Game 2: Padres at Mariners

marc w · March 5, 2015 at 11:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Roenis Elias vs. Andrew Cashner, 12:05pm, Root TV/710am

One game in, and the M’s suffered their first serious injury, as 1B Ji-Man Choi broke his fibula trying to snare an errant throw from SS Tyler Smith. Choi’s been beset by serious injuries for years, but I don’t think even Chris Snelling would’ve broken a fibula by jumping.* It’s a reminder that 1) health is a tool, and 2) baseball is relentless in the way that it exposes every bodily weakness and exploits them. Franklin Gutierrez knows the feeling. Get well soon, Ji-Man.

Today’s game features something quite like the opening day line-up and the other candidate for the 5th starter job, Roenis Elias. Taijuan Walker had a solid start against the Padres, and Ryan Divish had a good story about his mechanics (simplified, and using the stretch even without men on) and his improving split-change. The M’s face big righty Andrew Cashner, still one of the hardest-throwing starters in the league, though not quite the 99mph monster he was when he first moved from the Cubs to the Padres. At that time, he relied on his huge four-seamer, and paired it with a slider and change-up. Since then, he’s switched to a still-plenty-fast sinker as his primary fastball. Despite the radar gun readings, Cashner struggled both with his control and, more recently (and surprisingly), with contact. Batters now make more contact against him than average, and thus his K rate’s been below average in the rotation. That said, he’s become an effective pitcher thanks to solid ground ball rates and some new-found control.

Against righties, he’s a essentially a pitch-to-contact sinkerball machine, with very low walk rates and sky-high ground ball rates. If you limit fly balls, and then have a home park that minimizes the damage that the occasional fly ball can do, you can be a pretty effective pitcher. In addition, his mid-upper 90s velocity means the contact he gives up is generally poorer than that yielded by a more traditional, late-period-Derek-Lowe style sinkerball hurler. It’s worth noting, though, that he’s very different against lefties. Against lefties, he’ll throw more change-ups and chase strikeouts, at the expense of some extra walks. Unlike righties, lefties tend to hit the ball in the air. Part of this is due to the way Cashner pitches them – a steady diet of sinkers away. That can produce opposite-field fly balls, and for whatever reason, lefties are able to elevate the few pitches that Cashner throws inside or up. The M’s will throw six lefty hitters at Cashner, so we’ll see if they’re able to drive the ball.

Roenis Elias was one of the best stories of camp last year, making the team out of nowhere thanks to a funky delivery and good velocity from the left side. Last year, the M’s seemed concerned about the lack of consistency in Elias’ release point. Against lefties, he’d drop way down at times, and stay upright against righties. So, we got a story or two about picking a release point and sticking with it near the end of March 2014, but there wasn’t a whole lot of evidence that Elias listened. Even late in the year, you’d see two or three distinct groupings for his pitches, and why not? He’d been far more effective than any of us thought possible, and his ability to neutralize lefties was a big part of the reason why. In this respect, he’s a lot like the Padres’ own Cuban 5th starter, righty Odrisamer Despaigne, who used several release angles and odd pitches to destroy righties in 2014.

Today’s line-up:
1: Jackson, CF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
SP: Elias

The Padres line-up includes Abe Almonte, the opening day CF for the M’s last year while Seth Smith was in the opening day line-up for the Friars in 2014.

* Snelling would’ve torn ligaments instead.


7 Responses to “Game 2: Padres at Mariners”

  1. Woodcutta on March 5th, 2015 12:13 pm

    I don’t think Choi’s health had anything to do with that injury. The terrible throw forced him to jump for the ball and the runner hit is foot while he was coming down and forced him to land awkwardly (he essentially landed on his ankle).

    Of course this is the type of injury to an already labeled player that will put him in Jack Z’s doghouse. His MLB hopes are probably over with the M’s.

  2. Seattleguy527 on March 5th, 2015 12:28 pm

    I’m not sure if it’s being in the doghouse as much as it is just being pragmatic and realizing you can’t count on guys who are constantly injured. It may not be their fault that they’re prone to injury, but that doesn’t make them any less unreliable.

  3. HighBrie on March 5th, 2015 5:59 pm

    I love the wiley inventiveness of Cuban pitchers. We have seen so many pitchers with big repertoires, weird pitches, funky but deliberate manipulation of release points. It makes you think that Cleveland should send Trevor Bauer to Cuba to refine his craft.

  4. djw on March 5th, 2015 6:04 pm

    Choi DFA.

  5. MrZDevotee on March 5th, 2015 7:45 pm

    Evidently, the Choi DFA was just an administrative move– they had to open a spot for Edgar Olmos, and wanted to further evaluate Choi before deciding the move for him (60 day disabled, etc.).

  6. Shoeless Jose on March 6th, 2015 11:10 am

    It makes you think that Cleveland should send Trevor Bauer to Cuba to refine his craft.

    I love this idea, and I love your brain for coming up with it.

  7. ZuninoBambino on March 6th, 2015 11:14 am

    OK… Jesus Montero is CrossFit style fit… Is he fit enough to backup Zunino and play 20-30 games at catcher?

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