Game 1, Angels at Mariners

marc w · April 6, 2015 at 12:20 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Felix Hernandez vs. Jered Weaver, 1:10pm

Happy Felix Day, and happy opening day 2015.

The M’s face the team that most see as their primary competition for the AL West title. Given the expectations, this is probably the most anticipated opening day in years, but then, some of us get a queasy feeling in our stomach any time national writers place expectations on this club. Still, after so many Aprils when it really felt like the M’s had no shot, it’s nice to see the pendulum swing and, if anything, care *too much* about each early match-up. The division’s tight, and the M’s need to get a leg up on Anaheim while Garrett Richards is out. This can lead to over-analyzing every bullpen move, every sacrifice, every 1-2 pitch call, etc. That’s not fun, but it does evidence some investment in the outcome.

As we’ve talked about, the Angels won 98 games behind a powerhouse offense and a surprisingly good rotation. And as I mentioned last night, that rotation has a number of question marks heading into 2015. CJ Wilson probably engenders the most, but tonight’s starter, Jered Weaver, is close. I mentioned Weaver’s declining velocity in last year‘s opening day post, but if anything, that decline is picking up speed. Spring training is for getting work in, and it’s not iron-clad evidence of decline, but Weaver’s one start with gameday data this spring occurred on March 11th, and in that contest, Weaver’s four-seam fastball averaged 83.9mph. Bad pitch fx calibration? No, I don’t think so, as the start occurred in a Trackman park. Like most pitchers, Weaver’s velocity is down a bit in the early months of the year before peaking in August or so. Last year, he came out of the gate at around 86 before getting back to 88 in September. Not coincidentally, he was average or so in April before settling in with a brilliant May and a strong finish to his season.

Beyond velocity, though, there’s the matter of his home/road splits that we talked about last night. Weaver’s known for his rising fastball and the extreme fly ball rates it produces. Like Chris Young, his game is based around managing fly ball contact and running low HR/FB ratios – it all adds up to a pitcher who routinely outpitches his fielding-independent stats. Given his home park, you might assume that this approach works well in any park that suppresses home runs; anywhere that a fly ball produces fewer runs would seem to be a great park for Weaver and Chris Young. For whatever reason, that hasn’t been the case for Weaver.

Weaver has started 17 games at Safeco field, and has faced some of the most anemic offenses in recent baseball history. If any park in baseball would seem tailor-made for Weaver’s approach, it’s Safeco. And yet Weaver’s career batting line against in Seattle is .286/.331/.486. In one of the toughest offensive environments in the game, the M’s have hit like Adrian Gonzalez or Justin Upton in 2014. Sure, Weaver’s career stats are pulled down by struggles early in his career (though that just meant he was getting hit hard by Yuniesky Betancourt). After several good years, the old pattern has returned. In his last six starts at Safeco, he‘s given up 8 HRs, including four in two games last season. These are the kinds of games the M’s need to win if they want to take control of the division. They were great in the second half last season, but this year they need to start faster than they have in the past.

The opening day line-up:
1: Jackson, CF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Ackley, LF
9: Miller, SS

The Padres had one final trade in their off-season, trading for Craig Kimbrel and Melvin “BJ” Upton last night in exchange for prospects Matt Wisler, Jordan Paroubeck and the expiring contract of Carlos Quentin. Much of the focus of the trade thus far has been on the Braves’ ability to shed the contract of Upton, who produced essentially 0 WAR in two seasons in Atlanta. People have questioned why the Padres would need a closer at this point, but given their busy off-season, adding the game’s best reliever (it’s him or Aroldis Chapman) seems like a decent move in a two-wild-card environment. The Braves shed a lot of salary in what’s now unambiguously a rebuild, and given the moves THEY’VE made this off-season, they had less need for a lights-out closer than just about anyone. But given their roster at the end of the year, I’m a bit confused about why they decided to tear the whole thing down. This wasn’t an aging ballclub by any means – many of the players they’ve shipped out, including Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Kimbrel and Evan Gattis were under 28. Alex Wood and Julio Teheran, two of their top young starters, were both 23 last year. Heyward, 1B Freddie Freeman and SS Andrelton Simmons were all above-average players at age 24 last season. They finished a bit below .500 in 2014, but this is the kind of young core most teams would kill for. Instead of building around it, they’ve traded it all away, and while they’ve achieved a modicum of cost savings, it’s not like Heyward or Kimbrel were costly players in this era. They’ve acquired plenty of minor league talent – given the two Upton trades, they now employ a good chunk of the Padres’ top end-of-2014 prospects, but they don’t have a signature, key guy that’s an obvious part of their next young core. Max Fried, part of the first Upton haul, has a very high upside, but the young lefty missed almost all of 2014 with a forearm problem, and then had TJ surgery late in the year – he won’t pitch at all in 2015. Last night, the Braves picked up the Pads new #1 or #2 prospect, RHP Matt Wisler, a guy with solid command and the kind of make-up scouts rave about. What that hasn’t yet translated into is dominant stuff, as HR problems in the admittedly-HR-friendly PCL pumped his FIP and ERA over 5 last year. You don’t evaluate prospects based solely on stats, but the Braves gave up a lot of MLB talent and have a large collection of prospects with some very solid attributes and a whole lot of question marks. Instead of a good young club with a few holes, they’re now a decent staff with a questionable line-up that needs Nick Markakis (signed to what looks now like a completely bizarre four-year deal) and Eric Young, JR to produce. Sure, if you’re rebuilding, it seems smart to shop your closer. I’m just not clear on why Atlanta recreated Sherman’s march to the sea on their own line-up.

