The Royals as a Warning

September 25, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 64 Comments 

Since apparently the Mariners have no interest in The Pirates as a Blueprint, let’s try another franchise, and conveniently, the one who happens to be in town playing at Safeco right now. The Royals are currently the most similar franchise to the Mariners; long time losers pitching hope to their fans based on the prospects coming up through their farm system, but with a GM in place who hasn’t yet shown he can put quality Major Leaguers around said prospects. Like with Jack Z, Dayton Moore had a strong background in player development, coming over from the Braves after running their farm system, but like Jack Z, he’s spent his entire tenure as GM presiding over lousy teams because the things he values in a big league player aren’t the things that win you baseball games.

Last winter, Dayton Moore decided it was time for his team to stop losing. He was ready for a winning season, anxious to prove to everyone that his plan could work, and needed some kind of proof that the organization was on the right path. To that end, he identified the team’s pitching staff as the primary problem, and then went all-in on the off-season in an effort to fix their pitching problems. And that decision led them to trade Wil Myers — yes, that guy who is going to win the AL Rookie of the Year award after posting a 131 wRC+ as a 22 year old in Tampa Bay — and a couple of other prospects for James Shields and Wade Davis. Shields is an excellent pitcher, but only under team control for two seasons, so the Royals essentially swapped a quality young big leaguer for a short term rental in an effort to prove that Dayton Moore’s plan could actually work.

Shields has been very good, as usual, but the Royals weren’t actually ready to win, as they just had too many holes on their roster to keep up with a very good Detroit team and overcome the better AL Wild Card contenders. They’re going to finish the year with 85 or 86 wins and will watch the postseason at home, only now, they don’t have a terrific young right fielder to build around, and Shields is entering the last year of his contract. The Royals gave up a significant asset to try and win with a roster that wasn’t ready to win, and the end result was a mediocre team that now has fewer young talents to build around.

But you’ll hear people still defending the trade, noting that the Royals have had a winning season and reminded the team’s fan base what it was like to see a good product again. They’ll point out that the fan base has been reinvigorated, and that’s good for business, since an active fan base means more money for the team to spend in the future, and that money can be spent to raise the team’s payroll and improve the product again.

Here’s where facts get in the way, however. Here are the Royals attendance numbers from 2012 and 2013, and these are final, since KC has played all 81 of their home games this year.

2012: 1.74 million, 21,480 per game
2013: 1.75 million, 21,614 per game

The exciting new Royals, the one that has put a spark back in the fan base, managed to draw an extra 135 fans per game to the ballpark this year. The team’s attendance to watch James Shields and Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie pitch was almost identical to what it was to watch Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, and Luke Hochevar. The big bold moves by the front office didn’t result in any gain in attendance.

Oh, but maybe it stemmed a big loss, right? It’s not just about adding fans, but keeping the ones you already have, which has certainly been a problem for the Mariners. What was their attendance in 2011, and did the trade stop a huge downwards trend that could have been disastrous for the franchise’s revenue base? Nope, they drew 1.72 million in 2011 too, and 1.62 million in 2010, and 1.80 million in 2009. This is the Royals established “watch the team lose” fan base, and the Royals didn’t see any kind of spike after punting a key part of their future to try and win in the present.

By the way, the Mariners attendance for this terrible product is actually up 382 fans per game, or about 20,000 total fans over the first 77 home games. They only need to draw 40,000 fans total to their final four home games to match 2012’s attendance, and with Fan Appreciation Night coming up on Friday, they’ll almost certainly blow by that total over the weekend. This team is about as painful to watch as any the Mariners have put together in recent history, but they’ve seen a larger boost in attendance than the Royals have after “going for it”.

With Jack back for one final “prove you can win” year, the potential for a Wil Myers trade type of scenario is absolutely there. Remember, last year, Jack tried to give Josh Hamilton $100 million with several vesting options, and then he tried to trade Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin, and stuff for Justin Upton. We’ve already seen that this front office is willing to make the franchise’s long term future worse for a chance at making the short term slightly better. And now, Jack absolutely knows that this is his last shot. Win or he’s gone. The incentive to steward the franchise is gone, and now, the mandate is very clearly to win in 2014.

