Game 27, Mariners at Astros
King Felix vs. Brad Peacock, 5:10pm
Happy Felix Day! For the first time in a while, M’s fans are probably capable of happiness coming into a Felix start. We’re not stuck in a long losing streak, and nothing puts a spring in your step like beating the Yankees. If anything DID, it would probably be a rookie pitcher striking out 10 in 7 effective innings.
Brad Peacock’s the spot-starter the Astros got from Oakland as part of the Jed Lowrie deal – a deal that looked balanced at the time, but has turned out to be something of a steal for Oakland. Peacock was lousy in the PCL for Oakland in 2012, then lousy in 80-odd innings for Houston last year, and he’s been differently lousy so far this year. Peacock throws a 93mph fastball with 10″ of rise and gets a fair number of whiffs on it, but that also generates a lot of loud contact and free baseballs for fans sitting in outfield bleachers. This year, he’s only made two starts and a handful of relief appearances – his HR rate is down, whatever that means, but it looks like it’s down because he’s been scared right out of the zone. His zone% cratered, and he’s now walking nearly 8 men per 9 innings.
He’s also got a slider/change and his primary breaking ball, a slow curve. Interestingly, these pitches actually can generate ground-ball outs, and the slider in particular looks like it could be a good pitch for him. He didn’t throw one when he came up (briefly) with the Nats, and he didn’t throw that many in 2013, but it’s now his go-to pitch against righties. That said, it’s not righties he has to worry about. Last year, lefties posted nearly a .400 wOBA off of him, and his career wOBA allowed isn’t much prettier. The M’s have seven lefties in tonight line-up, so this won’t be easy for Peacock. Of course, there were seven lefties in the M’s line-up the last time he faced Seattle, in September of last year, and he threw 6 innings of 3H, 1R ball and walked away with his second win of the year against them.
Felix’s last two games haven’t been up to the ridiculous standard of his first four, but Felix’s 2014 numbers are still pretty breathtaking. Fangraphs’ daily odds show this game as the biggest statistical miss-match of the day, with the M’s given nearly 2/3 chance of winning.
1: Saunders, RF
2: Miller, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Almonte, CF
You may have seen this, and I enjoyed this piece of Dave’s at the Hardball Times on baseball economics.
And hey, if I’m going to link to the boss, I may as well get a few more in. This article at Fangraphs on run differentials is awesome. Essentially, this is a better way of looking at luck/true-talent than comparing actual won/loss records to pythagorean formulas. By stripping out sequencing, you’re left with a better overall estimate of a team’s real ability to score runs. I understand many believe certain teams are just inherently better at hitting with RISP, for example, but the change in the Cardinals fortunes from 2013 to 2014 may be instructive. Same with the Orioles incredible bullpen of 2012 that somehow wasn’t able to apply their real and totally-not-made-up skill in sequencing and strand rate the following year. Dave’s work shows that the M’s have been pretty fortunate to have amassed 101 runs already, which makes sense given their low team OBP or the performance of their ex-leadoff hitter. That said, the pitching staff looks pretty good for a team that hasn’t started two of their best pitchers at all yet. On the other hand, the M’s divisional opponents, especially the A’s, look incredible by this measure. We said before the season started that the M’s needed to stay close through April and not get buried while they waited for Iwakuma/Walker and then Paxton to heal. They’ve largely done that, and that’s great. But the M’s still need to keep their eye on a couple of specific teams if they want to be relevant later in the summer, and this measure shows that they’ve got their work cut out for them. So does that old-fashioned measure called the division standings, of course.
Erasmo Ramirez makes his first start for Tacoma tonight as they welcome Las Vegas to town. Lars Huijer starts for Clinton. Top-10 prospect Tyler Pike starts for High Desert in Adelanto against Visalia. Pike’s avoided HR trouble (one on the year so far), and he’s been tough to hit, but it’s odd to see him with 16 walks and 14 Ks on the year. His walk rate was a bit higher than it should’ve been last year in Clinton, though he didn’t really pay for it in runs allowed. That’s been the case thus far, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Frankly, it’s such an odd environment to pitch in that I’d give him a lot of latitude with it, but it’s something to watch, particularly if it persisted into AA. He’s got some stability in coaching, at least, as his pitching coach this year – ex-M’s/Rainiers pitcher Andrew Lorraine – was also his PC in Clinton last season.