Game 12, Mariners at Rangers

marc w · April 14, 2014 at 5:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Roenis Elias vs. Colby Lewis, 5:05pm

If you were asked to come up with a list of starters with huge platoon splits, there are a few obvious names – guys who’ve garnered some attention (really, really nerdy attention) for their issues with LHBs or RHBs. Justin Masterson was essentially the face of this phenomenon (a really, really nerdy phenomenon), Joe Saunders is another, less talented example, and Bronson Arroyo may qualify. Then, of course, you’ve got tons of relief specialists whose platoon splits essentially define their role. To make this work – to carve out a career while ~half of the opponents you face see the ball really well – you really have to dominate same-handed hitters. Masterson, with his low arm angle and tough slider, clearly does this. Joe Saunders does this, though how remains somewhat cryptic to those of us who watched him last year. Bronson Arroyo wasn’t as hurt by his splits thanks to his division, which shelters quite a few pitchers with large splits (Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Charlie Morton).

Tonight’s starter, Colby Lewis, is another pitcher with deceptively high splits. I say “deceptively” because his career numbers are skewed a bit from his very early years with Texas – 2003 in particular – in which he pitched a lot and was terrible against everyone. Since returning from Japan, so 2010 through mid-2012, he was a very different pitcher. A much better one, to be clear, but also a guy with noticeable platoon splits. These two things are related, of course. He stuck around and made something of an impact in the AL in his second tour of duty because he suddenly got very tough on right-handed batters. He wasn’t doing it with fastball velocity, or with an odd angle, and his slider isn’t the kind of pitch that you think of when you think of a wipeout pitch. It’s not its movement or velocity that’s made the difference for Lewis – when he’s on, the key’s been his location. When he came over, many talked about the cutter he added, but it’s not clear if that’s what’s now called his slider or some other pitch he decided he didn’t need. His change never quite developed, so Lewis ends up throwing a lot of sliders to lefties, especially ahead in the count.

But this isn’t a Brandon Maurer situation where lefties have just teed off on a pitch breaking in to them. Instead, they’ve nuked his fastball. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive given his delivery (traditional, not at all sidearmy like Masterson’s) and his very high vertical movement (it’s the high horizontal movement pitches like sinkers that tend to have more platoon splits). That “rise” means that most hitters can elevate his fastball, and obviously contact in the air can be injurious to a pitchers’ FIP – especially if they pitch in Arlington a lot. The more I think about it though, it’s not that lefties have fared fairly well and hit plenty of home runs. It’s that Lewis is so sneakily good against right-handers. From 2010-2012, his wOBA-allowed to righties went .277, .268, .276. For reference, Masterson from 2010-2012 went .307, .259, .277, before annihilating righties last year to the tune of a .238 wOBA. And this highlights one of the reasons Lewis struggled to get back to a 4-5 WAR pitcher like he was in his first year back: now teams know how to build their line-up. No one would leave righties in their line-up against Masterson if they had a choice. Now, people stack lefties against Lewis too. In 2010, he faced essentially identical numbers of righties and lefties. In the 1.5 years before his arm exploded, he faced about 1.38 lefties for every righty.

His arm strength/velocity are back, but the Rangers didn’t take Lewis north, er, east with the team out of spring training. Whether that was to let him build up strength or because they really wanted to see what Nick Martinez could do, I’m not sure. The Rangers’ rotation has been decimated, but they’re on the mend. Matt Harrison returns soon, Yu Darvish is back, and eventually they should see Derek Holland again. That means Lewis has a limited window to show he can add value. The M’s aren’t a good match-up, thanks to lefty-swinging SS, 2B, CFs. Let’s see if they take advantage.

Roenis Elias is still fascinating to me. Part of it is just the teams he’s faced, but Elias has seen only 8 left-handed bats this season. That should change tonight, as he’s got Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder – two lefties who have platoon issues of their own – in the line-up for Texas. It’s not a cakewalk by any stretch, particularly in Arlington, but at least some of the Rangers’ bigger offensive threats are lefties.

