Game 118, Not-As-Blue-As-Steller’s-Jays at Mariners

marc w · August 12, 2014 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Chris Young vs. J.A. Happ, 7:10pm
Mariners wild card odds – 34.7% 37.7%

I’m going to start putting the playoff odds for the M’s up at the top of these posts. I have been here since 2010, so at no point was this a priority, or a thing I needed to think about, or discuss with Jeff/Dave/a qualified therapist. This is fun. For reference, BP’s odds also calculate the one-day and seven-day change in these playoff odds, and you can get a sense of how volatile they can be when two teams chasing the same prize play each other by looking at how they change from day to day. For example, yesterday’s game improved the M’s odds by 8%, while the Blue Jays’ dropped by about the same (actually, 8.9%). To be clear – I’m just posting the wild card odds. Their overall playoff odds are a tiny bit higher, reflecting their odds of catching both the A’s and Angels. This is more of an issue for the Blue Jays, who could conceivably catch Baltimore, but I’m not going to worry about it for Seattle. The M’s are focused on that second wild card, and thus I’ll focus on that too. If you want to make a run at the division, though, I am willing to revisit this, OK M’s?

Yesterday’s game was a great one – it featured yet another dominant outing from Felix (who really made one bad pitch and paid for it; he was close to getting Bautista with an earlier change/sinker, but then really hung a pitch), a suprisingly tense early period where Hutchison pitched effectively, and then an offensive explosion that turned the later innings into a party that featured lots of Canada-taunting. That said, yesterday’s was the game they were *supposed* to win. The next two are arguably more important than beating a jet-lagged, exhausted team throwing Brad Mills to the wolves. Today’s game features lefty J.A. Happ, a fastball/curve/change-up hurler the Blue Jays picked up from Houston in exchange for the curdled dregs of Francisco Cordero’s career.

He first garnered attention in 2009, when he went 12-4 with a sparkling 2.93 ERA in a hitter’s park for Philadelphia. The sabermetrically-inclined blogosphere noted that he benefited from an absurdly high strand rate, and didn’t seem to have a dominant skill – his K% was so-so, his walk rate was so-so, and while his HR/FB was low, he didn’t magically avoid HRs. He threw 90mph, and had normal platoon splits. In a rare moment of lucidity and brilliance, Ruben Amaro Jr. flipped him to Houston in exchange for Roy Oswalt, and he again posted a good RA/9 despite bad peripherals. Was he another Jarrod Washburn, or, and you hate to even mention the king of the “peripherals don’t matter” pitchers, Chris Young? Apparently not. From 2011-2013, Happ decided to see how the other half lived, and posted better peripherals (thanks to an uptick in K rate) and god-awful actual results. Suddenly, FIP wasn’t the big meany telling him he wasn’t actually worth nearly 5 wins in 2009, it was about the only thing saying that Happ was better than replacement level.

This year’s been an interesting one for the lefty. He’s finally brought his walks under control again after several years of posting BB% over 10%, and he’s got a K% of 20% for the first time in his career. He’s still not exactly great; that 85% (!) strand rate that produced 2009’s lovely ERA never returned. But he’s suddenly throwing a lot harder than he had in the past. Happ actually gained about 1 MPH on his fastball from 2009 to 2012-13, but this year, it’s up even more, and he’s now averaging 93-94mph on it. His four-seamer has a lot of vertical rise, and thus he’s generally been a fly-ball pitcher. It’s nowhere near as extreme as Chris Young’s and thus his FB% is likewise a bit more moderate. Happ’s also gone away from his slider/cutter, a pitch he used as his primary breaking ball before. Instead, he’s relying on a curve at around 78mph and a hard change at 86. The change in particular has been easy for right-handers to elevate, and thus he’s struggled a bit against them this year. It’s hard to know if it’s just a small sample thing (he’s had a decent change-up in the past) or if there’s some issue with his change and sinker (another pitch he’s throwing more of) getting too similar. Adding the two- and four-seamers together (and he still throws far more of the latter than the former), Happ throws his fastball around 70% of the time, which is actually a bit more than Chris Young’s 65% rate this season, but right in line with Young’s career mark.

