitcher in a tie game with the bases loaded in the 8th inning. Yes, you can really use him in the non 9th inning!

  45. Westside guy on August 5th, 2013 9:37 pm

    How could he miss that call?

  46. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 9:40 pm

    Cal – has anyone in this pen earned the title of “best”? How long before Farq goes “Bartender” on us?

  47. californiamariner on August 5th, 2013 9:42 pm

    I know, nobody stands out as the “best” but it’s just a philosophy thing across most of baseball that annoys me.

  48. Breadbaker on August 5th, 2013 9:43 pm

    Perez wasn’t actually a bad choice there. The options weren’t good. Farquahar has pitched 2-1/3 innings in the last two games

  49. juneau_fan on August 5th, 2013 9:47 pm

    “Big Tom is up in the bullpen!”

    And I look for the remote…

  50. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 9:49 pm

    Fully agree that baseball needs to get smarter. Pitch tracker to aid balls and strikes. Lefties bunting against the shift.

  51. Longgeorge1 on August 5th, 2013 9:52 pm

    Oh yea Pay- Roid will get a standing O when he returns to the Stadium. Stoopid is widespread.

  52. SeattleSlew on August 5th, 2013 9:55 pm

    The Jays must feel like they are playing at home.

  53. nvn8vbryce on August 5th, 2013 10:07 pm

    I don’t think Felix and Kuma will know what to do with themselves if our anemic offense can score more than 1 run a game…

  54. KiWiNiNjA on August 5th, 2013 10:28 pm

    The same anaemic offense that has score 5 runs per game since the break?

  55. Woodcutta on August 6th, 2013 1:32 am

    Felix is 6-0 in his last 12 starts. In those 6 no decisions Felix has given up a whopping 13 earned runs. Also, in one of those starts he gave up 6 earned runs. Yeah, I’d say Felix would like the offense AND the bullpen to be more consistent.

  56. stevemotivateir on August 6th, 2013 7:36 am

    Tommy to Tacoma. Can’t say I’m surprised after that Boston game.

  57. jak924 on August 6th, 2013 9:45 am

    One run. One run. One stinking run.

  58. Eastside Suds on August 6th, 2013 10:35 am

    Carter Capps to be called up? He’s pitched well in Tacoma since being sent down. Makes sense to bring him back up.

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