Game 150, Mariners at Tigers

marc w · September 16, 2013 at 3:46 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Joe Saunders vs. Rick Porcello, 4:07pm

The M’s continue their tour through heartland playoff races by facing off against the AL Central-leading Tigers today at Comerica. Unlike the Cards, the Tigers figure to have their division locked up, though Cleveland is five games back and have an extremely favorable schedule in the season’s final two weeks. Still, the action (and fans’ attention) is focused on the wildcard race, as the Indians try to hold off the Royals and leapfrog the Rays and Rangers. The M’s get to mess around in THAT big mess when they return home; they face the Royals at Safeco beginning on the 23rd.

Rick Porcello is one of those players whom many believe could be an entirely different kind of successful pitcher if he wanted to. This started not long after he was drafted by the Tigers with the 27th pick in the 2007 MLB draft. Don’t let that draft position fool you: he was ID’d as the best high-schooler in the draft, and only sunk because everyone knew his bonus demands were sky high. Just as they did in 2006 when UNC’s Andrew Miller fell in the draft due to bonus demands, the Tigers stepped up and paid Porcello an insane $11.1 million ($3.5m for a signing bonus, and a $7m+ contract). Everyone was suitably concerned then when he finished his first minor league season with a K/9 rate in the low 5’s. He was reasonably successful in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and the grounders were great, but where was the dominance? In the know fans suggested that he had one or two breaking balls that were lights-out, but which the Tigers had barred him from throwing so he could work on commanding his sinker. We’d all find out when he hit the majors the next year, at age 20.

Again, Porcello was successful, but his K% was a Beavanesque 12%. Were the Tigers *still* barring him from using his death-slider? Since that time, his K% has inched upwards from “laughable” to “meh” but there are still occasional calls for him to stop this nonsense and just strike everyone out (the assumption still being that he could, and that his style is a conscious choice). This always reminds me of the people who swore Ichiro could’ve been a 30-35HR guy, but he selfishly/unselfishly (whichever narrative you pick, you can fit this counterfactual to it!) chose to be a slap hitter. Wade Boggs could’ve done it too! The point is not to mock those who think there are players who *could* dominate but don’t want to for some reason, the point is that we tend to be more interested in Porcello’s strikeout rate than we would, I don’t know, Joe Saunders’. So when Porcello came out in the spring striking out everyone, it got noticed; Tigers fans were stoked.

As it happened, his K% fell back to his career rate in April (“awwww”) but then spiked in May (“woooo“) and has now settled back where it was. All told, his K% is up this year – he’s cracked the 6 K/9 barrier! – but he’s essentially tied with Doug Fister in that metric. None of this is to suggest Porcello is *bad,* he’s just different than we thought he’d be coming out of high school. He’s consistently posted good FIP marks, thanks to his GB% holding down his home runs allowed. But given his sinker-heavy arsenal, he’s posted fairly high platoon splits. Over his career, his FIP is about 1 full run higher vs. lefties than righties, and this year those splits are even more extreme. He’s gone to his curve more this season, and that’s helped him at the margins with lefties (it’s better than his change/sinker), but his K% change has been driven by his success against righties.

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

The M’s skip presumptive Cy Young winner Max Scherzer in this four-game set, but still face Porcello/Sanchez/Verlander and Fister, which…*sigh*.


20 Responses to “Game 150, Mariners at Tigers”

  1. msfanmike on September 16th, 2013 4:28 pm

    The only surprise so far is that Saunders was able to get an out before he gave up a run. Just barely, but he did it.

  2. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 4:39 pm

    Turned on the game a moment ago, then saw that Saunders is pitching. I may or may not make it through this game.

  3. scraps on September 16th, 2013 4:54 pm

    I missed yesterday’s game, so I missed Ackley’s elevation to leadoff.

  4. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 5:03 pm

    All right Almonte!

  5. MissouriMariner on September 16th, 2013 5:06 pm

    So are they trying to make Ackley a utility guy? Hoping for another Zobrist? LOL

  6. CAMariner on September 16th, 2013 5:14 pm

    I’m really liking the prospect of Almonte. A fast outfielder who has some pop. The Mariners with a fast player is something that has truly been lacking. Hopefully he can lock down a spot on the roster for the coming season.

  7. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 5:28 pm

    Problem with Almonte is his defense is a bit of an adventure.

  8. bookbook on September 16th, 2013 5:34 pm

    I hate to say it, but maybe it’s okay to give Seager a game off.

  9. CAMariner on September 16th, 2013 5:56 pm

    Maybe slot Almonte in left. I understand that he has the range to play center, but you cannot be making a lot of mistakes in center. A corner spot might suit him better in the long run.

  10. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 5:57 pm

    I hate to say it, but maybe it’s okay to give Franklin more days off.

  11. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 6:03 pm

    Almonte dropped the ball *twice*? Maybe Raul has been mentoring him.

    Good thing Cabrera and Fielder were clogging the basepaths… but that’s what I’m talking about.

  12. msfanmike on September 16th, 2013 6:05 pm

    I hate to say it, but I think I need a few days off from watching, I am sick of watching (insert any 7 names here ) play baseball.

  13. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 6:09 pm

    Joe Saunders exits, Tom Wilhelmsen enters. This will go well.

  14. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 6:22 pm


  15. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 6:23 pm

    Smoak looks like he’s staring at Willie’s butt! Hehe

  16. Sports on a Shtick on September 16th, 2013 7:35 pm

    Quickly browsing the box score after the game… I’m surprised Joe Saunders actually has 11 wins.

  17. jephdood on September 16th, 2013 7:55 pm

    We’re still playing baseball games?

  18. Westside guy on September 16th, 2013 9:15 pm

    I’ve been watching, and – the answer to your question is debatable, jephdood.

  19. Breadbaker on September 16th, 2013 11:15 pm

    @Sports on a Stick, look at the articles on Tango’s blog,
    to see how little “wins” mean these days. That Joe Saunders knows he will see his name on a lineup card regularly while Michael Saunders doesn’t continues to baffle me.

  20. rowlandice on September 17th, 2013 9:13 am

    Hey Jack Z – check this article about the Pittsburg Pirates use of sabermetrics and run prevention when deciding how to build a front office and a roster.

    I bet Felix and Kuma would appreciate this.

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