Game 95, Athletics at Mariners
Chris Young vs. Sonny Gray, 1:10pm
Brooms out, M’s fans. After picking up wins against the A’s new acquisition and their breakout pitcher of 2014, the M’s path to a sweep goes through Sonny Gray, the ace of the staff. I know Jeff Samardzija cost them a top-20 prospect in all of baseball along with a fringe top-100 guy, but Gray seems like the clear #1 despite the fact that he hasn’t quite kept up the pace he set in his incredible 2013 call-up.
Gray pairs his 95mph cutter-like four-seamer with an effective split/change and a plus-plus curve ball. It sounds strange to say about a starter with an average fastball of 95mph, but the curve is far and away his best pitch. The pitch has astonishing two plane break, and it doesn’t rely on gravity for sink. He throws it around 81-82mph, and it breaks nearly a foot glove side relative to his FB and well more than a foot vertically relative to his rising FB. It’s a bit like Taijuan Walker’s, only thrown harder and with more bite. In his (brief) MLB career, batters have a .017 ISO on the pitch. They’re *slugging* .175. Sure, it’s his putaway pitch, and he throws it ahead in the count, but it’s a big reason why hitters have had such problems driving the ball against him.
Gray’s career batting line against is .223/.289/.312. This is why he’s had a great season despite a drop in his K% and an increase in walks. Unlike Shark, Gray’s faced more lefties than righties thus far, and unlike Shark, that’s not much of an issue for him. In his career, lefties have managed a .273 wOBA, essentially the same as righties. Not only is his curve a formidable weapon against lefties, but his change-up (which, looking at pitch fx, looks like a splitter to me) is almost as effective. Everything about Gray – from the cutter-ish FB, to the splitter, to the nuclear curve – seems designed to eliminate platoon splits, and thus far, he’s done just that.
When he’s gotten into trouble this year, control/command have been the culprit. Patience, M’s. Patience! And while the M’s don’t have a pitcher with a mid-90s FB or incredible hook, they’ve got a 7 foot tall wizard throwing an 85mph invisiball, so, you know, hit THAT, A’s.
1: Chavez, RF
2: Jones, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Morrison, DH
6: Smoak, 1B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
The all-star festivities kick off today with the Futures Game at Target Field. M’s #1 prospect DJ Peterson’s starting for the US team, batting 6th and playing 1B. That’s not an acknowledgement that he’ll have to move off 3B, it’s just an acknowledgement that Kris Bryant may be the best bat in the minor leagues. Gaby Guerrero’s hitting 7th for the World Team and DH’ing.
Matt Palmer’s pitching for Tacoma today at Cheney. The Rainiers are riding a 3 game winning streak and actually passed Fresno last night to escape the division cellar. Tyler Pike’s starting for AA Jackson. Fellow Jackson prospect Victor Sanchez had one of his best games in the system yesterday, throwing 8IP and giving up 3H and 1R on 1BB and a career high 9Ks. Speaking of prospects, Taijuan Walker went 5IP for Tacoma last night, giving up 1R but getting only 1K. He told Mike Curto he didn’t have good feel on his FB.