Game 146, Astros at Mariners

marc w · September 11, 2013 at 5:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Brandon Maurer vs. Brad Peacock, 7:10pm

Man, is this series still going? :sigh:. Ok, Felix was supposed to start this one, but he’s been scratched due to back tightness. That sounds, and actually is, a bit concerning, but it’s also somewhat comforting to see the M’s take it easy with their ace. Felix wanted to pitch, because Felix always wants to pitch. In this game, at this point, it’s probably a good idea that he doesn’t.

This opens the door for Brandon Maurer, who’ll make his first start since late May, when he was demoted to AAA Tacoma. At that point, we thought we had a good handle on Maurer and his problems. His FB/Slider arsenal was good against righties but terrible against lefties, who killed him. Dave’s post was written May 1, when Maurer had allowed a .250/.304/.359 mark to righties (with 16Ks to 2BBs), and a 359/.424/.717 line (with 2Ks and 6BBs) to lefties. Clearly, this wasn’t going to work, and a few weeks later, the M’s agreed. Some argued that his line against lefties was absurd, and was inflated due to bad luck on HR/FB and the like – essentially, that he was nowhere near a 1.030 pitcher, true-talent, against lefties. Regression would take care of these extreme platoon splits – the question was always going to be: how much?

Maurer’s returned with an altered delivery and more curve balls, and he’s brought his splits against lefties down to a .321/.377/.588 mark, so yes, there’s been a touch of regression there. The problem, however, is that he’s not pitching like a situational righty. Right-handers season line is all the way up to .320/.393/.496. His splits have evened out all right, just not the way we wanted. He’s been a bit better since his call-up, improving his strikeout rate markedly, for example. He’s also improved his GB%, though again, this is all small-sample stuff produced entirely out of the bullpen. At some point in the year, I think we’d all have been pretty interested to see Maurer’s first game back as a starter. At this point, I think a lot of us will watch this game through our fingers.

Maurer never had a really odd angle, but he’s moved over a bit on the rubber (I think) and now throws more over-the-top as well. That’s not a bad thing to try, as the more sidearm or the further out towards 3rd/1st base you release the ball, the higher your platoon splits should be (all other things being equal).* It’s altered the movement of his pitches, though it’s probably still within the margin of error. It’s simply a good idea that may not be working.

I was thinking of a very similar situation watching last night’s game. Carter Capps was facing a few, uh, let’s just say ‘flawed’ right-handed batters, and three straight reached base. Carter Capps had large platoon splits last year, but it was something we could live with because RHBs had *no chance* against a ball released over 4 feet to the right of home plate, travelling 98MPH. Lefties got a long look, but they didn’t exactly drive the ball against him. This year, for whatever reason, *everyone* is driving the ball off Capps. Dave mentioned that he was worried about Capps’ splits coming into the season, and those splits were the proximate cause of Capps’ demotion. He returned with a similarly altered delivery. Similar not in that it now looks like Maurer’s – of course it doesn’t. But he clearly got the same advice. He moved his release point about a foot back towards the plate (by moving about a foot on the rubber), and he’s releasing the ball higher as well. It’s a perfectly good move in theory, given his main problem. But righties now have an above-average wOBA against Carter freaking Capps, and it’s not like lefties find him particularly troubling now either.

Jeff mentioned it in his piece on Capps, but change is actually pretty easy for pitchers – easier than I think is traditionally assumed, I think. The problem is that we don’t really know what changes are going to lead to substantially better outcomes. Pitchers come to the big leagues because whatever they do has worked. Maurer blew away MiLB lefties with his slider, just the same as Madison Bumgarner did. Carter Capps destroyed righties a year ago, and didn’t allow a HR at any level. Ichiro’s stance was so odd, that many evaluators thought he’d never hit MLB velocity. Any change can produce unforeseen consequences, but any change may take a while to stick – to go from something you’re consciously trying to remember to do to something your body does automatically. Brandon Maurer’s changes haven’t had the desired effect (or rather, they’ve had a minor desired effect, and what’s starting to look like some big side effects), but it’s possible that they can “work” with yet another tweak. It’s also possible that the only way Maurer can be effective is to go back to what got him to the big leagues and work on his actual pitches, not how he throws them. I have absolutely no idea which approach is best for Maurer or Capps. I’d really, really like to think the M’s do. But it’s hard.

