Game 13, Mariners at Rangers
Blake Beavan vs. Robbie Ross, 5:05pm
Ah, Blake Beavan is *back*. I anticipate this game will get a ton of attention, so you may experience some site issues or load-time problems during the game.
Beavan doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence thanks to a steroid-era HR rate and an inability to miss bats. I’d argued a few times that antipathy to his low-K style made him seem much worse than he actually was, but 2013 made it a lot tougher to continue believing Beavan’s anything but a replacement-level (or worse) fill in. The problem’s the same: his low-walk skillset is predicated on throwing fastballs in the zone, and without an ability to miss bats (or get a ton of ground balls), that’s going to lead to HRs. I’ll give the guy credit – like most pitchers, he’s publicly made several changes, but they don’t seem to have helped. In fact, one of those changes may have made things worse.
When he first came up, Beavan enjoyed a string of quality starts driven largely by a very low BABIP. He gave up HRs here or there, but they were often solo shots. Perhaps in response to the home run problems, and perhaps because he posted some horrific platoon splits in 2011, Beavan decided he’d substantially increase the use of his sinker in 2012. He threw about 2 four-seamers for every sinker overall in 2011, but threw more sinkers than four-seamers in 2012. Against lefties, he used the sinker more than twice as often as the four-seamer. The problem was that Beavan’s sinker just isn’t very good, and he compounds that with the fact that sinkers naturally have *higher* platoon splits than four-seam fastballs. If the choice was simply trading more singles for fewer HRs, you could understand it a bit. But in his career, he’s given up a homer on 7.6% of all sinkers in play (not just in the air), while just 3.4% of his four-seamers put in play have left the yard.
This is something I’ve talked about before, but I just don’t understand why there’s clearly such a focus on getting pitchers to throw 4-seams to same-handed batters and 2-seams to opposite-handed batters. It’s completely backwards, at least according to the data we’ve looked at. Again, you can argue that an informed trade-off of OBP for SLG may be appropriate in certain cases – especially in cases where the pitcher’s giving up too many homers. But in Beavan’s case (and in many others), this advice has been disastrous.
Robbie Ross is a converted reliever who’s primarily – overwhelmingly – a fastball/slider guy. He’s seems like a classic LOOGY or a guy with massive platoon splits of his own, but he’s actually run reverse splits thus far. That’s probably just small-sample noise, but it shows why Ross was effective even when facing predominantly right-handed bats. A part of the reason for his success is that he’s adept at getting right-handers to hit the ball on the ground. His K:BB ratio isn’t great against them, but even in Arlington, they can’t hit home runs when they’re just hitting grounders. So far, his FB velocity’s right where it was in the bullpen – around 92-93mph.
1: Almonte, CF
2: Miller, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Romero, RF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Bloomquist, LF
9: Zunino, C
The M’s reaped the benefit of another controversial transfer-rule call overturn. It put a run on the board, as Ackley was originally called out on the field. The rule’s interpretation is odd, and the potential for strategic hijinks is high, as Dave’s recent Fangraphs article explored. But that inning really put a spotlight on just how bad a defensive team Texas is right now. They’ve slipped a few years in a row since a good 2010-11, but without Beltre or Profar, they’re struggling. The A’s massive advantage in D has been an important, somewhat underrated, reason they’ve held off the Rangers the past few years.
In the minors tonight, there’s really only one story: Taijuan Walker pitches for Tacoma. If you’re in the area, GO.