Game 54, Rays at Mariners
Roenis Elias vs. Erasmo Ramirez, 7:10pm
Old friend Erasmo Ramirez returns to Seattle tonight to take on one of the guys who replaced him in the Seattle rotation. Ramirez never really had a chance to crack the M’s in 2015, but that’s because he was never able to capitalize on a brilliant debut year in 2012. In 59 innings that year (and 8 starts), he wasn’t terribly consistent, but his change-up proved to be a plus offering, and his velocity was a better-than-advertised 94. For whatever reason, things fell apart quickly after that. He had some minor injuries, but he had them in 2012 as well. He became incredibly hittable, and hemorrhaged runs all of the sudden, in part because his breaking stuff never really improved.
More than that, though, he had – and has – two big problems. First, Erasmo’s always been awful with men on base. It’s the kind of problem that managers and others tend to psychologize, arguing it’s the product of a weak mind that can’t deal with pressure. I have no idea if that’s true, though I’m suspicious of it. Instead, it could be the result of issues pitching out of the stretch. Whatever the reason, though, Erasmo has allowed a slash line of .235/.310/.368 in his career with the bases empty. With anyone on, that rises to .279/.346/.467, and remember he’s spent most of his career in Seattle and the AL West. A number of pitchers tend to nibble a bit more with men on – maybe their walk rate will rise, but they give up fewer HRs. With Erasmo, essentially everything goes to pot. His HR rate is much *worse* with men on, AND his walk rate goes up, AND his K rate drops a bit. Even his GB rate drops markedly when there are men on, which is pretty important given that Erasmo’s given up almost nothing on the ground. His career OPS-against on grounders is .494. He gets into trouble when he gives up balls in the air, and he gets fewer grounders with men on, and got surprisingly few grounders overall in his tenure with the Mariners.
His other problem comes on the first pitch of at-bats. If batters put the first pitch in play, they’re hitting .392/.407/.700 off of Erasmo. The sample is obviously not huge (it’s 137 PAs), but that’s so striking, it makes you wonder. Erasmo fares much, much better in all at-bats that move through a 1-0 count. What’s going on? At the risk of doing some armchair psycho work myself, it may be that Erasmo’s so focused on getting ahead of hitters that he gets too much of the plate. After running comically low walk rates in the minors, control started to become an issue for him in the majors, particularly in 2013. Trying to avoid walks may have led him to overcorrect a bit on the first pitch. It’s too early to tell, but it looks like he’s doing a bit better job of avoiding the zone on his first pitch this year, though it’s been a down year overall for Ramirez.
2015 got off to about as bad a start as possible for Erasmo. He allowed 7 runs in 2 innings in his first start of the year, and came back 5 days later and allowed *9* runs in 3 1/3 IP. Banished to the pen after that, he was better, but he’s been fairly impressive since Tampa’s health woes have forced him back into the rotation. He’s made 5 starts since being moved back, and his RA/9 has been 3.13 over 23 IP. That’s…nothing much to talk about, but it’s a hell of a lot better than he started. Indeed, his season numbers still bear the scars of his first two appearances. Take them out, and his seasonal RA/9 is a very good 2.34. He’s coming off a strong start against the Orioles in which he tossed 7 scoreless innings, striking out 7 and walking just one. More intriguingly, Erasmo’s been generating ground balls again. This year, his GB% is 51.7%, up from 37.7% last year in Seattle. Erasmo ran out of time in Seattle, and I think the change of scenery may have been good for all involved. The M’s weren’t wrong to make the trade they made (they got Mike Montgomery in return), but I’d like to know a bit more about what Tampa’s done with him.
So, those breaking balls. In Seattle, Erasmo had a slider and curve he would always tinker with. Righties saw more of the slurvy stuff, while lefties got more change-ups. Because the change was simply a better pitch, he ran very slight reverse splits in Seattle. He wasn’t lost against righties, and had a better K:BB ratio, but gave up more HRs to righties than he did to lefties. And a big reason why was the lack of bite on his breaking balls. Righties hit 13 HRs off breaking balls – out of 17 total HRs. They slugged .556 on his slider and *.725* on his curve. Lefties have done some damage on Erasmo’s fastball, righties feasted on the bendy stuff. Roenis Elias’ curve has been a solid pitch, and thus he’s able to put away same-handed hitters very effectively – so effectively that he typically faces righty-stacked line-ups. Still, the curve functions pretty well against them, too, and that’s a big part of why he’s here and Erasmo’s in Tampa.
EDIT- Line-up changed; LoMo scratched.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Cano, 2B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Seager, 3B
5: Trumbo, 1B
6: Smith, RF
7: Miller, SS
8: Ackley, LF
9: Zunino, C
With Welington Castillo gone, the M’s have recalled Jesus Sucre. To make room on the active roster, OF Justin Ruggiano has been DFA’d. Odd decision, given that it seems to make Rickie Weeks and Trumbo your back-up OFs.
Tacoma beat New Orleans 6-1 last night, behind 8 scoreless innings from Sam Gaviglio. The red hot Jesus Montero homered in the first off of ex-Rainiers and M’s southpaw Travis Blackley. Tonight, Forrest Snow will start for the R’s against the Zephyrs’ Pat Misch.
Jackson beat Mississippi 6-3 last night, scoring 3 runs in the top of the 9th. Trevor Miller got the win in relief, and DJ Peterson doubled. Cuban lefty Misael Siverio starts tonight for the Generals, while Jake Brigham starts for the M-Braves.
Bakersfield returns home to face Visalia tonight with Dan Altavilla on the hill for the Blaze.
Clinton lost to Dayton 8-2, as Reds prospect Tyler Mahle threw 7 scoreless innings, giving up just 2 hits and striking out 8 Lumberkings. Another prospect starts for Dayton tonight – USC-product Wyatt Strahan, who has a great hard, heavy sinker, but never knew where it was going in college. He’s still walking a few too many, but he’s been effective overall. Pat Peterson gets the ball for Clinton.