Game 127, Angels at Mariners

marc w · August 23, 2013 at 5:09 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Garrett Richards, 7:10pm

Happy Felix Day. In isolation, it’s a great day to be an M’s fan. The team’s returning home from a tough road trip (to Tampa, Texas and Oakland) with a 5-4 record, they give the ball to their ace today, and they welcome Eric Wedge back to the dugout. Danny Farquhar’s looking like an excellent late-inning reliever, the team’s battling at the plate, and they come in with a better record than the Angels. M’s fans are good – maybe TOO good – at selective end-pointing, or excising chunks of the season from their mental record, but who am I to tell you how to be a fan? The M’s are at least as good as the Angels, that team that most experts thought would be playing in October. The M’s get two Felix starts on this brief homestand.

As I’ve mentioned probably too many times before, Garrett Richards really ought to be better than his stats indicate that he is. The righty throws a 96mph four-seamer, along with a 96mph sinker, as well as a sharp 87mph slider. He’s got the occasional change and curve, though these don’t figure much in his arsenal. He’s not a command guy, but….two 96mph fastballs. An above average o-swing rate. Decent HR rates. This year, just to collect pretty much the entire saber-fanboy set, he’s running an extremely high ground ball rate. Finally, years after it seemed he was a shoo-in for the 5th rotation spot, is he finally a decent MLB pitcher?

I can give only that most common answer of the saber-inclined baseball fan: maybe. After another lackluster spell as the long-man in the Halos bullpen, he’s made five consecutive starts, throwing 32 IP with 23 Ks to just six walks. His 3+ RA in that time period matches his 3+ FIP on the year, so he’s got that going for him. At the same time, that K% just doesn’t match up to someone throwing 96 and getting batters to chase a bit more than the norm and posting a better-than-average contact rate over all. It’s not that he’s trading Ks for ground balls, either. He uses his four-seamer to righties and throws lefties a steady diet of sinkers, but his K rate is actually better against lefties. If anything, this is due to his shocking inability to strike out righties, but it’s worth mentioning that lefties are no longer destroying him.

Last season, he walked as many lefties as he struck out, while yielding a .482 slugging percentage to them. This year, the walk rate’s under 6% and lefties have been hitting grounder after grounder – a Brad Ziegler-like 63.5%. Instead of putting the ball just off the plate to lefties, he’s bringing the ball into the zone and letting his fastball’s movement help him.

So why is Richards able to use his slider to get Ks (and grounders) against lefties while Brandon Maurer got annhihilated? Well, it’s taken Richards years to get to this point, and by “this point” I mean a fill-in starter on a crappy team, so let’s not get carried away. But Richards made adjustments after lefties drove the ball on him, and after coaches noticed he was tipping his pitches. He’s also changed his horizontal release point, moving over on the rubber to limit his extreme 3B-side arm angle. I’m not sure which of these changes helped and which are baseball placebos. I’m not sure if Maurer was tipping his pitches, or just giving lefties too good of a look, but it’s good to be reminded that young pitchers with a lot of talent make adjustments, and that your first few views of a pitcher aren’t dispositive. Unless that pitcher is Felix Hernandez, who came up in 2005 looking like some sort of God-Man and continues to look like that today. All hail King Felix.

1: Miller, SS
2: Saunders, CF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Chavez, RF
8: Ackley, 2B
9: Blanco, C
SP: El Cartelua

A very warm welcome back to Eric Wedge. Brain injuries are terrifying, and it’s great to see that Wedge has progressed enough for a return to the dugout so soon. We’ve all had our differences with Wedge from time to time, but I can honestly say I’m very glad to see him back tonight. Not a bad guy to have on the mound for your first game back, either.

Andrew Carraway starts for Tacoma tonight, while King Felix’s older, less royal, brother Moises gets a spot start for AA Jackson. Victor Sanchez is the big prospect name to watch, as he pitches at home for Clinton. Lars Huijer’s starting in Everett tonight, too.

M’s first rounder DJ Peterson was hit in the face by a pitch last night and was taken to the hospital for monitoring and a concussion test. The blow didn’t knock him out, but it did fracture his jaw, and today we get word via Shannon Drayer that he’ll need surgery on it. That’ll end the promising IF’s 2013 season.

