Game 30, Mariners at A’s

marc w · May 5, 2014 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Chris Young vs. Scott Kazmir, 7:05pm

This game’s as important as any early-May contest, I suppose, but I think a lot of northwest fans might be interested to note that top prospect Noah Syndergaard’s starting tonight against the Rainiers in Tacoma. Catch Chris Taylor face actual MLB-level pitching, and plus velocity from the right side. The M’s couldn’t really find a spot for Nick Franklin, who started off the 2014 season on a hot streak, but Chris Taylor is making things even more complicated.

Ok, ok, back to the big league game for a bit. Scott Kazmir was famously difficult to forecast this off-season. He was a lackluster member of the Sugar Land Skeeters recently, and the fact that he’d made the Indians roster came as a shock to most. He looked OK, but had mediocre results in the first half, like teammate and fellow comeback story Ubaldo Jimenez. In the second half, he was an effective #3. So: forecasting him going forward, or forecasting what he’d make on the free agent market, how do you weight his performance record? What do you DO with the fact that his career was *over* 18 months ago? It was a slightly more extreme version of the questions regarding the top of the free agent pitching market, namely Ervin Santana (who was abysmal in 2012) and Jimenez (who was replacement level in 2012 too). It’s tough to tease out how much the ambiguous nature of their recent performances played into their contracts, and how much of it was due to the draft pick compensation attached to signing Jimenez/Santana. Santana’s been absolutely brilliant and stands to make more money next year while Jimenez looks pretty much exactly like he did in 2012 again. Meanwhile, Kazmir’s been among the best bargains of the off-season.

He had fairly neutral GB/FB ratios and he’d had home run problems off and on since 2008, so he looked like a good candidate to pitch well in Oakland. But since joining the A’s, his GB% is up dramatically, from the low 40s to the mid 50s. Small sample weirdness? Maybe, but a pitcher’s ground ball rate stabilizes early on; Russell Carleton found it stabilized (r=.7) at around 150 batters faced. Kazmir’s faced 151 thus far. An updated version of Carleton’s work by Derek Carty, using a slightly different methodology, found that GB rate stabilize after 105 balls in play. Kazmir looks to be around 106.

There’s nothing that stands out as an explanation for this change in the pitch fx data. He’s not using a different pitch, or targeting a different part of the zone. He’s still the same sinker/slider/change that he was last year, and he’s throwing just as hard. He always showed fairly dramatic platoon splits for grounders – with lefties pounding the ball into the ground while righties elevated it. But he’s faced four times as many righties this year as he has lefties, so that’s not it. The other dramatic difference in his stat line is his walk rate, which is under 5% for the first time in his career. Even when he was at his best, from 2005-07, he had so-so command, and a walk rate over those three years near 10%.

Chris Young is having perhaps his most Chris Young season, which is saying something. Coming into the year, he was known for being 1) tall, 2) an extreme fly-ball guy but who could 3) generate lower BABIPs due to all of those fly outs without 4) giving up tons of HRs somehow, no one really knows why, but it all adds up to 5) a guy with actual runs allowed coming in lower than the fielding-independent metrics would assume. So far, he remains exceedingly tall; his GB rate is just 24%, below his own absurd career average of 27%; his BABIP is .211, below his own absurd career average of .253; he’s given up HRs on 6.7% of fly balls, below his low-but-not-absurd average of 8%; and he’s got an ERA of 3.04 and a FIP of 5.46 and a whatever’s-beyond-absurd xFIP of 6.27. I know allusions to animated series are the lifeblood of baseball blogging, so to put it in old internet meme terms:
Phase 1: Throw 85mph fast straightballs up in the zone.
Phase 2: ?
Phase 3: Profit.*

1: Saunders, CF
2: Romero, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Gillespie, LF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
SP: Young