As a working stiff, I’m not thrilled about the early start time. I’ve heard from plenty of fans who like it, and for those of you heading to the game, I’m sure it works well, but I doubt I can watch any of it, and that’s disappointing.

Go Felix, and Go Mariners!


45 Responses to “Game 1, Angels at Mariners”

  1. californiamariner on April 6th, 2015 12:27 pm

    Wooohooo! We’re finally here. I love the fact that when I look at the opening day lineup, I do not cringe at any of the names the Mariners are putting out there. Here’s to a hopefully great season!

  2. RoninX on April 6th, 2015 12:56 pm

    Is it a sign of the trauma that Ms fans have been through recently that I’m terrified of the likelihood of a car wreck when expectations meet reality? Regardless, go Ms! Go Felix. Woo!

  3. kmsandrbs on April 6th, 2015 1:05 pm

    Here’s to a year of ups and downs (but more ups than downs)! Go Ms!

  4. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2015 1:25 pm

    There’s that great CF defense from Jackson (mistimed his jump on a very catchable HR from Trout). Hope this is just a hiccup and not a trend.

  5. stevemotivateir on April 6th, 2015 1:25 pm

    How sad that there is more reason for optimism in ages, yet this site is a baron wasteland. I truly enjoy and appreciate Marc and Jeff’s posts, and Jay’s when he gets a wild hair, but it seems like the lack of posts and interaction from Dave has taken it’s toll.

    With that said, I hope Mariner success can help change this. Would love to see more activity here.

  6. mrakbaseball on April 6th, 2015 1:28 pm

    You call them “Anaheim”, I still call them the California Angels.

  7. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2015 1:33 pm

    …and the obvious balls being called strikes continues.

  8. Will on April 6th, 2015 1:34 pm

    This is the first year in a while where I feel like we can field a potent order where there aren’t many easy outs.

  9. Westside guy on April 6th, 2015 1:50 pm

    I’m at work, but have the game in a little corner window of my screen thanks to . Gotta be careful about their intrusive, self-launching ads though (and they do some sort of ad-block detection, so I’ve had to disable that for the site).

    Despite all the hype, I expect more mediocre results from the Mariners this season… but in any case I’m not particularly invested in their performance anymore. Over the past year, I’ve more or less successfully transitioned from being a fan to just someone who treats baseball like any other entertainment product. I didn’t even pay attention during spring training – a first for me! So if they win, great; if not, it’s my intention to not get worked up about it.

  10. californiamariner on April 6th, 2015 1:52 pm

    I’ve been thinking the same thing that Steve wrote. I also truly appreciate all of the great work still done on here!

    Come on M’s, Weaver can’t top 83 MPH out there.

  11. californiamariner on April 6th, 2015 1:58 pm

    The biggest move of the offseason!! SETH SMITH!

  12. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2015 1:58 pm

    Seth Smith. MVP Hype!!!

  13. ooter on April 6th, 2015 1:59 pm

    I’m really liking this Seth Smith guy.

  14. californiamariner on April 6th, 2015 2:01 pm

    Weaver has pretty much become the right handed Jamie Moyer.

  15. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2015 2:29 pm

    Would it be so bad if they walked Trout every time he was up? ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2015 2:29 pm

    The Ack attack is back.

  17. kmsandrbs on April 6th, 2015 2:33 pm

    Shut the door with a double play, open the next with a home run. That’s the way to play!

  18. Dennisss on April 6th, 2015 2:39 pm

    So far, I am liking this “matchup” lineup strategy. And Felix is apparently still Felix, so that’s good.