The amount of damage that could be done this off-season is staggering. The Mariners are basically in the same position that the Royals were in a year ago. This roster isn’t particularly close to being a winner, but they have money to spend and young players to trade. Cover your eyes. This could get ugly.

Mariners to Retain Jack Zduriencik

September 24, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 54 Comments 

Get excited.

Here’s my off-season guesses, now that the organization is going forward with the status quo: Ted Simmons moves from front office to take over as manager on a one year contract, the Mariners re-sign Kendrys Morales for far too much money, Raul Ibanez is back as your starting left fielder again, and they throw a crazy amount of money at Jacoby Ellsbury and Ervin Santana. And then they finally reboot next year when it all doesn’t work.

Game 158, Royals at Mariners

September 24, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 22 Comments 

James Paxton vs. Bruce Chen, 7:10pm

The outcome wasn’t great, but last night’s game was compelling viewing. The M’s appeared to kill off the Royals playoff hopes once and for all, only to see the Royals stave off elimination with a 7-2 DP and a 12 inning rally. The game started with Yordano Ventura’s 100mph fastball and crackling curveball. It featured perhaps Brandon Maurer’s best MLB performance.

No disrespect to James Paxton, but this game just doesn’t have the same feel to it. I will say that just as Ventura’s stature-velo was a jarring contradiction, so too is starting Bruce Chen in an absolute must-win game. Hey, Baltimore turned to Joe Saunders in a one-game playoff last year, so this isn’t unprecedented.

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

Because we don’t get to have nice things, Danny Hultzen will go see Dr. James Andrews about his ailing labrum. Hultzen apparently felt discomfort in his shoulder while working out in Arizona.

The Pirates as a Blueprint

September 24, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 23 Comments 

I just published a 2,200 word piece over at FanGraphs on five things the Pirates did right as an organization to build a playoff team after 21 years of losing. I think it’s an instructive piece for Mariners fans, especially ones who have bought into the BS the organization has been selling for the last year and change. The Pirates are winning with almost exactly the kind of roster that the early-Jack-Zduriencik-era management teams tried to put together; an average offense, elite defense, good baserunning, and a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Despite the narrative that some people like to push, it is entirely possible to build a winning team through intelligent roster design, and the Pirates are a great example of how a team in this situation can do exactly that. Obviously, having Andrew McCutchen as the centerpiece is pretty helpful, but the rest of the Pirates roster is essentially undervalued role players and solid buy low acquisitions from a front office that knew what they were doing. Over the last few years, the team brought in key contributors like Russell Martin, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Jason Grilli, and Mark Melancon for basically peanuts, and the core of this Pirates team is mostly discarded veterans from other clubs.

The Pirates are proof of concept that the original plan that the M’s tried to implement five years ago was a pretty good one. The problem came when they overreacted to the 2010 team’s failures and changed course entirely, eventually getting away from finding value and putting an emphasis on things that don’t actually matter.

The 2013 Pirates should give Mariners fans hope. If they can bring in a front office that is actually committed to the concepts that lead to winning baseball, putting together a contending club is possible, even with their long history of losing. All the things that are regularly said about the Mariners organization and ownership have also been said of the Pirates, with accusations of apathy towards winning and a sole desire to maximize profits. The Pirates were basically the east coast Mariners, just with an extra decade of lousy seasons in the bank. And now they’re one of the best teams in baseball, primarily thanks to a front office that pursued the strategy that the Mariners started to implement back in 2009.

Had they stuck with it, perhaps the Mariners would be the Pirates today. Had they not radically changed course and pursued dingers and veteran leadership, shipping out those who objected to placing a premium on things that don’t matter, the Mariners might very well be a winning team right now. That is both a frustrating and hopeful reality at the same time. On the one hand, it’s a lament of what the organization actually did, but it’s also a reminder that this is fixable with the right people in charge.

Maybe you’re skeptical that Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong will hire the right people. Maybe they won’t. Maybe we’ll get more of the same, and the Mariners will continue to slide into irrelevance. But at this point, there are so many blueprints that point to how this should work that it is hard to believe that they can’t at least give an analytical front office a real shot at fixing this thing. It’s not just the A’s and Rays anymore. The Indians are in wild card position after having the off-season the Mariners should have had last year. The Pirates are winning with the plan the Mariners abandoned.

