Game 130, Rangers at Mariners

marc w · August 26, 2013 at 5:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Joe Saunders vs. Travis Blackley, 7:10pm

A battle of lefty pitch-to-contact guys who have a striking inability to deal with right-handed hitters tonight. Thus, your first look at a game like this is to ask yourself which team has the superior right-handed bats. But that’s no fun, because the answer is as obvious as asking yourself “which of these two teams is better?” and then you find yourself tuning out or reading, or improving yourself in one of any number of ways. That’s not what we’re about, though – all of that perfectly sensible, good-for-you crap. I don’t think I have anything like a mission statement with these posts, because that’s a wee bit too business school for me and this is all supposed to be, well, no, not “fun.” I guess what I’m saying is that every once in a while we can put aside the fact that you can make a really good case to do literally anything else, and just wallow in the Mariners together.

Ok, here are the career splits for tonight’s starters:
That one guy, vs. lefties: .237/.288/.328
The other guy, vs. lefties: .228/.297/.374
That one guy, vs. righties: .287/.347/.485
The other guy, vs. righties: .262/.352/.494

Let’s be clear: those are not *identical* lines; they’re not as close as those plate discipline stats in Jeff’s post below. Other’s guy’s clearly got bigger problems with HRs, which drive up his ISOs, though to be fair, he yields fewer hits (thanks to more Ks; it’s not a pure BABIP thing). So there are differences here, but they’re relatively small. You’d think the two were more similar than not, if this was all you had to go by. Essentially, this small gap is one way to understand the gap between a respected veteran (and the myriad cliches that adhere to respected veterans – “knows how to pitch” “keeps you in the ballgame” etc.) and a guy who was just cut by the actual Houston Astros.

Blackley was always one of my favorite M’s prospects. His superficially dazzling line with San Antonio in 2003, the early run of success in Tacoma, and the big breaking yakker, all wrapped in an intensely competitive personality. His confidence must’ve taken a hit in his years in the baseball wilderness, capped by essentially sitting 2011 out, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from watching him last year. He was the swingman/spot-starter on the playoff A’s, getting plenty of action thanks to suspension and injuries, and he performed admirably for a 5th starter. It wasn’t a shock that the A’s let him go, and it was probably even less of a shock that the Astros saw him as an upgrade. But as Joe Saunders can tell you, it’s one thing to have “trouble” with right-handed hitters in Seattle or Anaheim, and a very different, uglier, thing to have “trouble” with righties in Houston and Arlington. They’re vanishingly small, but for laughs: Blackley’s batting line against *at home* this year is .292/.380/.672. His home FIP is 8.58. He’s given up a HR every 10 PAs in the state of Texas this year, and just one in 66 PAs anywhere else. Vs. Lefties, away from home, he looks like an OK 4th starter. At home, vs. righties, his numbers might make Fangraphs’ database gravely ill.

Think about how odd, at least on the surface, it is for Texas to claim Blackley from the Astros. The Rangers are in a playoff race with the Athletics. The Astros *were* in a contest with Miami to see which god-awful team was the worst, but that “race” is all but over. Sure, the Rangers have had injury woes in the rotation, same as every team; Blackley could be gone when Nick Tepesch returns, and that could be fairly soon. But it’s somewhat telling that the Rangers saw past the barrage of HRs and thought Blackley could hold down the fort for a little while. Blackley still throws a 90-91mph four- and two-seam fastball, a change-up, a cutter and the big, slow curve ball. In recent years, he’s used the cutter/slider much more frequently and the curve relatively less. That trend was magnified this season, as he’s used the cutter more than any other single pitch, and the curve makes only rare appearances. In his first start with Texas, covering four innings, he threw just one curve. The cutter’s been a perfectly successful pitch for him – his problem lies in setting it up with his fastball. 42 at-bats have ended on Blackey fastballs this year. He’s struck out three hitters, walked ten, and yielded seven homers.

