Game 50, Angels at Mariners
Chris Young vs. Tyler Skaggs, 1:10pm
Happy Memorial Day, and thanks to all who’ve served.
The M’s got outplayed yesterday, and lost to Dallas Keuchel, who’s on fire right now. M’s manager Lloyd McClendon provided some bulletin board material by implying that the M’s had more to do with scoring just one unearned run than Mr. Keuchel did. Members of the Astros organization seem perturbed, as they would and probably should. I understand, at some level, McClendon’s frustration: Keuchel throws 90mph and came into the year with a career ERA over 5. He’s pitched like an ace for a month-plus, but McClendon’s probably not tracking breakout seasons from opponents – he’s properly more concerned about some implosions on his own roster. Still, part of going with an old-school baseball lifer at skipper is that they’re so attuned to the unwritten rules of baseball that they can keep their own club out of trouble and fire their team up about breaches of protocol. This is an unintentional slight, but a completely unnecessary one.
Today’s game features Tyler Skaggs, the ex-Angel prospect turned D-Backs prospect turned back into an Angels prospect. He went to Arizona in the Dan Haren deal, and while he pitched effectively in the D-Backs system, his velocity dropped noticeably over time. He wasn’t hurt, but apparently a mechanical tweak the D-Backs made sapped some velocity. When he debuted with Arizona, he was throwing 90mph and getting hit fairly hard. I saw him for Reno and saw a decent but by no means eye-popping prospect – more of a command lefty; a potential #4. Others saw a lot more, to be fair, but I still wonder how much of that was the residue of his initial season or two in the Angels system. In any event, he moved back to Anaheim when the Halos shipped Mark Trumbo to the NL, and the Angels pretty much instantly (and very publicly) talked about essentially un-doing the mechanical tweak the D-Backs had made. And, pretty much instantly, that “missing” velocity was back. Last season, Skaggs averaged a touch over 90mph on his FB. This year, he’s scraping 93, and his FIP’s down by over a full run.
Now, that’s not to say Skaggs is an ace or anything. In his initial call-ups with Arizona, he had home run trouble and platoon split issues – or rather, his platoon split problems manifested in lots of HRs to righties. He’s given up 16 HRs to righties in his career against 2 to southpaws. As a lefty, he faces overwhelmingly right-handed line-ups, so on a rate basis, it’s not quite so stark. But HRs were an issue in Arizona, and simply moving to Anaheim may have helped him control his gopheritis. That said, 2.5 extra MPH on his fastball can’t hurt either. It may be the combination of velocity and the mechanical tweak, but his four-seamer is now much more over-the-top, with tons of vertical rise and very little arm-side run. His sinker’s very distinct, with lots of run and much less rise. Like so many pitchers, though, the way he uses them seems backwards to me. Against lefties, he’s a four-seam/curve ball pitcher. Righties see far more sinkers, the curve, and some change-ups. To his credit, Skaggs used to throw four-seamers to righties and they creamed it, so it’s not like he never even attempted to pitch in alignment with pitch type platoon splits.
Skaggs’ K rate is down markedly, which is odd considering the velo gain, but by getting ground balls and avoiding walks and HRs, he’s been more effective overall. He still lacks an outpitch to righties, which may be contributing to his poor strand rate (it’s why his ERA is higher than his FIP). But thanks to Corey Hart’s injury, the M’s aren’t really set up to take advantage of Skaggs’ weaknesses. It’s not a bad match-up, as the M’s don’t show huge platoon splits as a club, but ideally, the team would have a tougher righty to put at DH than Stefen Romero. Save us, Mike Zunino!
1: Jones, CF
2: Saunders, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Zunino, C
6: Seager, 3B
7: Romero, DH
8: Ackley, LF
9: Franklin, SS
James Paxton’s bullpen session was cancelled today as he’s still dealing with forearm tightness after his rehab start. Awesome.
Speaking of which, the Mets have placed top prospect Noah Syndergaard on the minor league DL with elbow soreness of a particular type strongly correlated with ligament damage. I’m not a Mets fan, but I got to watch Syndergaard pitch, and I sincerely hope that’s not what’s going on.
Edwin Diaz is on the mound for Clinton today. Tacoma’s Memorial Day game versus El Paso gets underway at 1:35; they face one of the Padres top prospects in LHP Matt Wisler. He’ll be opposed by Andrew Carraway. Read Mike Curto’s story on the Rainiers wild 14-12 loss last night; Jabari Blash hit two HRs for the Rainiers.