Game 44, Mariners at Rays

marc w · May 25, 2015 at 1:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Roenis Elias vs. Jake Odorizzi, 4:10pm

The M’s loss yesterday pushed them behind the Rangers and into 4th place in the AL West. The Rangers’ surge hasn’t dented the M’s playoff odds that much, both because the Rangers are bad, and because it’s coincided with 2 straight losses by the Angels.

The M’s head to St. Petersburg today to face the surprising Rays, who currently lead the AL East. Many expected something of a rebuild this year from Tampa after losing David Price, Wil Myers AND GM Andrew Friedman over the past year. Instead, they’ve been remarkably solid in all phases of the game – a 101 wRC+ at the plate, a 6th-best ERA/10th-best FIP from the staff, and excellent defense. Ex-Mariner Rene Rivera was a known defensive asset, and Kevin Kiermaier may be one of the best defensive OFs in the game, but they’re getting defense from unlikely sources, like, er, ex-Mariner farmhand Asdrubal Cabrera. They currently sport the 2nd best BABIP-against/DER in baseball, behind only the Royals. This has been critical, as they’re already missing two of their better pitchers in Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly. Cobb’s been a brilliant but injury-prone starter for Tampa, but he’s still contributing to the club.

It was Cobb who taught today’s starter Jake Odorizzi a splitter, and changed the career trajectory of the young right-hander. Odorizzi was part of two huge trades (one for Greinke, one for Shields) but never had an outpitch. He seemed like a solid #4-5 guy, but nothing more. Worse, with a sub-par change-up, lefties destroyed him. Before the 2014 season, he picked up Alex Cobb’s split-change thing (both Cobb and Odorizzi actually call it ‘the Thing’) and began throwing it a lot. He threw about 1/3 splitters last season, and he’s actually begun 2015 by throwing *more* of them. He now throws it nearly 1/2 the time to lefties, and now instead of getting destroyed by lefties, he’s running reverse splits. The pitch isn’t perfect – it gets fewer whiffs and grounders than Cobb’s or Iwakuma’s splitters. He gave up 6 HRs on it last year, or one fewer than Iwakuma’s given up in his *career*. The pitch also helps Odorizzi balance his fly-ball heavy fastball. With a 11″ of rise and little in the way of horizontal movement, Odorizzi’s fastball is an extreme fly ball pitch, and you can see that in his overall stats: only Chris Young had a lower GB rate than Odorizzi last season. That’s led to some issues with HRs, and that may be what’s behind his changing use of the pitch.

This year, Odorizzi is throwing fewer fastballs, with lefties seeing a lot more splitters and righties seeing more cutters. He started moving away from his slider last year and towards a firmer cutter, and that transition’s essentially done this year – he’s not thrown any sliders. The cutter isn’t really a swing and miss pitch; Odorizzi seems to use it to generate weak contact. And because he uses it so much to righties, it’s a big reason for his odd platoon splits. Odorizzi doesn’t just have a better wOBA against or FIP vs. lefties – he looks like a different pitcher. Lefties strike out much more and walk less. His K-BB% was twice as good vs. lefties last year, and this year the gap’s even bigger. Instead of chasing Ks, it looks like he’s trying to limit HRs and hard contact, and thus far, he’s done so. Still, given his approach and his improving command, the M’s should really get as many *right* handed hitters in the line-up as they can.

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

Oh well.

The Rainiers dropped the finale of their series against the I-Cubs yesterday 7-4, as Cubs prospect Javier Baez knocked two HRs against R’s starter Sam Gaviglio. Jesus Montero and Pat Kivlehan homered for Tacoma, and Kevin Gregg pitched his 2nd scoreless inning since joining the team. The Rainiers played an early game today in Omaha, and lost a tough one. The Storm Chasers scored five runs in the bottom of the 8th to beat Mayckol Guaipe and the Rainiers 8-5. Forrest Snow started and pitched well before he lost his command all of the sudden in the 2nd. Logan Bawcom came in, got out of a bases loaded jam, and pitched another 3 innings after that.

Jackson reeled in the Pensacola Blue Wahoos 6-5. The Generals trailed 4-0 before mounting a comeback. Dan Paolini had a 2 run triple that gave Jackson the lead. More importantly, the game featured Jabari Blash pinch hitting for Jabari Henry, the best pinch-hit since Corey Hart pinch hit for the other Corey Hart back in 2005. Jimmy Gilheeney starts for Jackson today against Wandy Peralta of Pensacola.

High Desert held off Bakersfield yesterday in 11 innings despite HRs from Tim Lopes and Carlton Tanabe. Dan Altivilla pitched well, but the 3-4-5 hitters for Bakersfield went 0-11. Tyler Pike starts today for the Blaze.

Clinton was rained out yesterday, and they’re playing two today. Lukas Schiraldi went in game 1, and Jarrett Brown starts game 2 against Burlington.


17 Responses to “Game 44, Mariners at Rays”

  1. Dennisss on May 25th, 2015 3:10 pm

    I kind of like the idea of Smith-Ruggiano-Miller in the outfield, although today might not be the day for it. Rather than going with a rotation of five competent outfielders, the M’s find themselves with two — Smith and Ruggiano — and scratching for a third. Miller can hit. If he doesn’t hurt them defensively, he may be the best bet.

