Game 87, Mariners at White Sox
King Felix vs. Jose Quintana, 11:10am
Happy Felix Morning!
There’s nothing better after a night of parties, over-indulgence and explosions than watching Felix continue his run of dominance. His FIP is now below 2, driven by a remarkable walk rate and an even-more-remarkable dearth of HRs. Felix’s ground-ball tendencies have always helped him keep the ball in the park, but he’s refined his approach, and if this is evidence of a real skill, then Felix really has re-fashioned himself into a Kershaw-style uber-ace. Tony Blengino talked about this in a great post at Fangraphs last month. The gist is that while production on balls in play is much more volatile than the trusty three true outcomes, some pitchers show a clear, repeatable skill in minimizing damage on balls in play – they generate weaker contact than others. For many years, Felix was decidedly not one of them – it didn’t matter thanks to a great K rate and high grounder rates. This year, Felix is putting it all together and the results have been astonishing.
The one negative heading into today is the park. Felix has given up more HRs at US Cellular field than any other road stadium except Anaheim. He’s pitched eight games on the South Side and has given up more HRs than he has in *19* games in Arlington, or 17 in Oakland. It’s a HR-friendly place, as Roenis Elias can attest, but so’s Arlington. Felix just hasn’t fared particularly well there.
The M’s face Colombian lefty Jose Quintana, a completely uninteresting but remarkably effective starter. Originally signed by the Mets, and then released, then signed by the Yankees and released, re-signed, and re-released, he shot through the White Sox system to post a decent half-season in 2012. His K% improved markedly last year, and he’s maintained those gains this season. He too has cut his HRs-allowed, and has helped stabilize the Sox rotation behind Chris Sale. He uses a four-seam fastball at 92-93mph, along with a curve ball and change. The curve’s his best – he uses it against lefties and righties, and it’s an effective put-away pitch, and it’s helped him minimize his platoon splits.
1: Jones, CF
2: Bloomquist, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Saunders, RF
9: Miller, SS
SP: King Felix
The big news of the day is the blockbuster trade between Oakland and the other Chicago team. The A’s are sending their TWO top prospects, SS Addison Russell and OF Billy McKinney, along with SP Dan Straily to the Cubs in exchange for SPs Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The A’s have some room at the top of the division, but they’re clearly looking to fashion themselves into a dominant playoff team. Gray/Samardzija is a formidable twosome in a short series. But the price they paid was pretty high – Russell’s easily a top-20 prospect in baseball, and McKinney was their #1 pick in the 2013 draft. This is as big a trade as we’ve seen in some time. The obvious comparison is the Wil Myers-for-James Shields swap, but this one is both bigger and features teams in very different circumstances. Neither Russell nor McKinney is as MLB-ready as Myers was, but to be blatantly obvious for a minute, there are two of them.
Starting today in the M’s system are Jimmy Gilheeney, Stephen Landazuri, and Scott DeCecco.