Game 3, Mariners at Angels
James Paxton vs. Hector Santiago, 7:05pm
Last season, the M’s had two great starters and, for most of the year anyway, a gooey mess of a back end rotation. Tonight, we get our first peek at the new and hopefully improved rotation as lefty James Paxton takes the hill. I’ve written tons about Paxton, but he’s become critically important this year. With Walker and Iwakuma’s delayed start, and with the questions surrounding Elias and Young, it’s vital that the M’s get actual production and not just replacement-level stand-ins behind Felix. The division is tight, and having Felix surrounded by four scrubs would certainly remove one of the four contenders. Erasmo Ramirez showed that he can be tough to hit when he’s healthy; now it’s Paxton’s turn.
Opposing him is lefty Hector Santiago who came in from the White Sox in the big 3-way trade involving Mark Trumbo. Santiago throws a bunch of pitches, but is primarily a fastball/change guy, with some surprising life on his fastball. Both in the rotation and in the pen, he’s generated high strikeout rates that have helped keep his runs allowed manageable given his two big problems: walks and home runs. Santiago’s walk rate is over 11%, and he’s given up over 1 HR per 9 innings pitched. It’s a big reason why his FIP and xFIP are in the mid-4’s – not someone you’d trade anyone of value for. But his ERA is lovely. Consider him a very poor man’s Hisashi Iwakuma. Like Kuma, Santiago’s ERA is a run lower than his FIP. His change-up helps him minimize platoon splits, but unlike Kuma, Santiago still has them. Kuma doesn’t walk anyone,* but the HRs and sequencing push his runs allowed far below what you’d expect looking at his three true outcomes. Santiago is only good by ONE of the three true outcomes, but on the plus side, he’s moving from a park that’s very HR friendly to a HR-suppressing park.
1: Almonte, CF
2: Miller, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Hart, DH
6: Romero, RF
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Bloomquist, 3B
SP: Paxton, LHP
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Fangraphs now has pre-game win expectancy on their scores page. Here’s tonight’s. You can see that the model still isn’t buying the M’s offense, especially against a lefty. Last night’s game was one of the most lopsided, with the Angels having a hair over a 60% chance of winning. Tonight’s is a mere 58%. It’ll be fun to see how these change over the course of the season as the systems learn more about Paxton/Erasmoooo. Right now, they’re probably underrating them.
Willie Bloomquist makes his first start, giving Seager a night off. I’m curious to see how Seager holds up with increased rest this year.
Bob Dutton points out that Joe Beimel’s pick-off in last night’s game was called from the bench. Whether it was McClendon or the bench coach, nice call.
Carlos Triunfel is now the property of the LA Dodgers org.
* I said a VERY POOR MAN’s Kuma, ok?