Game 23, Mariners at Astros

marc w · May 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Roenis Elias vs. Sam Deduno, 5:10pm

Not only did the M’s drop yesterday’s game in extras, but they lost Carlos Quentin, who left the Tacoma Rainiers two days ago and is now officially retiring. That obviously sounds worse than it is – Quentin was stuck behind Jesus Montero, Pat Kivlehan and Chris Taylor as likely RHH call-ups, and he needed to absolutely mash to have any shot. He didn’t absolutely mash, and he’s going to spend more time with his family, which is admirable, and something I should probably do myself. And the game, while frustrating, offered a few rays of hope. Yesterday was James Paxton’s best start of the year, combining some swing-and-miss stuff with command that, if not exactly plus, was good enough to get grounders and stay out of trouble. With Hisashi Iwakuma hobbled a bit, it’s imperative that the Rainiers get some production from Tai Walker and James Paxton, and both showed real promise in their last outings. Roenis Elias, essentially the #6 starter on the 40-man, can’t replace Paxton if he’s already replacing Iwakuma, so it’s nice to see continued signs of a James Paxton that isn’t in imminent need of rescuing.

Today, Elias faces off against righty Sam Deduno, who has always fascinated me more than an ex-Twins pitcher without a lot of control or bat-missing ability should. As you know, I talk about each pitcher’s arsenal through a pitch fx lens, and as a result, you get pretty familiar with the ranges you expect to see. FB velocity is generally in that 89-96 range, and thus, if someone’s outside of that 1-2 standard deviation range, you notice it. Well, Sam Deduno’s fastball is a pretty rare bird. It’s (appropriately) classed as a four-seam fastball, and has essentially no horizontal movement. It some in at 89-90, but it has essentially zero rise. Its vertical movement is like nothing I’ve seen before, and so I always kind of look forward to seeing the guy (another example of how this job really messes with your head – you look forward to a guy with a career walk rate of 11% because his vertical movement numbers are pleasingly puzzling).

A fastball, and in particular one without horizontal movement, typically has a lot of backspin on it. Imagine the ball coming off of your hand, and how your fingers and wrists point down after release – that motion creates backspin, and it’s that spin that means that a fastball doesn’t fall as much as it would if it had no spin. This is where the “vertical movement” number comes from in the first place – it’s the difference between where the ball would’ve been with no spin, and where it is WITH all that backspin. Guys who throw straight over the top, like James Paxton or Chris Tillman, typically impart a ton of vertical movement because essentially *all* of the spin is going in the same direction – there’s not much sidespin, all the force is creating backspin. Carson Smith, on the other hand, has a funky sidearm delivery, and thus tons of side spin, so he gets much more horizontal movement on the ball, with relatively little rise (this is more true of his sinker; even Carson Smith’s four-seamer, which he very rarely throws, has about twice as much ‘rise’ as Deduno’s). So how do you get a baseball to go 90mph, straight ahead (with little to no horizontal movement), without just heaps of backspin? I still don’t know. Felix Hernandez’s four-seamer used to look something like this – particularly a few years back. But with 6-8″ of rise, and more horizontal movement, it’s not a particularly useful comparison. Anyway, I’m hoping now with statcast data around that we might start to learn more about what he does – I assume that he simply imparts much less spin than normal, but it’d be nice to know exactly how much less, and how/why he does that. His old catcher Joe Mauer has said that his FB moves like a knuckler, and if it’s got very low spin, you can kind of squint and see what he means. On the other hand, Deduno’s always dealt with injuries – he had TJ in the minors and has missed bits of pieces of several seasons. Is THAT partially the result of his motion? No idea, and it’s essentially impossible to find out. Still, I’d love to see what statcast has to say about the guy – that and an extreme slow-mo shot of his delivery.

As you’d expect with a ball that appears to sink more than normal, Deduno’s typically been a ground-ball pitcher, with a career rate of about 57%. Walks have killed him though, and without Ks to balance them, it’s pretty easy to see why his FIP’s 4.51. His career platoon splits are reversed, but he hasn’t pitched enough for that to be definitive proof of anything. They’re driven by some HR problems he had with righties for a while; righties have fared much better on Deduno’s fastball. But he didn’t have reversed splits last season, and hasn’t shown them this year either, and his HR issues have been much better since his first few call-ups. That’s not to say he’s “normal” – this is Deduno we’re talking about – but it’s probably better to assume he’s got smaller than normal splits than to think stacking the line-up with righties makes sense.

1: Smith, RF
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Miller, SS
8: Ackley, LF
9: Sucre, C
SP: Elias

The suddenly Quentin-less Rainiers dominated the Fresno Grizzlies yesterday, torching the rehabbing Brett Oberholtzer (that name just cries out for umlauts) for 7 runs in the first inning. The R’s just held on until they exploded again for 6 runs off Alex White, the guy who was supposed to start. It ended up at 13-3, with Chris Taylor staying hot, going 2-4 with a 2B, and Jesus Montero and Franklin Gutierrez also chipping in with 2 hits. Stefen Romero had 3, and the R’s got HRs from Julio Morban and Carlos Rivero. Jordan Pries got the easy win, and Logan Bawcom pitched another sharp 2IP in relief – the Texan had a terrible year last year, which ended in him losing his 40-man spot this December. He’s been better so far, and hasn’t given up a run in his last 5 games, covering 9 1/3 IP, and he’s missing a few more bats than he did in 2014. Today, Justin Germano gets a spot start against the Grizzlies and lefty starter Luis Cruz.

