Game 57, Rays at Mariners

marc w · June 7, 2015 at 11:47 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Montgomery vs. Chris Archer, 1:10pm

How does a pitcher go from “great prospect” to legitimate MLB ace? It seems there are a few paths, from the Roy Halladay style early implosion, followed by regrouping, followed by dominance; to the King Felix style early dominance, then a long period where the results don’t match the royal stuff, followed by figuring stuff out and ascending to the throne; to the Corey Kluber/Carlos Carrasco thing, with a period of “possible 4th starter” and then suddenly, like flipping a switch, “Cy Young candidate.” Baseball itself is unpredictable, but the deeper you look it, the deeper the weirdness goes. What the hell got into Kluber, and can anyone replicate that? This year, we’ve seen Chris Archer ascend to the ranks of baseball’s elite, and he’s done a modified version of Felix’s path – Archer was never the elite prospect that Felix (or even Mike Montgomery) was, but he had impressive stuff – great velocity and the makings of a good slider. After a so-so debut in 2012, Archer’s been an above average starter since 2013, and that seemed like a clear success for the Rays development staff. In his mid-20s, Archer was a good #3 on a good rotation, and while the velo was impressive, I’m just not sure anyone saw a great deal more development in him.

After a great start to the year, Archer ran into some trouble in early May. He walked four in back-to-back games, and wasn’t as unhittable as he’d been through much of April. And then, suddenly, the switch flipped. We all remember what happened the last time he faced the M’s on May 25th: 8IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 12Ks. He followed that up with another dominant effort against the Angels – another 8 innings, 1R, 0BB and a career-best 15Ks. Sure, it’s early, and sure, small sample size and all of that. But Archer’s FIP is 3rd best in baseball, and his command seems to be improving. You don’t luck your way into a 15K, no walk game, and looking at the list of players who’ve had games like that shows Archer is in some illustrious company and..wait, what? How did Sterling Hitchcock get into this club?

Archer was originally drafted by the Indians in 2006, and was included as part of the deal that sent Mark DeRosa from the Cubs to Cleveland. At the time, he was essentially a lottery ticket – great arm, but couldn’t find the plate at all, and thus a guy who struggled with his consistency. With the Cubs, the raw runs-allowed results were much improved, but the walk rate was still pretty ugly. Then, in 2011, he was traded again, this time as a secondary part of the deal that sent Matt Garza to Chicago. That deal netted Tampa several starters. In addition to Archer, they got Brandon Guyer, who’s starting today, as well as Sam Fuld and C Robinson Chirinos. But the big piece in that deal wasn’t Archer, it was SS Hak-Ju Lee, who would be ranked as baseball’s 44th best prospect in 2012. Archer was way down at #89. Incidentally, Mike Montgomery was way up at #23 back then.

So, for Archer to improve his command to the point where he could be a solid #3, or #2 if everything was going right, was something of an upset and an impressive transformation in its own right. From there, a few things seem to have changed. First, he ditched the sinker that had been his most-used fastball in 2014. Now, like most of his teammates, he’s sticking with a hard 4-seamer with 10+” of rise. Then, he’s tweaked his slider – a pitch he throws a *ton* of to righties and lefties alike. It’s successful against lefties/righties in part because it has so much drop. It moves horizontally a bit, but it’s the drop – about a foot lower than his FB – that helps explain Archer’s lack of platoon splits. This year, he’s added about 1-2mph on the pitch; it’s not a cutter-ish 89mph on average. That’s sacrificed a bit of that vertical drop, but it’s made it harder to hit. His whiff rate on the slider is over 40%, and he can throw it in the zone at will. We talked about the splitter’s effectiveness at generating out-of-zone swings, but Archer demonstrates another way to get to the same place: with splitter-ish drop and great command, batters swing at over 53% of his sliders (vs. about 40% of his fastballs), and still come up empty all the time. As with the splitter, when they DO make contact, a ground ball’s the most likely outcome, and thus Archer has a better-than-50% GB rate despite a fastball that looks like Chris Tillman’s.

One potential red flag, and something Eno Sarris mentioned here, is that Archer throws the slider a lot. I mean, a *lot*. Only Tyson Ross has thrown it more often this year, and a look back at high-slider usage hurlers in recent years shows a hell of a lot of injured pitchers. Of course, literally any list of pitchers will include plenty of injured pitchers – it’s what pitchers *do*. The list also includes Madison Bumgarner, Corey Kluber and Clayton Kershaw, so it may be worth the risk…if sliders actually are more of a risk than any other type of pitch.