As you’ve no doubt heard, the M’s have sent down CF Abraham Almonte and recalled CF James Jones. Jones was off to a solid start in Tacoma, but so’s just about everyone. He’s fast, he’s got a howitzer of an arm, but he’s a lefty. In theory, Almonte’s switch hitting helped balance the line-up against lefties like Kazmir. In practice, of course, Almonte just didn’t hit. Defensively, I don’t know that I’m qualified to say if this is an upgrade or not. I thought Almonte was a solid to plus fielding CORNER OF, but I think his range was better than I’d predicted in the big leagues. On the other hand, whether it was concentration lapses or positioning, he made more unforced errors too. When I’ve seen Jones, it’s mostly been in the corners too – the R’s have Endy Chavez and Xavier Avery to rotate through the OF positions – and he’s looked solid. He had some nice starts in the spring as well, but it’s tough to know how it all adds up. Best of luck to Jones, who obviously was up for a brief call-up earlier. That he’s made it this far shows some solid work by the M’s much-maligned player development system, considering nearly everyone saw Jones as a pitcher coming out of LIU.

I’ll be in Tacoma to check out the Syndergaard, one of the Mets top prospects, and one of the top righties in the minors. Andrew Carraway gets the start for Tacoma. Jake Zokan, Jimmy Gillheeney and Eddie Campbell start in the minors as well. OF Austin Wilson, the M’s 2013 draft pick, was named the Midwest League Player of the Week last week, collecting six XBHs and nine total hits in seven games.

* The M’s are only 2-2 in his starts, despite the lack of runs allowed, and they lost in his only relief appearance. None of this is Young’s fault, of course, but that’s a pretty fielding-independent way of looking at things for a guy who famously cannot be evaluated by fielding independent means.


137 Responses to “Game 30, Mariners at A’s”

  1. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 9:38 pm

    James Jones lost 50% of his OPS with that last plate appearance.

  2. HighlightsAt11 on May 5th, 2014 9:39 pm

    Three outs from .500.

  3. MrZDevotee on May 5th, 2014 9:41 pm

    Take a bow, Mr. Miller…

  4. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 9:41 pm

    Nice, Bradley!

  5. nvn8vbryce on May 5th, 2014 9:41 pm


  6. Kazinski on May 5th, 2014 9:41 pm

    Romero has his OPS up to .712, he’s starting to look like he can play. He’s still got some rough spots, but not Almonte rough.

  7. msfanmike on May 5th, 2014 9:41 pm

    I take back a couple of those things I have said about your defense, Brad. Nice play!

  8. Eastside Suds on May 5th, 2014 9:41 pm

    Great play Millsy!!

  9. absolutsyd on May 5th, 2014 9:42 pm

    Nice play! It’s Miller time!

  10. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 9:42 pm

    Ooh, just got a UW Alert – strong-arm robbery on campus.

  11. MrZDevotee on May 5th, 2014 9:42 pm

    I’ve got Dalwhinnie going right now, but I thought you could use something a little heftier! *laugh*

  12. nvn8vbryce on May 5th, 2014 9:43 pm

    Eastside, I think you can put the defibrillator away!

  13. MrZDevotee on May 5th, 2014 9:43 pm

    (laugh) I love it. I missed your throne post because (no lie) I was refilling the scotch.

    Yeah baby. 4-2. .500

  14. msfanmike on May 5th, 2014 9:43 pm

    That was crisp ………..and rare.

  15. californiamariner on May 5th, 2014 9:43 pm

    Great play by Miller!

  16. Eastside Suds on May 5th, 2014 9:43 pm

    Well done M’s!!!! .500 baby

  17. nvn8vbryce on May 5th, 2014 9:44 pm

    Westy, are you sure there wasn’t another alert for a robbery in Oakland courtesy of Miller and the M’s?

  18. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 9:44 pm

    Nice to see Miller making some good defensive plays tonight.

  19. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 9:44 pm

    hehehe Bryce.

  20. Kazinski on May 5th, 2014 9:45 pm

    If the Angels lose, we leapfrog them.

    Espn has them ranked 11 today, we were 24th. And we are 3/4 of a sweep from a first place tie with Oakland.

  21. Section329 on May 5th, 2014 9:47 pm

    Who was that throwing 1st pitch strikes in the 9th?

