Game 144, Astros at Mariners

marc w · September 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Taijuan Walker vs. Jarred Cosart, 7:10pm

A late-season game between two bottom-dwellers, long since eliminated from contention, both with goals that go beyond – and may even conflict with – trying to put themselves in the best position to win *this* game, in early September of 2013. That game begins as the first Monday Night Football (just about any NFL-related term or phrase just begs to have a trademark associated with it, and I say that as a fan of the game) contest of the year ends, and the second begins. Even for those of us who actually care about the M’s and Astros – how do we resist the biggest brand in US sports, not to mention the spectacle of a Seattle franchise that’s, you know, good, and good now, and not in some nebulous future? You may not care about whoever’s playing on MNF, but isn’t there something odd about expending mental energy on a baseball game that’s much more like a scrimmage or a practice than something that changes or illuminates our understanding of the teams and the game?* Isn’t that what we sometimes mock – the weird way that the media will send 50 people to practice fields and intone seriously about what it means that the Coach mentioned X before mentioning Y?

This pitching match-up is the antidote to all of that woe-is-us apathy, a clear, concise rejection of the idea that this specific game is meaningless and without merit. It could be great TV, pleasingly devoid of the over-the-top theatrics, the stentorian voices and million-selling singers patting you on the back for watching.** This is game exudes potential, and that’s important for fans of the M’s and Astros. The match-up involves two of the top 100 prospects in baseball dueling for the first time – two prospects whose rise to the big leagues seemed inevitable, and whose arrival atones, partially, for the god-awful seasons their clubs have played to date. We’re learning about players who could be franchise cornerstones, and that’s enough. Tomorrow night, uh….huh. Give me a minute.

Jarred Cosart came to the Astros in the Hunter Pence deal in 2011. Blessed with an upper-90s fastball, a curve and a change, he was a classic tools prospect. He was the big prize in the Pence deal despite fair-to-middling statistics – the big fastball and decent secondaries limited hits, but he couldn’t keep runs off the board and his strikeout totals never matched the pure stuff. He got grounders, was solid against lefties, and yet on the whole, Cosart was judged a disappointment. After a social promotion to the PCL, though, something may have clicked. His GB% was through the roof, and his strikeout rate ticked up, despite the fact he was facing better competition. Promoted in July, he took a no-hitter into the 7th, and he’s been an intriguing member of the Astros rotation since.

By fielding-independent measures, Cosart’s been freakishly lucky, and not all that good. He’s never had great control, so his walk rate hovering in the teens is disappointing to Astros fans, if not terribly surprising. But his K% has been bad as well, at just over 13%. This is not a finished product, but the raw material is top-grade. It’s going to be interesting to see how he finishes the year, and what adaptations he’ll develop. I’d guess he’ll work on a slider at some point, as he’s struggled against *righties* this year, both in Houston and in the PCL.

Beyond its velocity, Cosart’s fastball is an odd duck in terms of movement. It comes in with essentially zero horizontal movement. In his MLB games to date, it exhibits a slight glove-side movement, akin to the true over-the-top delivery guys like Yovani Gallardo and Clayton Kershaw, but he doesn’t have a delivery like those two. Most with very little horizontal movement tend to generate plenty of vertical movement (like Kershaw, Chris Tillman, etc.), but Cosart’s is normal, perhaps even a touch below; this probably helps him post great GB% numbers, though it shouldn’t do much for whiffs/strikeouts. We’ll see if the M’s are able to elevate the ball tonight.

Tai Walker’s through 10 mostly excellent innings, but like Cosart, has fewer strikeouts than anyone armed with a mid-90s fastball and big breaking curveball should have. His walk rate is and has been solid, but he doesn’t yet have pinpoint command of his fastball. Again, he’s freakishly young, and like Cosart, he hasn’t been hit hard so far, and I’m still a big believer in his ceiling. This is as good a match-up of guys with bad K% as you’ll see.

