Game 138, Mariners at Athletics
King Felix vs. Jon Lester, 12:35pm
Wildcard odds – Fangraphs.com: 38.9% Baseballprospectus.com: 37.0%
Happy Felix Day!
The M’s desperately needed a long outing from James Paxton last night following Chris Young’s less-than-an-inning disaster the previous day. They got one, and the M’s can now take the series with their ace on the hill.
I talked about Gray being potentially the A’s ace, and evidently that prospect frightened Billy Beane a bit, as he traded Yoenis Cespedes for today’s A’s starter, Jon Lester. The Piece County native has put up his best season in the majors, with a FIP under 3 for the first time in his career. His K% is now approaching his career high, but he’s also cut his walk rate substantially, all without a return of the home run problems that plagued his 2012.
Lester’s maintained his excellent peripherals and runs allowed stats since moving to the A’s, though his fastball velocity is down a bit from August of 2013. It clearly hasn’t hurt his whiffs, and he’s throwing more strikes, but it’s odd to see his velocity settle down a bit right when most pitchers peak, and where he was throwing hardest last year. Since moving to the A’s, he’s shelved his change-up, which was never a big part of his arsenal. He’s now a four- and two-seam fastball/cutter/curve ball pitcher. He’ll throw cutters in any count, to RHB/LHBs, and often features it more than his fastball.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Denorfia, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Hart, DH
7: Zunino, C
8: Romero, RF
9: Taylor, SS
SP: King Felix
Seven righties in the starting line-up today against the lefty Lester. I understand it a bit, though Lester’s been extremely tough on righties this year, and has career splits narrower than many left-handers. I’m not sure the platoon-split gain of starting Romero is worth the trade-offs, but of course that’s got a lot more to do with injuries than anything. Endy Chavez has been hot, but you do not want him within a quarter mile of today’s starting line-up. If the choice was Romero or a healthy Saunders, I think you go with Saunders, but that’s not helping McClendon fill out the line-up card.
The A’s line-up’s been quiet recently, with many pointing to the departure of Cespedes in the Lester deal. But the A’s are also down a lefty hitter who’s put up a 119 wRC+ this year in 344 PAs – C/DH John Jaso, who’s been sidelined with the aftereffects of a concussion. Jaso spoke with Eno Sarris about his recovery today at Fangraphs.