Game 8, Mariners at Dodgers

marc w · April 14, 2015 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. David Huff, 7:10pm

The M’s managed to lose a game in which they hit four HRs. Even in the recent low-scoring, fewer HR environment, we probably shouldn’t be too surprised. The M’s have hit at least four HRs in a game and lost 31 times now, including two games in which they hit 5.* James Paxton didn’t look too sharp, though the M’s defense wasn’t all that sharp. Today, the M’s try to even up the series behind Hisashi Iwakuma, who’ll try to avoid the slow start that doomed his first start against the Angels.

The Dodgers called up David Huff from Oklahoma City (still getting used to all the new affiliations) to make the start today. Huff’s 2014 will sound a bit familiar – last year, Huff had a poor half-year for an NL West club, but then seemed to reinvent himself after getting picked up the Yankees. Brandon McCarthy got a four-year deal out of his reinvention, but Huff got a minor league deal with a spring training invite. So what *was* he, and what *is* he, after the Yankees got through with him? Huff came up with the Indians as a guy with a so-so fastball, but a solid change and great control. As I mentioned back in March, Huff’s change wasn’t good enough to reliably get major league righties out, but without a good breaking ball, he was equally lost against lefties. Getting hit hard chased him out of the strikezone, so his sparkling walk rates were gone too.

In his career, Huff’s allowed lefties to hit .298/.366/.474 against him, while righties have hit .275/.329/.462. Some of that is BABIP related, but even looking at fielding-independent stats, he has essentially even splits. As a starter with Cleveland, he had a FB around 90mph, his change, a slider and the occasional curve. Back then, he was a fly-ball pitcher, whose fastball simply wasn’t good enough to rely on. He continued to bounce between MLB and AAA, but he could never get a handle on his HR rate. He started off last year with San Francisco, and produced career-best ground ball rates, but it didn’t help him get outs. The Yankees picked him up on waivers, and he performed quite well out of the Yankees bullpen. Fangraphs readers would probably note that his FIP was the same for both teams, and a closer look at his pitch fx data shows that he didn’t really make any big changes. Sure, he’s no longer a four-seam/change-up guy – he’s now a four-seam/cutter pitcher, but he picked up the cutter a few years ago, and he used it extensively with the Giants. Its downward break was the big reason for his GB% improvement. Nothing much changed when he got to the Bronx, except he had much better results on balls in play. More interestingly, the cutter seems to have helped him get a handle on lefties.

Thus, Huff’s not the same guy who’s faced the M’s three times and yielded an ERA over 10. That’s not to say he’s great, however. This is a game the M’s should win.

1: Weeks, LF
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Miller, SS
8: Bloomquist, 1B
9/SP: Iwakuma

Ah, the M’s righty-heavy line-up.

Dave’s got a good article on our old friend Carter Capps’ reworked… In case you missed it, Capps was recalled last night, and his new delivery stretches the bounds of some remarkably vague rules on what constitutes a “legal pitch.” Capps now takes Jordan Walden’s old “hop” delivery and magnifies it; he’s essentially leaping forward a few feet, and then resuming his delivery. He’s received some guidance from MLB, so it looks like this is legal. *This* is why we need the statcast data, complete with pitcher extention. The perceived velocity of Capps’ fastball has to be off the charts.

The Rainiers lost to Albuquerque last night 4-3 as the bullpen couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead. Mike Montgomery looked pretty good for Tacoma, showing reasonable control and generating plenty of GB outs. Today, Jordan Pries will try to erase memories of his opening day start. Chris Taylor played some SS yesterday, but will stick to DH’ing today.

AA Jackson has the day off.

Bakersfield’s opening day starter Edwin Diaz makes his second start of the year against Modesto. The Nuts dominated yesterday’s game, winning 11-3.

Clinton last 6-2 yesterday, with Lukas Schiraldi taking the loss. Today, Jefferson Medina makes his first start against Quad Cities again.

* The M’s hit 5 HRs in a 16-10 loss to Toronto in May of 1999. The M’s hit 3 off David Wells, and then 2 off of reliever Tom Davey, who they would acquire a few months later in exchange for David Segui. The M’s also hit 5 HRs in a 14-8 loss to Boston back in 1988. The M’s got to Oil Can Boyd for 3 HRs, but they were already behind 12-2 heading into the 5th, so Boyd’s approach (throw strikes) was understandable. It’s still impressive to see a 5HR game from any team in 1988 – the AL SLG% that year was .391, essentially the same as 2014’s mark of .390. In 1999, the M’s led the league with 244 HRs, and the league as a whole was slugging .439. In 1988, they managed 148 total dingers – led by Steve Balboni’s 21 in 97 games – good for 4th in the league. That was still more than they hit in 2014. Only 136 last year? Steve Balboni is unimpressed. Steve Balboni is unimpressed


38 Responses to “Game 8, Mariners at Dodgers”

  1. Westside guy on April 14th, 2015 6:39 pm

    Holy cow, I don’t remember Carter Capps doing anything remotely like that! That is freaking bizarre.

