Game 32, Padres at Mariners

marc w · May 12, 2015 at 5:31 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Ian Kennedy, 7:10pm

Everything feels better after an intra-division sweep. Dave had a great article on the star-crossed A’s and their horrible luck at Fangraphs yesterday, but it’s worth your time. You get much the same picture by looking at raw team stats – the A’s have a team wRC+ of 101, and are scoring 4.6 runs per game. The M’s, thanks to a poor OBP, are at 94 and 3.8, respectively. For pitching, the M’s have a better K:BB ratio, but the A’s edge in HRs-allowed means they’ve got the superior team FIP. They’re both awful by UZR, but the A’s have a sizable advantage in DER. The A’s even have the edge in run differential. They looked out of sorts for the reasons Dave highlighted (awful performance in high leverage situations), but they aren’t awful. This isn’t to minimize what the M’s did this past weekend – it magnifies it. The M’s swept a decent club, a team that won’t be in the cellar the whole year. In a tight division, that has added meaning.

Today, the new-look Padres come to town with their overhauled roster and high expectations. They’re currently second in the NL West behind the juggernaut in Los Angeles, and they’ve done it through a combination of A’s-like sequencing luck and solid raw power. It’s kind of interesting that both the M’s and Padres – two teams that inhabit extremely HR-suppressing parks – find themselves in the top half of the league in ISO this season. It’s not THAT surprising, given that both teams very consciously sought to improve that aspect of their club, but the M’s have been trying for years without a lot to show for it. The Padres compressed years of personnel moves into one incredible off-season, as new GM AJ Preller made blockbuster trade after blockbuster trade. Instead of hoping that Chase Headley’s power comes back, the Padres now have Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris and Matt Kemp in the middle of the order. Upton and Norris have been great thus far, and Myers’ start is much more reminiscent of his 2013 than his 2014. On the other hand, Will Middlebrooks has disappointed again, and Matt Kemp’s slow start in the field and the plate have him near the bottom of the league in WAR. It’s all added up to a team scoring 4.64 runs per game, good for 7th in baseball, right behind the Twins (?) and just ahead of the A’s.

Unfortunately, the offense isn’t the only group that’s getting used to more in-game power. The pitching staff has the second worst HR rate in baseball, and therefore an abysmal FIP. While their ERA is a bit better than that, 4.07 in 2015, playing half your games in Petco is simply not getting it done. Ian Kennedy is one of the prime offenders (along with James Shields), giving up 5 HRs in less than 20 innings thus far. Kennedy went 21-4 for Arizona in 2011, using a located 91mph fastball, a curve and a good change-up to a solid season that looked even better than that by “wins” and ERA. He wasn’t able to maintain that level of performance, as HR issues plagued him occasionally, and the D-Backs cut bait, shipping him to San Diego for a lefty reliever and an A-ball closer. Kennedy rebounded with a brilliant 2014 and was the subject of lots of trade rumors down the stretch. The Pads ended up keeping him but this is his last arb year; Kennedy will likely be a free agent at the end of 2015.

Like a number of other pitchers, Kennedy’s fastball has actually gotten *faster* since his career year of 2011. It’s now around 93, thrown from a lower angle, giving it run along with plenty of vertical rise. That rise has helped push his GB rates down below 40% for pretty much his entire career, but he’s up around 47% in the early going this year. That doesn’t seem to be related to any changes in his pitches; it may just be the result of keeping his fastball lower than he did in the past. In 2011, Kennedy’s out pitch was his change, which he threw at 81, and which he used as his putaway pitch to *right handers*. It’s always had great whiff rates, and it still does, but he’s liable to make mistakes with it. He’s given up 27 HRs on the change in his career, which has pushed his ISO on the pitch up, despite the fact that he uses it more in favorable counts.

Since 2011, his FB velocity’s up over 1mph, but the real change has come with his, uhhhh, change. These days, it’s touching 85. It was up 3mph from 2013 to 2014, and it’s maintained (and even extended) those gains in 2015. He’s given up 2 HRs on it out of 40 total cambios though, so it’s not like the velocity has cured his tendency to hang the odd pitch. In his career, he’s got essentially zero platoon splits – by wOBA and FIP, there’s just nothing there. A four-seamer and change-up-heavy pitch mix is part of the reason, as is his curve ball, which looks great despite the fact he doesn’t throw too many of them. It’s not imperative to stack the line-up with lefties, but it IS imperative that the M’s look for and punish fastballs that stray over the heart of the plate and centered change-ups.

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

Still no Hisashi Iwakuma, who won’t start throwing for another 10-14 days, apparently. Roenis Elias has been solid in his stead, but man, the M’s could really use another top-flight starter. James Paxton, if you wanted to start pitching the way you did last year, this would be a good time.