1: Miller, SS
2: Almonte, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Ackley, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Franklin, 2B
SP: Tai Walker

Sad I missed James Paxton’s successful MLB debut while I was out in the woods, but I’ve been looking over the pitch fx stats. We’ve still got Safeco’s weird/anomalous readings on vertical movement to contend with, but there’s an awful lot to like. First of all, the velocity’s all the way back. I got a taste of this in his last Tacoma appearance, but to sustain that velo over six innings and not two is a great sign from a guy who’s battled durability concerns since college. Second, if you take his vertical movement numbers and double them, it’s still below what he showed in the AFL and in his truly lousy spring training. I don’t want to oversell this, as it’s comparing one data point with some known measurement problems to a baseline in another park with some known measurement problems. The gap isn’t as big as it looks. Still, Paxton’s fastball came in with extremely low vertical movement for someone with an over-the-top delivery. In the AFL last year, his FB was 94mph and had the movement you’d expect from his delivery – low horizontal movement, and tons of backspin providing “rise.” In the spring, he was clearly tired, as his average velocity was just a hair over 90mph, though its movement was basically the same as it was in the AFL. In Seattle, his fastball was not only faster than it was in the AFL, it had sink. Paxton racked up grounders in his last AAA month, but if his vertical movement is around 8-9″ going forward, that’s still an interesting adjustment he’s made over the course of the season. It’s an odd thing, as his delivery makes you reach for Kershaw-type comps, whereas the movement looks more like, well, Jarred Cosart’s, actually.
Like Walker, he didn’t get many whiffs, and I’m quite surprised he didn’t go to his cutter at all, but I’m glad he’s got another offering to use on unsuspecting big league hitters in his next go-round. Between Paxton, Walker’s innings ceiling, Iwakuma’s ceiling/shoulder history and now Felix’s back, the six-man rotation is just perfect for the M’s right now. They haven’t had the depth for it this year, but they should seriously look into keeping it in 2014.

Glad to see Erasmo Ramirez put in another great start too, despite the control problems. I’m still a bit puzzled by his reliance on the slider, but he’s had some success, so I can’t be too concerned by it. Part of it may be the specific line-ups he’s faced, but he’s seeing more lefties this year (as a proportion of total batters faced), so it’s not like teams are starting righties to take the change-up away. Still, he threw the change to righties last year, and he’s not doing so in 2013.

* As an M’s blogger for a few especially barren years, this line of argument makes me uncomfortable.
** In commercials involving the NFL, literally every person is always on the verge of losing their feces. It’s bizarre. Whether at the game, or at a well-attended viewing party, everyone has food and drink in their hands just so they’ll have something to fling when the next unbelievable thing happens. In commercials involving baseball, there are a lot of children dressed in club gear by their parents. I don’t know what this means, but it’s interesting. I love football, but sometimes feel the culture is telling me I’m doing it wrong.

Comments

74 Responses to “Game 144, Astros at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 6:05 pm

    Meanwhile Saunders continues to sit out 50%-66% of starts regardless of performance.

  2. CAMariner on September 9th, 2013 6:39 pm

    It’ll be interesting to watch Walker pitch at home. Too bad this is his final start, but it’s understandable. Felix’s start got pushed back. I wonder how Maurer will handle his start against the Astros?

  3. californiamariner on September 9th, 2013 7:02 pm

    6 man rotation is an interesting idea but I feel like when you have a guy like Felix you wouldn’t be getting the most out of him that way, no?

  4. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 7:12 pm

    “Pitch up in the eyes of Altuva…”

    Would have been at the knees to belt of any other player.

  5. californiamariner on September 9th, 2013 7:23 pm

    Wondering what everyone thinks about Taijuan. Should he be in the rotation on opening day or take some more time in AAA first?

  6. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 7:35 pm

    Thank god for the Astros.

  7. californiamariner on September 9th, 2013 7:40 pm

    That ump show story the broadcasters were laughing about was ridiculous.

  8. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 8:04 pm

    These two teams playing each other is a torment. We’re stunned into a stupor.

  9. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 8:10 pm

    Hah. Did like how Walker was just walking off the mound as he threw that last pitch to Carter, knowing that guy would swing and miss for the strike out.

  10. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 8:14 pm

    I find myself getting very apathetic about this team no matter who the opponent is.

    I couldn’t care less about Raul possibly barely beating Williams. Once he cooled off my slight interest evaporated.