    I know the article says he toned it down while with Seattle, but still – I think I’d have remembered THAT.

  2. californiamariner on April 14th, 2015 7:17 pm

    Cano! Mariners should really really not lose this game.

  3. JMB on April 14th, 2015 7:21 pm

    Speaking of homers… nice start.

  4. JMB on April 14th, 2015 7:43 pm

    Pitchers hitting is the worst. NL needs to man up and adopt the DH already.

  5. ivan on April 14th, 2015 7:52 pm

    I’m with Jason. I put DH opponents right up there with flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, and climate change deniers.

  6. djw on April 14th, 2015 8:07 pm

    That was a lovely little wicked splitter to get Crawford.

  7. californiamariner on April 14th, 2015 8:16 pm

    Iwakuma keeps randomly leaving pitches right down the middle. I feel like he’s trying to get a feel for one of his pitches and keeps messing it up. Slider maybe? Splitter still looks as good as always.

  8. djw on April 14th, 2015 8:50 pm

    Feels like Zunino has about a 10% of making contact when he swings right now. Should have had him bunt.

  9. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2015 8:52 pm

    That was not an ‘improved Zunino’ that last at bat… A guy who previously threw 8 out of 9 pitches for balls, then threw exactly 1 strike in 5 more pitches to Zunino (via tracer), and yet Zunino struck out, taking only 1 ball.

    That’s, uh, a stupid at bat.

    And of course, the next guy after Zunino walks too… Should have been 4 walks, no outs, when Willie was up.

  10. msfanmike on April 14th, 2015 8:54 pm

    I agree DJW. However, I don’t think he can bunt, either.

    His strikeout pose has been perfected, though.

  11. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2015 8:57 pm

    I agree with DJW, too, although currently 10% might be a few points generous…

    10% with a 0 to -3% variance?

  12. G-Man on April 14th, 2015 8:59 pm

    I hope they didn’t really tell Kuma to take 3 strikes with 2 RISP.

  13. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2015 9:01 pm

    Hey, Jim Joyce blew a call (on that check swing) never would have guessed that…

    (Sorry, I’m extra cynical the day before taxes…)

  14. msfanmike on April 14th, 2015 9:02 pm

    He’s now striking out on fastballs. Can’t get to them. Can’t hit a breaking ball, either. Hope for average speed elevated mistakes with no lateral movement, I guess.

  15. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2015 9:04 pm

    Maybe his best hope is really “fast” curveballs, across the letters, that don’t curve? (I always hit those best, anyways… And I sucked…)

  16. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2015 9:26 pm

    There was one of those “randomly down the middle” pitches you were talking about Kuma suffering…

    And now it’s a keepsake for a fan, off the bat of a guy most people didn’t even think would be on the Dodgers roster at this point.

    Look like a splitter that didn’t drop…

    The only positive is those pitches are 5″ lower than they were last start…

  17. Woodcutta on April 14th, 2015 9:45 pm

    Ugh…has Zunino’s eyesight been checked b/c he seems to rarely recognize breaking pitches (by recognize I mean where they are currently in the strike zone and where they will most likely end up).

  18. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2015 9:47 pm

    Maybe Zunino needs to take batting practice totally drunk… And swing at only breaking pitches… So in a real game, when he’s sober, they don’t seem to be moving so much?

  19. WTF_Ms on April 14th, 2015 10:03 pm

    The bullpen is getting a workout early this year!

  20. WTF_Ms on April 14th, 2015 10:37 pm

    Mike Z. is super behind everything. Wow. Don’t think I’ve seen someone so slow.

  21. ooter on April 14th, 2015 10:51 pm

    Ugh Rodney

  22. JMB on April 14th, 2015 10:56 pm

    Ugh indeed. Obviously it’s early, and he struggled in April last year too… but he might simply be done. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to have lost velocity so maybe he’s just a slow starter? Also I hate Howie Kendrick.

  23. MrZDevotee on April 14th, 2015 10:58 pm

    Would have been nice to know the president of the Adrian Gonzalez fanclub was calling balls and strikes in the 9th inning.

    Totally squeezing Rodney that at bat.

    But, yep, I’m not saying “I called it” but I listed one of my main concerns coming into the season being that the odds of our bullpen being as lights out as last season again, was wishful thinking. Bullpens are annoyingly volatile…

    Hopefully they pull it together.

  24. JMB on April 14th, 2015 11:04 pm

    Annoyingly volitile, yup. And this group was due for some regression after last season’s collective performance.

