Game 88, Mariners at White Sox
Taijuan Walker vs. Hector Noesi, 11:10am
This isn’t the first time the M’s have faced Noesi, and it’s not the first time they’ve seen him since enthusiastically cutting him back in April. Still, this is his first start against his former team/enabler, and it’s M’s fans first chance to see him since he hooked up with pitching coach/reclamation guru Don Cooper. Many of you will remember that it took Cooper something like 25 minutes to turn Matt Thornton from homer-prone, fungible M’s reliever into one of the premier left-handed relievers in baseball. Could the same thing happen again?
If it does, it’s obviously going to take longer than it did with Thornton. Noesi’s improved a bit with the Sox, but that’s regression for you: he had nowhere to go but up. He’s still yielding too many HRs for a guy with his stuff, and while his K rate’s gone up, he’s both too hittable and too wild for that to matter too much. When the M’s acquired him, he looked to have the makings of a formidable sinker; even if he didn’t strike many out, the sinker should’ve allowed him to get grounders and avoid 0-2 HRs. Instead, he’s become an extreme fly ball guy, and his “sinker” now gets fewer grounders per ball in play than his four-seam fastball. The root of Noesi’s problems has always been the fastball. Batters have hit a remarkable 25 HRs off of his four-seamer in his career, including seven in two-strike counts. Coupled with that below-average sinker, and Noesi’s simply not able to get to his breaking stuff. He’s experimented with a cutter this season, and there may be something salvageable in his change-up, but for them to play, Noesi needs to spot his fastball far better than he has.
Cooper’s done some amazing work in the past, but his record isn’t exactly perfect. The fix with Thornton was a mechanical one, and that doesn’t appear to be Noesi’s problem. For whatever reason, Noesi likes to pitch up in the zone, but he hasn’t had the command to either get whiffs or avoid mistakes while doing so. That’s something Cooper could help with, but it’s probably not exactly news to Noesi.
Taijuan Walker makes his second start of the year for the M’s. He’s still throwing 95, still has the good slow curve, but he pitched a bit differently in his first start than he did last season. The story of 2013 was the development of Walker’s cutter, a hard (91mph) pitch with slider-like horizontal movement. Some scouts who saw it raved about it, while I never saw it when it was “on.” In any event, he threw very few (if any) against the Astros – the pitches coded as “cutters” came in with horizontal movement almost identical to his four-seamer. Maybe he saw that and ditched it in favor of his splitter/change, or maybe the M’s are making a conscious decision to have him go with the splitter against lefties instead. We’ll learn more today.
1: Chavez, CF
2: Saunders, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Buck, C
8: Ackley, LF
9: Miller, SS
The M’s have moved Felix’s next start to Friday, so he’ll face Oakland instead of Minnesota, and potentially lining him up to start against Jeff Samardzija. No word yet on who’ll actually start that Thursday game in Minnesota.
Starting today in the M’s system are Erasmo Ramirez, Victor Sanchez, and Lukas Schiraldi.