Game 115, White Sox at Mariners
James Paxton vs. Hector Noesi, 6:10pm (note odd start time)
Early start tonight for the M’s as they celebrate Lou Piniella and induct their ex-manager into the team’s hall of fame. James Paxton gets the start tonight as the M’s look to re-take the lead in the race for the second wild card slot. Opposing him is old friend Hector Noesi, who dominated the M’s back in Chicago.
With the M’s surging again, it’s natural to look at the remaining schedule as a key factor in the wild card race. The M’s have a fairly favorable run down the stretch; they played a lot of road games early, and saw the A’s and Angels an awful lot (not that either of those teams dominated Seattle). Now, they get the soft underbelly of interleague play (Philadepelphia), the AL teams who were supposed to be good but weren’t (Boston and Texas), and two series against Houston. They also get seven games against Toronto – the first three start Monday – the team sitting just behind them in the WC standings (tied with New York). Their schedule’s one reason Fangraphs’ playoff odds gives the Mariners the best chance to win that second wild card spot; KC has a half-game lead, but they’ve got a tougher road in August/September, and thus are forecast to play .500 ball. Cleveland has a great schedule, but they’re four games back of Seattle, and they’ll struggle without Asdrubal Cabrera or a healthy Justin Masterson. Still, the imbalance between the divisions is concerning. The Royals have to face Detroit, but they’ve still had a whole lot of Minnesota to rack up wins against. The M’s would be in a much better position if they could transfer the front office to, say, Chicago (hey, Boeing did it) and play in the Central. Sure, divisions wax and wane, but the Central’s been the weakest of the three since realignment.
James Paxton is pretty good, people. He clearly didn’t have his best command the other day in Baltimore, but he still kept a very good – maybe the best – right-handed line-up off balance. That’s been the key to his remarkable run in his brief MLB career – his success against righties. Lefties don’t stand too much of a chance with plus-plus velocity from the left side and two very different breaking balls. Paxton’s fastball’s over the top, so it’s not *too* uncomfortable, but they’ve really struggled to elevate anything, and they’re clearly not seeing his breaking balls at all. So it’s been up to righties to do some damage, and while he’s given up his share of HRs, he’s still incredibly effective against them. It’s got nothing to do with his change, a work in progress that still needs lots more work. He’s doing it all with his fastball.
Against righties, he’s thrown fastballs 72% of the time. If the batter’s ahead, or on first pitches, it’s nearly 90% fastballs. There’s nothing tricky about this pattern. It does help explain why a guy who struggled so much with his control has limited walks (excepting his last start) in the bigs. He’s learned to trust his fastball and spot it better than he did with Tacoma, and as a result, he’s got several chances to get the count back in his favor. The key is that even when righties know what’s coming, and even if they know it’s going to be in the zone, they’ve struggled to consistently elevate it. Most of the time it’s put in play, it’s a ground ball. It’s tough to know how to project him. On one hand, excelling against opposite-handed hitters so early is incredibly encouraging; he’s most of the way towards hitting his ceiling as an elite #2. On the other, you’d figure that hitters would eventually learn how to hit a fastball, especially one with so much vertical rise. On yet another hand, if batters DO start tracking his fastball a bit better, he can probably just ramp up his curve ball usage which is among the most effective curve balls in baseball (very, very, very small sample, but very, very, very good hook).
Hector Noesi is still the same guy. Chicago PC Don Cooper has him throwing a cutter now, but it looks pretty much exactly like the slider he threw with Seattle – same movement, same velo. He’s traded off great results (like the game against the M’s) with disastrous starts, another pattern he learned here, although he’s clearly having a bit more success with Chicago than he did in either Seattle or Texas. Noesi’s running reverse splits this year, which is nothing new. In his career, they’re reverse by wOBA and nearly identical by xFIP, with lefties having a SLG% advantage, while righties enjoy an OBP advantage.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Morrison, DH
8: Taylor, SS
9: Chavez, RF
The Rainiers won last night’s game, their salute to WSU, behind UW-guy Forrest Snow. Today’s the “Paint the Park Purple” night honoring UW, but there won’t be an WSU Cougars starting. Mike Curto notes the only Coug hurler in the PCL is on New Orleans’ roster. Instead, it’ll be ACC product Jimmy Gilheeney on the hill against SF prospect (kind of) Mike Kickham. The game starts at 7 – go if you’re local. Looks like a great night for it.
Victor Sanchez, a top-5 M’s prospect, starts for Jackson tonight, while Jose Flores goes for Clinton. Jeffeson Medina gets the ball for Everett in Spokane.
Via Bob Dutton, the M’s are calling up Erasmo Ramirez to make tomorrow’s start, with Roenis Elias already in Tacoma. The idea is to start to slow Elias’ down and avoid running up too many IP (though he’ll start on Tacoma’s upcoming road trip). The M’s also brought up Lucas Luetge yesterday when they optioned Elias – Luetge’s expected to be sent back tonight/tomorrow to make room for Erasmo. Dutton also notes that this will be another one-and-done call-up for Ramirez – he’ll head back to Tacoma after making the start. He suggest the M’s may recall James Jones, which’d probably bridge the bench until Michael Saunders is 100%.