Jeff’s got a fun article about Carlos Peguero’s strangely solid start this year in Arlington. As I mentioned over there, while the patience and swing rate are new, and real improvements, we still haven’t seen Peguero fix his old struggles with velocity. At this point, Peguero *still* hasn’t hit a HR on a pitch over 90mph. I took a look at a random smattering of hitters at Baseball Savant and looked at their slugging percentage on contact. For pitches between 90-94, Nelson Cruz is up over .700, and Brad Miller and even Chris Taylor are over .500. Dustin Ackley looks shaky at .432, but Peguero comes in last at an absurd .310. But what happens when he look at pitches thrown between 80-90? Now it’s Peguero at the top of the heap, with a SLG% over .800. I would honestly be happy for Carlos if he keeps up this weird poor man’s John Jaha thing going for a going-nowhere Rangers ballclub. Still, I think it’s going to be tough to hack it if you can’t drive even mediocre fastball velocity. Punishing mistakes is great, and not swinging at balls is even better, but this flaw may still be a fatal one in a league with record high average velos and ever-improving advanced scouting.

The story in the M’s affiliates last night was Danny Hultzen’s second start, this time against Biloxi (who hired radio guy Chris Harris away from Jackson). Hultzen went 2 2/3 IP, giving up 2 runs on 4 hits and 3 walks. He struck out 2. Jimmy Gilheeney was again brilliant in long relief, and the Generals won the game 8-3. DJ Peterson went 2-4 with a 2B. Misael Siverio starts tonight for the Generals against Tyler Wagner of the Shuckers. Wagner’s a 2012 4th rounder who’s cruised through the minors, posting great ERAs and extremely low HR totals thanks to a very good sinker. He finished 2nd in the FSL last year to uberprospect Tyler Glasnow, but Wagner’s never going to get a lot of hype thanks to a lack of Ks (and the bat-missing stuff that produces them). Sickels had him as the #8 Brewers prospect, for what it’s worth.
DJ Peterson’s brother, who plays for high-A Carolina in the Braves organization, was on the bus that flipped over in a late-night accident last night. He, and the rest of the team, seems to be OK, but tonight’s game has been postponed.

The Rainiers built a big lead and got 7 great innings from Justin Germano, but had to hold on for a 9-7 win over Fresno. Dominic Leone’s AAA debut didn’t go too well, as he gave up 4 runs on a Jon Singleton grand slam in his one inning of work. Yoervis Medina pitched the 9th, and gave up a solo HR of his own, this one to Luis Flores. John Hicks and Leury Bonilla homered off of Grizzlies starter/ex-A’s starter Dan Straily. Sam Gaviglio takes on Andrew Heaney of Salt Lake tonight at 6:05.

Edwin Diaz gave up 2 runs (on 2 HRs) in 6 IP, but Visalia came back to beat Bakersfield in extras. Tyler O’Neill hit his 7th HR, and Tyler Marlette’s slump continued with another 0-4. Bakersfield’s gotten amazing pitching, but their *team* OPS is under .600. In the California League. That’s…well, it’s last in the league by a mile, of course. The team with the shortest CF wall that I’ve heard of has a slugging percentage of .309. Onward and upward though – tonight Ryan Yarbrough faces off with John Richy of Rancho Cucamonga.

Clinton topped Wisconsin yesterday 8-3, getting Eddie Campbell a win in his first appearances of the season. Alex Jackson had a double and 3 RBIs, and the L-Kings got HRs from Kristian Brito and Taylor Zeutenhorst, a 34th rounder out of Iowa last year who was playing his first game for Clinton since moving down from Bakersfield. The L-Kings played Wisconsin this morning, and came away with another win – this one by a score of 4-3. Brito homered again, his 3rd on the year, and Joe DeCarlo doubled. Jeferson Medina had his best start of the year, yielding just 1 hit (but he walked 5) in 6 scoreless IP. The L-Kings scored 2 off of Wisconsin starter Cy Sneed, whose name and visage mark him as someone dropped into uniform directly from 1895. The Brewers apparently had a rule about lawless frontier-style mustaches in their affiliated minors, but that picture shows him in uniform this year, so maybe the Brewers had a change of heart.

In other, sadder, M’s minors news, Daniel Missaki, the Brazilian kid who started Clinton’s team no-hitter a few weeks back just had Tommy John surgery today. He (and Ramire Cleto) had the procedure in Seattle, according to Bob Dutton of the TNT.


26 Responses to “Game 32, Padres at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on May 12th, 2015 6:36 pm

    In Dave’s article it’s also interesting that, in terms of Base Runs and/or “clutch” pitching, the Mariners are exactly where their cumulative performances indicate they should be. That’s probably not a surprise… more just confirmation of what we’ve seen on the field so far.

  2. Notfromboise on May 12th, 2015 6:42 pm

    We were spoiled for so long with Ichiro. No matter how much Zunino and Taylor struggle, I still get the sinking feeling the top of the order not getting on base is the real fly in the ointment this year.