  11. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 8:16 pm

    How slow Morales is never fails to amaze me. I mean, I can run faster, and no one’s paying me a couple million dollars to do it.

    Or wait, does the team have to give him the 14 million to get some speed above a shuffle?

  12. TherzAlwaysHope on September 9th, 2013 8:21 pm

    Has anyone done the numbers on the dimension changes to Safeco Park? Good. Bad. No big deal?

  13. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 8:21 pm

    I’m pretty sure I could outrun him by a good length – and I’m a dumpy middle-aged guy!

    I expect his ankle is a mess and isn’t going to get better.

  14. californiamariner on September 9th, 2013 8:24 pm

    Ok Taijuan that 4th inning was impressive.

  15. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 8:24 pm

    Good grief, is this dude trying to out-Morales Morales?

  16. californiamariner on September 9th, 2013 8:39 pm

    Pretty impressive from Taijuan after he settled in.

  17. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 8:45 pm

    Interesting that we have two pitchers tonight drafted out of high school. While Cosart was a fairly late pick, Walker was a gamble, especially since he started to pitch late in his career, that could pay off big. The scout who spotted him and Z signing him deserve a lot of credit.

  18. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 8:48 pm

    I think these guys need to wear surfboard straps to keep their bats on the field!

  19. r-gordon-7 on September 9th, 2013 8:49 pm

    Looks like it’s “bat night” at Safeco – everyone in the stands gets one… and game-played, too!

  20. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 8:53 pm

    Boy – Raul’s pursuit of a record for 41-year-old players is really putting butts in the seats, isn’t it?

  21. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 8:55 pm

    Franklin did make a nice play – but the infield also was shifted to begin with.

    I’m sort of surprised Wedge does that!

  22. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 8:59 pm

    Is Raul pursuing a “real” record ? I still think the 300 club is a better feat. ( I think I got the joke)

  23. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 9:02 pm

    300 would indicate he’s had a good, long, productive career as a hitter.

    And he has, for sure.

  24. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:05 pm

    My modem went out…Did I even notice?

  25. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 9:06 pm

    Val’s actually being pretty interesting right now.

  26. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 9:14 pm

    Did your modem come back, Juneau, or are you tapping wires together to transmit?

  27. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:18 pm

    One of those embarrassing support calls where you yell, “I tried that” and of course when you try it again with the 20 year old guy on the phone, it works. After sitting on hold for 20 minutes. In freakin’ Alaska.

  28. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:20 pm

    God, games like this when even one run seems impossible…

  29. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:21 pm

    I realize it’s hard but I HATE taking strike 3

  30. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 9:24 pm

    Hey hey Almonte!!

  31. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:24 pm

    Okay, maybe not so impossible.

    What really would have been cool is if he’d bunted it outahere.

  32. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:25 pm

    AAAAAAAABE !!!! ( 7 A’s)

  33. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:31 pm

    Ok walking the lead-off guy right after taking the lead might be worse than looking at strike 3

  34. Breadbaker on September 9th, 2013 9:31 pm

    Eric Wedge’s unexplained belief that Carter Capps belongs in the majors continues to astound me.

  35. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:33 pm

    Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…

  36. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:35 pm

    Breadbaker – this is just tryouts

  37. Eastside Suds on September 9th, 2013 9:37 pm

    Carter Capps……why?????

  38. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:38 pm

    But the booth just told me that Capps had been doing so much better!

  39. Snuffy on September 9th, 2013 9:38 pm

    Hey Westside guy… re: your opening supportive comment on MSaunders…
    In 225 plate appearances minimum, AL outfielders, OPS vRHP… MSaunders is ranked 19th (out of 40)in the league. That’s ahead of all theses better known guys; (& in a tougher home park!)
    Nick Markakis
    Lorenzo Cain
    Alex Rios
    Melky Cabrera
    A. De Aza
    Willingham
    Alex Gordon
    Yoenis Cespedes
    Desmond Jennings
    Michael Bourn
    … Ichiro!

    Saunders is our best defensive outfielder along with Guti. He’s a good baserunner.
    I don’t get it. Wedge needs to go.