It’s time for the Mariners to get on board. The Pirates have, and they’re going to the postseason.

Game 157, Royals at Mariners

September 23, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 74 Comments 

Brandon Maurer vs. Yordano Ventura, 7:10pm

The M’s open a three-game set with the Royals tonight, as KC fights for the final AL Wild Card spot. Much has been said/written about the off-season Dayton Moore had, and what kind of season would justify The Trade. At this point, the Royals are still long-shots to make it, just given the number of teams ahead of them in the standings (the gap is small, but there are several teams wedged into it). If you ask me, I think I’d still prefer Wil Myers, but for better or worse, the Royals are the team that “Went for it” and are now in the position of playing meaningful baseball games in late September. I love that Royals fans like Rany Jazayerli are so into this chase in spite of their misgivings about the trade and the man who made it. A part of me is nervous as hell that we could have a GM thinking he needed to throw caution to the wind and trade anyone who wasn’t bolted down for a great OF or two, but a part of me is envious that someone out there is living and dying on every twist and turn in a baseball game these days. Contrary to popular belief, being an analytical fan does NOT mean you don’t go crazy or get swept up in meaningful, dramatic moments in a game. It just means you know what to do in September of another lost season.

Today’s match-up is an interesting one, as Brandon Maurer’s actually coming off a pretty good showing against the Tigers in Detroit. Another step forward would be a pretty welcome sign, just to show that the competition for the 5th starter job next season isn’t already over. Still, the guy to watch tonight is Yordano Ventura. There are a few things to know about Mr. Ventura: first, he throws really, really hard. He hit 102mph in his first MLB start the other day, the fastest pitch recorded by a starter in years. The second is that his listed weight is 140lbs, roughly the mass of Billy Butler’s left leg. This is the confusion, the cognitive dissonance, that Ventura introduces: how is that physically possible? Is his arm going to just separate from his body at some point? After two Tim Lincecum Cy Young awards and the entirety of the Billy Wagner experience, after Pedro Martinez, do we care too much about what BP’s Jason Parks calls Ventura’s “junior-high body?”

I don’t really know. I just know that he’s interesting, and interesting will do for right now. Ventura’s made exactly one start, during which his four-seam fastball averaged 99mph. Over nearly 6 innings and 23 batters faced. Carter Capps had eye-popping, you-better-tune-in velocity last season, and actually posted the third-highest average FB velo last season at about 97mph. Aroldis Chapman averages 98, and his record-breaking peak velos (and unreal stats) were one of the stories of 2012. It’s been one game, but Yordano Ventura’s averaging what Capps did last year…and Ventura is a starter. Ventura also mixes in a plus curve ball, which seems unfair. He’s also got a cutter and a change, and has showed essentially no platoon splits in the minors. The reasons he wasn’t listed as the Royals top prospect was 1) that he’s had control/command lapses and 2) that he looks like an emaciated bat boy. I’m told that part of the appeal of NASCAR is watching machines pushed to the very limit of their structural tolerances, and the tension brought by the fact that everything could blow apart at any minute. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I want to watch Ventura tonight.

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

Good to see Brad Miller back in action.

Leaving A Mark

September 22, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 6 Comments 

I thought it was eye-opening when, some months ago, or years ago?, Sam Miller wrote about unique pitching game lines for starters. That is, lines that had happened once, or hadn’t yet happened at all. Think about it. Each year, there are about 2,430 regular-season games, meaning there are about 4,860 regular-season starts. Baseball’s been around for more than a hundred years, and if you do the math, accounting for expansion and for the postseason, that means that there have been more than seven trillion starts we have a record of. And still, there can be pitching-line firsts. It’s a crazy game, we are all passionate about tolerate.