Like many, he throws sinkers more often to righties, and throws more four-seamers to lefties, despite the fact that stat-nerds would argue the opposite. In the spacious confines of the Oakland Coliseum, his fly-ball tendencies didn’t hurt him, and he kept righties in the park, allowing him to use his other pitches. In Houston, that just didn’t work out, as batters both hit more balls in the air and turned more of those balls into home runs. Now, if you followed those pitch type platoon split links you might see that curves are great pitches to throw opposite-handed hitters. Not quite as effective as change-ups, but definitely not in the sinker/slider category either. That’s what makes Blackley’s shift from the curve to the cutter so odd. Not just because that defies a pattern that people have discovered amongst the entire population of pitchers, but because Blackley *has* a curve and used it often in 2012. It’s all the more mystifying when you consider that Blackley has given up zero career HRs on the curve ball. None. I’m going to repeat this more for myself than anyone, but here we go: a pitcher who is in danger of bombing out of MLB in large part due to a home run problem has a pitch that has never been hit for a home run, and he’s choosing (or being told) not to use it. Ok.

The M’s are pulling out, well, SOME of the stops in an effort to put together a RH-heavy line-up tonight. To that end, they’ve activated CF Franklin Gutierrez,* putting his LHP-killing splits up against Blackley’s RHB-enhancing splits. To do this, they’ve DFA’d Aaron Harang. Just last night, many talked about how it was unlikely the M’s would make a move today,** just a few days before rosters expand on Sept. 1. That says something about how interested the M’s were in playing out the string with Mr. Harang, as does their plan to fill his spot in the rotation (essentially, “uh, you know, some guys”). Nick Franklin moves to leadoff, too:

1: Franklin, 2B
2: Miller, SS
3: Gutierrez, RF
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morse, LF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Ackley, CF
9: Quintero, C
SP: Joe Saunders

Edwin Diaz headlines the affiliate starting pitchers tonight, with Blake Beavan (AAA), Trevor Miller (AA) and Thyago Viera (SS-A) also taking their turns.

* No Franklin Gutierrez-has-been-activated-or-DL’d story would be complete without a new diagnosis, and today’s is one I’ve never heard of. Apparently, we can add “Ankylosing Spondylitis” to Guti’s roster of maladies. AS is a type of spinal arthritis, apparently. It’s churlish to point to dollars owed or games lost or anything of the kind when dealing with someone’s health, but I sincerely wonder if Guti wouldn’t be better off retiring. I don’t believe he gets a new disease every time he falls awkwardly; I believe the more doctors examine him, the more they find.

** Credit to Rick Randall, who heard rumbling about this last night, and tweeted about it even though it seemed far-fetched. Good bit of reporting.


44 Responses to “Game 130, Rangers at Mariners”

  1. MissouriMariner on August 26th, 2013 5:26 pm

    I must say that I am glad to see Harang leave…sure wish it would have been a while ago though….this year has had some painful moments….

  2. The Ancient Mariner on August 26th, 2013 5:28 pm

    Unfortunately, I *have* heard of ankylosing spondylitis — it’s nasty. The vertebrae start to fuse, and you can end up with the spinal column completely solid.

    Yeah, Guti should really retire.

  3. Slats on August 26th, 2013 5:42 pm

    Eric Wedge said that Taijuan Walker is one of the candidates to start on Friday in Houston.

  4. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 5:44 pm

    This is going to be quite a contrast – the amazing center fielder is playing right field; while Ackley, who is no Gutierrez, is covering center. Then just look further to the left and think about how the step down from Ackley to Morse is even bigger than the step down from Gutierrez to Ackley.

    Also, Condor apparently simply woke up with a really really sore/stiff neck a few days ago. As an old guy, I feel a trifle better about myself when that sort of thing happens to a young guy who’s in great shape. Denial is a wonderful thing…

  5. scraps on August 26th, 2013 6:26 pm

    I have also heard of ankylosing spondylitis, and it’s a horror eventually.

    I hope Guti has good insurance. He sounds like he’s going to end up as an awful football player.

