Game 89, Twins at Mariners
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Kevin Correia, 7:10pm
Just before and after I got back from abroad, everyone talked about how well the M’s were playing and the fact that they jumped to the top of the wild card race. Sounds great! And then the team scores three runs in three games on the south side, getting blanked by Hector Noesi. I…are you sure it’s…they’re really leading the WC standings? The team with Endy Chavez starting? I’m not unhappy, I’m just confused.
The M’s get another chance at a weak AL Central team as the Twins come to town. Today’s starter, Kevin Correia, is like the platonic ideal of a Twins pitcher, and now that he’s pitched for a season and a half in the Twin cities, you have to admire their work in getting Correia to strike out even fewer, to generate nearly no whiffs. I have no idea *why* the Twins seem to hate strikeouts – this pathological need for their sub-par defense to make plays on every plate appearance – but they picked up the right guy in free agency. Correia now has the lowest K/9 of any starter this year, and none of Correia’s pitches have a whiff rate above 10%.
I find that latter figure absolutely incredible. Mark Buehrle has one, Kyle Gibson (the guy one spot above Correia on the K/9 trailerboard) throws two, as does Chris Young. Even bad, show-me sliders and change-ups get a few whiffs, especially if they’re thrown in the zone reasonably often. Henderson Alvarez managed to throw a season without any pitch with a 10% whiff rate back in 2012, when his K/9 slipped below 4, and his FIP crept above 5. It’s clearly possible, it’s just really, really ill-advised. There’s often beauty in simple, clean design, but this whole pitching without stuff or deception isn’t beautifully simple (shaker furniture), it’s naive and limiting (microwaved french fries as dinner). It’s actually funny to remember that Correia came up as a guy with nearly-league-average K rates. He seemed to *choose* to pitch this way when he moved from the Padres to the Pirates, and once you’ve chosen not to strike anyone out, it’s only a matter of time before the Twins pick you up.
Correia signed a 2-year, $10 million deal before the 2013 season, and has been a decent #4-or-so starter for them thanks to good control and good health. He’s odd, but he’s not without his uses; he seems to be roughly worth that contract, and if you’re going to complain about odd Twins signings, the Kendrys Morales deal was stranger (and the results have been uglier, at least so far). Partly because everyone can make contact, and in part because his breaking stuff eschews sharp, er, breaks, he has small platoon splits.
1: Saunders, RF
2: Jones, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Hart, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Ackley, LF
9: Miller, SS
Speaking of Morales, he spoke (through an intepreter) about contract negotiations with Seattle to Todd Dybas of the News Tribune here.
Tyler Pike, Lars Huijer, Matt Palmer and Rigoberto Garcia are on the hill for M’s affiliates today.