  25. marc w on April 14th, 2015 11:33 pm

    I’m not sure Zunino is slow so much as he’s off. Maybe that’s wishful thinking…as much as pointing out that a dude looks bad on pitches within the strike zone counts as wishful thinking.

    And yes, Mr Z Devotee, great minds and all that, but my preseason ‘risks’ posts noted Zunino, the bullpen and Austin Jackson as problem areas. I would be crowing about this if I hadn’t whiffed on the ‘upside’ post, at least to this point. Seriously though, don’t click on that one.

  26. hojinlee on April 14th, 2015 11:57 pm

    Rodney is the weak link of this team, even last year his stats did not meet the eye test. Manager will continue to run him out there until the M’s are in real trouble in the standings, defending him as the team’s closer, blah blah blah. Act quickly or pay the price at the end of the year.

  27. Westside guy on April 14th, 2015 11:59 pm

    It’s early days yet, but with Zunino continuing his horrible performances from last season it’s hard to argue “small sample size”.

    This is one of the issues I had with parts of the Mariners’ pre-season projections. Many people argued that Zunino would improve offensively because that’s what most players in his age group do. My counter was (and is) – most players that age are building on sound fundamentals, while Zunino’s approach continues to be horrible. You can’t say he’ll follow the same curve as others because he’s different than the others! If you want a comp, you have to look at a small number of guys like Miguel Olivo – and those guys didn’t really improve significantly as they approached their peak.

  28. Woodcutta on April 15th, 2015 2:36 am

    If Zunino is out at least 15 days I wouldn’t mind seeing Hicks given some ABs. Zunino is starting to look like a backup catcher and if his offense doesn’t improve soon they’ll need a better Plan B than Sucre.

  29. ensignofcommand on April 15th, 2015 2:36 am

    Even if you table his age and cost, given his defense, I’m fine with Zunino posting an OPS+ in the high 80’s/low 90’s. Catchers who rake are so rare. The only active ones are Posey, Lucroy and Molina, and maybe Gomes. Iannetta and Martin are two of the better offensive catchers in the game and they’re both good not great batters.

    Zunino’s a Ruthian upgrade over the Rob Johnson’s of the world.

  30. Woodcutta on April 15th, 2015 2:40 am

    He doesn’t have to be a great offensive catcher but if he can’t hit in the .200s and walk more than say 20 times a year his defense can only help so much. Plus, if he actually gets worse at the plate, which it looks like he actually is, the M’s might as well have a pitcher hitting.

  31. MrZDevotee on April 15th, 2015 7:23 am

    Zunino is scarily on a path like Jose Lopez… So much youthful potential, and small glimmers of “wouldn’t that be sweet”, and then suddenly– baby legs! (or in Zunino’s case- “breaking balls”!)

    We can also point to an earlier at bat as being a “losing moment” in this ball game…

    When the Dodgers had just walked two guys on 9 pitches… Then Zunino got thrown 1 out of 5 strikes, yet somehow managed to K with only a 1 ball count…

    And then the same pitcher walked Miller right after that at bat… That could have been a huge inning, instead we got 1 run, and went quietly to 3 outs…

  32. MrZDevotee on April 15th, 2015 7:28 am

    (sorry, meant “thrown 1 strike out of 5 pitches”)

    Although, hard to deny that having a closer with a 16.00+ ERA currently isn’t helping…

  33. Westside guy on April 15th, 2015 8:32 am

    I do think it’s premature to worry about Rodney, given his history. There’s a reason they refer to the ninth inning as “The Fernando Rodney Experience”.

    (MrZ, I know you were just stating recent facts, not saying he was finished)

  34. MrZDevotee on April 15th, 2015 1:43 pm

    Just read an LA Times story about the M’s… Rodney has allowed 11 of 19 batters faced this season to reach base…

    Damn! I like Rodney, and would still give him some time to figure it out (a’la Zunino), but if he struggles, it’s not gonna be good for the M’s. And, it’s more just the bullpen in general. I expect them to be human this year, whereas last year they were crazy good.

  35. williebfan on April 15th, 2015 1:54 pm

    I sat behind home plate last night. Zunino appears to need Lasik surgery. Or something.

  36. Westside guy on April 15th, 2015 4:30 pm

    MrZ, I’m 100% in line with your thinking regarding the bullpen too.

    williebfan, it appears he can see object coming straight at him (when he’s catching) really well, but not from the side (when he’s batting)! So perhaps it’s all about peripheral vision. 😀

  37. MrZDevotee on April 15th, 2015 5:37 pm

    That’s cause Zunino has per-whiff-eral vision instead.

  38. Westside guy on April 15th, 2015 6:11 pm


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