Game 131, Rangers at Mariners
James Paxton vs. Nick Martinez, 7:10pm
Wildcard odds – Fangraphs.com: 53.2% Baseballprospectus.com: 48.3%
Last night was another in what’s become quite a series of inexplicable collapses against bad-to-mediocre starting pitchers. It technically does happen to every team now and then, but I’m a bit nervous because the Rangers are sending yet another not so good starter to the mound tonight in Nick Martinez. If you look hard enough, you can convince yourself that Martinez is actually different in some important ways to Miles Mikolas, but that won’t make the queasy feeling go away.
Like Mikolas, Martinez is a fly-balling right-hander, who relies primarily on a four-seamer, but also throws a change, a slider and a curve. Like Mikolas, the slider’s his breaking ball against righties, while he throws the curve and change to lefties. Unlike Mikolas, Martinez has shown normal platoon splits; lefties have torched him this season. He’s not much of a strikeout guy, and hitters have tended to push him off the plate. He’s thrown fewer strikes than average, as you’d figure given his walk rate. What he does well is generate fly balls. If you’re Chris Young, inducing lots of fly balls is a great thing. If you’re just most other pitchers, it’s not immediate clear that this is cause for congratulations, and if you pitch half your games in Arlington, it’s downright worrying. Indeed, Martinez has been destroyed at home – his home ERA is 7.52, and batters are slugging .546 against him. Perhaps as a result, he’s walked more than he’s struck out in Arlington. On the road though, he’s not a lost cause. He’s still not good or anything, but he’s limited the damage. Perhaps this is why he’s made 14 road starts against just 8 at home.
So, all of those fly balls. Martinez’s fly ball rate ranks 7th in baseball among pitchers with at least 80 IP. Chris Young is way out in front at #1, of course, and there are some other pretty effective pitchers in the top 10 – from Danny Duffy of KC to Jake Odorizzi of Tampa. Martinez hasn’t quite made the transition to effective starter yet, but that’s to be expected as he spent nearly all of 2013 in the high-A Carolina League. His four-seam fastball has plenty of vertical rise, and comes in at 92 or so. I know I’ve beaten this particular drum far too often, but tonight’s match up is interesting in that both pitchers rely on very similar four-seam fastballs. Paxton’s got horizontal run of around 5″ and vertical rise of 10-11″. Martinez is essentially a mirror image – run of 5″ (the other way, of course), and rise of 10″. When batters put Paxton’s four-seamer in play, about 55% of them have been ground balls. When batters put Martinez’s in play, only 33% have been hit on the ground. That latter figure makes some intuitive sense. Paxton’s doesn’t, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather enjoy it than understand it.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Denorfia, RF
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Taylor, SS
9: Sucre, C
The Rainiers and the Iowa Cubs finish off their series tonight at Cheney with an interesting match-up of pitchers who’ve bounced between AAA and the big leagues. Dan Straily starts for Iowa, while Erasmo Ramirez gets the ball for Tacoma. Both have enjoyed some limited success in the bigs, both have struggled to adjust after some rough stretches, and both have given up too many HRs. The M’s are again shifting their rotation around next week, with Felix starting the first game against Washington on Friday. That means that they’ll probably make a roster move to cover the finale of the Rangers series on Wednesday afternoon. Since Taijuan Walker pitched last night, that would make Erasmo Ramirez a pretty good candidate. Meaning, while it’d be fun to see Erasmo against the I-Cubs and Straily, I wouldn’t bet on him making this start.