1: Almonte, CF
2: Miller, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Morrison, RF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Ackley, LF
9: Zunino, C
SP: Elias

Not quite as LH-heavy as it possibly could be, but the decision basically comes down to Hart vs. Saunders, and Saunders is not helping his cause at the moment.

Jordan Pries faces off against ex-Rangers, now Cubs prospect CJ Edwards in AA tonight. Matt Anderson opposes even-bigger-prospect Mark Appel in the Cal League, while Brandon Maurer starts for Tacoma in Albuquerque. Tommy Burns pitches for the Lumberkings in the MWL.


42 Responses to “Game 12, Mariners at Rangers”

  1. californiamariner on April 14th, 2014 5:17 pm

    Saunders is in right for some reason. Maybe there was a last second lineup change? In any case, let us be happy!

  2. dr3wman on April 14th, 2014 6:12 pm

    Rick talking about more and more shifts being implemented each year, so why aren’t more hitters being encouraged/pressured/trained to try and go the other way? I know it is a skill, but are hitters just not capable anymore?

  3. californiamariner on April 14th, 2014 6:39 pm

    Start Michael Saunders

  4. msfanmike on April 14th, 2014 6:40 pm

    Thank goodness for Morrisons tight hamstring. It’s the MVP of tonight’s game so far.

  5. Kazinski on April 14th, 2014 6:48 pm

    If Saunders gets a few more hits like that, then he will get the starts. He is by far the better defensive player, and if there isn’t any offensive advantage then there is no point to play Morrison, and or Romero.

    All 3 of them are in BABIP hell now, but Romero and Morrison are also in in IFFB hell which makes things even worse. Romero has not hit a single GB yet.

  6. dr3wman on April 14th, 2014 6:49 pm

    Man do I love seeing the M’s play add-on!

  7. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 6:51 pm

    Good to see Saunders in the lineup and taking advantage of opportunities.

    Big sixth inning keeps on getting bigger.

  8. californiamariner on April 14th, 2014 6:52 pm

    This is fun! It took long enough to break out of that slump.


  9. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 6:57 pm


  10. NorahW on April 14th, 2014 6:58 pm

    Noesi coming in!

  11. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 6:59 pm

    Ms should save some runs for tomorrow’s game 😉

  12. msfanmike on April 14th, 2014 7:00 pm

    I imagine that Lloyd disagrees with the review call (even though it went his way) and only challenged it to show how silly the interpretation of the rule has become. He was talking earlier today in an interview in regard to the transfer rule and instant replay in general. He doesn’t seem to be too fond of either.

  13. californiamariner on April 14th, 2014 7:01 pm

    Highlights, don’t you know about this year’s Mariners? They have to either be close to 10 or get shutout 🙂

  14. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:04 pm

    I don’t mind the Ms playing long road trips this spring and hit more in warmer weather. Without Felix on the mound, the slow grind em out home games at Safeco are just not as fun.

  15. Mariner.lovechild on April 14th, 2014 7:05 pm

    Noesi comes in with runners on. Strikes the batter out to end the inning. C’est la vie!

  16. californiamariner on April 14th, 2014 7:06 pm

    Elias just keeps surviving game after game. It often has not looked pretty, but he’s getting the job done and looking better and better.

  17. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:07 pm

    Wonder if Hart got any ribbing by is teammates for striking out to Noesi and killing the rally?

  18. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:12 pm

    With the sails at his back, Elias will finally get the win.

  19. Section329 on April 14th, 2014 7:15 pm

    Smoak the doubles king.

  20. greentunic on April 14th, 2014 7:16 pm

    Does anyone know how to set gameday to default with Classic format?

    I hate switching every time I look up a game or move to a different team.

  21. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:20 pm

    Noesi went inside first four pitches to Smoak. Then with three balls Noesi does a no no and lays one outside for Smoak to whack. That’s why Noesi will soon be playing for Round Rock.

  22. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:25 pm

    With the big lead Elias is at 104 pitch count. Time to go to the pen and save Elias arm for Miami.

  23. TherzAlwaysHope on April 14th, 2014 7:26 pm

    I know you all were just waiting for me to weigh in on the transfer rule: IT SUCKS. IT REALLY REALLY SUCKS.

