Game 133, Nationals at Mariners

marc w · August 29, 2014 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 7:10pm (Fireworks following the game)
Wild Card Odds – Fangraphs.com: 46.4% Baseballprospectus.com: 42.4%

Happy Felix Day.

The M’s kick off a series against the NL East leading Nationals tonight, a contest between the teams that lead their respective leagues in ERA. The Nats actually lead baseball in FIP; the M’s would argue that FIP can never fully understand the glorious mysteries of Chris Young and Hisashi Iwakuma, while the Nats would simply point to their walk rate, by far the lowest in baseball. Beyond control, though, the story of the Nationals’ 2014 staff is that they haven’t been hurt by home runs. Unlike the Yankees, who pound the zone and sometimes pay the price for it, the Nationals get the benefits of fewer baserunners AND fewer long balls. Tonight’s starter, Jordan Zimmermann, is a microcosm of the Nationals’ staff as a whole.

Zimmermann pitches off of his fastball. By pitch fx, no qualified starter throws a higher percentage of four-seam fastballs (or two-seamers, for that matter) than Zimmermann – about 70%. Combining all types of FBs, a few hurlers have a higher percentage of “hard’ pitches, led by Bartolo Colon. Zimmermann’s still in the top 10, though – no matter how you slice it up, Zimmermann’s extremely fond of his four-seamer. As Zimmermann probably knows, a four-seamer has lower platoon splits than sinkers, and indeed, Zimmermann’s overall platoon splits are pretty narrow despite the fact that his primary breaking ball is a slider.

He throws a change-up, but at less than 4% of his pitches, it’s something he’ll throw very rarely, and pretty much exclusively to lefties. Righties get sliders about 1/3 of the time, meaning they see fewer fastballs than lefties, who get high heat on about 3/4 of all pitches. Zimmerman’s fastball isn’t particularly noteworthy by pitch fx – it’s pretty hard, at 94mph, but it doesn’t have noteworthy movement the way James Paxton, Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver or Clayton Kershaw’s does. Everything about it, including velocity, is within a standard deviation of the league-wide mean. So why is it effective? A lot of it has to do with Zimmermann’s command. With a walk rate of just 3.7%, Zimmermann’s clearly able to control his pitches. But it’s more than that; Zimmermann’s overall zone percentage is quite good, but it’s not eye-popping. What IS somewhat eyepopping is his chase rate, the percentage of balls out of the zone that batters swing at. Zimmermann’s opponent tonight leads all of baseball in oSW% at 36.7% (Iwakuma’s #2!), but there’s Zimmermann at #6. Think about how odd it is for a guy who throws a ton of fastballs to be well-above average in pitches chased. Felix and Iwakuma have freakish change-up/splitter pitches to get batters to chase. Clayton Kershaw is not human. Zimmermann is…curious.

Unlike many pitchers, and unlike most pitchers with good HR rates, Zimmermann loves to pitch up in the zone. He’s able to hit the spots just above the zone, which helps that oSW% and also helps generate pop-ups. It also may help disguise his slider, which is an effective pitch to righties and lefties despite not having elite break or velocity. His command may also be a big part of the reason he’s able to get so many foul balls. Fouls are generally a good thing for pitchers for pretty obvious reasons – they’re strikes that can’t hurt you. Zimmermann’s pitching ahead most of the time, and foul balls may be part of the reason why. As he gets ahead, batters swing at more close pitches, helping explain the oSW% and making his fastball play up even more. All in all, it’s a great pitching match-up tonight, and a critical game as the M’s look to shake off an ugly loss against the Rangers.

1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Taylor, SS
9: Chavez, RF
SP: King Felix

Speaking of the Rangers, they made a couple of roster moves today, bringing back Derek Holland (who’s missed the entire year) and calling up Ryan Rua. That brings their total number of players used to 60, a new big league record. Their 38 pitchers used ties the record of the 2008 Padres, and rosters haven’t expanded yet (hat tip: Stefan Stevenson). As we saw, the Rangers are currently DH’ing Elvis Andrus, and their line-up includes Tomas Telis, Ryan Rua and Daniel Robertson. I think even most Ranger fans wouldn’t have been able to ID those three in March. Only Rua was on their top 20 prospect list, and he was 19th.

The M’s signed Dominican SS Christopher Torres for $375,000 - a nice get for the M’s, after Torres was linked to the Yankees for most of the year. Ah, but like the Montero ice-cream sandwich issue and the fabled rescue by USC CB Josh Shaw, there’s a lot more to the story. Torres’ trainer swears he’d made a deal with the Yankees that would’ve given Torres $2.1 million, and then the Yankees took him off the showcase circuit to avoid injury. After gaining weight and losing skill, the Yankees then backed out of the deal, a charge the Yankees strenuously deny. The M’s pounced and signed him for a fraction of what it looked like he’d cost, but there are now a lot more questions about Torres and his ultimate ceiling. Read Ben Badler’s typically great post about the Torres/Yankee saga here. An interesting bit of context to this year’s international signing crop is the Yankees open intention to flout the bonus pool caps by signing many/most of the top players. Despite a bonus pool cap of a bit over $2 million, the Yankees splurged by spending $12 million on the first day of the signing period. This came as no big shock; people like Kiley McDaniel were writing about the Yankees’ plans since at least December of 2013. They’ll forfeit the ability to sign players for a couple of years, but once those penalties trigger, there’s no incentive to stop spending….unless one of the guys you’ve targeted gains weight when you tell him to stop playing and hang out at home and eat ice-cream sandwi…whoa, whoa, too soon.