  40. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:39 pm

    He’s getting paid (I dunnno)

  41. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:43 pm

    Two on, nobody out , no problem

  42. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:43 pm

    Oh, to be an Astros fan…

  43. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 9:46 pm

    Sure, Sims. They’ll put up a three spot here.

  44. Breadbaker on September 9th, 2013 9:49 pm

    In four appearances from June 16 to July 6 Capps gave up 13 earned runs in 5-2/3 innings. He had his tryout.

  45. The_Waco_Kid on September 9th, 2013 9:49 pm

    Seriously, guys, how bout an insurance run for once? Too many extra innings games.

  46. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:53 pm

    Not arguing Capps’ worth but if this was all about winning right now Felix would have started yesterday. Its just extended spring and everyone is getting a look. I think Wedge fully realizes that Capps is not his set-up guy. The set -up guy right now is Furbush and even Wedge knows that.

  47. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:53 pm

    Not arguing Capps’ worth but if this was all about winning right now Felix would have started yesterday. Its just extended spring and everyone is getting a look. I think Wedge fully realizes that Capps is not his set-up guy. The set -up guy right now is Furbush and even Wedge knows that.

  48. The_Waco_Kid on September 9th, 2013 9:55 pm

    Capps is talented. He will get lots of chances to figure things out.

  49. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 9:56 pm

    Oh Gee Wedge knows who his closer is

  50. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 10:01 pm

    The torment…

  51. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 10:05 pm

    Rooool another one

  52. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 10:05 pm

    How about an easy save sometime, Danny?

  53. The_Waco_Kid on September 9th, 2013 10:05 pm

    Wow good framing by Zunino. I guess not good enough.

  54. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 10:06 pm

    CRAP.

  55. pgreyy on September 9th, 2013 10:06 pm

    We can’t have nice things.

  56. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 10:07 pm

    *slowly pounding head on coffee table*

  57. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 10:08 pm

    Wedge is really dumb, Where’s Noesi?

  58. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 10:08 pm

    I know Almonte is exciting on the basepaths, but defensively he leaves something to be desired.

  59. Jake on September 9th, 2013 10:09 pm

    And yet another awful throw by Almonte. That kid has a LOT to learn in the outfield.

    Two errant throws where, it seems, he’s trying to show off his arm strength, more than making the smart play.

    Then that horrible diving attempt, that contributed to another Mariner loss in Houston a couple weeks ago.

  60. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 10:10 pm

    We’re awake now, I’ll say that.

  61. The_Waco_Kid on September 9th, 2013 10:11 pm

    The Astros are so bad. And yet we can’t beat them. Good night.

  62. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 10:12 pm

    Bobby Ayala returns ( Argh )

  63. Snuffy on September 9th, 2013 10:13 pm

    Here’s what really matters…
    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/reversestandings2014
    …assuming Wedge does not return.

  64. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 10:16 pm

    I think I’ll put in an X-files episode DVD. It’s the 20th anniversary of the show starting.

  65. Westside guy on September 9th, 2013 10:17 pm

    WHAT the HECK was THAT??

    I swear, it really is the Bad News Bears.

  66. pgreyy on September 9th, 2013 10:17 pm

    What the–oh, forget it…it’s Marinertown.

  67. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 10:18 pm

    Bad News Bears

  68. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 10:20 pm

    The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day….

  69. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 10:21 pm

    Slow, contemptuous clap…

  70. pgreyy on September 9th, 2013 10:23 pm

    juneau, someone should re-make Spooky Mulder’s office poster with a fuzzy M’s logo behind the “I WANT TO BELIEVE”…

  71. juneau_fan on September 9th, 2013 10:26 pm

    a *like* for pgreyy

  72. Longgeorge1 on September 9th, 2013 10:33 pm

    Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright…

  73. heyoka on September 10th, 2013 6:34 am

    Congrats to Zunino for officially overtaking Kelly Shoppach as the 2013 team catcher.

  74. Westside guy on September 10th, 2013 9:00 am

    I’m still trying to figure out who “Casey” is on our own Mudville nine – if it’s Raul, he’s been striking out for a while now.

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