Game 40, Rays at Mariners
Brandon Maurer vs. Jake Odorizzi, 12:40pm
Early game today following last night’s crushing 9th inning collapse.
Jake Odorizzi was a first round pick by Jack Zduriencik’s Brewers in 2008. Aftter moving to Kansas City in the Zack Greinke deal, he wound up with Tampa as the second piece in the huge Wil Myers-for-James Shields deal that you may have heard about. Odorizzi had moved steadily up the minors, posting solid K rates, decent walk rates, but somewhat underwhelming ERAs. Most scouts saw the 91-92mph fastball, a slider and a work-in-progress change and slotted him as a back of the rotation kind of guy. While he never showed big platoon splits in the minors, major league lefties ate him alive in very brief cameos in 2012 and 2013 – a phenomenon Brandon Maurer knows pretty well.
This season, Odorizzi decided to make a change to his, uh, change. His change-up functioned like a slower sinker, with a lot of horizontal movement but not a lot of drop. As his fastball’s a very straight, rising FB, lefties had no trouble elevating the ball against him, and with a change up that didn’t move vertically, lefties were well positioned to do some damage against him. So, learning from teammate Alex Cobb, Odorizzi dropped his old change and picked up a splitter. So is he an Alex Cobb clone? (As the real Cobb’s out injured, the Rays could certainly use one). Well, no, not yet. In a month-plus of 2014, he’s already given up 3 HRs on his splitter, and lefties are still lighting him up. Worryingly, so are righties.
With any new pitch, there are going to be some adjustments. He’s trying to keep the pitch down and out of the zone, just like Cobb (and Iwakuma and Tanaka) does, but it can drift up and into the center of the plate at times. He’s also adjusting how many he throws. In his first start of the year, he threw over 30 of them. Since then, he’s backed off a bit, and will still show his slow curve to lefties as well. He’s been hit hard this year, but he’s also shown flashes; in his last start, he struck out 11 in five shutout innings against Cleveland (admittedly, not a strong hitting club). Young pitchers are always a work in progress. Young pitchers trying to master a new pitch are still in the process of being in progress. I have no idea what Odorizzi’s going to do today, but the M’s better stack the line-up with lefties.
1: Jones, CF
2: Romero, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Buck, C
9: Miller, SS
Hmmm. To bad about Saunders’ hyperextended knee. Saunders-over-Romero would be ideal.
Maurer’s splits are still a thing, apparently. Perhaps it’s due to facing an NL line-up, maybe it’s the luck of the draw, but the righty’s faced many more same-handed hitters so far this year. And that’ll continue today, as the Rays have five righties in their line-up. Joyce/Zobrist/DeJesus is going to be a tricky way to start, though.