Game 91, Twins at Mariners
Roenis Elias vs. Kyle Gibson, 7:10pm
Sinkerballer Kyle Gibson faced the M’s back in mid-May. He’d posted a decent ERA, but an awful K:BB ratio of 17:18, and while he’d put together some gorgeous starts (and he had another that night, holding the M’s to 1 run over 7 innings), he’d also had some implosions. Since that time, he’s straightened out the K:BB ration (it’s 33:10 since that pre-game post), but he’s still been incredibly inconsistent. He strung together three straight starts without allowing a run, going seven innings in each one, and then followed it up with a 2-inning disaster start in which he yielded seven runs. I’m not at all clear on which Kyle Gibson’s going to show up – the guy who pitched a great game back in May, or the guy who gave up six runs in two innings five days ago.
Anyone can get shelled, of course, but to me it’s interesting to look at just how good Gibson can be when he’s on. He throws a 92mph sinker, an occasional four-seamer, a change-up and a slider (he’s also got a curve he throws sparingly). The change-up’s actually quite a good pitch, and the slider has the makings of a plus offering, but he’s left quite a few of them up in the zone and paid the price for it. Still, his K/9 is the second-lowest in baseball, behind only his teammate, Kevin Correia. Gibson compensates by generating a lot of ground balls, which isn’t a bad plan, and he backs it up with an above-average pop-up rate. His change-up’s a ground-ball machine, but his slider gets plenty of infield-flies. This has helped him post a surprisingly low BABIP, which is then undone by a poor strand rate.
Minimizing hard-hit contact is huge for a pitcher, and as Tony Blengino’s demonstrated, it’s helped Clayton Kershaw become the unhittable monster he’s become, and it’s a big reason for Felix’s brilliant 2014 campaign. So far this year, Gibson’s results show very few hard-hit balls – low HR rate, extremely low LD%. But when you’re working down around the very bottom of the K% leaderboard, you start to see the limitations of contact management. Few walks and plenty of pop flies mean Gibson has to deal with fewer baserunners, but his lack of a put-away pitch means opponents get more rolls of the BABIP die. Again, it hasn’t mattered on many occasions, including the last time he faced Seattle, but it’s limiting his ceiling. The other limitation remains his platoon splits. Overall, lefties have hit a bit better against him, which is pretty normal. But the components are fairly odd: he’s not striking *any* lefties out, but they’re popping the ball up like crazy, and have trouble driving the ball. Thanks to his slider, he can actually strike out a righty or two, and they’re putting the ball on the ground at very high rates, but a few mistakes mean that he’s given up five of his six HRs to them this year, and nine of 13 in his career. It all means that he shows strong “normal” splits by wOBA, strong reverse splits by FIP, and average splits by xFIP.
1: Chavez, LF
2: Jones, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Morrison, 1B
6: Hart, DH
7: Saunders, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
The big roster move of the day was the M’s sending Taijuan Walker down to AAA to bring in RP Stephen Pryor. As you know, tomorrow’s game was Felix’s scheduled start, but the M’s have pulled him back to Friday and a showdown with new Oaklander Jeff Samardzija. Lloyd McClendon told Jayson Jenksthe move was all about making sure Walker continued to throw; with the reshuffled rotation vs. the A’s, Walker wouldn’t pitch until after the break. This way, he’ll get two starts and then face the Mets after the break. Bringing in a reliever helps the pen that may be shorthanded, as the guy filling in tomorrow isn’t Erasmo Ramirez or Brandon Maurer – it’s Tom Wilhelmsen. As noted in that Times blog post, Wilhelmsen struggled mightily as a starter in AA Jackson. He moved directly from the Generals’ rotation to the Mariners’ bullpen in 2011, but he’s an intriguing starter candidate. He was excellent in that role in the low minors, and his arsenal and size could work in the rotation. But consistency and repeating his delivery have been issues in the past, so it’s hard to guess how he’ll do. Stephen Pryor missed essentially all of last year with what seemed like a minor muscle pull in his back. Eventually diagnosed as a torn lat, the M’s understand Pryor’s velocity still isn’t back to what it was when he first came up in 2012.
Andrew Carraway starts tonight for Tacoma, with David Holman going for High Desert and Carlos Missell for Clinton. Further down, Pat Peterson takes the ball for Pulaski and Dan Altavilla starts for Everett.