Comments

70 Responses to “Game 133, Nationals at Mariners”

  1. Don Money on August 29th, 2014 7:25 pm

    Well struck ball by Ackley for a stand-up triple!

  2. Jake on August 29th, 2014 7:26 pm

    Yay Morales did something good.

  3. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 7:29 pm

    so damn close Kyle!

  4. Jake on August 29th, 2014 7:29 pm

    Awesomeee getting to Zimmermann early, and Washington’s D isn’t helping him out.

  5. JMB on August 29th, 2014 7:30 pm

    Ha ha. Make this fool work.

  6. WTF_Ms on August 29th, 2014 7:31 pm

    Zunino has GREAT shallow center field power! Let’s win despite that.

  7. Jake on August 29th, 2014 7:33 pm

    Logan seems like one of those guys who wears a compression sleeve because it “looks cool”.

  8. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 7:34 pm

    LaMe-O with another horrible looking swinging strike on a ball that was helmet level…

  9. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 7:40 pm

    Felix is getting tagged right now, hope he can find his groove.

  10. Jake on August 29th, 2014 7:44 pm

    He hasn’t thrown that many pitches down in the zone.

  11. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 7:49 pm

    So Elias starts tomorrow now, hope the bullpen is ready to come in early.

  12. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 7:51 pm

    Jackson wants to get that Golden Sombrero tonight I can see it in his eyes!

  13. Seattleguy527 on August 29th, 2014 7:53 pm

    Who was originally scheduled to pitch tomorrow? Young? It’s amazing that this org still hasn’t learned its lesson about juggling the rotation.

  14. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 7:55 pm

    Yes Seattleguy, Young was scheduled.

  15. Jake on August 29th, 2014 7:57 pm

    Yes, Young originally was the starter for tomorrow’s game.

  16. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 8:00 pm

    my god Felix… what is wrong!

  17. JMB on August 29th, 2014 8:00 pm

    WTF is going on tonight? Haven’t seen him this off in ages.

  18. Jake on August 29th, 2014 8:00 pm

    Command and location aren’t there tonight :(

  19. californiamariner on August 29th, 2014 8:01 pm

    Really wasn’t that bad of a pitch. Werth golfed that thing out of there.

  20. Seattleguy527 on August 29th, 2014 8:02 pm

    Good thing we bumped Felix back so he’s pitching on 6 days rest instead of 4. That clearly helped. (Sarcasm off).

  21. Jake on August 29th, 2014 8:05 pm

    Yes, if he rested only 4 days, he would have given up 5 runs by now!

  22. Seattleguy527 on August 29th, 2014 8:06 pm

    It would be nice if a reporter actually pressed the org for an answer as to why they keep pushing pitchers back/bringing up AAA guys to make spot starts. A win is a win, unless I’m missing something.

  23. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 8:08 pm

    I think it has to do with trying to keep the starters as fresh as possible just in case we make it to the playoffs. They keep talking about how Felix wore down alot towards the end of the season and they want to prevent that.

  24. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 8:10 pm

    ugh the caught looking strike outs are so frustrating! if its a close pitch you need to spoil it, especially with runners on!

  25. Jake on August 29th, 2014 8:10 pm

    How is Zunino so clueless as a hitter?

  26. JMB on August 29th, 2014 8:11 pm

    Oh Mike Z.

  27. JMB on August 29th, 2014 8:11 pm

    Oh Mike Z.

  28. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 8:11 pm

    that’s alot like asking how many licks to the center of a tootsie pop.

  29. SeattleSlew on August 29th, 2014 8:13 pm

    I must say out of all the hitters Zunino has the most frustrating AB.

  30. Seattleguy527 on August 29th, 2014 8:14 pm

    Well every time they bump Felix back it’s only only game, so it wouldn’t make that much of a difference. And they only bump him back when they have a good team coming up (Oakland, Washington, etc.). So it looks like they think they can just call up Erasmo or any other warm body to beat teams like Minnesota and Texas, then give the ball to Felix. The problem is they aren’t winning those games they assume they will win.

  31. JMB on August 29th, 2014 8:17 pm

    Has he *ever* given up three homers in a game?

  32. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 8:18 pm

    Felix may be off, but the Nationals are also good.

  33. msfanmike on August 29th, 2014 8:18 pm

    Uh oh!

  34. WTF_Ms on August 29th, 2014 8:19 pm

    Well, there’s your 5th.

  35. JMB on August 29th, 2014 8:20 pm

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Four homers.

