Game 26, Mariners at Angels
King Felix vs. Matt Shoemaker, 7:05pm
Happy Felix Day. We need to stop celebrating these under such dour circumstances, but it’s nice all the same to be able to celebrate after a four-game intra-divisional sweep.
A sweep at the hands of the surging Astros has led to the first roster shake-up of the young season. After the game, the M’s sent Yoervis Medina and Tyler Olson to Tacoma, and have brought up SS/IF Chris Taylor and LHRP Joe Beimel to the big club. As Beimel wasn’t on the 40-man, that means there’s a DFA coming –
could be Lucas Luetge, could be moving LHP Edgar Olmos from the 15- to 60-day DL – aaaand the DFA is control-plagued LH starter Mike Kickham, who started yesterday’s Rainiers loss. Taylor’s been hot in Tacoma, and there’s some hope that he can add more with the bat than his so-so projections indicate, but he clearly makes the team a bit more flexible, as he can swap in for Brad Miller as necessary and is a better defensive SS than Bloomquist (and perhaps Miller). The move changes the size of the bench and bullpen, which makes some sense – Taylor’s no one’s idea of a pure bench bat, but it’s just better to be able to play match-ups on the bench as well as the bullpen. [EDIT: the Jackson DL/Lowe call-up re-jiggers things, so it looks like there won’t in fact be a shift towards position players. Ah well.]
In addition, CF Austin Jackson’s been placed on the 15 day dl with an ankle injury, and the M’s have brought in old friend Mark Lowe from Tacoma to take his 25-man spot. They still needed to make a 40-man move for *that*, and they’ve decided to place Julio Morban on the restricted list for “personal reasons.” Hmmm.
Ah, Matt Shoemaker. He came up in some of the preseason projection posts, and I was just comparing him to Collin McHugh over the weekend. Shoemaker famously came out of nowhere last year – from an org guy with a plus beard to an above-average AL starting pitcher with a plus splitter. I mentioned earlier that he had some interesting home/road splits; he was dominant at home, and fairly ordinary on the road – like a much more extreme version of Jered Weaver, a guy having his own struggles thus far. Maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise then that Shoemaker’s struggled in the early going, as he’s made three of his four starts on the road. That said, he gave up 2 road HRs (to the M’s, at Safeco), and gave up 2 at home (to the A’s). While his K:BB ratio is still quite good, it’s not quite where it was last year, and his BABIP is up substantially. As you’d gather from looking at his FIP, Shoemaker hasn’t been as bad as his 6.00 ERA would indicate, but he hasn’t been “an above average AL starting pitcher” either.
Last year, he used a mix of 1/4 four-seamers, 1/4 two-seamers, 1/4 splitters and 1/4 breaking balls (curve/slider). In the early going, he’s throwing a few more FBs, particularly four-seamers, though the difference isn’t huge. If anything, his fastballs have had better results. On the other hand, he gave up more HRs on his splitter in April this year than he did in the entire 2014 season. I don’t see any change in where he’s thrown them – hitters have simply done a bit more damage this year on seemingly identical pitches. The default explanation is that it’s noise – we have no way to disprove that, not with a handful of hits and just 3 HRs on it thus far. But it makes you wonder how far an out-of-nowhere guy can go by being essentially anonymous. Certainly by the end of the year, you’d figure teams would know a bit about Shoemaker’s arsenal and how he deployed it, but do you know how long advanced scouting takes to work? I don’t. It may not be about learning his pitches – it could be some sort of indication (either in tendencies or an outright physical difference in his motion) about what pitch is coming. In any event, it may soon be time for Shoemaker to make further adjustments.
Shoemaker probably can’t simply assume it’s SSS noise, which is one of the reasons why sabermetrics must seem like snake oil to many players. It’d be comforting to hear that a spate of HRs are “unlucky” or “noise” but that may not hold a lot of water with the manager. And the number crunchers probably can’t detect pitch-tipping as quick as a pitching coach/scout. The number-cruncher would simply say that at this stage, there’s no evidence one way or the other. The scout might offer something more immediate, something he can do *right now*. This isn’t to disparage either side – it’s possible the scouts can find something that really can be corrected quickly. It’s also possible the placebo effect of thinking about your motion helps, or that whatever change coincides with some regression, and that is interpreted as proof by the pitcher. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter, so long as a team’s got multiple people examining an issue from very different viewpoints. We’ll see what Shoemaker’s 2015 turns into. McHugh’s hit some bumps in the road, and has already made a fairly big change – ultimately, he’s looking OK. Will Shoemaker follow suit? If so, let’s hope he waits a week.
1: Smith, DH
2: Ruggiano, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, RF
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Ackley, C
9: Taylor, SS
That’s…not a great defensive OF, but hey, you’ve got Felix on the hill and his ground ball game, so maybe it works out.
Mike Montgomery faces off against ex-Astros pitcher and current Angels prospect Nick Tropeano tonight as the Rainiers face Salt Lake. The R’s lost 6-5 to Fresno yesterday; Chris Taylor was removed from the game after 2 ABs, which is why we’re all essentially assuming he’s been called up. Domingo Santana had a two-HR game for the Grizzlies, the latter a 3 run job that gave Fresno the lead. LHP Mike Kickham’s control problems continued, as he walked 7 in 4IP, bringing his season total to *28 walks* in 21 innings. That’s…problematic, and it’s undoubtedly what moved him to the front of the DFA queue. As a lefty with good velo, he’ll garner some interest, but as a guy who needs a roster spot and just walked 28 in 21 IP, I could see him slip through. We’ll see.
Pensacola shut down the Jackson Generals 5-1 yesterday; the Generals got their lone run in the 9th, after Jabari Blash’s 2nd double of the game. Still no DJ Peterson. The Generals played an early game today in which they nuked the Blue Wahoos 15-4. Blash and Jordy Lara hit HRs, and SS Tyler Smith hit 2 doubles.
Bakersfield got another extra-inning win against Visalia, winning 4-2 in 10, with Tyler Pike having another solid start. Carlos Misell takes the hill today as the Blaze face the Modesto Nuts.
Clinton beat Cedar Rapids 5-2 thanks to another strong start from Pat Peterson and a 3-run HR from Kristian Brito, the husky Puerto Rican 1B the M’s took in the 2012 draft (when they also nabbed Puerto Rican pitcher Edwin Diaz). Lukas Schiraldi gets the ball for the L-Kings today against Peoria.