  22. WTF_Ms on May 5th, 2014 9:48 pm

    Just got back from vacation in Hawaii, where the only baseball reports I saw only mentioned the “local boys”…Good to see the M’s having a resurgence to make up a bit for that losing streak, and I agree it’s also good to see the infield working well.

  23. Eastside Suds on May 5th, 2014 9:48 pm

    I just want so badly to believe when/if we get back a healthy Paxton and Walker and Kuma returns to form. Given what Felix and Elias have done, we may have a chance to stay interesting until August…..just maybe

  24. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 9:48 pm

    Thing about the Angels is – they’ve got a significant positive run differential. We’ve seen them sucking, but they don’t seem to be doing that so much at the moment… but they continue to be unlucky.

    Works for me. I love seeing expensive teams significantly underperform expectations.

  25. nvn8vbryce on May 5th, 2014 9:49 pm

    Section, it looked like Rodney, but I couldn’t tell… I was impressed that the kardiac kids didn’t turn this into more of an adventure than anything…

  26. HighlightsAt11 on May 5th, 2014 9:50 pm

    Good job Rodney.

  27. The_Waco_Kid on May 5th, 2014 9:51 pm

    .500! Feels like ’09.

  28. MrZDevotee on May 5th, 2014 9:53 pm

    My favorite words to sum up a 9th inning…

    “Fernando, we hardly knew thee…”

    Short and sweet. That feels nice.

  29. Kazinski on May 5th, 2014 10:09 pm

    I wonder what were going to do with Morrison. We don’t need another left-handed bat, especially one with no glove. Jones is a lefty too, not that they are competing, but we’ve already have a lot of them.

    Lloyd doesn’t sound happy with him either:
    “Morrison is recovering more slowly than expected. Even McClendon is surprised. “I have been. There’s no sense in arguing about it,” he said. “When I get him I get him. Until then I’ll just read his tweets.”

    I sense a lengthy rehab assignment.

  30. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 10:14 pm

    McLendon may be like Wedge – he may see dealing with injuries as a toughness thing. It’s a stupid attitude, but it seems fairly widespread… especially among old ex-jocks.

    Of course if he heard that Carter Capps is hitting 98-100 again… maybe it’s just sour grapes.

  31. LongDistance on May 5th, 2014 11:23 pm

    Eastside – re: August. I’ve had those thoughts, but, because optimism isn’t a normal Mariner fan mindset, and in fact isn’t recommended, I tend to bury them. But going with the idea that if wishful thinking is allowed there’s no reason to hold back, I’ll confess to a variation:

    If they stay healthy and consistent, I’m wondering what we’ll find ourselves looking at as of midnight, 31 July.

  32. Breadbaker on May 5th, 2014 11:30 pm

    We are .500 and we have scored exactly as many runs as we have allowed. Your 2014 Seattle Mariners: no one is more average than we are!

  33. Westside guy on May 5th, 2014 11:40 pm

    Hey, Breadbaker – when was the last time this team didn’t have a negative run differential 30 games into a season? I will take it!

  34. MrZDevotee on May 5th, 2014 11:41 pm

    Your 2014 Seattle Mariners… The hottest team in the AL the past 10 games. After being the coldest team in the AL for 10 games.

    Adding to your stats breakdown Breadbaker… 2-8 followed by 8-2…

    Yay Baseball!

  35. LongDistance on May 6th, 2014 3:38 am

    Since there’s no real antonym for regress, we could call this (with blind wild optimism) improving to the mean?

    BTW Z, I agree with what you wrote earlier. Mike will no doubt, eventually, regress to the Morse. Just don’t say so on any SF blogs, they’re too giddy to want to know.

  36. pointsette on May 6th, 2014 6:30 am

    Top prospect Noah Syndergaard’s starting tonight against the Rainiers in Tacoma. Actual MLB-level pitching.

    Franklin, 3 for 3
    Taylor, 0 for 2 BB

    Could have been another error on Taylor last night. The ball he through to 2nd hit the batter allowing a run to score.

  37. Paul B on May 6th, 2014 11:31 am

    Teams that dont walk tend to be streaky?

    Just a thought.

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