1: Jackson, CF
2: Smith, LF
3: Cruz, RF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Trumbo, DH
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Miller, SS
8: Bloomquist, 2B
9: Sucre, C
SP: Montgomery

Cano gets a day off today, with Bloomquist replacing him at 2B.

Danny Farquhar makes his 2nd start for Tacoma today, opposite Nik Turley of Sacramento. [EDIT – as reader Jake points out, Farquhar pitched 2 IP in last night’s game, so perhaps that’s another experiment that the M’s have quietly abandoned. Anyway, Justin Germano is the actual starter of today’s game, no matter what says. Curto has the real scoop.] The RiverCats beat Tacoma 4-2, scoring all four of their runs in the 6th. Franklin Gutierrez homered off of Jake Peavy to account for the Rainiers 2 runs. Gutierrez now has an OBP of .417, and it is still a cosmic injustice that he can’t stay healthy.

Chattanooga topped Jackson 4-1, despite a solid start from Edwin Diaz. Scott DeCecco starts today against Twins prospect/2010 first-rounder Alex Wimmers.

Visalia and Bakersfield went to extras yet again, with Visalia pushing the winning run across in the 13th last night. The Blaze tied it at 2 in the bottom of the 9th on a Guillermo Pimentel HR, but Visalia’s Fidel Pena hit a solo HR in the 13th to win it. Bakersfield’s best performer was reliever Paul Fry, who threw 3 scoreless innings, giving up 1 hit, no walks and 8 strikeouts. Eddie Campbell takes the mound for Bakersfield against Anthony Banda, a D-Backs prospect who came to the Arizona org as part of the Gerardo Parra trade.

Clinton lost to Bowling Green 4-2. Zack Littell got the loss for the Lumberkings, despite striking out 10 (against no walks) in 6 IP. Today’s pitching match-up features Jefferson Medina of Clinton opposite what-a-name righty Hyrum Formo. That’s… that’s just outstanding.


34 Responses to “Game 57, Rays at Mariners”

  1. Jake on June 7th, 2015 11:59 am

    Farquhar pitched two innings in relief for Tacoma last night, so I’ll be really surprised if he starts this game.

  2. Westside guy on June 7th, 2015 12:35 pm

    So, basically, the Mariners are exactly the sort of high-K, aggressive swingers that guys like Archer eat for lunch… is that what you’re saying?

  3. marc w on June 7th, 2015 12:56 pm

    Thanks Jake – I fixed it.

    Westside – the M’s aren’t your typical free-swingers. They swing at fewer pitches than the average team, actually – the Royals are the real free swingers. The problem is that the Royals can *hit the ball* whereas the M’s struggle with that portion of the process. The M’s contact rate is 28th in baseball. But fundamentally, you’re right. The M’s beat up on pitch-to-contact guys and struggle against high-K pitchers.

  4. Dennisss on June 7th, 2015 1:13 pm

    Even with Cano out and Bloomquist and Sucre playing, that’s not a bad lineup. At least you have a respectable 1-7. If Cano ever comes around, that’s 8 plus Zunino.

    Sigh. It still seems like these guys shouldn’t be as bad as they are.

  5. Dennisss on June 7th, 2015 1:28 pm

    That was a Rodneyesque first half inning. Better now than in the ninth.

  6. msfanmike on June 7th, 2015 2:19 pm

    Runners on first and third with no outs: 6 pitches – 2 K’s (Seager and Trumbo) … And a caught stealing (of Cruz) for the third out.

    No words left.

  7. okinawadave on June 7th, 2015 2:20 pm

    They are running out of ways to blow a runner on third with no outs. Someday they’re going to accidentally score.

  8. Utis on June 7th, 2015 2:48 pm

    Why send the runner with Cruz on deck? Stop giving away outs on the bases

  9. enazario on June 7th, 2015 2:54 pm

    They are 23 for 55 in stolen base department. They should stop trying to steal regardless of who’s in deck.

  10. enazario on June 7th, 2015 3:01 pm

    They are 23 for 55 in stolen base department. They should stop trying to steal regardless of who’s in deck. They suck at it.

  11. ivan on June 7th, 2015 3:11 pm

    Tying run in scoring position, trailing by one with 2 out in the 8th, Ackley and Cano on the bench, and he lets Willie hit?