This afternoon against the Angels, Felix did the following in his return from minor injury:

  • 4.0 IP
  • 1 H
  • 1 R
  • 4 BB
  • 10 K

He was on a pitch count, which is why he stopped when he did. All those strikeouts meant a lot of deep counts, and you get to deep counts by throwing lots of pitches. What you’re looking at is the first of that pitching line in baseball history. Regular season or postseason, starter or reliever. As a matter of fact, Felix was the first ever to do this:

  • 4 innings or less
  • 10+ strikeouts

Which is surprising to me, because I thought that was every single start by Rich Harden. Now, we can make some sense of this. If you’re recording a bunch of strikeouts, you’re probably effective, and effective pitchers are seldom yanked after four innings. It’s just plain hard to get ten strikeouts in four innings. If you come out that early, you’ve probably been struggling, or you’re on a lower pitch count, or so on and so on. This isn’t just a sign of dominance from Felix — it’s dominance and a short start at the same time, and though pitchers have come close to this, no one has equaled it.

Previously, the most strikeouts ever in an appearance of no more than four innings was nine. Danny Salazar actually just did that a week and a half ago. Ethan Martin did it two weeks before that. Gio Gonzalez did it in April. Roy Halladay also did it in April. Previously, the shortest appearance with at least ten strikeouts was 4.1 innings, which Bill Caudill did as a starter in 1979, and which Norm Charlton did as a reliever in 1989. Now, taking some of the air out of this arbitrary balloon, this past May Alex Cobb struck out 13 Padres in 4.2 innings. That’s weirder than Felix’s game. Last September, Zack Greinke struck out 13 Mariners in 5.0 innings. That’s weirder than Felix’s game. But, we get to draw our lines where we want, and double-digits makes for an acceptable line. I don’t know if Felix was the quickest to ten whiffs, but he was removed having put at least ten whiffs into the shortest game. In this way, the Mariners won a solid Felix start without actually awarding him a W. Old habits.

What does it mean? Not a lot, except that Felix got a lot of strikeouts, and he still isn’t quite up to 200 innings on the year. But, at last, the baseball history books will have a reason to remember Felix Hernandez.


September 22, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 5 Comments 

Let’s see if I can do this from memory. Franklin Gutierrez had the weird gastrointestinal problems that took forever to learn how to treat. Then he badly strained his oblique. Then he tore his pectoral muscle throwing. Then he developed plantar fasciitis. Then in his first game back, he got hit by the first pitch. Then he sustained a concussion getting hit in the head by an errant pick-off throw. Then in his first game back, he got hit in his second or third plate appearance. Then he badly strained his hamstring and had difficulty recovering. Then we learned about a genetic disorder named ankylosing spondylitis. Now, the latest:

ANAHEIM — A swarm of bees circling through Angel Stadium delayed the Mariners-Angels game for 23 minutes on Sunday as the contest was stopped midway through the bottom of the third inning.
But as the swarm moved into right field, Mariners defenders all moved away and were eventually pulled off the field.








Game 156, Mariners at Angels

September 22, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 46 Comments 

King Felix vs. CJ Wilson, 12:35pm

Happy Felix day. This is as conflicted as I’ve been on a Felix day in quite some time. The M’s obviously toyed with the idea of shutting Felix down following his back tightness, but he’s apparently been given the go-ahead to make this start. That’s…good, of course – he had a bit of a scare, but he’s fine now, and can resume his royal duties. But with the stakes so low, and with his royal highness so important, a part of me wishes they’d just shut him down for the rest of the season (ie. a week) and tell him to work on 2014. Then there’s the fact that this game’s going up against the Seahawks game, and we may be looking at the least-watched Felix Day in years, possibly ever. There’s plenty to look for, of course – from how he looks after a few innings to how his stuff/velo appear after a decent layoff. I just can’t imagine too many people will actually do so.

CJ Wilson’s quietly had a solid season, coming back from a rough April and the backlash borne of those ubiquitous shampoo ads. He’s still perhaps not quite the player the Angels thought they were acquiring, and his contract starts to hurt in a few years, but he’s been a 3 WAR pitcher thus far. He’s also 3-0 against Seattle this year, with 4 runs allowed in 20 1/3 IP. As a lefty, Wilson obviously targets the M’s big weakness, and Wilson’s successful largely because he’s extremely tough on left-handed hitters. But the M’s are able to trot out seven righty hitters to face him – and Wilson’s career FIP is over 4 against righties.