  2. Woodcutta on May 25th, 2015 4:24 pm

    Tampa also lost that Maddon guy.

  3. Notfromboise on May 25th, 2015 4:28 pm

    I’m loving Smith + Miller at the top of the order. This might be the first time this year Cano and Cruz came up to the plate in the first inning with runners on.

    Very encouraging, indeed.

  4. Dennisss on May 25th, 2015 4:53 pm

    Justin Smoak, Munenori Kawasaki, now Nick Franklin. It’s a reunion tour.

  5. Dennisss on May 25th, 2015 5:10 pm

    Three swinging strikeouts in one inning for Elias. Walker must see his stint in the big leagues passing before his eyes.

  6. ensignofcommand on May 25th, 2015 6:23 pm

    Now that’s a hustle double. Great baserunning by Smith.

  7. kaleyk on May 25th, 2015 6:39 pm

    Ackley is now 1 for 25 with RISP on the year … The one hit was a double against the A’s when Sam Fuld took a bad route.

  8. californiamariner on May 25th, 2015 8:19 pm

    Elias is a pretty good pitcher. M’s found something out of nowhere there.

  9. ck on May 25th, 2015 8:47 pm

    Mariner’s website states Jackson plays tomorrow, and Farquar to Tacoma. Ackley will last on the bench long past his expiration date, although the stench is obvious to all except the man, Z, who hung on to Smoak and Figgins et cetera

  10. Woodcutta on May 25th, 2015 9:23 pm

    Why is Jackson playing his first game back on AstroTurf?

  11. ensignofcommand on May 25th, 2015 9:55 pm

    Ack has value. He has some pop, he’s a good baserunner, he’s always been solid defensively and he can play multiple positions.

    Funny thing is if you go back and read all the reports about the M’s ’09 draft class, Ack was the surefire All-Star while Seager was viewed as the utility man.

    In retrospect, it makes sense that Seager would transition better from aluminum to wood. He’s stronger, more durable and his swing is shorter which leaves less room for error.

    More proof that you can’t just look at the numbers when evaluating prospects. Kyle was a career .353 hitter in college. Dustin hit .412.

  12. LongDistance on May 26th, 2015 2:32 am

    Theoretically Dustin Ackley has value. In practice though, all thayt he has of value is being underminded by how he is single-handedly taking away from the Mariners the lineup advantage an AL team has over an NL team.

    I don’t think you really meant to say that Ackley has value, when followed by a discussion on how he hasn’t lived up to expectations. That his history, is just that. I think you meant what everyone has meant, and for a long time: that Ackley normally should have value.

    But he doesn’t, because of that huge negative factor he represents.

    But then, that’s how I always feel about him at this time of the year. If the M’s can fibrilate themselves up above .500, and then hammer a couple of winning streaks together in July and August, and the atoms in Ackley’s bat then take form again, all will be more or less forgiven.

  13. ensignofcommand on May 26th, 2015 6:05 am

    No, I still think he has value as a utility man due to his defense and positional flexibility, but I’ve given up on him as a starter. His approach is horrible. Stares at fastballs down the middle and swings through breaking balls in the dirt. He’s capable of extended hot streaks but his valleys are so low they negate the peaks.

  14. kaleyk on May 26th, 2015 8:46 am

    While I might agree that Ackley has “some value”, recall that 2015 is a competitive year, not a developmental year. The M’s are not in need of a bench/utility guy that can run, play a little defense, bunt, etc. That’s what WFB is for. The M’s need hitting. If the team had some 700 OPS guys surrounding Cano/Cruz/Seager that would seriously change the offensive abilities of the lineup. Ackley’s 541 OPS along with 4 for 41 with runners on base isn’t cutting it in a competitive year.

  15. ck on May 26th, 2015 9:19 am

    As Captain Obvious, ( Ron Fairly ) was wont to say, “…remember, you can only have 25 men, on your 25 man roster! ” The M’s now have a six man bullpen. This team is now built with platoon splitters and bench bats. How many above average MLB Outfielders do they have?

  16. Westside guy on May 26th, 2015 11:19 am

    “This team is now built with platoon splitters and bench bats. How many above average MLB Outfielders do they have?”

    Let’s use the standard measure of WAR – wins above freely available talent, players who are supposed to be readily available to every team in the majors (except for the Mariners apparently).

    Well, there’s Nelson Cruz, and then there’s… I dunno. And he’s giving a huge amount of his value back by being played in the field (check out his UZR/150).

    Seth Smith has been worth 0.6 WAR. So that makes TWO. The rest are at replacement level or below! And THAT is the case even though they’re being platooned!!

    Now, let’s see how Brad Miller’s doing out there after a few dozen games – but moving him off shortstop seemed pretty dumb, the move of a desperate GM. By WAR, Brad was actually doing okay even at shortstop. Plus we’re not adding any value by moving him elsewhere, since Taylor is currently at -0.1 WAR.

  17. ck on May 26th, 2015 1:34 pm

    I agree with you that Nelson Cruz has been fantastic offensively. Miller needs to play, because he is currently hitting. And the rest, is sadly, hope for the best…

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