Today’s line-up:
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Denorfia, RF
7: Zunino, C
8: Morrison, 1B
9: Taylor, SS
SP: Young

Great (but math-heavy!) article from Russell Carleton at BP (free) today investigating clutch hitting. It’s very interesting; Carleton used player-specific regressions to examine change in behavior (in this case swing rates) in high-leverage situations. That’s a step or three removed from what we think of as “clutch hitting” but it’s important to start to tease out if and how players react to clutch situations. Hopefully he’ll look at more components of hitting and we’ll start to piece together a picture of what some players are able to do in high-leverage moments.

Sticking at BP, Sam Miller wrote about ($) the sudden, sad decline of the Texas Rangers, a team that looked in 2012 to be a perennial powerhouse.

You’ve just read Jeff’s article on Felix and the AL MVP race (just below this one), now take a look at Dave’s examination of how starters have fared in MVP voting recently. Mostly bad, of course, but hey, Verlander in 2011! I think the list of pitcher MVPs highlights how strange that award really is. Everyone has a different definition of value, so you can’t *just* go by WAR, but you combine the oddities like Rollie Fingers in 1981 with the blunders like Ivan Rodriguez and Mo Vaughn and the whole thing looks a bit strange. It’s clearly gotten much better in recent years, which is why Felix will win the Cy Young even if, say, Scott Kazmir finishes with more wins. But Felix is an MVP, and while I don’t think he’ll get one, that’s no fault of his.

The Rainiers are in New Orleans tonight, taking on prospect Andrew Heaney. Not sure who’s starting for Tacoma, but it isn’t Roenis Elias; sounds like Elias will get 3-4 innings on Wednesday (hat tip Greg Johns). Cam Habson starts in AA, and Scott DeCecco takes the hill for High Desert (also facing a prospect – this time, it’s Astros fireballer Lance McCullers).

Speaking of the Rainiers, M’s SS prospect Ketel Marte’s now in AAA with the club, and he went 2-5 in his AAA debut yesterday. The 20-year old has very little power, but he’s improved as he’s moved up the ladder, and has a good defensive reputation. You may have seen him in spring training with the M’s in recent years.


33 Responses to “Game 118, Not-As-Blue-As-Steller’s-Jays at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on August 12th, 2014 6:34 pm

    It threw me when Russell Carleton started going by his real name rather than “Pizza Cutter”. He was making all these disparaging comments about his earlier work (which had been posted under his odd nom de plume), but I thought he was being a jerk towards another person!

  2. MrZDevotee on August 12th, 2014 7:19 pm

    Pretty nice throw by Denorfia… Seager could have had him if he didn’t have to play the hop back a bit…

    If I was a manager, leadoff walks would be the death of me… They kill you. I know it’s silly, but I swear it feels worse than a hit. ‘Cause you didn’t make them earn it.

  3. Westside guy on August 12th, 2014 7:54 pm

    I just took the time to slog through Carelotn’s article. It is interesting; but there’s going to be a fundamental problem with his approach. Carleton is specifically (and intentionally) looking at how a player’s approach changes in high-leverage situations, not whether or not said player actually performs better under those conditions.

    It may be mathematically interesting. It may actually lead to useful information down the road. But he’s not looking at “clutch” as most fans would define the term.

    I think this is not a smart approach since it will almost certainly lead to arguments where the participants are talking about completely different things. He really needs to coin a new term for what he’s attempting to measure, not attempt to co-opt one that’s been around for as long as baseball has existed.

  4. Dennisss on August 12th, 2014 7:56 pm

    Woo hoo! It helps to have center fielder who can hit a little.

  5. Longgeorge1 on August 12th, 2014 8:10 pm

    It helps to have a 3B that can hit a little

  6. Westside guy on August 12th, 2014 8:10 pm

    And right there is why Kyle Seager needs to be hitting higher than Kendrys Morales.

  7. leon0112 on August 12th, 2014 8:18 pm

    Why does Morales hit ahead of Seager? Because he is a switch hitter?

  8. Westside guy on August 12th, 2014 8:22 pm

    Yeah, that’s what Lloyd says – he doesn’t want a bunch of lefties in a row.

    But I don’t see what breaking up the lefties with a bad hitter actually accomplishes other than giving the other team a free out.