  19. Will on April 6th, 2015 2:41 pm

    So Smith with 3 XBH’s today, you putting him out there tomorrow or running with Ruggiano against the LHP?

  20. stevemotivateir on April 6th, 2015 2:42 pm

    Nice start for the offense. I’m sure we’ll see Smith intentionally walked more often to get to Cano.

  21. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2015 2:42 pm

    Doesn’t he have to hit a HR?

  22. henryv on April 6th, 2015 2:43 pm

    Would it be so bad if they walked Trout every time he was up? ๐Ÿ™‚

    That would give him an OPS of 1.000, which might actually be worse than he has hit against the M’s.

  23. Illex Squid on April 6th, 2015 2:46 pm

    Go with Smith! He’s on pace for 162 triples.

  24. jorax on April 6th, 2015 2:49 pm

    …and 324 doubles!

  25. mrakbaseball on April 6th, 2015 2:49 pm

    Smith and Ackley will probably both sit tomorrow.

  26. stevemotivateir on April 6th, 2015 2:55 pm

    I’m perfectly OK with Ackley and Smith sitting tomorrow. You can argue small sample size, but neither have had success against Wilson.

  27. kmsandrbs on April 6th, 2015 3:05 pm

    Since it’s early in the season, he’s almost at 100 pitches, and we have at least a 3-run lead, do you pull King Felix?

  28. stevemotivateir on April 6th, 2015 3:07 pm

    Bad decision by Miller. I saw that coming all the way.

  29. jorax on April 6th, 2015 3:17 pm

    Was it close? I’m just following along online and seeing us run into an out at 3rd base is always concerning.

  30. ooter on April 6th, 2015 3:20 pm

    Is the Mariners bear hat or beard hat better? Both so good.

  31. ooter on April 6th, 2015 3:21 pm

    Jorax- Nope, wasn’t close. He was out by a good bit. Seemed to me like the fielder fielded the ball pretty close to third, I probably wouldn’t run in that situation.

  32. 3cardmonty on April 6th, 2015 3:36 pm

    I thought Carson Smith was going to start the season in Tacoma. Whose spot did he take?

  33. Kazinski on April 6th, 2015 3:37 pm

    I guess right now Carson Smith is the Mike Trout killer, until he’s not of course. But he’s faced him two times with the game on the line with two strikeouts. Last year in game 160 to keep us alive one more day, and right now 8th inning with 2 men on and a 3 run lead.

    I wonder if Lloyd and Jack were thinking of that in their last minute decision to send down Leone, and bring Carson back up for opening day?

  34. ooter on April 6th, 2015 3:38 pm

    Austin needs to learn that skill from Trout.

  35. stevemotivateir on April 6th, 2015 3:39 pm

    Why couldn’t Jackson have timed his jump the way Trout just did? That just ruined the entire game.

  36. Grayfox3d on April 6th, 2015 3:43 pm

    sheesh this strikezone today is atrocious.!

  37. Woodcutta on April 6th, 2015 3:46 pm

    No heart attack from Rodney today. I’ll take it.

  38. kmsandrbs on April 6th, 2015 3:53 pm

    One down, 161 to go! Way to start of with a W, M’s, especially against the Angels.

  39. Kazinski on April 6th, 2015 3:55 pm

    That wasn’t too bad of an opening day start for Felix either, 7ip, 2h, 1bb, 10k.

    I will take that any day of the week.

  40. 11records on April 6th, 2015 3:57 pm

    I’m sure Ruggs and Weeks will start tomorrow. As they should… If that’s the plan, go with it. The question is whether they’ll put Weeks in the OF, or have him DH with Cruz in the OF.

  41. Edward Baker on April 6th, 2015 4:32 pm

    There is joy in Mudville. ยดNuf said.
    Go Kuma, confound the Anaheimers!!!

  42. drw on April 6th, 2015 7:50 pm

    I did not see where Trout was playing but he got to the wall well before the ball arrived. Jackson, on the other hand, was still moving back when Trout’s ball got over the wall. It may be that he misjudged it or it may be that he was playing shallow.

  43. Grayfox3d on April 6th, 2015 10:13 pm

    The ball looked out of reach anyways on that Trout home run, theres a picture that was retweeted by Ryan Divish, the view is from left field.

  44. Section329 on April 7th, 2015 12:35 pm

    Steveomotiv-i would post more often if i wasnt on a 5 minute delay on this site for the last year. I email periodically to have it fixed, so guess we will see when i post this time. I was at the game-great fun!
    And Westside, you will be missed.

  45. Section329 on April 7th, 2015 12:45 pm

    No i am still on delay, so wont be joining you much

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