Game 131, Rangers at Mariners

marc w · August 27, 2013 at 5:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Derek Holland, 7:10pm

Thanks to the unbalanced schedule and the fact that the baseball season is 162 games long*, I get to write about certain opponents a lot. I feel like I’ve written more about Derek Holland – his volatile HR rate, his taste in music, his splits – than I have about, I don’t know, Joe Saunders. That’s not necessarily bad – it’s somewhat fun to follow a career trajectory without fandom layering on things like disappointment, wildly inflated hope, etc. So hello again, Derek Holland. It’s been nearly two months since I’ve looked at your Fangraphs page.

As you no doubt remember, Holland’s a lefty with a 94mph+ fastball and a big slider that he throws to righties and lefties alike. After struggling with HRs and nebulous injury concerns last year – he gave up 32 HRs in less than 180 IP – he’s putting together a brilliant 2013 campaign. His FIP is a career low by a mile, his ERA’s under 3, and his K% is at a career best. What’s changed? In terms of pitch mix, he’s relying on the slider much more often this year, essentially ditching his curve ball and using fewer change-ups. It’s an interesting move, but it’s been very successful. Unlike Travis Blackley, righties never had trouble elevating and punishing Holland’s curve, as they’ve slugged .553 on it in his career. Meanwhile, they’ve struggled with his slider, with a much higher whiff rate and poor quality of contact (viewed by ISO/SLG, which isn’t great, but hey). Overall pitch-type platoon splits are useful, but Holland smartly adduced that continuing to watch his curve get blasted was no fun, and it’s paid off for him.

Like many lefties, Holland sees line-ups stacked with righties, so figuring out how to minimize his platoon splits is critical. The M’s aren’t able to stack their line-up with credible righties, however, so it’s less important now than it would be if he was facing someone else. The M’s are hitting .228/.294/.375 against lefty starters this year, well below what they hit against RHSPs. This isn’t shocking, of course, as the M’s have a number of lefty bats, and a fair number of switch hitters who hit worse from the right-hand side. Theoretically, Michael Morse was supposed to stabilize the line-up against lefties, giving the M’s righty power to punish any mistakes. Injuries and ineffectiveness scuppered that plan, though. Seriously: this is essentially what Morse is here for, and he’s batting 6th tonight. It has not been a good year for Mr. Morse.

The M’s *are* trying to get as many righties in the line-up as they can, it’s just that when they do… Brendon Ryan is starting, is what I’m trying to say. All in all, not a bad move to get Nick Franklin a day off. He came back a bit earlier than expected from his injury, and he looked completely lost against a journeyman lefty with an OK breaking ball last night. He’s going to need to compete against the Derek Hollands and CC Sabathias of the world eventually, but there’s no need for him to take some meaningless lumps right now.

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

James Paxton starts tonight for Tacoma, as he tries to make a good impression in his last few outings of the minor league year. It’s been a very odd, somewhat frustrating year for the Canuck; the door was wide open for him to get a chance at the big league level, and he’s not been able to take advantage. He’s shown flashes, but then that’s never been the problem. Consistency is, and in that respect, it’s harder to find evidence of growth and improvement. I really like his curveball, though.

The M’s announced their selections for the Arizona Fall League. They’re sending Carson Smith, Dominic Leone, Danny Hultzen, Brandon Maurer, Patrick Kivlehan, Stefen Romero and Chris Taylor. Smith and Romero both played in the AFL last year, while Hultzen was a Peoria Javelina two seasons ago. For whatever reason, the M’s are fond of repeating that league; Dustin Ackley went twice too. Maurer’s the interesting pick, though it certainly makes sense to get him right back into game action after the big league season’s over. Smith has been a dominating reliever after a shaky April, and could pitch credibly in the majors right now. I’m hopeful that another solid AFL campaign will position him to make a run at the big league bullpen in 2014. Chris Taylor’s the UVA-trained shortstop who hit his way to AA this year. Drafted as a glove-first player, he’s hit quite well in the M’s system. Leone’s a small righty reliever out of Clemson who pitched well in High Desert and made it to AA in his second year in the org. Kivlehan’s the ex-Rutgers football player who hit well in Everett last year, despite a worrying strikeout rate. Moved up to Clinton this year, his strikeouts dropped, but so did his overall offensive production. He was promoted to High Desert anyway, and like many, found the Cal League much more to his liking. As a 23-year old in the low minors (due in part to his comparative lack of baseball experience), this is a great opportunity to show that he belongs in the high minors, and that his improved contact skills are real. I’d say no one has more to gain from this assignment than Kivlehan. I’ll be interested to see where Stefen Romero plays. He’s done a bit of everything in the system, moving from 3B to 2B to LF. He played IF and DH with Peoria last year, but I’m guessing he’ll focus on LF this go-round. We’ll see.