  36. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 8:20 pm

    It’s going to be frustrating watching Zunino hit for a long, long time. Especially when you think what could’ve been, had he not been thrown into the deep end of the pool and told “learn to swim”.

    CRAP. Felix has given up FOUR?!

  37. Seattleguy527 on August 29th, 2014 8:22 pm

    Washington is good, no doubt, but I think this is more about Felix not being sharp. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him struggle this much with his command.

  38. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 8:23 pm

    Guess it just wasn’t meant to be, kinda sucks.

  39. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 8:24 pm

    Maybe there’s a scout in the front row eating an ice cream sandwich, and it’s distracting Felix.

  40. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 8:25 pm

    Oh, crap, Strasburg is tomorrow.

  41. Seattleguy527 on August 29th, 2014 8:26 pm

    BTW, if any of you guys want to torture yourselves, take a look at KC and Detroit’s remaining schedules. It makes our playoff percentage numbers look incredibly optimistic.

  42. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 8:27 pm

    So should we be upset that LoMo was granted a very late timeout there? ;-)

  43. Seattleguy527 on August 29th, 2014 8:32 pm

    That ice cream sandwich line made me laugh out loud. If Felix starts coaching first we will know we are in trouble.

  44. Jake on August 29th, 2014 8:43 pm

    Detroit and NY both win; Cleveland looks like they’re going to win too. Mariners look as if they’re going to be a game back with the Yankees right on their ass.

    Slip slidin’ away.

  45. Jake on August 29th, 2014 8:43 pm

    Well, at least it’s progress Austin.

  46. californiamariner on August 29th, 2014 8:45 pm

    “Too much speed! Ackley beats it out”

    We need to make a drinking game out of every time Sims or Blowers comments on his speed.

  47. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 8:46 pm

    It sounds like Saunders got pretty sick there. He apparently picked up a virus from his daughter. Over the course of the illness he lost 12 pounds.

    On the bright side he was doing early work at Safeco today – hopefully they’ll send him to AZ for a few days and then get him back on the club.

    Assuming Mac is willing to upset the apple cart a little, to borrow his term.

  48. JMB on August 29th, 2014 8:47 pm

    Don’t get excited, it’s only Morales.

  49. JMB on August 29th, 2014 8:49 pm

    Told ya’.

  50. Jake on August 29th, 2014 8:51 pm

    Seager said the “s word”, Seager said the “s word.”

  51. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 9:02 pm

    BTW I can’t wait to see the first person try to blame this loss on McLendon not being with the team.

  52. WTF_Ms on August 29th, 2014 9:03 pm

    Wow…after the late time out, he pops it up. The terrible hitting is contagious.

  53. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 9:03 pm

    LoMo gets ANOTHER late time out.

  54. msfanmike on August 29th, 2014 9:04 pm

    That was one hell of an inning.

  55. JMB on August 29th, 2014 9:12 pm

    Great job making him work early, but then it turned in to falling behind in the count and making quick outs.

  56. Jake on August 29th, 2014 9:16 pm

    Hat trick for Austin.

  57. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 9:17 pm

    Well, Oakland is losing. Would be quite entertaining if both the Mariners and Athletics didn’t make the playoffs.

  58. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 9:19 pm

    Anyone feel like Jackson was worth the trade of Nick Franklin?

  59. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 9:26 pm

    Icing on the cake, Nationals making this look to easy.

  60. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 9:29 pm

    Well at least that one wasn’t off Felix…

  61. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 9:31 pm

    Either was that one lol

  62. Westside guy on August 29th, 2014 9:31 pm

    This is getting ugly.

    Hehehe Grayfox!

  63. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 9:35 pm

    why did McLendon have to skip town! this is all his damn fault! FIRE SALE!!!!….eh… At least theres only 1 week till the devils sport starts!!! Football!

  64. G-Man on August 29th, 2014 9:40 pm

    I don’t like the idea of putting Rodney in against hitters who have never seen him. They’ll be at an advantage if he comes in to close the next day or two.

  65. Woodcutta on August 29th, 2014 9:52 pm

    You know, the M’s could really use that Rendon kid.

  66. Jake on August 29th, 2014 9:56 pm

    Soriano – Another painful Bavasi trade reminder

  67. Woodcutta on August 29th, 2014 10:12 pm

    Rendon – Another painful Zduriencik reminder

  68. Grayfox3d on August 29th, 2014 10:14 pm

    We could keep going with the painful Jack Z memories, Ill throw in some Fister, maybe a dash of Olivo, with a nice little touch of Miggy Bautista.

  69. Eastside Crank on August 30th, 2014 8:23 am

    That makes 3 consecutive starts with Felix not being Felix. Hopefully he will bounce back in September.

  70. G-Man on August 30th, 2014 9:33 am

    “Rendon – Another painful Zduriencik reminder”

    I found a 2011 Seattle Times article about the possibility of drafting him and this reader comment:

    “Rendon – Franklin – Ackley – Smoak – would be quite the infield. (June 4, 2011, by EvergreenStater)”

    0-for-4?

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