    Oh and the bullpen. 1000x the bullpen. Regression in spades.

    On a bright note, I like the idea brought up on the podcast: Astros are fools gold, and we’re holding serve while we struggle against the teams that really matter: As and Angels.

  3. Dennisss on May 12th, 2015 7:25 pm

    Kennedy doesn’t seem to have it so far.

  4. Dennisss on May 12th, 2015 7:27 pm

    OK, I wrote that just before Seager homered. Maybe the M’s can have one of those games where you just relax and enjoy.

  5. mrakbaseball on May 12th, 2015 7:30 pm

    Bring Back the Trident and Bring Back the Brown!

  6. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 7:47 pm

    Find the strike zone please!

  7. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 8:45 pm

    That is ALOT of money striking out back to back with the bases loaded…. ugh

  8. Kazinski on May 12th, 2015 8:46 pm

    What’s wrong with this crew? The ump has called 7 balls that were completely in the zone, and another 7 that were right on the black. That terrible strike call on Cano, hasn’t shown up on the fangraphs widget yet, but it was terrible too.

  9. Woodcutta on May 12th, 2015 8:51 pm

    When will the umpires stop making it about themselves? There is no reason for an ump to start walking toward a player especially when they are walking away.

  10. ensignofcommand on May 12th, 2015 9:12 pm

    They should play Ack in CF full-time going forward. Ajax is a free agent after this year and he’s declined significantly over the past three seasons.

    If Ack can stick in center his bat (or lack thereof) becomes less of an issue.

  11. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 9:31 pm

    C’mon Danny! don’t turn this into a nail biter!!

  12. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 9:32 pm

    Pitching change please, before this gets out of hand, Farquhar is not very good.

  13. Kazinski on May 12th, 2015 9:37 pm

    Zunino already had a .709 OPS in May before tonight. He’s rocking gaudy .289 Obp on 0 BB, and 2 HBP.

    His May OPS must be up over .800 after tonight.

  14. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 9:42 pm

    It really feels like no one has the ability to throw strikes tonight.

  15. Kazinski on May 12th, 2015 9:53 pm

    Why would you play Ackley in CF full-time? Jackson has been a huge disappointment and he is still a better player than Ackley offensively and defensively.


  16. nvn8vbryce on May 12th, 2015 9:56 pm

    5 homers? Who are these guys?

  17. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 10:00 pm

    5 homers in SAFECO! to be exact! that never happens.

  18. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 10:10 pm

    Ok thats 6 home runs now, Can we save some for tomorrow please!

  19. nvn8vbryce on May 12th, 2015 10:11 pm

    I was thinking the same thing… We need some firepower tomorrow too…

  20. Kazinski on May 12th, 2015 10:12 pm

    6 homers, and it’s on a cool damp night. I wonder if the M’s put the balls in a dessicator before the game.

  21. Grayfox3d on May 12th, 2015 10:18 pm

    Someone better check to see if the balls are properly inflated… ok that was a stupid joke I know.

  22. Kazinski on May 12th, 2015 10:29 pm

    Coincidentally MLB came out with new procedures that the balls need to be taken down from the umpires room by security personnel, instead of clubhouse attendants, just to make sure a deflategate like incident doesn’t happen.

  23. mksh21 on May 12th, 2015 10:36 pm

    if the season ended today, Cruz 1 RBI from the triple crown. Amazing.

  24. ensignofcommand on May 13th, 2015 2:14 am


    Ack’s been a significantly better hitter when playing CF. Coming into the game he was .282/.340/.441/.781 career, and .286/.333/.571/.905 this season.

    Granted it could be (and likely is) small sample size theater, but there are instances of players who for whatever reason bat better while playing certain positions.

    Jackson is down for at least another week and won’t be coming back next year. Plus, we already know what he is. Ack’s had 2,000 PAs, but they’ve been spread across five seasons of position changes, demotions and promotions. He had a decent season last year and if he can find his inner Alex Gordon and learn to hit while playing a serviceable CF, it frees up LF for Smith/Ruggiano.

    I’m willing to roll the dice and give him the shot. At the very least until Ajax comes off the DL.

  25. Woodcutta on May 13th, 2015 3:23 am

    The only issue with Ackley in CF is that Cruz will be in RF and there will be games with Weeks in LF. Ackley doesn’t cover nearly enough ground to make up for the corners.

  26. Edgar Suzuki Jr. on May 13th, 2015 2:47 pm

    Ack in center would also free up LF for the Smith/Ruggiano platoon so Justin Upton could play RF. I imagine Upton and Cruz can swap RF/DH duties.

    J-Up, take a nice look around SafeCo and get comfortable. He definitely got to witness last night what right-handers can do in Seattle…

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