Game 148, Mariners at Cardinals

marc w · September 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Michael Wacha, 4:15pm

Today’s game is another fascinating match-up between top prospects. James Paxton had brilliant stuff but underwhelming results for much of his pro career, alternating stretches of absolute dominance with bouts of wildness, velo loss and a lack of in-game durability. Michael Wacha was seen as a high floor, very low ceiling pick out of college – a safe bet to get through the minors, but with a back-of-the-rotation ceiling. Instead, Wacha laid waste to the minors, using a well-spotted 93mph fastball to get pop ups and Ks, while above-average control and command limited hits and runs allowed. Most of the time, Paxton threw harder (and from the left side, no less) and had the more visually impressive breaking ball, but, and however overrated it is, this is critical: no one could hit Michael Wacha. Thus, not long after Memphis faced Tacoma in May, Wacha moved up to St. Louis for his first start for a division-leading team in the heart of a playoff run.

When I saw him in Tacoma, he was very comfortable pitching up in the strike zone, using a good straight fastball to get whiffs and pop-ups. Thus, I was pretty surprised to see his GB% in his first few appearances with the Cards – he generated a ton of grounders. Over the past few months, that picture’s changed, and at this point Wacha’s got an average to slightly below average GB%, and it’s clearly trending down. That makes perfect sense, given his very low horizontal movement, high vertical movement fastball, which he pairs with a good change-up. He really hasn’t used anything but those two pitches, though he’s thrown a rare curve ball as well. His change has been his best pitch, with whiffs on over 40% of the swings on it, a very high GB% and no HRs allowed. Of course, it’s undoubtedly effective because of the way it interacts with his non-sinking four-seamer, which gets a decent whiff rate on its own. Lefties and righties alike have been flummoxed by his change, and his fastball’s shown some odd splits thus far. In Tacoma, he dominated righties with high heat, but righties have hit it fairly well in MLB. It’s lefties who for whatever reason aren’t seeing the ball out of his hand, at least in his first tour of the league.

James Paxton showed a similarly odd GB% in his MLB debut last week. A guy with below average GB% through the minors and a very over-the-top, rising fastball suddenly got 12 ground balls. As I mentioned afterwards, the movement on his fastball looked completely different than it did in the spring (or in the Arizona Fall League). Given the measurement issues at both Peoria and Safeco, I’m looking forward to this game to really figure out just how much Paxton’s fastball movement’s changed. Given the GB% spike in his last month in Tacoma and his GB-heavy debut, I don’t think 100% of this is pitch fx calibration. I think Paxton’s altered his FB during the year – the question is how much, and how he’s done it. The M’s don’t have a lot to look forward to this last month, but Paxton’s progress is one potential bright spot. Not only was his velocity much higher than people thought (especially those who last saw him in March, when an exhausted Paxton was averaging 90mph on the fastball), it moved differently, and he had the stamina to get through six good innings. If he can sustain that again, it goes a long way towards settling the debate about his big league role (with many having him ticketed to the bullpen), while really helping the M’s pitching depth next year – and thus, at the margins, altering the offseason plan a bit.

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

Comments

53 Responses to “Game 148, Mariners at Cardinals”

  1. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 4:20 pm

    I keep thinking of Fozzie Bear for some reason…

    Wacha Wacha Wacha!

  2. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:22 pm

    Not sure how long I’ll last, having just consumed roughly 20 Filipino spring rolls, post-cooking lesson (Hey, gotta taste test!) and may not make it long before napping sets in. Particularly if the Mariners’ play as expected.

  3. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:26 pm

    I truly hate the Cardinals. It would really be nice to see the team win at least one for the Pirates here.

  4. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 4:35 pm

    I dunno… there’s a part of me that wants the team to completely implode for the remainder of the season.

    I can’t really articulate why, though.

  5. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:36 pm

    Because at least it’s interesting? Just how bad can they be?

  6. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 4:43 pm

    I’d say we saw the answer to that question yesterday. :-D

  7. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:45 pm

    Oh, don’t give them that sort of challenge. Thank the gods I was out getting tipsy with friends and missed that.

    By now, when they go to extra innings, I just assume it’s going to end in some humiliating fashion.

  8. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 4:45 pm

    I must say we are seeing at least some evidence that next year’s starting rotation might actually be pretty decent.

    But the bullpen probably needs to be completely blown up.

  9. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:47 pm

    “We’re going to see if Paxton can bunt here…”

    And he looks like a deer in the headlights up there.

  10. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:47 pm

    Since the regular position players can’t properly lay down a bunt when necessary, I don’t have a lot of faith in the AL pitcher.

  11. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 4:51 pm

    Let him swing away, Wedge!

  12. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 4:51 pm

    Let him swing away, Wedge!

  13. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:52 pm

    Double play coming.

