Game 58, Mariners at Indians
Roenis Elias vs. Corey Kluber, 4:10pm
The M’s have had a rough go of it in the past few weeks in part because they’ve faced some of the best starters the AL has to offer. Chris Archer, twice. Jake Odorizzi, Kluber and Bauer. It makes sense – the M’s haven’t scored much in part because they’ve faced pitchers that are very difficult to score on. But then, that should be reflected in their quality of pitcher’s faced, a stat collected at BP, and it essentially isn’t. The M’s have struggled against some of the top arms, but the big problem is that they’ve struggled against Erasmo Ramirez, too. The M’s hit two HRs off of Kluber, but couldn’t figure out Sam Deduno or Roberto Hernandez. Thanks to the King, they eked out a win against Archer, who struck out 12 without walking anyone, but couldn’t quite get to Shaun Marcum. CC Sabathia. Aaron Sanchez. It’s been frustrating as hell, but it’s not due solely to strength of opposition.
Unfortunately, the M’s have simply underperformed. Their offense hasn’t been good, and it’s been down against everyone. In a great series of articles, Jeff writes that a team’s projections are a much better determinant of rest-of-season record than actual record through 2 months of the season (and a much better predictor than a team’s actual pythagorean record, too). That is, it may seem like those preseason projections that had the M’s as the best team are sad, pathetic jokes – aftershocks of 2010 and the #6 org collapse. But they may be closer to the truth than the idea that the M’s are just pathetic offensively. The M’s, A’s and Red Sox are almost certainly better than they’ve looked, and have a good shot to post a better ROS record than, say, the Astros and Rangers.
As we’ve talked about, though, we’re perilously close to a point in the season when that ceases to be enough. The gap in actual records is real, and it’s formidable. The sheer number of teams in between is daunting as well, and that class of underachievers includes tonight’s opponents, the Cleveland Indians. Fangraphs’ playoff odds lists the ROS winning percentage for each club. This, theoretically, should be even BETTER than the preseason projections, as it can account for injuries and other changes. They’ve got the M’s as the class of the AL West, with a .532 WP%, which leaves them a bit short of Houston and LA in the West. Cleveland, though, has the best ROS WP% in the entire AL. They’ve underperformed despite a truly historic rotation thanks to poor defense and a resultant poor strand rate. In recent weeks (:ominous music: including four games against SEATTLE), their defense has taken quite a few steps back towards the mean, and the Indians have not coincidentally been on a tear.
Tonight’s opponent is easily one of the best starters in baseball. 2nd in baseball in WAR (behind the otherworldly-right-now Chris Archer), 3rd best FIP, 5th best K%. Dude one-upped Archer by striking out 18 Cardinals without walking any earlier this year. But as we talked about last time, he’s got a flaw, or perhaps two related flaws. The first is his BABIP. Yes, the Indians behind him have done a bad job of turning balls in play into outs, and yes, the Indians D has been bad for a while, but Kluber now owns a career .330 BABIP. That’s remarkably high for someone with solid velocity and high-grade raw stuff. Second, Kluber’s got huge platoon splits – reminiscent of early Justin Masterson. But while Masterson threw almost sidearm, and had a big sweeping slider, Kluber’s a bit more traditional. For whatever reason, lefties have feasted on his fastball(s), and Kluber doesn’t really have any secondaries that neutralize lefties either. Part of the reason may be the freakish amount of horizontal movement on his cutter and slider/curve. The curve in particular moves more than a foot horizontally in to a lefty compared to his four-seam and sinker. The cutter has a lot of horizontal movement too, so its two-plane break looks like a much slower, more curve-like slider. That’s made both pitches extremely effective against righties, and it’s a reason why righties have essentially had no chance this year (or last year) against Kluber.
1: Morrison, 1B
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smith, LF
7: Trumbo, DH
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
The MLB draft continues, and the M’s stayed local with their 3rd round pick, taking UW centerfielder Braden Bishop. Bishop’s an outstanding defensive CF (and sounds like a great kid), but questions about his bat made him seem like a Craig Gentry type. However, scouts have been very encouraged by the progress he’s made with the Huskies, and the pick was widely praised by several scouts/analysts who don’t work for the M’s. Hope to see him in Everett in several weeks.
In the fourth round, the M’s took another HS pitcher, this time South Carolina right-hander Dylan Thompson. The M’s then moved back to the college ranks (and the Pac 12, for the 3rd time in 5 picks) to take Stanford SS Drew Jackson.
Tacoma beat Sacramento behind another solid start from Sam Gaviglio (another Pac-12 product!) and a 3R HR from John Hicks. They’ll face Sacramento again tonight with the surging Forrest Snow (another Pac-12 product!) on the mound against Clayton Blackburn.
Jackson’s game against Chattanooga was rained out yesterday, so they’ll play two today. In Game 1, they face one of the Twins top prospects, and one of the better pitching prospects in the minors, in Jose Berrios. The hard throwing righty out of Puerto Rico has 77Ks in 69 1/3 IP so far. Jake Zokan starts for the Generals. In Game 2, they’ll see Greg Peavey (ANOTHER Pac-12 product!) who the Twins picked in the minor league Rule 5 draft from the Mets – he’ll be opposed by Jackson’s Andrew Kittredge, who is, of course, another Pac-12 product.
Bakersfield blanked San Jose 10-0 last night. Must’ve felt great for Eddie Campbell, the Blaze starter, who’d struggled mightily in his first trip through the Cal League. Yesterday, he threw 6 shoutout innings with 6 Ks and just one walk. Nelson Ward, Tyler O’Neill and Burt Reynolds homered for the Blaze. Today, they’ll face Giants prospect Keury Mella, who sits in the mid-90s with a developing change/curve.
Clinton’s off today, but dropped the finale of their series against Bowling Green 4-2. Clinton had the best record of the full-season affiliates recently, and appeared to be nearing .500, but a rough patch has left then 12 games below .500 at 23-35. Now, the top team in the system is Tacoma, at a comparatively solid 27-32. Jackson’s 11 games under .500, while Bakersfield’s 14 under. If you thought you’d read an awful lot of losses in these recaps, you have.