Game 136, Mariners at Astros
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Brett Oberholtzer, 11:10am
I mock the Saunders vs. Keuchel match-up, and it turns into a pretty decent pitcher’s duel. Huh.
Brett Oberholtzer is a lefty the Astros picked up from the Braves org a few years ago in the Michael Bourn trade. He throws a four- and two-seam fastball (92-91, respectively), a curve and a good change-up. The curve is intriguing, in that he’s told Fangraphs’ Eno Sarris that it’s actually two pitches: a true curve and a slurvy slider. Looking at his pitch fx charts, it’s pretty tough to spot. It’s not that I distrust Oberholtzer, it’s just that the distinction is really, really subtle. Most pitchers have some variation with their breaking balls, and I wouldn’t have pegged Oberholtzer’s as being the result of a consciously different approach/grip. But it’s a smart way to change things up; he throws a fair number of curves to lefty bats, and if they’ve seen it several times, it’s a good idea to add a wrinkle to it the 3rd/4th time through the line-up.
That said, his change-up has been his best pitch thus far in his brief MLB career. It generates twice as many whiffs as the curve, and he’s got decent command of it. The curve hasn’t gotten swinging strikes, but batters are hitting it into the ground, at least thus far. He’s had HR issues a bit with his fastballs, and neither the four-seamer or his sinker has a lot of sink, so batters have elevated them – and in Houston, that can lead to home runs. Oberholtzer had HR issues a bit in the minors, so this isn’t a small-sample fluke. He gets a lot of horizontal and vertical movement on his pitches, which should make his sinker effective against lefties, but like so many pitchers, he throws it mostly to righties, while throwing the four-seamer to lefties.
1: Miller, SS
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Gutierrez, RF
6: Saunders, LF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Ackley, CF
9: Blanco, C
“Oberholtzer” is in the running for most Germanic name in MLB. He’s got that going for himself.
In something of a surprise, Danny Hultzen’s returning from the DL to make a start in Tacoma today; we’ll see if he’s able to move up to Seattle when roster’s expand (so far, Tom Wilhelmsen’s the only confirmed call-up). Gametime is 1:35 at Cheney. Hultzen’s only throwing an inning or two, so it’s not like he’s ready to start in Seattle in September, but it’s encouraging to see him nonetheless. Trevor Miller, Charles Kaalekahi (making his high-A debut) and Eddie Campbell are also pitching today.