Game 150, Mariners at Angels
Roenis Elias vs. Cory Rasmus, 7:05pm
Wildcard Odds – Fangraphs.com: 21.8% Baseballprospectus.com: 19.3% (ouch)
Well, that was no fun at all. Matt Shoemaker is now 2-0 against the M”s, and in 20 1/3 IP, he’s got an 18:2 K:BB ratio and an RA/9 of 1.77. Hisashi Iwakuma’s late season slide was a popular topic on twitter last night, with many pointing to his poor ERA down the stretch. Our fearless leader Dave pointed out that his fielding independent stats have generally been pretty good. Outside of the three-HR game, he’s not been getting shelled, it’s just teams have strung a lot of hits together off of him. I recognize that Iwakuma’s FIP has generally been pretty good (it’s significantly better in the 2nd half than it was in the 1st, actually), but FIP’s always been a tough way to evaluate the guy. For two years, Iwakuma posted ERAs lower than his FIP, because while he’d give up HRs, he tended to do so when there weren’t runners on. His weird FIP-breaking trick wasn’t a freakish HR/FB ratio, like Chris Young, it was posting much better results with men on (and with men in scoring position) than with the bases empty. That’s not normally a skill, but it’s probably that SOME pitchers can reliably do this, especially given that pitchers have an entirely different motion with men on base. Well, in 2014, Iwakuma just hasn’t had that…skill/luck, depending on your POV. This year, he’s been WORSE with runners in scoring position, and thus, while he isn’t necessarily giving up more HRs, his ERA’s now worse than his FIP. To the optimists, this is the ultimate small-sample fluke, and it’ll just bounce back to his career norms next year. The cynics probably never believed Iwakuma’s success with RISP was skill at all, and see this year as regression. So many baseball arguments are really just about what mean to regress someone towards.
Hey, another ballgame against the white-hot Angels. Sigh. Ok, the Angels are going with a bullpen day, though, as middle-reliever Cory Rasmus starts. In his last start, he pitched effectively, but for less than four innings, which means we’ll probably see quite a few Angel hurlers. Rasmus has a fastball around 93 – a rising four-seamer that he’ll throw up in the zone. In terms of movement and how he uses it, it’s actually quite similar to Matt Shoemaker’s, albeit a tick or two faster. That said, he doesn’t have a big-time weapon like Shoemaker’s split. What he DOES have is a pretty good change-up that he throws a lot to lefties, and a slider he throws to righties. He’s got a curve as well, but his best pitches are the slider and change-up. Since he’s got pitches to throw to both, he’s posted good numbers against lefties and righties alike this year – a far cry from his struggles against lefties in 2013. In 2013, lefties teed off on his fastball, slugging over 1.000 in extremely limited duty. After a couple of tweaks, his fastball’s been effective against them this year, which is why he’s been tabbed to make a couple of spot starts with the injury problems plaguing the Halos.
He can miss bats, he throws reasonably hard, and he’s got four pitches. Why’s he normally a reliever? Rasmus has not seen eye to eye with the strike zone in his career, and this isn’t just nerves. In his minor league career, he posted a BB/9 of 4.3. Last year, in his first big league stint, it was over 5. This year, because Angels, his K% has improved markedly while he’s cut his walk rate from 12.6 to 8.2%. He’s still a very far cry from Greg Maddux, but it’s not a crippling problem anymore. And a move to Anaheim helped his HR problems, too. Like Shoemaker and most other Halos, Rasmus has sizable home/road splits, largely driven by home runs – Rasmus has a GB% under 40%, so he’s a fly ball pitcher, and Anaheim’s a great place to ply that particular trade. We’ll see who follows him, but Rasmus will get the first crack at this line-up:
1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Morales, DH
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Chavez, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Taylor, SS
I’ve actually loved watching Clayton Kershaw pitch this year (thank you, MLB.tv), but Ben Lindbergh’s open letter to Kershaw from Pedro Martinez’s 2000 season is hilarious and spot-on.