Of course, as we’ve lamented for quite a while now, Morales and Franklin can *hit* righty, but it’s clearly not their strength. Justin Smoak can hit righty, but his splits are even worse (all 17 of his HRs this year have been hit lefty this year). Carlos Triunfel is a righty, but there’s scant evidence of any kind of offensive strengths with him. Mike Zunino may be a lefty-killer in the future, but he’s struggling mightily against big-league pitching so far.

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

After a few weeks of counting down the days until the end of the season, I now realize I’m going to miss it. Not this particular campaign, but the daily routine of following the team. And honestly, I think I’m just wistful about what this season could have been – not a playoff season, but not this weird limbo where signs of progress are so mixed up with regression and disappointment.

Go Felix! And go Seahawks!

M’s too, I suppose.

Game 155, Mariners at Angels

September 21, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 53 Comments 

Joe Saunders vs. Jerome Williams, 6:05pm

I thought we had ’em last night, you guys.

Jerome Williams has gone from a fascinating story to your standard #5 starter. The novelty wears off, and he’s just another Angel pitcher giving up home runs like it’s 1999. He’s got fairly large platoon splits, so this is a decent match-up for the rejuvenated Michael Saunders, the hopefully figuring-thing-out Nick Franklin and a rested Kyle Seager. Against lefties, Williams throws a 92-93mph sinker, a change-up and a cutter. To righties, he’s primarily a four-seam/cutter guy, with an occasional curve.

The M’s suffered their 13th walk-off loss, and their 14th extra-inning defeat last night.

A year ago, the M’s were 72-80, on their way to a 75-87 finish. With 87 losses already, the M’s are on their way to 90+ losses. Before the season began, many thought that while the M’s wouldn’t contend, the inertia from last year’s finish and the replacement of black holes like Miguel Olivo and Chone Figgins virtually guaranteed the team a shot at .500. This isn’t about quibbling with projections or playing gotcha with people (since I predicted the team would be much better than this too). But what would you have said if someone had told you that the team would lose 90 games, or that the team would finish with a worse record than 2012?

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

That’s a very good line-up to throw at Williams. Franklin looked OK at SS yesterday, though I still say he’s not an average MLB SS long term. I’m happier about his bat waking up.

Divish mentioned that Michael Saunders made a slight tweak to his swing in the St. Louis series, and that he’s looked much better afterwards. Hopefully he can keep that momentum going against Williams.

Dave mentioned early on that Danny Farquhar was intriguing despite what was, for a time, a truly ugly ERA. He was getting strikeouts, and his stuff had improved markedly, but every ball fell in for a hit and every runner seemed to come around to score. It’s by no means the same situation, but I feel a bit bad for Chance Ruffin who now has 13 strikeouts in 7 2/3 IP. He’s got three unintentional walks, and of course one forced in a run. Add it up, and his xFIP is less than HALF of his ERA. I’m not saying Ruffin’s going to get a shot at closing the way Farquhar has, but it’s just good to see him pitching fairly well after an awful 2012 that saw him struggle to get strikeouts in the PCL.

Game 154, Mariners at Angels

September 20, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 67 Comments 

Erasmo Ramirez vs. Matt Shoemaker, 7:10pm

The M’s face undrafted free-agent/MLB debutante Matt Shoemaker tonight. What could possibly go wrong?

I’m going to level with you, reader: I don’t have much to say about Matt Shoemaker. These game preview things are heavily pitch-fx-driven, for better or for worse, and that’s simply unavailable here. Shoemaker’s obviously never been in MLB, he never appeared in the AFL, he skillfully managed his Cactus League appearances to avoid Peoria and Surprise, so I’ve got nothing to go on. Matt Shoemaker is a bearded tabula rasa – a tabula barbati, I suppose. Thus, it’s up to us to piece together a profile of a pitcher we’ve not seen* based on known details about his life in the manner of an over-the-top police procedural.

Name: Matt Shoemaker
Shoemaker will be the second person with that industrious surname to play in MLB, the first since Charlie Shoemaker, a utility IF for the Royals in the early 60s. Charlie had a poor OBP and essentially no power, so, transitive property blah blah blah, we can surmise that Matt Shoemaker isn’t a power pitcher, and he’s stingy with walks.