* I’ve long been a fan of the marathon 162-game schedule, and the meaningfulness of MLB’s regular season. These past 3.67 years have given me pause, however. The M’s haven’t been good, and that’s fine. Rebuilds are fascinating from an intellectual point of view, and they take on the patina of character-building, weren’t-those-the-days nostalgia when you look back once a team’s actually a contender. All of that is true, but watching a team scuffle for…600+ games can get to you.


94 Responses to “Game 131, Rangers at Mariners”

  1. SonOfZavaras on August 27th, 2013 9:42 pm

    Brendan Ryan is sure putting up a couple late additions to his defensive highlight reel- there aren’t more than 10 shortstops that turn that into a POSSIBLE play.

  2. Breadbaker on August 27th, 2013 9:45 pm

    It is weird, but it doesn’t feel like a tie game. I guess we haven’t had one in so long it’s like a new experience.

  3. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 9:46 pm

    If any team wants Brendan, they’d better get a move on…

  4. juneau_fan on August 27th, 2013 9:47 pm

    There was Tootsie Pop discussion? And I missed it?

  5. Breadbaker on August 27th, 2013 9:49 pm

    Yes, Westy, particularly after the article in Grantland today.

  6. MrZDevotee on August 27th, 2013 9:50 pm

    That’s totally true… It feels like “hey, we’re not completely out of this yet” (like we’re behind) and then I look at the score and think… “Hmmm… Weird.”

    I think it’s just the “season’s over” feeling completely settling in… The Harang dfa knowing we’re gonna start bringing yungin’s up is probably part of it.

  7. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 9:52 pm

    What article was that?

  8. Eastside Suds on August 27th, 2013 9:57 pm

    Sitting here at a camp fire in Beverly Beach Oregon with an adult beverage and light rain coming down. Its a disease. They just can’t keep me away!
    Just checking with you fine gentlemen. Looks like a pretty decent game considering what we’ve been through lately.

  9. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:01 pm

    Found it – a good read!

    I am glad I’ve gotten to watch Brendan Ryan play defense – I will miss that.

  10. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:04 pm

    Eastside – being a Mariners fan sometimes seems a bit like being a battered spouse!

  11. Eastside Suds on August 27th, 2013 10:08 pm

    sadly you are right. Though we should walk away after all the abuse, we continue to return for more. “Fan”atic is such a good label.

  12. MrZDevotee on August 27th, 2013 10:09 pm

    And USSMariner is like a support-group for all the spouses who were married to the same person.

    We all understand. Sadly.

    Maybe we’re Mormons and this is polygamy spousal abuse?

  13. Breadbaker on August 27th, 2013 10:10 pm

    That is quite a break.

  14. californiamariner on August 27th, 2013 10:11 pm

    LOL at that bunt.

  15. Breadbaker on August 27th, 2013 10:14 pm

    Back to normal

  16. juneau_fan on August 27th, 2013 10:14 pm

    Live by the bunt, die by the bunt.

  17. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:14 pm

    Good grief. I am so tired of predictable, terrible bunts.

  18. Eastside Suds on August 27th, 2013 10:17 pm

    But, but our sterling baserunning makes up for it.

  19. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:18 pm

    Nick may be starting 2014 in Tacoma.

  20. djw on August 27th, 2013 10:18 pm

    Christ. Franklin has some serious work to do to be a major league hitter, I’m afraid. His contact issues are terrifying.

  21. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:19 pm


  22. juneau_fan on August 27th, 2013 10:22 pm

    This team feels like a bizzaro version of baseball. Call me crazy, but don’t managers generally start the hot young things and then bring in that vet grit to pinchhit when the game is on the line. (See Yankees’ use of Ibanez last year).

    Instead, this team keeps the slow, death on the basepads going all game, then brings in the inexperienced kids in the 9th, trying to win.

  23. Slats on August 27th, 2013 10:24 pm

    I am starting to feel a little bit more confident in Ack.

  24. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:26 pm

    Heck with Ackley – I am getting more confident that Condor is for real.

  25. juneau_fan on August 27th, 2013 10:27 pm


  26. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:27 pm

    Haha, a stereotypical Beltre hit!

  27. californiamariner on August 27th, 2013 10:29 pm

    1st and 2nd no outs……. sigh

  28. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:30 pm


  29. juneau_fan on August 27th, 2013 10:30 pm

    Just finding new ways to lose…

  30. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:31 pm

    Balks are generally stupid.

    And I mean the rules are what’s stupid.

  31. Eastside Suds on August 27th, 2013 10:34 pm

    What did he do Westy?

  32. juneau_fan on August 27th, 2013 10:36 pm

    We’ve seen it about 4 times, Eastie and supposedly Danny flinched. I see nothing.

  33. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:36 pm

    It was such a tiny movement… but I think he was set, looking in at the catcher, and may have then moved slightly back.

    I didn’t see anything, to be honest.