1: Miller, SS
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Ibanez, LF
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Saunders, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Ackley, 2B

This’ll be Ackley’s 4th start at 2B since August 1st, or the 4th since his official position switch. Nick Franklin has been awful at the plate in the 2nd half, so this is the M’s attempt to get both Ackley and Saunders’ bat in the line-up. Dave’s made it clear that he thinks Ackley’s the better 2B bet going forward, which probably necessitates a trade of Franklin. I’m still unsure, given that Ackley still doesn’t show much pop (which means he’s going to be dependent on BABIP). Given the roster, the M’s can’t keep both long term, and whoever they trade is going to command far, far less than we’d have assumed a while ago. Franklin isn’t the guy with a low K rate and surprising HR pop right now, he’s the guy who can’t hit a curve. Ackley’s the guy with terrible career numbers and a demotion/position switch on his resume. Other teams positional battles are much more fun than ours.

* If you’ve been curious WHY this is true, read this piece at BP.


57 Responses to “Game 146, Astros at Mariners”

  1. bookbook on September 11th, 2013 10:54 pm

    The path forward: it starts with losing 90 games in 2014.

    Dunno. Love to see Dave’s plan this offseason. If he bothers.

  2. Westside guy on September 11th, 2013 11:30 pm

    I think we all knew this team was bad… but (and maybe this is just looking back with rose-colored glasses) I wonder if the reason it looks so incredibly awful to us right now is that the majority of our pitching staff simply sucks, while in past years we had a number of shiny new pitchers that gave us hope.

    Even with decent pitching, this would not be a good team – I realize that. But the last couple years it seemed like our pitching would keep us close in games, even when – like today – our guys couldn’t put a string of hits together. We likely would lose, but it would be 2-0 or 3-1 rather than 13-2 and 6-1.

  3. African Mariner on September 11th, 2013 11:39 pm

    Well silver-lining time
    The Mariners are really working hard to protect that first round pick. MLBTRs reverse standing board comes in handy.

    Well this should ensure some changes at the top. The question is how far up the Totem-pole.

    Eric Wedge. If so many player only meetings occur then this is a problem with leadership. The manager is there to make sure the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I don’t think this is happening.

    Jack Z. I have always been a fan of Jack Z and shall continue to be so but a general manager he is not. Roster construction is a big part of general management and well yeah uhmm…….

    Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong. Now wouldn’t that be funny.

  4. scraps on September 12th, 2013 1:18 am

    We can’t be sure — well, I can’t be sure — how much is bad pitching and how much is awful fielding.

  5. msfanmike on September 12th, 2013 9:00 am

    16 games left … 13 of them against teams that will be in or will be close to getting into the playoffs. The other 3 games are against the Angels in Anaheim.

    I think 92 losses is within reach and the “silver lining” will become reality. And if this team does not manage to win 70 games, please let that serve as the definitive statement for regime change.

    And yeah … we need better production from 1B. Better production from 2B. Two new OF’s. 2/3 of a bullpen. A catcher who can hit and an additional, dependable starting pitcher.

    In other words, this team probably has more holes to fill than it did at the end of last season. Wear this embarrassment, brass. You have earned it.

  6. sawsatch on September 12th, 2013 9:47 am

    Local minority owner buy the team and blow the whole thing up. Get rid of almost the whole roster and bring in new faces. We can’t get worse and at least we may get some people in the stadium out of curiosity if nothing else.
    Seriously, something close to this while perhaps hiring Pat Gillick as a senior advisor couldn’t hurt.

  7. don52656 on September 12th, 2013 10:54 am

    Mariners are now 6-14 since Wedge’s return from his medical leave (they were 13-15 while Thompson was managing.

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