From: Wyandotte, Michigan
Wyandotte is a suburb of Detroit, and it’s given its name to a popular breed of chicken. Chicken is a common source of protein, generally seen as having little discernible flavor on its own, and is cheaper than beef. From this, I’m assuming Shoemaker’s arsenal is fairly standard (no knuckleball, no screwball, no 91mph change-up, no Matt Moore-like armside run) and that he’s making the league-minimum. Are you getting chills? Seriously, I have goosebumps right now.

Attended: Eastern Michigan University
He’ll be the 10th player from EMU to play in the majors, not including Mets manager Terry Collins. The most famous of these is Cy Young winner Bob Welch of the Dodgers and A’s, but the group also includes Brian Clutterbuck, Brian Bixler, Glenn Gulliver, and Bob Owchinko. From this, we can logically conclude that Shoemaker’s chances of getting to an All-Star game are roughly 1-10. 10%. There’s a non-zero chance.

Facial hair: famously bearded
His AA team in the Texas League once had Matt Shoemaker goatee face t-shirt (?) give-aways, and apparently a removable Matt Shoemaker beard once (even though he didn’t play for the team anymore. You see, M’s? It’s actually better that your beard giveaways are associated with a former player than having a promotion that’s essentially, “We had some, uh, beards, you know, just lying around, and you’re welcome to one if you’d like. No, no reason. Just…we’re trying to clear out some beards, and lots of people like…beards, so yeah.”). WHY a beard? Where did this come from? Let’s go back to his alma mater – is there something we can learn from the ex-EMU players?

Let’s start with Owchinko. Here he is as a rookie with San Diego. Computer, let’s magnify that:

Aha. Beardless. Quite possibly mocked by his teammates, heckled by fans.

What does he do? He gets depressed. And then what? Then he gets facial hair. Whoa, whoa, there Grizzly Adams, let’s back off, hoss. Clean it up a bit and….

Exactly. Exactly.

Other examples? What about that Clutterbuck guy?


You be the judge. Better bearded, or with one of those awful 80s mustaches? Not even a contest.

Conclusion? Shoemaker is capable of learning, of adapting. He synthesizes information, he has some form of empathy, and can make intuitive leaps based on what’s happened to a member of his tribe. From this, we can deduce that the M’s should try and get to Shoemaker in the first few innings, before he’s able to adapt and target their weaknesses.**

I reached out to people who’d seen a lot of him, and the report was vague – may have peaked in 2011, good control, but stuff isn’t eye-popping. In other words, our investigation was *right on the money*. Absolutely nothing in the scouting report contradicts anything we learned through pure deductive logic. Thanks for joining me today – I don’t think any of us will forget this day. Together, we’re capable of so much more than I thought possible.

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

Bizarro-land line-up today, with Nick Franklin at SS, and Triunfel at 3B to give Kyle Seager a much-needed rest.

Erasmo’s change still gets plenty of swinging strikes (not as many as last year, but still), and it still results in some weak contact and thus a low BABIP-against. But when batters see a bad one, or maybe when they guess right, they hit that pitch *hard*. It’s not sinking as much as it did last year, though that could possibly be noise. On the other hand, his slightly lower velo means his fastballs have slightly less vertical movement, and coupled with his change having slightly MORE vertical movement (that is, less ‘drop’), the gap between them isn’t as large. Does that have anything to do with his 4 HRs given up on the pitch? No idea. I’m pointing out a correlation, and I’m shrugging my shoulders. Maybe?

* The problem is that I’ve actually seen Shoemaker. I went to the 7-inning game he apparently started against Tacoma, and I remember literally nothing. Right- or left-handed? Velo? Nothing. The whole tastes-like-chicken thing isn’t so far-fetched anymore, is it? He’s apparently faced Nick Franklin 8 times, though I believe he may have missed Mike Zunino.

** Another potential weakness came up in reviewing EMU players. There’s a non-zero probability that Shoemaker could suffer some form of hat failure, or the sudden inability to properly wear a hat. 20% of the EMU sample showed signs of hat failure.

Images via the Google, and this place for Welch, here for Hoiles, here for Owchinko and here for Clutterbuck.

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