Cactus League Game 4: Mariners at Indians

marc w · March 2, 2014 at 10:56 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Randy Wolf vs. Aaron Harang, 12:05

Randy Wolf’s best season, by WAR, came back when the M’s were still perennial contenders and led the league in attendance – the heady days of 2002. Wolf’s been ravaged by time and injuries since then, and the M’s have dedicated themselves to self-ravaging. Wolf hasn’t been terrible since that great 2002 season – he’s been worth over 11 bWAR pr 13.8 fWAR since then, and he’s had a couple of 2 win seasons. Importantly, he’s hit the 200 IP mark each year from 2009-2011, allowing him to claim the mantle of “workhorse” for a while before his arm gave out on him again. Still, he hasn’t quite been the same since everyone was listening to Interpol’s first album.

Aaron Harang was around in 2002 (he faced the M’s that year three times), but peaked with Cincinnati in 2007 when he finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting. He hit 6bWAR and 5 fWAR that season, capping an incredibly consistent 3-year run with at least 4 WAR and 200IP. Unfortunately, after an injury in 2008, Harang’s never been the same. He never again posted 200 innings, and he’s posted less than 4 bWAR/8fWAR in 952 innings since. His season with the M’s last year earned him a DFA, but he’s in a decent situation to make a big league rotation with Cleveland.

The M’s and Indians both have visions of competing for a wild card spot (or a divisional crown, if things break right). Both have exciting young pitchers, but some question marks in the back of the rotation. The M’s pitching depth will be tested early in 2014 thanks to a string of injuries to Iwakuma, Walker, Maurer and, going back to last season, to Danny Hultzen (read Ryan Divish’s story on Hultzen and his rehab here – it’s great). The Indians somewhat unexpectedly had a top-10 rotation in 2013 thanks to big bounce-back seasons from Ubaldo Jimenez (!) and Scott Kazmir (!!!!), as well as eye-opening performances by youngsters Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber. Unlike the M’s situation, the Indians are probably healthier this season than last (as Josh Tomlin makes his return from TJ surgery), but they let Jimenez and Kazmir sign free agent deals elsewhere, and stayed out of the bidding on free agents like Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Masahiro Tanaka. Thus, the odds of both of today’s starters making the opening day roster are a bit higher than when they signed, and thus today’s game may get more attention than I ever would’ve thought a ST match-up between Wolf and Harang, post 2008, would deserve.

You could make the argument that the more important outing today is that of Cleveland’s 2nd pitcher, Trevor Bauer. The one-time #3 overall prospect and the Indians haul in the three-team Didi Gregorious/Shin-soo Choo deal, looked to be just about MLB ready in 2013. The brainy, undersized righty had an underwhelming call-up in 2012 with Arizona, and then fell apart mechanically with Cleveland, giving up 17 free passes in 17 innings. Things were better in AAA Columbus, but not by much – 73 walks in 121 1/3 IP underscored the fact that his command lapses pushed him out of contention for the Indians rotation. After a lost season, Bauer’s in camp with far fewer expectations and seems likely to head to Columbus again to start 2014. He’s overhauled his complicated delivery, with at least some help from local pitching mechanics/training guru Kyle Boddy. I know, I know: we hear about mechanical “fixes” that are going to change everything dozens of times each spring, but the Indians and Bauer himself seem convinced that his command’s going to be a lot better thanks to his offseason work.

I’m not an Indians fan, and it doesn’t matter much to me, but the difference between a moderately effective Bauer and the Aaron Harang experience seems like it’s at least a win or two. The Indians won a WC spot by 1 game last year, and the race is every bit as wide open in 2014. The M’s believe they’ll be a part of it too, so I’d imagine M’s scouts will be following Bauer fairly closely today.

This would’ve been a great game for Brandon Maurer to pitch in to make the parallels even more explicit – two aging starters looking for one last run in the rotation, followed by two talented youngsters coming off of disastrous 2013 campaigns. Back stiffness took care of that, but Maurer is throwing live batting practice today, which is what passes for “good news” regarding M’s pitcher health these days.

1: Almonte, CF
2: Franklin, SS
3: CANO, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Saunders, RF
6: Ackley, LF
7: Tenbrink, 1B
8: Buck, C
9: Bloomquist, 3B
SP: Randy Wolf

Both teams are going with quite a few legitimate starters today. The M’s have a split-squad day tomorrow, so many of these guys are going to need to get used to playing 2-3-4 days in a row. Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez get the starts tomorrow, and then King Felix starts vs. the Dodgers on Tuesday.


