Game 28, Mariners at Astros
Hisashi Iwakuma (!) vs. Dallas Keuchel, 1:10pm
Great to see Iwakuma return to the big club; the M’s got very solid starting pitching from the fill-ins while Iwakuma (and then James Paxton) was out, but this offense needs some help if they’re going to contend. The M’s aren’t going to slug their way to 81 wins unless something changes fairly dramatically. Adding an elite pitcher is still going to help their chances, though. Iwakuma wasn’t throwing any splitters in his simulated game, and apparently used it very sparingly in his rehab start with Tacoma, but it’s obviously an important pitch for him. I think that’s the most important thing to look for today: is he able to get the same sharp break on it, or will the pressure it puts on his finger noticeably alter the pitch?
Dallas Keuchel. I’ve said before that his name sounds like some sort of regional dessert, so now we need to figure out what a “Dallas Keuchel” should be. A blueberry danish, battered and deep fried, then drizzled with honey.
Keuchel’s had a solid year, and Adam Lewis hints at one reason why: he dropped his big slow curve and picked up a slider (Lewis calls it a slurve) that’s on a similar plane as his change-up. The curve ball was apparently easy for batters to identify, as they hit .370 off of it and posted a better-than-.600 slugging percentage. He’ll use the slider against righties and lefties alike, so the fact that he’s had better results with it isn’t just a platoon advantage artifact. Keuchel’s K rate is up a bit this year, but fundamentally, he’s a ground-ball guy with a good sinker and a sinking change-up. The change is an important pitch for him – he only throws it to righties, but it gets swinging strikes and ground balls. Keuchel’s struggled against righties in his career, as you might expect from a sinker/slider pitcher throwing 90mph, so developing the change-up – and disguising it with his slurve – has been critical to Keuchel’s improvement.
1: Saunders, CF
2: Romero, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Gillespie, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
The story of the game last night was the bullpen usage, as McClendon went to Yoervis Medina in the 8th, up a run, instead of turning to Danny Farquhar (who eventually did pitch the 9th and 10th). I mentioned it on twitter last night, but in terms of leverage index – who pitches the most important innings – Farquhar’s clearly the 5th righty in the pen, and essentially the #7 guy overall. The bullpen has 7 pitchers. With Luetge’s demotion (to make room for Iwakuma), Farquhar’s got the lowest leverage index upon entering the game (gmLI) on the team. And it’s not even close – Medina and especially Wilhelmsen are the righty set-up men, with Furbush also getting important innings. Dom Leone’s a step behind those two righties, and Rodney’s obviously the closer. That means Farquhar’s pitched some garbage time innings. He got some important innings last night, but it’s not just hindsight that makes the M’s usage look odd.
The Angels are in some tough negotiations with the city of Anaheim over the lease on Angels stadium. To get some leverage, or just to explore all of their options, the Angels have approached other cities in Orange County to talk about a new development. The A’s are famous for trying to get out of their mixed-use facility and into Fremont; it’s kind of odd to see the Angels -the team with an owner willing to spend lavishly and refurbished baseball-only park – thinking about a similar move.