Game 38, Rays at Mariners
King Felix vs. Cesar Ramos, 7:10pm
Happy Felix Day
It’s was a gorgeous day in the Northwest, Felix is pitching and the M’s are above .500. Seems like a pretty good evening for a ballgame.
Lefty Cesar Ramos was a first rounder (pick 35, so just barely) in the 2005 MLB draft that M’s fans try not to talk about. The Padres picked him, and for a while, everything looked OK. Ramos was primarily a FB/CU pitcher who had pretty good stuff, but generally pitched to contact. It wasn’t a huge surprise that he wasn’t striking anyone out in the minors, but I think people hoped he could be a back-of-the-rotation guy eventually. Upon reaching AAA, though, his control – one of his calling cards – began to desert him. He bounced to the big leagues for brief fill-ins, but couldn’t stick, and his performances in AAA weren’t getting any better. The Pads tried him in the pen, and then, following a poor showing in 8 IP with the big club, packaged him with prospects for SS Jason Bartlett of Tampa Bay.
Bartlett went on to produce -0.9 WAR for SD, while the Rays have converted Ramos into a decent reliever/swing man. His control is still AWOL, his velocity’s down since 2010-11, and his FIP has been bad, but he’s given the Rays some decent innings, and can make spot starts like tonight. He throws a four-seamer, but he’s primarily a sinker/slider guy these days, with a change-up that he’ll throw right-handers. Of note, he had a pretty good GB% (SSS alert!) with the Padres, and the Rays got him to throw his sinker instead of his rising FB. So it’s a bit odd to me that Ramos now looks like a clear fly-ball pitcher – his sinker now gets fewer grounders per pitch, or grounders per ball in play than his four-seamer did years ago.
Ramos has walked *14* batters in five very brief starts, so the M’s should be patient. He’s never made it six innings in his career (again, he’s mostly been a reliever), but the right approach will get the M’s some at-bats against the back end of the Rays bullpen.
Felix has been frustrating to watch in recent starts. He’ll look great for a while, then succumb to a big inning. He’ll strike out a number of hitters, then do whatever that was against the A’s five days ago. Right now, his strand rate’s at 66.7%, the lowest rate of his career. Hitters have a .310 wOBA against him with men on, compared to just .260 with the bases empty. Is it a lack of focus? Boredom? I’d forgive him that, but I don’t think that’s what’s going on. With runners on, Felix strikes out MORE hitters and walks FEWER. His FIP’s great. The big difference is BABIP, and while it’s a bit simplistic to say that BABIP=luck, it’s pretty clear that sequencing and luck have been Felix’s undoing (Ok, that’s too strong – “the things that have made him look less regal”), not something more meaningful like terrible command or tons of HRs. Felix needs his D to pick him up a bit, and frankly, Felix’s D needs Felix to pick them up, too. Get some K’s, Felix.
1: Jones, CF
2: Romero, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
SP: El Cartelua
In the Minors, Tacoma continues its series against Las Vegas with Erasmo Ramirez taking on Jacob deGrom – both of whom will almost certainly play in the Majors later this season. Perhaps the bigger story is the return of AA righty Victor Sanchez. The zaftig righty went on the DL with “forearm tightness” about a month ago, but he’s scheduled to start tonight against Tennessee.