19 Responses to “Cactus League Game 4: Mariners at Indians”

  1. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 12:02 pm

    This outfield may be the best one possible, given the existing roster.

    Nicky is at shortstop today? I like the guy, but I keep hoping the team will announce a trade before he rest of the league gets a chance to see why the M’s moved him off short in the first place.

  2. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 12:12 pm

    Rick Rizz seems to think a 3-0 record in tha Cactus League is indicative of something.

  3. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 12:16 pm

    Man, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard these exact same awful commercials for three seasons now…

  4. marc w on March 2nd, 2014 12:41 pm

    Goodyear isn’t a pitch fx stadium; kind of curious how hard Wolf’s throwing. It DOES have Trackman, and the M’s probably have plenty of scouts there (saw assistant GM Pete Vuckovich with the gun in Peoria yesterday).

  5. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 12:43 pm

    Did Rizz really just call Bloomquist “Boom Boom”? That’s an odd nickname for a guy who didn’t manage a single extra base hit for an entire calendar year during his last foray with the Mariners.

  6. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 12:48 pm

    So Trackman is what’s used to get the pitch location, I take it?

    It’s not as satisfying to just have the final pitch location suddenly pop up on Gameday. 😀

  7. marc w on March 2nd, 2014 12:55 pm

    Trackman’s the (proprietary) alternative to Pitch Fx. It uses radar as opposed to cameras, like pitch fx does. In some ways, it’s superior, in that it can track spin, movement etc. in real time, and doesn’t need to produce an estimated spin based on how a pitch has moved from camera 1 to camera 2. Thus, if the M’s want tons of velocity and movement data, it’s available (assuming the Indians share that stuff). The M’s use Trackman in a few of their minor league parks.

    We’ll have more on new data systems in a bit. For a preview, check out Dave’s article at Fangraphs about the new data system that MLBAM and Trackman (I think) collaborated on that’s being rolled out in 3 parks in 2014.

  8. smb on March 2nd, 2014 12:56 pm

    The phrase “legitimate starters” definitely taken with a grain of salt by me here, with these two teams.

  9. marc w on March 2nd, 2014 12:57 pm

    Andrew Carraway’s still a great story and all, but this is a pretty big year for him, I’d think. If he’s not able to make some pretty major progress in AAA this year, I’d have to think he may focus on his venture capital work.

    Sounds like a nice grab by Carraway right there….

  10. smb on March 2nd, 2014 12:57 pm

    Wasn’t “Willie Boom Boom” the original pejorative for our favorite little ‘slap-hitting utility guy who could?’

  11. marc w on March 2nd, 2014 1:02 pm

    Cleveland isn’t bad, smb, and Bourn/Swisher/Kipnis/Santana/Cabrera/Gomes is probably exactly how their opening day line-up will run. Chisenhall…maybe, maybe not.

  12. marc w on March 2nd, 2014 1:06 pm

    I believe Rick Rizzs came up with “Boom Boom” – though many people assumed it originated here.

    I presume it’s a nod to the late 70s group Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom band.

  13. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 1:07 pm


  14. marc w on March 2nd, 2014 1:08 pm

    HR for Ackley to dead center. Impressive!

    Bauer’s command’s better, perhaps, but he’s still struggling with the long ball.

  15. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 1:14 pm

    Haha, DMZ posted regarding “Boom Boom” right here, back in 2008 – like Marc, he also believes Rizz came up with that nickname.

  16. Westside guy on March 2nd, 2014 1:48 pm

    Not Noriega’s finest hour…

  17. marc w on March 2nd, 2014 2:37 pm

    Francisco Lindor with the 3R HR. Probably a top 10 prospect in all of baseball.

    I love Brad Miller, but man are there a lot of up-and-coming shortstops breaking into the league (or about to break into the league).

  18. californiamariner on March 2nd, 2014 3:13 pm


  19. stevemotivateir on March 2nd, 2014 6:30 pm

    Did anyone else find it interesting that McClendon didn’t name Saunders as one of his center field options? I thought that was a given, but apparently Ackley and Almonte are the front runners. I really don’t have a problem with Saunders in right, but he also suggested Hart would primarily play right field.

    I’m trying not to read into crap like that too much at this stage, but I really hope my palm doesn’t have as much hard contact with my forehead as it did last season.

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