Game 6, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · April 6, 2014 at 10:14 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Erasmo Ramirez vs Sonny Gray, 1:05pm

In 2012, Sonny Gray was coming off a disappointing year in AA, with an RA9 around 4.5, a high walk rate and a K rate under 6 per 9 innings. A year later, he’d made a splash in his big league debut, striking out more than a batter an inning, and outpitching Justin Verlander in a jaw-dropping 1-0 win in the AL Divisional series. This is why prospecting based only on numbers is such a fool’s errand, and why player development is at least as important as good amateur scouting.

The A’s overhauled Gray’s mechanics, and in about a year, he went from undersized, underperforming righty to the unquestioned ace of the Oakland staff. Development isn’t a straight-line path for any pitcher not named Felix Hernandez, and it’s not uncommon to see some ugly lines while a pitcher works on a tweak or learns a new pitch. James Paxton comes to mind, as does Stephen Pryor who was absolutely lost in High-A before learning a cutter/slider in AA and turning into an unhittable relief ace. Today’s two pitchers show that the process simply can’t stop. Both are short righties with solid fastballs, and both continue to adjust on the fly in the big leagues.

In 2012, Erasmo Ramirez made a splash from June through September when he hit the rotation and started relying on his best pitch, the change-up. In every game from June on, he threw his change up more frequently than his breaking balls (slider/curve), and looked like the M’s #3 starter for the next decade. In 2013, he was dealing with arm soreness, and whether it was due to pain or the predilections of then-PC Carl Willis, Erasmo went to his slider a lot. He made 11 starts from August through September and threw more breaking balls than change-ups in 10 of them. He also started using a sinker more than his four-seamer. In his first start this season, the sinker was back, but he paired it with a heavy dose of cambios. The sinker and change have very similar movement, and many (including me) thought that this may have been the reason his change-up was less effective than it had been in 2012. His last few starts of 2013 and his great opening start in Anaheim suggest otherwise – that the speed difference (which is ALSO less than it used to be, but still 10-11mph) is plenty to get hitters to swing over the change. One of his big problems, and one I didn’t see coming, was struggling against lefties. Part of this may have been pitching through injury, but part of it seemed to be the angle on his fastballs – for whatever reason, lefties have hit his four-seamer hard (though his career sample’s still small). Erasmo’s still a work in progress, but his willingness and ability to change on the fly are certainly good signs.

Sonny Gray didn’t look like he needed to make any adjustments after last year’s stunning debut (capped off by a season-ending win against the M’s and Erasmo Ramirez), but he’s got a new pitch this year. When he came up, he threw two fastballs, a change, slider and a curve. He used the big curve a lot, throwing it over a quarter of the time. Against lefties, he’d mix in the occasional change and a very rare cutter. He was great against lefties and righties, but the combo of fastball and curve destroyed righties in particular. Cleveland used a lefty-heavy line-up against Gray on opening day, and saw a flurry of cutters – 21 of them. With two very different breaking balls – the cutter’s a hard one, at around 86mph, and he hit 90 with one of them – he’s in a good position to give left-handers more than one look. His FB/Curve arsenal was great in 2013, but as hitters get more familiar with him, he’s adjusting and giving them more to think about.

Today’s line-up:
1: Almonte, CF
2: Miller, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Morrison, DH
6: Seager, 3B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Saunders, RF
9: Zunino, C
SP: Erasmoooo

8 lefties to face Gray today.

Great day in the M’s system, as Victor Sanchez makes his AA debut for Jackson. South African control artist Dylan Unsworth makes his first 2014 start in the Cal League for High Desert. The Rainiers host Albuquerue as Chance Ruffin makes the start against Dodgers prospect Zach Lee – good game to head to Cheney if you’re in the area.

You’ll notice that Chance Ruffin’s in the Tacoma rotation and Brandon Maurer isn’t. That’s…different. This is something to watch this year; I’m just curious what the plan is for Maurer, who still has big league stuff, but obviously had a very difficult time in his first big league season last year.


76 Responses to “Game 6, Mariners at Athletics”

  1. californiamariner on April 6th, 2014 3:34 pm

    I didn’t miss the premise, I just think the premise is ridiculous. The team’s best position player for the last two years (his only two years) isn’t going to the minors after a week or a month.