  12. bookbook on June 7th, 2015 3:15 pm

    Yeah, but Terry Crowley wasn’t available, so with the PH penalty none of those guys was more likely to get a hit than the great clutchy one, his own self.

  13. Utis on June 7th, 2015 3:21 pm

    So that’s how it’s done. Rays show the M’s how to score a runner from third.

  14. WestyHerr on June 7th, 2015 3:30 pm

    Rays scored avg 1.75 runs over 4 days and took 3 of 4

  15. ivan on June 7th, 2015 3:31 pm

    Duh. I meant the 7th, not the 8th.

  16. WestyHerr on June 7th, 2015 3:44 pm

    Fire McClaren and Zavasi

  17. Westside guy on June 7th, 2015 3:49 pm

    I was really hoping my early comment would serve as a reverse whammy, but I guess I don’t have the right mojo.

  18. BoomBoom on June 7th, 2015 4:07 pm

    Why did Ackley not pinch run for Trumbo at 2nd base with two outs? Trumbo is never going to score from second on a sharply hit line drive.

    Or even Cano? Unless Miller had walked, they were never going to get to Cano, but I think Ackley makes more sense there.

    On Friday night with the tying run on 3rd and one out, Lloyd chose to let Zunino flail away, with predictable results, rather than have Willie pinch-hit. The one thing Willie does well, bunt, could have tied the game with a squeeze.

    I’m micromanaging here, it’s true, but…can someone explain those two moves, in those situations, for a team that is struggling to score runs?

    I am genuinely perplexed.

  19. mrakbaseball on June 7th, 2015 4:16 pm

    The draft is tomorrow and hopefully Zduriencik is let go not too long after. Bavasi was fired in June and hopefully the same will happen to Jack.

  20. WestyHerr on June 7th, 2015 4:42 pm

    You remember at the end of Superman II when Superman depowers the villains at the Ice Fortress even though Superman goes into the crystal chamber himself? That’s what happens when you put on a Mariners uniform – you lose your powers.

  21. Westside guy on June 7th, 2015 5:09 pm

    In a way, the Mariners are lucky – the only AL team with a worse record than them is Oakland. In any other division they’d be in last place.

    I know they’re not playing up to their talent level, but we’re more than a third of the way through the 2015 season. They need to start thinking about what they want this year to be, because the odds are pretty strong that they won’t be able to climb over all those teams ahead of them – we’re not talking about a team that was thought to have 100-win talent (or even 90 win talent).

  22. mrakbaseball on June 7th, 2015 5:33 pm

    They will have to play like a 100 win team just to get to 90. The cards have been dealt.

  23. kaleyk on June 7th, 2015 6:14 pm

    JackZ has provided the field manager the opportunity to field a pretty decent major league lineup. The roster isn’t perfect but it’s pretty decent. The players simply are not producing runs. Hard to criticize JackZ or LloydM about that. If Cano has gone Figgins, I guess that speaks to JackZ’s talent evaluation.

    That said, I would like to hear JackZ defend Weeks over Ruggiano; and how long is he going to have “confidence” in Ackley. For McLendon, he needs to recognize there are no base stealers on this team. Stop giving away outs on the base path, accept the danger of the double play, and register outs at the plate.

    I’m not sure how to solve the offensive woes but I doubt firing anyone is the answer.

  24. Mariner.lovechild on June 7th, 2015 6:38 pm

    their base running is so annoying – it’s like every box score I check has 2 caught stealing.

  25. Woodcutta on June 7th, 2015 6:45 pm

    I don’t think I’ve seen or heard anyone criticize Z or McClendon for Cano’s recent downward spiral. Choosing Ackely, Weeks, and Bloomquist over Ruggiano is really inexcusable and many have criticized Z for that decision and rightfully so. Continuing to run Rodney out there just b/c he is “the closer” is all on McClendon. Oh, and Zunino is hitting .170. That is just unacceptable but he has to be the starting catcher b/c the M’s don’t really have better options which would be on…Z. At some point when players aren’t performing there needs to be a change and considering the M’s minors aren’t exactly flush with talent I vote Z.

  26. dc24 on June 7th, 2015 9:07 pm

    To be fair, the caught stealing by Cruz was when he purposely got in a rundown to try and score the run from third. He was tagged out before Smith crossed the plate.

    I think Smith might have actually been the one to mess that up.

  27. Westside guy on June 7th, 2015 9:13 pm

    If you go to FanGraphs and sort teams according to baserunning, the Mariners are ranked 29th out of 30 teams.