  34. Eastside Suds on August 27th, 2013 10:44 pm

    Ticky tacky. Not attempting to influence the runner. Once again umpires trying to be a part of the sbow

  35. Westside guy on August 27th, 2013 10:49 pm

    Okay, Val just explained it.

    Farquhar shook his head “no” at the catcher, and at the same time his left shoulder twitched a tiny amount.

    Unbelievable. What a dumb rule.

  36. mrakbaseball on August 27th, 2013 10:54 pm

    They’re going to give Wedge another stroke, 0-5 since his return to the dugout.

  37. msfanmike on August 27th, 2013 11:25 pm

    90 losses is looking more and more feasible every day. 13-18 will get it done. Yuck. Top 10 pick will be virtually guaranteed with 90 losses, though – so “yay???”

    I think I am going to focus on seeing if Ackley can end up leading the team in BA. His improvement has been accomplished in a very unsustainable way, though – so I don’t like his statistical chances, but I do like his 1/4″ adjustment to consistently square up some pitches. In other words, about the same amount as Farquars balk.

    Bucknor is a bit of a dick, isn’t he. Infinitesimal balk … Should have allowed the runner to move the base up by 5′. We need a rule change.

    It didn’t matter, though. The Mariners were destined to lose that game after the latest in a long running series of failures to generate a 1 run inning with 2 on and zero outs. They are absolutely pathetic at the little things and a lot of the big things. It’s almost an accomplishment if they don’t end up losing 100 games this year.

  38. eponymous coward on August 28th, 2013 12:33 am

    90 losses is looking more and more feasible every day. 13-18 will get it done.

    Well, last year’s team did the El Foldo at the end: 11-18 in September and October. The schedule has 18 games on the road, with only two off days the rest of the way. If we do end up with a 90 loss season, I can’t wait to see how the Zduriencik apologists manage to blame this one on some Bill Bavasi signings. Wouldn’t mind a strong finish, though. Hope’s something in short supply here.

    I’m guessing those Astros games in September should be like 80’s M’s-Indians games, with a mostly empty ballpark as a mute witness to two bad teams. Good times.

  39. stevemotivateir on August 28th, 2013 7:06 am

    I’m not sorry we didn’t get Fielder and I’m not sorry we didn’t get Hamilton, particularly compared to the millstones they will soon be (or are, in one case) around the neck of the Tigers and Angels. If the result was that we get someone like Ellsbury because we have no long term commitments except for Felix, then it makes some sense.

    I’m not sorry we didn’t get Fielder or Hamilton either. I didn’t want either player. And Fielder obviously wouldn’t have helped us with the outfield situation.

    But it’s ridiculous to suggest the M’s were smart to wait year after year in order to possibly land someone like Ellsbury, who would still have to produce after being signed to argue it was a good move.

    There’s more options out there than just high-priced free agents, or aging and injury-prone players with no defensive value. You can argue that they could have done worse, but you certainly can’t say they couldn’t have done better than with what we’ve seen.

  40. stevemotivateir on August 28th, 2013 7:14 am

    I don’t understand this at all. The last time the Mariners offered Gutierrez a contract was January 2010; he was coming off a healthy, 6 WAR season and was 27, and the Mariners were simply buying out his arbitration and first free agent year at a bargain price.

    I didn’t word that well at all. I was perfectly OK with the Guti extension then as well.

    I was implying (or trying to imply) that viewing Guti as an option now, moving forward, would be reaching.

  41. jak924 on August 28th, 2013 10:17 am

    No end to the stench.

  42. eponymous coward on August 28th, 2013 11:20 am

    I was implying (or trying to imply) that viewing Guti as an option now, moving forward, would be reaching.

    Exactly. You just can’t rely on him for any meaningful contribution. If the M’s were flush with OF help, sure, but they aren’t.

  43. casey on August 28th, 2013 12:04 pm

    I continue to be mystefied or since I can’t spell it maybe misty eyed over Wedge’s lineups. Ackley is now at .385 on base percentage since the allstar break and even .400 batting and over 1.000 OPS for August yet he continues to hit 8th. He has been top of order hitter all his life – I am guessing Wedge is on the side of small sample size the guy is still Jeremy Reed; he should be lucky he is playing.

    I know lineups don’t make huge deal but have always heard 1) you bunch your best hitters (not getting the Ackley and Blanco tandem) and 2) give your best hitters the most at bats by placing them at the top of order.

    Franklin on the other hand would seem to benefit from a little less pressure and might function better lower in the lineup. But might make same argument for Saunders and Ibanez – clearly I need a lineup 101 Mariners style.

  44. stevemotivateir on August 28th, 2013 4:01 pm

    If the M’s were flush with OF help, sure, but they aren’t.

    Thank you. I’m glad someone understood my point! I didn’t think it could have been interpreted any other way, but I guess I was wrong.

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