Game 151, Mariners at Tigers
Brandon Maurer vs. Anibal Sanchez, 4:08pm
If last night’s game felt a bit hopeless, at least the M’s were facing a guy they’d had some success against, and a guy who struggled versus lefties. Today’s game….today’s game feels like a blowout waiting to happen. Checking the Vegas lines, it looks like I’m not alone- this game’s odds look bizarre. With the Tigers getting close to wrapping up the division, neither team has a great deal of motivation, but the Tigers still have a great line-up and a great starting pitcher while the M’s have some guys who might be part of a decent team in a few years, if things break right.
Anibal Sanchez came over from Miami last year with some talent, but somewhat underwhelming results. He wasn’t bad, but a guy with an injury history and who’d worked his FIP from the mid 4s down to the mid 3s sounded like a very good #3, or possibly #4. With the Tigers, however, Sanchez has been amazing. After 28 starts and 240 innings, he’s put up an RA of 3.2, driven largely by his brilliant 2013 campaign. Instead of seeing his K% fall with the league switch, Sanchez is posting a career high in K% this year at over 26%. His HR% is extremely low, leading to a FIP of under 2.5. That in turn has pushed his Fangraphs WAR to 5.5 and counting, good for 6th in baseball, just behind Felix and well ahead of Yu Darvish.
Sanchez uses a four-seam fastball which has gained a tick or two in velocity this year – it’s now pushing 94mph on average. His other weapon is a change-up that’s in the top 10 for whiff rate and that’s been extremely tough on lefties. He throws a slider and a rare curve as well, but his fastball and change are his bread and butter pitches. Sanchez has a high 3/4 release, and coupled with the fact that his torso’s tilted towards 1b, Sanchez’s release point is essentially on a line running through the center of home plate. In addition to his change, this may help his platoon splits, as neither righties nor lefties get the advantage of an off-center release point. Indeed, his career wOBA to lefties is 3.07, while his wOBA to righties is…3.08. This isn’t BABIP-driven, either. By FIP, his splits are 3.59 and 3.57 with over 2,000 batters-faced on each side.
He’d probably be getting some Cy Young hype since he’s posted a great ERA on a winning team, but his teammate’s 19-3 with more innings pitched, so there’s not going to be much debate. Still, this season’s taken me by surprise as a middle-of-the-rotation guy’s taken a big step forward to be a quality #2 who may get to 6 WAR or so by season’s end. He hasn’t picked up a new pitch, and his pitch mix is relatively similar to prior seasons, so the only noteworthy thing that jumps out has been his fastball results. Now, results-based analysis is frowned-upon in these parts, so I certainly can’t come to any conclusions here. He’s spotting it away from lefties and righties – trying to hit the black as opposed to trying to keep the pitch low. That’s fine and all, but it’s also not different than what he did in, say, 2011. It’s possible that a combination of improved command and his extra velocity make the pitch tough to drive, but that’s speculation. He’s throwing slightly fewer pitches in the zone, and his contact% has dropped markedly. However, his contact% has dropped for all pitches, not just fastballs – it’s just that his SLG%-allowed his fallen dramatically on four-seamers, and not as dramatically on anything else.
Brandon Maurer’s SLG% has dropped some too, but as I talked about last time, that’s not saying a whole lot. On the plus side, Maurer’s facing a line-up of five righties and only four lefties (Fielder, Martinez, Kelly and Avila), but then his struggles aren’t as limited to lefties anymore. Maurer’s talented, and I think he’ll figure some things out eventually. A game like this *could* give him a ton of confidence heading into the Arizona Fall League and 2014, but this looks painful on paper. Maurer’s confidence has to be in tatters right now, and hey, here comes Miguel Cabrera.
1: Almonte, CF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Saunders, LF
7: Zunino, C
8: Franklin, 2B
9: Triunfel, SS
Tango’s “Fans Scouting Report” is going on now. This is the defensive metric that’s based on YOUR evaluations of player hands, speed, arm, etc. It’s a great idea, and it’s something you can use on Fangraphs as a check on other advanced defensive metrics, and it’s fascinating on its own year after year. Tango’s always been a good friend of the blog, so let’s make sure he’s not lacking in Mariner submissions for this year’s FSR. Go fill it out! When I looked today, M’s fans had filled out fewer FSRs than Orioles, Reds, Royals and Tigers fans, and that aggression will not stand.
Bad news out of the minor leagues, as local kid and M’s relief prospect Forrest Snow was hit with a 50-game suspension for a violation of the MLB drug policy. Not sure at this point what that violation entailed.