    What’s hard to fathom is how the White Sox could possible be significantly worse… but they apparently are.

    Baserunning stupidity can occasionally be due to player brain farts, as we’ve seen… but when they suck as a group, it’s probably on the manager. Problem is, last season they were significantly better – and that was with the same manager. The only thing I can think of is perhaps Lloyd is strategically inflexible (which I can easily believe), and last year’s roster just happened to be better at base stealing than this year’s group.

  28. GhostofMarinersPast on June 7th, 2015 10:00 pm

    While I feel the same as everyone else that is confused, angry and frustrated that we are once again dealing with this sort of shit season, I would like to point out a bright spot. Montgomery was good for the second time in a row. If he ends up being for a real it wouldn’t be the first time a once great prospect who’s star had faded finally found his big league stuff. At the very least maybe he pitches his way into having value as a trade chip when we inevitably become sellers in just over a month

  29. eponymous coward on June 7th, 2015 11:03 pm

    . If Cano has gone Figgins, I guess that speaks to JackZ’s talent evaluation.

    He hasn’t gone Figgins, because Figgins was bad his first year as an M (and went from “bad” to “horrific” from there). Cano played well last year.

    The word you’re looking for is “gone Sexson”- who was pretty good, and then whoops got old.

    The scary part is some of Cano’s comps (Nomahhh, Chase Utley, Bret Boone, David Wright) started falling apart in their early to mid-30’s. So this could indeed be the first signs of the odometer going over the warranty. Good thing he’s under contract for 24 million a year until 2023!

    Cano going in the toilet + Zunino not developing but regressing instead + OF still in flux + bullpen being bullpen (aka streaky and regressing to mean) + rotation getting injured… OK, well there went that 90 win projection. It happens. Nobody wins pennants off of ZIPS projections.

    “At some point when players aren’t performing there needs to be a change and considering the M’s minors aren’t exactly flush with talent I vote Z.”

    Firing Z means his holdovers aren’t going to be around too long, so that de facto means “fire McLendon”.

  30. Seatt101 on June 8th, 2015 11:12 am

    I think I may find myself in a minority again but wonder how big or small this minority maybe?
    Why do we want to sack Jack Z?
    Every commentator on this site and nationally thought the Mariners were structured in a way which was good to go this season. Its the team that has malfunctioned and that may or may not be also be a (mis)management issue.
    Fire Jack Z if you feel that makes you feel good but how can he be at fault for the way the team has played so far. Indeed if the team ever heats up as Lloyd will have us all believe would we re-hire Jack Z because we had acted wrongly in firing him?
    In my opinion I think a root and branch evaluation of how we turn talented prospects into below league average fodder is far more relevant; not one of the minor league teams is doing well and the elite prospects are all having below average years so far.
    I suggest we bring up Montero and Kivlehan for Ackley and Weeks; I would still like to sit Zunino too notwithstanding Hicks / Baron are no less up to it than Mike at present.

  31. eponymous coward on June 8th, 2015 3:21 pm

    I suggest we bring up Montero and Kivlehan for Ackley and Weeks; I would still like to sit Zunino too notwithstanding Hicks / Baron are no less up to it than Mike at present.

    Part of the problem with the team is rushing prospects; Zunino was clearly rushed. So, we’re going to fix that by brining up Kivlehan, who’s hitting 244/.294/.468 in Tacoma, some really unimpressive numbers?

    (Montero I don’t really mind as much, but he’s not all that either. Until you’re slugging .500 in the PCL, you’re not hitting for power.)

  32. mrakbaseball on June 8th, 2015 3:46 pm

    Seatt101, are you really advocating keeping Zduriencik?

  33. Seatt101 on June 8th, 2015 6:46 pm

    I am as frustrated with Jack as you but believe that his sacking will not improve the performance of the team which nearly every respected commentator predicted to be a playoff team.
    So yes I guess I am?

  34. eponymous coward on June 9th, 2015 7:46 am

    Well, Zduriencik’s in his seventh year as a GM. He has two years over .500 in that time.

    Bill Bavasi netted four years over .500 in ten and a half years as a GM of the Angels and Mariners.

    At what point are we allowed to come to a conclusion that Zdurienick’s not a very good GM, and someone who doesn’t deserve to have a job in MLB, if we’ve been able to come to the conclusion that Bavasi’s not a very good GM in almost as long a career?

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