Game 40, Mariners at Orioles
JA Happ vs. Chris Tillman, 9:35am
Very nice win yesterday, as Roenis Elias continued to pitch far, far better in the bigs than his minor league track record would indicate. A reminder: When Elias was called up, he’d made 3 starts in Tacoma and had an ERA over 8 – he’d given up 15 runs in just shy of 16 innings. In the majors, he’s given up 10 in just shy of 33 innings. K:BB ratio in the PCL? 12:7. In the bigs? 25:9. He’s unrecognizable from the guy who scuffled, and I’m really, really glad. Elias has been a vital stabilizing force for a rotation that looked like it could spiral into disarray.
Today’s opponent is old M’s farmhand Chris Tillman. It’s been a bit over 4 years since he beat the M’s and noted that he felt a bit of extra motivation in facing the team that traded him away. At that point, he was a hard-throwing tools prospect who seemed to have little idea where the ball was going. While he was sorting out how to deal with the rest of the AL, he was fattening up on the Mariners. Even when he was bad (2009-2011) he was great against the M’s. Then, once his walk rate fell below 10%, he was solid-to-very-good against the league as a whole…but he was still gave the M’s fits. He’s gone from a Danny-Waechter-with-a-grudge to an All-Star In his career, he’s made 6 starts against Seattle, and he’s 6-0 with an ERA of 2 and 32 Ks to 9 walks. M’s batters are *slugging* .282 against Tillman, and that’s the one thing most other teams have done decently well against the righty.
In a sense, you could cut and paste everything I’ve written about the previous two O’s starters and it’d work for Tillman as well. At some point, it’s not a coincidence – this is a player type that the O’s prefer and seem to scout for. They’ve assembled a United Nations of fly-balling, rising-four-seamer guys who’ll give up HRs but “beat” their FIP. Yesterday I mentioned that Miguel Gonzalez is #1 in baseball since 2012 for the biggest (negative) gap between his ERA and FIP – and that Wei Yin Chen was just outside of the top 10. Well, Chris Tillman ranks #4. We talked about HR/9 rate, and how Gonzalez and Chen ranked highly as well (Gonzalez at #4, Chen at #10) – Tillman’s #11.
This shouldn’t really be a surprise, because they pitch similarly. Tillman’s four-seam fastball’s only 92 or so, but it has extremely high vertical “Rise” – #1 in baseball among qualified starters this year and last. With that kind of movement, you pretty much know that Tillman’s never going to be a ground ball guy, so his fly ball rates fit in nicely with his teammates Gonzalez and Chen. Like them, that’s helped push his BABIP down, and that’s one reason why his career ERA is significantly lower than his FIP. Another thing that helps is an absence of platoon splits. Against righties, he’s got a cutter and a curve ball, but he’ll also throw a change every once in a while. To lefties, he’ll stick mostly with the curve and change. The curve’s a weapon, and scouts have been talking about since just before the M’s drafted him out of a California HS. Lefties have struggled with it, but they’ve also done a bit worse on his fastball. A true over the top four-seamer shouldn’t have much in the way of platoon splits, but it’s possible there’s some deception in his delivery to lefties that’s led to a significantly higher HR rate against *righties* than southpaws.
1: Smith, RF
2: Miller, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Castillo, C
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Ackley, CF
9: Taylor, SS
Welcome to the club, Welington Castillo.
Mike Montgomery leads Tacoma against the Iowa Cubs and Felipe Paulino today.
Edwin Diaz makes his second AA start. He scuffled a bit against the loaded Tennessee Smokies; we’ll see how he fares against Pensacola, the Southern League’s most hapless offense.
The Bakersfield Blaze take on Stockton again behind Carlos Misell. Stockton won last night 8-6, as the Blaze bullpen faltered after a solid start from Tyler Pike. Guillermo Pimentel went 4-5 and Martin Peguero homered in a losing effort.
Zack Littell makes his second start for Clinton. Like Diaz, he was roughed up in his first, but unlike Diaz, Littell has to make his second appearance against his league’s BEST offense, Quad Cities. Clinton won last night 7-6, torching the River Bandits bullpen after starter Akeem Bostick held them in check for 7 innings. Estarlyn Morales homered, and then the L-Kings got a walk-off walk in the 9th to win it.