    Morrison just really needs to stop playing over Saunders all the time. They talk about his bat, but Morrison has never been a good hitter.

  2. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 3:42 pm

    Morrison just really needs to stop playing over Saunders all the time. They talk about his bat, but Morrison has never been a good hitter.

    Not to mention, CM, that defense is equally important the whole game – not just the last couple innings. Having a bad defender out there for the first seven innings simply makes it less likely you’ll need a defensive sub in the last two!

  3. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 3:43 pm

    Good contact, Robbie – unfortunately right at Sogard. But still, a good stroke.

  4. Eastside Suds on April 6th, 2014 3:44 pm

    Some days, it’s just not your day. Man, tough luck for the M’s today against a good team.

  5. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 3:45 pm

    The A’s understand outfield defense.


  6. absolutsyd on April 6th, 2014 3:45 pm

    Jesus, did we piss off the baseball gods or something? This is one of the unluckiest games I can remember seeing!

  7. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 3:46 pm

    Good teams make their own luck, much of the time. The A’s have good outfielders, and good outfielders have a shot at making those plays.

  8. juneau_fan on April 6th, 2014 3:48 pm

    Well, poop.

  9. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2014 3:48 pm

    Ok, how about not throwing first pitch fastballs to Cespedes.

  10. californiamariner on April 6th, 2014 3:49 pm

    Bad luck, regression to the mean, this is one of those days.

    Michael Saunders wRC+: 2012- 108, 2013- 98
    Logan Morrison wRC+: 2012- 90, 2013- 96

    And Westy, like you just mentioned, defense! The defense between these two isn’t even close. In order for me to justify Morrison playing, he’d have to be hitting a whole lot better than Saunders, and I just don’t think that is realistic.

  11. HighlightsAt11 on April 6th, 2014 3:49 pm

    In Leone’s first MLB appearance, he is immediately hit for a double then with two on the corners he escapes the inning unscathed. Good job from a young pitcher.

  12. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 3:49 pm

    Ugh. Since he came over, Cespedes seems to have particularly enjoyed Mariners pitching.

  13. Eastside Suds on April 6th, 2014 3:51 pm

    Absolutely correct Westy. They have made several nice plays that we probably would not have. But, against a good team like the A’s, I’m encouraged that we are still putting the ball in play and making them work for it. Even if we don’t come home 5-1, this has been a successful and productive trip.

  14. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 3:57 pm

    All right, Seager is on! Let’s do something with it!

  15. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 4:00 pm

    All right, Condor – come on Mikey!

  16. juneau_fan on April 6th, 2014 4:00 pm

    At least they’re not going quietly.

  17. californiamariner on April 6th, 2014 4:01 pm

    Maybe this will get Saunders some playing time!

  18. The_Waco_Kid on April 6th, 2014 4:01 pm

    Yeah, Condor! I’m worried about our OF defense if Saunders can’t hit.

  19. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 4:02 pm

    Oh man…

    Okay Abe, do it!

  20. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 4:03 pm

    Saunders had exactly 10 plate appearances prior to this game. Kinda early to worry about him not hitting! hehe

  21. Westside guy on April 6th, 2014 4:05 pm

    That looked a little high.

  22. californiamariner on April 6th, 2014 4:06 pm

    Tough call to end on. Pitch was high.

  23. Eastside Suds on April 6th, 2014 4:09 pm

    Really poor ball/strike calling this series and Mac let HP know about it at the end. Should have been 5-1 trip, but that’s baseball. Very encouraging!

  24. The_Waco_Kid on April 6th, 2014 4:20 pm

    True, Westy. I’m quick to start worrying these days, though.

  25. MrZDevotee on April 6th, 2014 8:48 pm

    For those of you who caught the game on TV today, how did Chris Young look? 2 innings of no hit ball, with 2 K’s… Obviously SSS, but good results nonetheless… Was it legit? Did he look good?

    Just curious.

  26. californiamariner on April 6th, 2014 9:37 pm

    I thought Young looked pretty good, but like you said SSS and I’m not an undercover scout in my free time 🙂

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