  6. don52656 on August 26th, 2013 7:03 pm

    Ackley is the only guy who seems to be able to hit right now, and he continues to bat 8th. Morse, who can’t run or cover any ground, gets to play the outfield again, this time in LF against a lineup which will be heavy towards right-handed batters because we’re throwing a lefty. Saunders, who is the best outfielder we have (and one of our hottest hitters), gets to sit for the 3rd straight day. He slept wrong?

    I was at the game yesterday and even though I won’t miss Harang, I challenge any pitcher to pitch effectively with Ibanez and Morse watching the game from the outfield. I’m not sure any runs would have scored if a competent outfield had been playing.

    Amazed to see Gutierrez. He hits .205 in Tacoma and gets to bat 3rd?

  7. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 7:26 pm

    My only interest in Blackley is how when he first came into league, his tats were a big deal. No, he’s downright staid compared to some of these guys.

  8. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 7:41 pm

    Just when things couldn’t seem worse, Bone in the booth.

  9. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 7:47 pm

    Just coming in… are things getting squishy yet? 😀

  10. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 7:56 pm

    “Brewing something in the 3rd!”…And now the bottom of the order…

  11. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 7:57 pm

    Don’t make me hurt you, Westy.

    No, no one’s been squishy. The score should tell you that!

  12. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 8:02 pm


    Man, Nick just hasn’t figured out how to adjust.

  13. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 8:03 pm

    Crazy Legs!

  14. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 8:03 pm

    I think of this blog every time Sims says what great speed Ackley has. EVERY TIME he has a chance run, Sims has to say it. It’s like an auto-reflex.

  15. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 8:05 pm

    How many cliches can Bone get in one ramble?

    *eyelid twitch*

  16. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 8:05 pm

    I’m waiting for Jay to weigh in on people with chronic illnesses.

    Because I’m sure the issue is that Guti just doesn’t want it enough. 😉


  17. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 8:08 pm

    Speaking of auto-reflex… “Hopefully Guti’s okay.”

  18. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 8:09 pm


    I’m personally blaming you, Westy, for Bone’s cliche spew about Guti ‘leaving it all out,’ and ‘only one way to play,’ and a few that my screams blocked out.

  19. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 8:15 pm

    Sorry man.

  20. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 8:18 pm

    Is this the longest inning of our lives, or does it just seem that way?

    How many wacky things happened? Guti’s gaff, whack-a-Ump, Morse ‘butterfly hunt’ flyball out, the greased ball double play that didn’t happen…

  21. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 8:20 pm

    And it just keeps going…

  22. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 8:30 pm

    Yeah, Seager!

    Crap, Jay, way to ruin it.

  23. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 8:31 pm

    Morse is toast.

  24. msfanmike on August 26th, 2013 8:34 pm

    Morse is having one hell of a contract year, isn’t he?
    I can’t believe this guy is going to be on the short list of players to get, for anybody.

  25. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 8:39 pm

    Every now and then, I hear weird things like how the Nats’ troubles this year are at the feet of letting Morse go.

    All righty then.

  26. Westside guy on August 26th, 2013 8:40 pm

    Hopefully this org won’t look at Morse and say “well, he was just hurt – he’s better than that”… since Morse has historically been hurt fairly often, spending significant time either on the DL or playing hurt.

  27. msfanmike on August 26th, 2013 8:49 pm

    Wooooo – great snag!

  28. SonOfZavaras on August 26th, 2013 8:55 pm

    To blazes with what UZR says- UZR is the best defensive metric ever devised, but it doesn’t cover everything.

    I still say Justin Smoak is just fine with the leather out there. I don’t know a better guy off the top of my head on dealing with the low throw scoop.

  29. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 9:07 pm

    And the heel on the throat…

  30. CYK on August 26th, 2013 9:09 pm

    wow–is Wedge the master of the IBB or what?

  31. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 9:23 pm

    Texas does what Texas does.

  32. msfanmike on August 26th, 2013 9:23 pm

    Yeah …. Ripped hard. Wow!

