Game 19, Mariners at Rangers….Maybe
Taijuan Walker vs. Yovani Gallardo, 5:05pm
The thunder storms that plagued the Dallas metro area last night (forcing the M’s plane to divert to San Antonio) are still in the area, so it’s not clear that the M’s will get this one off. If they do, it’s something of a big series. First, Texas just signed LF Josh Hamilton, after the Angels/Rangers and players union agreed on a split of Hamilton’s remaining contract. The Angels are still on the hook for most of it, but Texas will pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $7m for the remainder of Hamilton’s deal. Initially, it seemed like all parties would agree to write down some of the $83m total that Hamilton’s still owed. It now looks like that isn’t the case – it’s just that Hamilton is taking “less” because he’s paying income tax on the deal. He receives less money than if he’d signed the deal with Texas (which has no state income tax) in the first place, but that’s quite a bit different from Hamilton – or the Angels – taking less than he’s owed. Hamilton won’t be suiting up in this series; he’s going to do some work at extended spring training and then may go on a rehab assignment in the minors. It’s still a big deal in the AL West, and it will eventually give Texas more options in LF. Texas is doing pretty well for themselves here, though it’s worth remembering how close the M’s came to signing Hamilton to an ill-considered contract. Yeesh.
Second, the M’s come in with the AL West even more muddled than it was before the season started. Their poor homestand hasn’t hurt their playoff odds as much as you’d think, largely because the Angels and A’s haven’t taken advantage. But what we do see is Houston’s playoff odds have gotten off the floor, and are now higher (by Fangraphs) than Oakland’s were on opening day. The Astros gain has come from the supposed front-runners, and while they’re clearly still the underdog, it’s kind of stunning that there are four teams in the running, even in the early going. If you look at BP’s playoff odds, the picture’s a bit different. Because BP had the Angels as the clear favorite, the fact that the M’s have had a poor start hurts them more – they’ve dropped 10% of playoff odds in the past week, and have seen their odds of winning the division fall below 20% – just 4+ percentage points ahead of Houston. You can quibble with one or the other, and you can quibble with the idea of even looking at such things so early, but the M’s had a chance to rack up wins against some of their weaker opponents, and couldn’t. However, their chance isn’t entirely gone. A run against Texas, Houston and LA would help quite a bit.
And that’s where Taijuan Walker comes in. Despite some improvements in his last start, the M’s haven’t won any of the games he’s started, and while he battled a bit more, his command still hasn’t really shown up. A big part of the M’s struggles can be laid at the feet of some poor pitching performances, Walker’s among them. I’ve mentioned that his BABIP is due to come down purely due to regression, but Walker can help matters by locating his pitches and getting batters to chase. It’s interesting that for all of Walker’s raw stuff, he’s never generated even average chase numbers – his contact rate’s better than average, so this isn’t the kiss of death, but a guy with a 95mph fastball and even a decent split should do pretty well in oSwing. I’d love to think someone’s looking at his arm action really carefully to see if he’s giving the change/splitter away – and I’d love it even more if the person looking really closely worked for the M’s.
I’ve written more about Yovani Gallardo this year than I ever thought I would, so if you’d like a crash course, check out the game preview here, or this look in spring training. Thus far, his numbers have been pretty good. His K% is up, and while yes, he has faced the whiff-tastic Astros, but the other 3 teams are average or better. His HR rate is high, but that’s always going to be part of his game, and his strand rate doesn’t look out of line with his career numbers. I’d imagined that the transition to the AL would’ve been tougher than it’s been to date, but that could always change. Here’s the line-up that will go about trying to change it:
1: Ruggiano, CF
2: Smith, DH
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Weeks, LF
7: Miller, SS
8: Bloomquist, 1B
9: Zunino, C
Tarp on the field, rain in the air…I don’t have a good feeling about this, but we’ll see.
I know Gallardo hasn’t had much in the way of platoon splits, but that’s a remarkably right-handed line-up. It’s not like even small-sample hitter-vs-pitcher stats are to blame, given Weeks has never faced him (they’ve spent their careers up to 2015 as teammates). Lomo’s probably out because he’s 1-16 against him, but Bloomquist is 2-14, and Lomo at least had two walks. I can understand giving a night off to Ackley, but the Rangers have two lefties scheduled to start Tuesday and Wednesday’s games.
Mike Kickham, Steven Landazuri and Carlos Misell get the starts in AAA, AA and A+ tongiht – Clinton’s got a day off after they got swept in a double-header (technically, a game and a continuation) yesterday.
The Rainiers sputtered to a 6-2 defeat in Sacramento, as Chris Taylor and Carlos Quentin both went 0-4, while starter Sam Gaviglio got knocked around, giving up two home…you’ve stopped reading, haven’t you?
Jackson lost to Montgomery 3-2, and starter Austin Pruitt, who was very sharp against the Generals – he faced the minimum through 5. DJ Peterson was 0-4 with 3 Ks, dropping his season line to .179/.242/.196. Misael Siverio put together another fine start in a losing effort; he’s now given up only 7 H and 2 R in 16 1/3 IP and has a 15:4 K:BB ratio.
Bakersfield lost to San Jose, with Dan Altivilla taking the loss after walking 4 (to 2 strikeouts) in 4 2/3 IP. Trey Cochran-Gill gave up his second run of the year in relief as well. Tyler O’Neill continues to move past his early struggles, and went 2-4 with a double.