The big story in the minors today is Danny Hultzen, who’ll be making his first appearance of the season for Jackson as the Generals face Pensacola. He’ll face off with Reds prospect Robert Stephenson, a fireballing 22 year old who cruised through the low minors, but had an inconsistent season in AA last year. This is one to watch if you’ve got, though it starts 5 min. before the M’s game. Two screens, people. Pensacola beat Jackson 3-1 yesterday, as ex-Padres prospect Keyvius Samson threw 4 solid innings. Spot starter Jimmy Gilheeney was pretty good, but took the loss. DJ Peterson went 0-4.

Ryan Yarbrough starts for Bakersfield as they face Visalia for the first time.

Daniel Missaki gets the ball for Clinton, who ALSO get to face a new team – the Cedar Rapids Kernels.


10 Responses to “Game 23, Mariners at Astros”

  1. joser on May 1st, 2015 5:16 pm

    With Hisashi Iwakuma hobbled a bit, it’s imperative that the Rainiers get some production from Tai Walker and James Paxton,

    I’m honestly not sure if that is intentionally or unintentionally funny.

  2. mksh21 on May 1st, 2015 5:34 pm

    sigh. 2 runs in the first? So its over already??

  3. msfanmike on May 1st, 2015 5:53 pm

    The Rainiers … Good catch, Joser

  4. Westside guy on May 1st, 2015 5:53 pm

    The Elias that pitched a few days ago was obviously a ringer – THIS is the Elias that’s been pitching for Tacoma this year…

  5. Jake on May 1st, 2015 6:39 pm

    Will Sucre get a hit this season?

  6. groundzero55 on May 1st, 2015 8:07 pm

    So much for all the ultra-optimistic talk about making up ground against the Astros this series. They plain and simple have our number just like the A’s and Angels have in years past. We always seem to have that one team we cannot figure out.

  7. Westside guy on May 1st, 2015 8:38 pm

    Right now the Mariners are 10-13. There are a number of teams they currently “cannot figure out”.

  8. LongDistance on May 2nd, 2015 1:51 am

    Not much discussion here, other than a few stalwarts chipping in. Understandable. So I thought I’d share an early season ramble based on something I looked up out of curiosity. And how, in a funny way, it affected my thinking about this year.

    From Howard, down to the parking supervisor, there are about 240 people employed by the Mariners on the FO side. Of that, there are something like 18 personnel employed in Scouting and Player Development, of which 2 are identifiably (i.e. pretty sure) sabremetrics analysts. For those employed in corporate sales, sales, merchandising, communications, and marketing, there are 92 employees. I include Jack Z., because more often than not he’s the PR front man on anything other than specific game commentary, which is left to Lloyd. That’s very close to 40 percent of the staff. (I don’t include in that number anyone above Jack because, since end 2013–and notably–the Executive Suite has been next to silent.) They did not raise ticket prices for 2015 over 2014. A decision made–before any of the winter signings–by the sales and marketing staff analyzing the team. The Front Office knew/knows that ticket sales from one year to the next are based on the previous year’s results. And they knew that no matter how good fans felt about the August/September run, and how much could be spun up hypberbolically on player signings, Vegas betting spreads, and pundit/stat projections, their ticket pricing leverage is no better than it was previous to the 2014 season.

    For me, as a fan of professional baseball who would like to go to a game thinking there’s a reasonable chance I’ll see something like that, it’s comforting to know they know what a hole they’d dug themselves into and have restrained themselves from what they used to do: take the money and run. Or (which I always resented the worst) insulted ticket holders with the rational that the baseball atmosphere at Safeco was the more important part of what the ticket was buying, than the game being played. I persist: that’s a sea change in FO mentality.

    I can live with this team, warts and all. TGforFelix. We all knew the OF and offense was iffy, that the odometer’s spinning on Robbie, that Rodney’s a heart attack waiting to happen, that the bullpen has to do a hat trick of sorts. We don’t know what they really are, but they are certainly better than what they’re doing right now. At this point, I’m finding myself more interested in the particulars of how they’re going to finally start making it click. A combination of even two guys pulling their heads out, would probably do it.

    Who’s going to do it? At this point, it’s like tea leaves and the baseball gods.

  9. msfanmike on May 2nd, 2015 1:14 pm

    Maybe they need a good old fashioned brawl – kick some ass – gain a few bruises – circle the wagons – develop some common rallying point and become a “team.” They are not much of a team. They are a collection of dudes for the most part.

    They don’t gel. They kind just jog to first and turn to the right and sit down. In Zunino’s case it’s take strike one – kick the dirt 4 times and flail through the rest of an at bat.

    They have too many automatic outs and it’s killing independent George.

    They have enough talent to play better, but they are not overly talented, play with no fire in their ass and like it or not – a team takes on the personality of its best players. It’s not measurable, but it is a real thing. Only Cano can play on cruise control and his game is a bit frustrating for me to watch because I am a “grinder” at everything – including iPhone typing.

    Several guys need to play like their jobs are on the line. I would like to see more of that. Brock Holt, Altuve, Adam Eaton. Give me some of those guys to root for. I can appreciate that. Instead – I see a 70 win team with 85 win talent and flat line personalities.

    And Ackley needs to shave that shit. Look like a ballplayer. No idea what that means other than old dudes used to say that a lot when I was a young dude, so now in saying it. Whatever hits were in that beard have been used. Try something else b

  10. Woodcutta on May 2nd, 2015 3:54 pm


    I thought that was what the grit oozing from Bloomquist was for.

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