Cactus League Game 10, Randy Wolf vs. Aging+Attrition
Randy Wolf vs. Ulnar, God of Elbows (er, Sean Marshall, actually).
So this is another spring training game. The M’s host half of the not-really Cincinnati Reds today. DJ Peterson may get to play, as he did yesterday, but c’mon – it’s another practice game. Mayckol Guaipe has been called up to add depth to the bullpen, which is perhaps the most spring training sentence I could write. So let’s talk about two other things.
First, Taijuan Walker’s shoulder reacted well to his limited, light throwing yesterday, which seems like a good thing.
Second, let’s talk about Randy Wolf for a minute, because it’s possible he makes the team and we should know about what he brings to the table, and it’s possible he doesn’t and opts out of a minor league assignment. Either way, I think I’d actually rather talk about Wolf than about how the M’s deal with Billy Hamilton. Specifically, why’d the M’s choose a recovering Wolf over a bargain price on Chris Capuano?
It’s entirely possible Capuano just wanted to play for his hometown team, and that the M’s were prepared to offer him a lot more money. Wolf and Capuano are both lefties who’ve spent their entire careers in the National League (OK, Wolf’s had all of 15 IP in the AL). Both have slower-than-average fastballs that clock in between 88-89mph, and both have similar career GB rates (Capuano’s is slightly better, as is the trendline, as he started out as a big fly-baller). Capuano’s mostly a sinker/change-up/slider guy, though he’s played around with a curve last year. Wolf is more the classic junk-baller, as he throws a four-seamer, a sinker, a slider, a cutter, a curve, and a change. Mere proximity to Hisashi Iwakuma might get him experimenting with a splitter, I don’t know.
Both of them have run better-than-expected strikeout rates despite the lack of velocity or a real weapon in their arsenal. And to the extent that they both share a weakness (besides pedestrian fastballs), it’s clearly the longball. A few less walks gives Capuano the advantage in career FIP, at 4.25 to Wolf’s 4.37, but while both have suffered multiple injuries, Wolf’s been more durable. As they both pitched so long in the NL, it’s highly unlikely that either of them would carry that surprising K rate to the AL, because both of them have feasted on pitchers. Remove pitchers, and their K% drops to 16.8% (Wolf) and 18.2% (Capuano). Cap’s got the advantage, but he largely missed out on the lower-strikeout, higher-HR steroid ERA, which Wolf had to trudge through in his early years. Both have really struggled in interleague play, meaning, when they’ve faced teams with DHs.
The bigger split is kind of interesting. Capuano’s posted huge L/R platoon splits despite throwing a change-up between 1/4 and 1/3 of his pitches. Wolf’s got a platoon split as well, but it looks more normal. He throws his change a bit more often vs. righties, but the biggest difference is that he throws his sinker to righties, while reserving the four-seamer for LHBs. All told, his SLG% allowed comes in a bit lower, and he doesn’t show a big platoon split in power. Capuano, on the other hand, gives up a lot of HRs to righties, on his way to a total OPS-allowed of over .800. The difference isn’t huge, but it’s there.
As Dave discussed recently regarding Bronson Arroyo, the two leagues aren’t equal in how they can exploit platoon advantages. The NL Central in particular has allowed pitchers (like Arroyo) to have the platoon advantage much more than any AL team would (as they can ensure the DH is opposite-handed, and AL teams have split-obsessed GMs like Billy Beane). All of this adds up to some red flags where Capuano’s concerned. HR-prone lefty moving to the AL, where his huge platoon split issue can be more directly targeted. You can argue that none of this overcomes the age/talent gap he may have on Wolf. I’m sort of agnostic on that question, but the gap in dollars and commitment (MLB deal vs. MiLB and NRI) is real too. Wolf’s older and coming off a 2nd big surgery. Capuano’s essentially always hurt, though, and Wolf threw 200IP in 2011, whereas Capuano last threw 200 back in 2006. As a LOOGY, Capuano makes a ton of sense to an AL team. To the M’s, with Furbush, Luetge, LaFromboise, Roenis Elias, etc., he’d be much less use. I’m not saying that Wolf is awesome and way better than Capuano, though I’m starting to think he’s a better bet for the M’s needs right now.
Oh yeah, a line-up:
1: Almonte, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Franklin, SS
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Hart, RF
6: Morrison, DH
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Triunfel, 2B
No Cano again, but it’s not an injury – he had a root canal. Yeesh, sorry Robby – get well soon.
John Stearns has officially stepped down from his role as 3B coach, and Rich Donnelly will continue to fill it. But Donnelly’d already been announced as the Rainiers’ manager; guess that means Tacoma’s suddenly without a manager. As long-time R’s skipper Daren Brown’s still in the org (he was to be the roving instructor on bunting and baserunning), I wouldn’t be surprised to see him step in.