    *Eeyore voice*

  14. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 4:54 pm

    Blowers talking on the radio pregame. Even though they knew he would not bunt much in the bigs he had to bunt in the minors to move up

  15. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:54 pm

    No, just two strike outs.

  16. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:54 pm

    I didn’t think the minors had the pitcher hit?

  17. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 4:56 pm

    Sign the cat’s tired of this team too? Lay on the remote and changed the channel.

  18. djw on September 14th, 2013 4:56 pm

    he had to bunt in the minors

    All minor leagues us the DH, i thought.

  19. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 4:58 pm

    Which brings up today’s generic question. If your name is not Ted Williams (or a Mariner and you can’t). You are a lefty leading off an inning and the shift is on. Why don’t you take the free single and bunt?

  20. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 4:59 pm

    Three strikeouts.

  21. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 5:00 pm

    Blowers was a third baseman.

    … Or was he talking about Paxton?

  22. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 5:02 pm

    The National league farm teams still don’t DH in the PCL when they play each other. When Blowers played I don’t know. But even non- pitchers can bunt on teams not called Mariners

  23. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 5:05 pm

    Blowers said he and all players in his system (Yankees?) had to learn how to bunt in games or they would not get out of A ball. He went on to say in his major league career he was asked to sacrifice 1 or 2 times a season..

  24. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 5:05 pm

    I’m coming to dread two out baserunners with the M’s.

  25. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 5:09 pm

    P.S. According to baseball reference Blowers had 15 Sac bunts in his career. 3 in 1995 and 4 in 1997 with the M’s

  26. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 5:12 pm

    We’ve certainly seen a number of successful bunts AGAINST the Mariners this season…

  27. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 5:20 pm

    I think next years rotation might be better than this years at the start of the season, even with no FAs

  28. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 5:24 pm

    Dustin Ackley’s NL audition…

  29. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 5:26 pm

    It will be interesting to see if Paxton and/or Walker are part of the starting rotation coming out of spring training.

    But obviously a lot depends on what happens to the manager and GM in the meantime.

  30. djw on September 14th, 2013 5:27 pm

    Always nice to see Guti do something positive.

  31. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 5:27 pm

    I don’t agree with that bunt.

  32. mrakbaseball on September 14th, 2013 5:32 pm

    Blowers was talking about himself, while playing in the Expos system.

  33. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 5:37 pm

    Yeah, Sims, that “savvy veteran” really came through.

    It’s getting harder and harder to believe that Raul really did what he did in the first half.

  34. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 5:40 pm

    Miller’s hurt? Crap.

  35. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 5:44 pm

    If Rob Johnson gets to the WS with the Cards this year, and even a ring, there is no god.

  36. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 6:01 pm

    Wedge, get that hook ready. Paxton’s starting to get the ball up.

    Of course, that means going to the pen…

  37. bookbook on September 14th, 2013 6:06 pm

    Felix, Kuma, Paxton, Walker, Lincecum
    Then Hultzen replaces whichever of Paxton and Walker bombs out after the first six weeks.

  38. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 6:08 pm

    When someone mentioned Triunfel a few days ago, I must admit I’d forgotten he was still on the team.

  39. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 6:12 pm

    Remember when seeing Wilhelmsen up in the pen inspired confidence?

  40. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 6:16 pm

    Yeah, first thought that went through my mind was, well, there goes the game.

    Might need to nap now…

  41. miscreant on September 14th, 2013 6:19 pm

    I have to humbly admit that these Paxton starts and the 3 by Walker are giving me a modicum amount of hope for the Mariners.

    http://youtu.be/UPw-3e_pzqU

  42. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 6:30 pm

    Hey, Kendrys!

  43. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 6:31 pm

    IbaƱez is retired.

    And should retire.

  44. djw on September 14th, 2013 6:54 pm

    Now that’s a bunt.

  45. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 6:55 pm

    THAT was a nice drag bunt!

  46. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 6:56 pm

    Suicide squeeze, right here.

    Or that.

  47. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 6:58 pm

    IF Abe gets his act together in the field he will be a nice piece. He has the tools he just needs to get under control

  48. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 7:04 pm

    I have no problem giving Lincicum a shot, I did not see Hultzen with the Rainers this year, I understand he was pretty dominating, in very limited action. I think Fifi, Kuma, Ramierez and the BIG three make six. Tim would give us seven for five spots and I LIKE the competition it would create.

  49. juneau_fan on September 14th, 2013 7:07 pm

    Wake up at the best time…

  50. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 7:07 pm

    Oh FarQ

  51. Westside guy on September 14th, 2013 7:09 pm

    Sweet!

    Guess I do still care a little. ;-)

  52. Longgeorge1 on September 14th, 2013 7:10 pm

    Go back to sleep Juneau Lumpia is sleep inducing

  53. CAMariner on September 14th, 2013 8:06 pm

    7 hits in 2 games for the Cardinals. It appears to me that they did not do any scouting.

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