Game 140, Mariners at Royals
Joe Saunders vs. Jeremy Guthrie, 11:10am
Joe Saunders is a back-end starter making a base salary of $6.5m for this season, and will be a free agent in a short while. Jeremy Guthrie is a back-end starter making a touch less – $5m for 2013. But while Saunders will take his 4.83 FIP to market, Guthrie’s 4.76 is nearly irrelevant: Guthrie’s three year deal calls for $20 million spread over 2014 and 2015. I’m not going to say that Saunders is better, but there’s a reason many reacted with surprise when Guthrie, a few months after being DFA’d by Colorado, signed a three-year, $25m deal with Dayton Moore’s Royals.
There’s no doubt that the Royals needed better pitching: they’d paid Jonathan Sanchez to make 12 of the worst starts in baseball last year. And the moves they’ve made have largely worked out well – James Shields cost a ton in talent, but he’s pitched quite well. Ervin Santana was a good buy-low candidate who actually wasn’t all *that* cheap, but has been worth far more than his $13m club option. Guthrie’s returned 1 fWAR, but because he’s consistently beaten his FIP (even when his FIP and RA have both exceeded 5), he’s been better (above average, even) by RA9-WAR. For $5m, that’s a bargain, but Guthrie hasn’t been baseball’s most consistent player, and he’s due over $10m next year. Look, the money isn’t crippling for any team, even the Royals, but this next year is going to be an interesting one for Dayton Moore. What to do with Santana? What happens if Guthrie has another year like his 2009, or his 2012 again? Does any of it matter as long as Mike Moustakas still can’t hit?
Guthrie’s a sinker/slider/curve/change guy who hits 93mph with his fastball, and throws a fair number of sliders and changes to righties and lefties alike. He’s never racked up big strikeout totals, his walk rate is basically always between 6-7%, and as Dave pointed out, his results are highly dependent on his BABIP and HR rate. To be fair to Guthrie, he’s had a few remarkably low-BABIP years, and his career rate is lower than you’d guess, but you have to be a big believer in the idea that Guthrie just knows how to induce bad contact to see him as a middle-of-the-rotation guy. He’s thrown a lot of change-ups and curve balls in his career, but they haven’t staved off platoon splits; apparently the inducing-weak-contact mojo only works on righties. As such, this is a pretty good match-up for the M’s beleaguered bats.
Unfortunately, the Royals will start 7 righties in order to take advantage of Joe Saunders even longer standing, even more extreme platoon splits. This year, Saunders is surrendering a .400+ wOBA to righties thanks to 20 HRs allowed to them. Hey, on a one-year, $6.5m deal, it’s not the worst deal in the world, or even the worst deal on the team (depending on how you evaluate Franklin Gutierrez and his contract, at least), but the M’s need better pitching next year, and I don’t think they’re going to pay Saunders and hope for some regression to the mean.
1: Miller, SS
2: Almonte, CF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Ackley, LF
7: Franklin, 2B
8: Saunders, RF
9: Blanco, C
The new M’s six-man rotation and Felix’s scary muscle strain the other day mean Felix will have a few extra days of rest before he takes the hill again. He was slated to start Sunday’s game against Tampa, but he’ll instead start Wednesday against Houston. Erasmo Ramirez will start on Sunday instead.