  9. Grayfox3d on August 12th, 2014 8:27 pm

    Chris Young is having a decent year, but his pitch counts are always crazy high! we need him to be able to go a little deeper in games.

  10. Kazinski on August 12th, 2014 8:37 pm

    Here’s a comparison of 2 obviously overmatched hitters:

    Player A 686pa 191/.231/.274
    Player B. 486pa .181/.261/.268

    Player B gets on base a little more and that outweighs player A’s slight power advantage. But pretty darn near the same player.

    Player A is the league against Felix Hernandez.

    Player B is Mariner’s DH’s against the league, both are for 2014 to date.

  11. G-Man on August 12th, 2014 8:39 pm

    I didn’t know that the trail runner Taylor, had the right to the base once he reached it and Morrison was beyond it.

    Ackley! For 2 RBI!

  12. Westside guy on August 12th, 2014 8:40 pm

    That is both awesome and awful, Kazinski.

  13. Westside guy on August 12th, 2014 8:42 pm

    Man, Toronto seems to be folding under the pressure.

  14. Grayfox3d on August 12th, 2014 8:52 pm

    Well that escalated quickly… nice job Morales.

  15. goalieump413 on August 12th, 2014 8:52 pm

    85mph… Blew it by him?

    Hey Kendrys! ’bout time!

  16. Kazinski on August 12th, 2014 8:53 pm

    It’s pretty bad, but I’ll throw in player C:

    That’s the batting line for the Cubs pitching staff, which is the best hitting staff in the NL, so at least we’re a little bit better than giving up the DH completely.

  17. californiamariner on August 12th, 2014 8:53 pm

    Kendrys! He’s such a stud!

  18. HighlightsAt11 on August 12th, 2014 8:59 pm

    Is Morales getting it going finally? Hope so.

  19. goalieump413 on August 12th, 2014 9:04 pm

    From the right side, good to see.

  20. msfanmike on August 12th, 2014 9:08 pm

    An 0-2 meatball.

    Come on Charlie.

  21. Grayfox3d on August 12th, 2014 9:20 pm

    Fine job Mr. Furbush, I’ll forgive that 1 hit for now.

  22. Grayfox3d on August 12th, 2014 9:27 pm


  23. californiamariner on August 12th, 2014 9:29 pm

    Ugh, Maurer had been so good for so many consecutive appearances.. Guess he was due for one bad one.. But please don’t blow this game!

  24. Grayfox3d on August 12th, 2014 9:33 pm


  25. Westside guy on August 12th, 2014 9:39 pm

    Well now, Kendrys is actually having a decent game.

    So that makes one…

  26. californiamariner on August 12th, 2014 9:41 pm

    Blue Jays are falling apart out here.

  27. Grayfox3d on August 12th, 2014 9:41 pm

    That is why you always hustle to first base! you never know what will happen.

  28. Grayfox3d on August 12th, 2014 9:53 pm

    Can we call that one the Dustin Ackley Experience? looked like a circus out there! but! WOO WIN!

  29. Section329 on August 12th, 2014 9:54 pm

    Over 500 @ home-and Ackley can catch!

  30. ivan on August 12th, 2014 10:02 pm

    Haha, he would never have lived it down if Mune had hit one over his head.

  31. Kazinski on August 13th, 2014 12:12 am

    Great win, and its nice to be back in the driver’s seat with the wild card. With this pitching staff if we make it to the playoffs, we can definitely be dangerous, even on the road. Oakland and Anaheim are pitchers ballparks too.

    But as great as the winning is, almost all the improvement in the team is pitching and defense, we’ve scored all of 6 runs more than we did last year at this point. Nothing wrong with pitching and defense, but it would be great one of these years if we could just have a modestly below average offense.

  32. Westside guy on August 13th, 2014 11:21 am

    After suffering through last year with Raul and Morse in the corners… there is indeed nothing wrong with having great pitching and defense.

    Maybe Jack Z really did learn something last season.

    But I’m totally on board with the idea of having a non-putrid offense as well!

  33. Goodbyfiggins on August 13th, 2014 12:36 pm

    Enjoyed your article, as well as the comments. Looking forward to tracking our odds!

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