Speaking of injured M’s, Mike Zunino looks close to returning soon; he’ll begin a rehab stint with Tacoma soon. I mentioned in my radio hit today w/KGA Spokane that I really hope they take it easy with Zunino. There’s absolutely no sense in rushing the rookie catcher, as hand injuries can linger. Remember too that the minor league season is almost over, so while he’ll rejoin the M’s when rosters expand, there’s no sense in trying to maximize his PAs in September. The M’s really need a 100% healthy Mike Zunino in 2014.

Great article from our fearless leader on the results of a poll asking what you’d pay for one year of Mike Trout. To play baseball for your team, I should clarify, not what you’d pay him to do your job or to be in your entourage or whatever.

Jason Cole of BP had some nice things to say about Tacoma righty Taijuan Walker here ($), though again I’m struck by how much Walker’s cutter seems to differ from night to night. When I’ve seen him, he simply hasn’t had great command of it and used it somewhat sparingly. In the game Cole saw, he used it a lot, perhaps in part because rain made it tougher for Walker to get a feel for his curve. In any event, Walker’s progress with the cutter this year makes MLB success more likely; I love it when I’m not sure which offspeed/breaking pitch to pick as a prospect’s best.


23 Responses to “Game 127, Angels at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 5:25 pm

    I am reasonably certain I can write perl and/or JavaScript much better than Mike Trout can. So there!

    Unfortunately I’m nowhere close to earning the major league minimum.

  2. killeverything on August 23rd, 2013 6:19 pm

    I’m looking forward to tonight’s game. The King against division rivals when the M’s are playing well? Smoak is Smoak in the late season, kinda means Westside’s “smoaked” adjective is going to have it’s definition changed. Cool.

    For how much hate Wedge gets ( guilty ) I’m glad he’s going to be back. While I dislike him as a manager I’m glad for he and his family’s sake he’s made enough progress. You have to root for that.

    Happy King day!

  3. msfanmike on August 23rd, 2013 7:01 pm

    Morban breaks his leg and Petetson breaks his jaw – in the same week!

    Goddammit – is there no end in sight for this imaginary curse.

    What’s next, Locust?

  4. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 7:10 pm

    BTW Mike you were completely right about Franklin, and I was being unreasonably cynical. 😀

  5. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 7:15 pm

    Would it have killed Trout to miss a few more games?

  6. msfanmike on August 23rd, 2013 7:16 pm

    You must be referring to the guess I made about how many days he would be out with stitches. If it had been anywhere than right under his knee, I think you would have been right.

    Man, Wedge looks like he has dropped some tonnage. He is noticeably slimmer. Good for him.

  7. msfanmike on August 23rd, 2013 7:30 pm

    Wow, that ball was wrecked.

  8. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 8:04 pm

    Oh good grief Raul.

  9. Slippery Elmer on August 23rd, 2013 8:26 pm

    Judging by the post totals at this point, I infer that a lot of Mariners fans are also Hawks fans.

  10. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 9:01 pm

    There hasn’t been much to comment on…

  11. msfanmike on August 23rd, 2013 9:23 pm

    Judging by today’s runs scored total, I believe a lot of the Mariner players are Hawk fans, too.

  12. killeverything on August 23rd, 2013 9:25 pm

    Score some #$&#$ runs goddamnit!

  13. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 9:34 pm

    Blanco is hitting .170/.267/.302, and he’s not mentoring anyone – can’t we find a better catcher?

  14. msfanmike on August 23rd, 2013 9:37 pm

    A better catcher we can’t find. Same words, different order.

    I have no idea why he has started the past 3 games in a row. Is Humberto injured?

    Sucre is in AAA on rehab and you saw the update on Zunino – so there’s that.

  15. scraps on August 23rd, 2013 9:43 pm

    He’s not mentoring anyone? He’s nearly 42, for god’s sake! He must be mentoring someone

  16. scraps on August 23rd, 2013 9:45 pm

    Period, goddamnit.

  17. juneau_fan on August 23rd, 2013 9:54 pm

    Will they pinch run for Morales? Or does everyone want to go home?

  18. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 9:55 pm

    I’d like to see Raul connect here – no one else has been able to do much…

  19. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 9:56 pm


  20. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 10:00 pm

    Blame Wedge!

  21. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 10:04 pm

    “Good defense behind Felix”… except we saw Raul’s clank.

  22. Westside guy on August 23rd, 2013 10:08 pm

    Haha, that was kind of cool… bunch of military guys in fatigues, all posing with Neihaus.

  23. Westside guy on August 24th, 2013 10:45 am

    It’s being reported, by Jeff Passan, that the Mariners have let Tony Blengino go.

    I think it’s pretty obvious, though, they parted ways quite some time ago.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.