  24. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:27 pm

    Good call coach!

  25. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:32 pm

    Every M except for Hart has a hit…except LoMo. Will both Bloomquist and Romero be defensive subs and see a plate appearance? Too late for Buck.

  26. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:33 pm

    Yes that transfer rule is a bad rule, except for tonight.

  27. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:34 pm

    Noesi’s ERA is going down like a rocket.

  28. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:40 pm

    The Paperboy, Josh Wilson, has been with 14 different MLB teams.

  29. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:44 pm

    Medina wasn’t going to give in to Choo.

  30. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:50 pm

    Come on Hart, time for a hit (home run).

  31. HighlightsAt11 on April 14th, 2014 7:53 pm

    Every M got on base. How often do you see that?

  32. Westside guy on April 14th, 2014 7:56 pm

    I’d like to think Saunders would get more notice after tonight… but he was 2-4 against the Angels several games ago, and that didn’t gain him anything.

  33. Section329 on April 14th, 2014 8:01 pm

    Farquhar in mop up duty-no sense

  34. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2014 11:06 pm

    Don’t look now Mariner fans, but your #9 hitting sophomore catcher Mike Zunino is batting .282 and leads the team in slugging percentage at .570… And he can block a ball in the dirt, and frame a pitch like a masterpiece in the Louvre.

    Take that Miguel Olivo (Rob Johnson, Jesus Montero, etc, etc…)

  35. smb on April 14th, 2014 11:19 pm

    I confess, I love Elias.

  36. jak924 on April 15th, 2014 7:58 am

    No Dave Simms on tonight’s game. So nice. He’s such a buzzkill and downer to listen to. The man has no NW connections and lives on the east coast. What are the Mariners thinking? I guess I’m just spoiled listening to Vin Scully for 30 years.

  37. Edgar Suzuki Jr. on April 15th, 2014 8:26 am

    Scully is a MASTER on the mic… Several times last night I was listening to the game and the conversations carried a little too long during at bats.

  38. Mariner.lovechild on April 15th, 2014 8:42 am

    I know! Simms is a buzzkill – that’s the perfect word. Just overly forced enthusiasm… pair that with the rather monotone Blowers. But with Mike Blowers, I don’t care how he sounds because he has legitimate baseball commentary. And he’s a Mariner.

  39. Westside guy on April 15th, 2014 9:45 am

    Romero (37.2%), Almonte (33.9%), Zunino (33.3%), Miller (32.7%), and Smoak (30.0%) all are currently carrying stupidly high strikeout rates. I’m not worried about Miller for the moment because he doesn’t have a history of striking out a lot. and Smoak isn’t normally in this range either. But the averages for Almonte, Zunino, and Smoak are currently being buoyed by high BABIP numbers – as those drop (and, excepting perhaps Almonte, there is zero question they WILL drop significantly), these guy’s are going to start looking bad unless they can stop striking out so much. Unfortunately what track record we have available for Zunino indicates this may be an ongoing problem, and with Almonte it’s pretty obvious he’s always going to strike out a lot.

    I realize the team is 7-5, but there are a LOT of red flags that are currently out there.

  40. casey on April 15th, 2014 10:06 am

    Westy – appreciate you bringing me back down after last night’s win – was getting kind of giddy with our easy schedule ahead of us – Rangers (whose lineup looks nearly AAA), Astros, Marlins, and even Yankees look pretty ordinary despite first place.

  41. Westside guy on April 15th, 2014 10:12 am

    Casey, the counterpoint of course is that Seager is NOT going to continue hitting .130, and Miller is almost certainly not going to keep striking out. So Seager, Miller, and especially Cano are probably locks to be productive.

    Also, Ackley seems to be demonstrating that the end of last season wasn’t a fluke – he may have truly figured it out at the plate!

    I am always plugging for Saunders, so this time I will give you guys a break and skip it for once. 😀

  42. casey on April 15th, 2014 12:20 pm

    you are in danger of becoming an optimist if you keep doing that fine art of balance thing…

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