  33. juneau_fan on August 26th, 2013 9:29 pm

    Morse’s butterfly net wasn’t long enough for that one…

  34. gopilots70 on August 26th, 2013 9:42 pm

    Preface to say: I am glad that Eric Wedge is back, healthy and resuming his life, I hope in better shape.

    With that qualifier. This is the third straight game that EW has left the starting pitcher in for “one more inning” and put a game that was in reach quickly to out of reach. He has no awareness that pitchers tend to get more hittable as they reach near and surpass the 100 pitch mark. I only watched the Erasmo game, but even Mike Blowers in the previous inning was saying the ER was “leaving it up” and may be tiring. But there was a starting pitcher in a 2-0 game, nearing 100 pitches, with arm injuries the last two years, and he is still pitching, and…..with no one up in the bullpen. Three days in a row!

    When Robby Thompson was managing I saw a manager who seemed to have a feel for removing the starter. Lifted Kuma “during” the sixth and got the win. Frequently lifted Raul for defensive replacement in late innings with the lead. Ran for slow runners when we needed the run to tie or win.

    In essence, I saw managing that displayed some confidence that we could hold a lead or come back from a mini-deficit. Trusted the bullpen to get the job done, even if it did not.

    For a month, I did not winge or even feel the need to comment on this blog. Now we are back to indefensible managing and the only question is will I be next.

  35. gopilots70 on August 26th, 2013 9:50 pm

    On a positive note. The M’s are moving ever so much closer to having their draft pick protected from first round compensation. Maybe Ellsbury or Choo will be real possibilities.

  36. Jokerman on August 26th, 2013 9:59 pm

    Looks like Morales could be on his way out: Jon Morosi ?@jonmorosi 10h
    Kendrys Morales has been claimed on trade waivers, source says. If a trade is coming, it will happen this week. @FOXSports1

  37. GLS on August 26th, 2013 10:35 pm

    Ankylosing Spondilitis sucks. A cousin of mine had it from his teen years to when he died in his 60’s. He was in varying degrees of pain throughout most of his life.

  38. HighlightsAt11 on August 27th, 2013 12:01 am
  39. JMB on August 27th, 2013 6:58 am

    I was always a big Blackley fan as well. When I was covering the minors for the Grand Salami back in the day, I went to San Antonio for a few days to see that killer 2003 team (full of failed prospects: Justin Leone, Jose Lopez, Blackley, Chris Snelling, Clint Nageotte(!), etc.).

    The media guy there set me up for a ten minute interview with Blackley on an afternoon when he wasn’t pitching… I think the interview wound up lasting almost half an hour. Really nice kid. We talked about baseball, training, growing up in Australia, the transition to living in the US, everything.

    Derek and I were at his major league debut, when he got shelled. Always bummed he didn’t make it.

  40. MrZDevotee on August 27th, 2013 10:14 am

    A Mariner-related headline not helping Ichiro’s overall 4000 hit mark:

    “Wladimir Balentien close to breaking Japan’s home run record”

  41. MrZDevotee on August 27th, 2013 3:07 pm

    Tony Blengino becomes a free agent:

    “Mariners assistant GM Tony Blengino wasn’t let go by the club, but actually requested to look into other MLB opportunities since his role in the organization has decreased. The stats guru said that when he called the Mariners last week, he was advised that his contract for 2014 would not be renewed.”

  42. scraps on August 27th, 2013 4:28 pm

    If Wladimir Balentien has a chance for breaking Japan’s home run record, will Japan’s pitchers pitch around him like they did when American hitters before him, giving those hitters no chance?

  43. scraps on August 27th, 2013 4:29 pm

    So Tony Blengino wasn’t let go, he was let go, essentially.

  44. MrZDevotee on August 27th, 2013 5:40 pm

    The Japanese pitchers probably didn’t even realize he was close…

    However you would say in Japanese–

    “Seriously? That guy? The guy who doesn’t know his name starts with a ‘V’…?”

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