Cactus League Game 16, Mariners at Angels
Scott Baker vs. CJ Wilson, 1:05
Looks like this one will be available on MLB.TV; no idea why last night’s prime-time game wasn’t, but there you go. Scott Baker’s been solid so far, and may be tightening his grip on the 5th rotation spot. Baker’s technically on a minor league contract, so the M’s will have a 40-man move to make if/when they decide to bring him north.
Two takeaways from yesterday’s doubleheader for me: 1) Brandon Maurer still needs work. That’s not a slam at the guy – he’s still 23 – and I like that he was able to hit 95 repeatedly. But looking at the pitch fx data, his release point’s all over the map. He’s got one of the least consistent release point’s I’ve seen, with his horizontal release changing by half a foot or more within an at bat. I’ve been stunned at the LACK of correlation between this sort of inconsistency and command problems, but the fact that many pitchers are able to make this work doesn’t mean it’s not an issue for Maurer. His consistency over the course of the season last year is difficult to analyze in part because he returned from his demotion with a slightly re-worked delivery. And while walks weren’t a huge problem for him in the big leagues (they certainly were in the minors), he often had command lapses within the strike zone.
2) James Paxton’s a much-improved starter, and he’s going to be critical to the M’s chances of hanging around in the AL West. Of particular note, his ground-ball rate is still off the charts high, and it’s high despite a delivery and pitch movement that seem tailor-made for fly ball contact. The fact that his GB rates were pretty good though completely normal in the minors leads me to think that he made an adjustment last season prior to his call-up, whether a physical tweak or a change in his approach. Whatever it was, it’s working.
1: Jones, CF
2: Taylor, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Montero, DH
6: Franklin, SS
7: Ackley, LF
8: Romero, RF
9: Quintero, C
No mystery on the M’s 1B job – whether Logan Morrison might get the nod, or if they’d work a complicated job share between Smoak, Morrison and Corey Hart – it’s Justin Smoak. Smoak was handed the starting job last year and put up an improved but not-good-enough season. We’ll see if taking the pressure off allows Smoak to consolidate the gains he made last year; if he doesn’t, you’d have to think the M’s will move him out.