Game 61, Mariners at Astros
King Felix vs. Brett Oberholtzer, 5:10pm
Happy Felix Day! This *does* feel like a suitable day for celebrating, with the Astros having lost seven straight and the Angels coming out of a bad stretch of games as well. Of course, even with the Astros slide, they’re still 3-7 in their last ten games…exactly the same as the M’s.
If you had said in early 2014 that one of the Astros rotation members would go on to post a very good year and re-fashion himself as an odd kind of ace, it’s highly unlikely you would’ve ID’d Dallas Keuchel. Instead, you would question why on earth anyone would think ANYONE on the 2013 Astros staff was capable of stardom, but if pressed by this time-traveling pedant, you might’ve gone for the other Germanicly-named lefty, Brett Oberholtzer. In less than half the innings, Oberholtzer posted a better fWAR than Keuchel on the strength of a better HR rate (though the low HR/FB made it seem a bit lucky) and a miniscule walk rate. He was no one’s idea of an ace, but this Beavan-plus thing looked decent in context (the context, of course, was a 111-game-losing tire-fire of a pitching staff).
Both Oberholtzer and Keuchel went into 2014 in the rotation, but while Keuchel and Collin McHugh blossomed, Oberholtzer got left behind a bit. It’s odd, because if anything, he pitched a bit better. His FIP in 2014 was 3.56, making him an above-average starter. He maintained that sparkling walk rate, and held the HR/FB regression gods at bay. His BABIP luck ran out, though, and his ERA was nowhere close to 3.56, so he didn’t look like an above-average starter, and he started to suffer blister problems to boot. A variety of health problems have slowed him in recent months, from a mild lat strain to a finger problem. Maybe that’s the reason he’s struggled a bit out of the gate in 2015. Thanks to an injury-plagued spring, he started in the minors, and in his 12+ big league innings, his control has left him a bit. It’s only a couple of starts, and he didn’t walk many in the minors this year, but he’s struggled, and it’s something to watch.
The biggest difference between Keuchel and Oberholtzer is vertical movement. Both are lefties throwing 89-90, both have nearly identical release points/arm angles, and both actually have similar four-seam fastballs. But Keuchel’s bread and butter is a sinker, and his other pitches also have good natural sink. Oberholtzer throws a sinker, mostly to righties, but it refuses to sink; it’s got more vertical rise than the average four-seamer. His best pitch is a change-up, thrown at 80 or so, but again, the pitch has good armside run, but little in the way of sink. In previous years, his only breaking ball was a curve at 79, but this year, he’s picked up a slider, and he’s using that as his primary breaking ball. He’s used his change to righties and lefties alike in the past, but he’s more likely to stick with breaking balls in 2015. The slider makes some sense in that he’s never really done well against lefties. He’s faced righties 3X as often, but that isn’t because he’s got Corey Kluber-like splits. They’re essentially even, with a much better K:BB ratio against lefties undone by HRs. It makes some sense – lefties have struggled against Oberholtzer’s fastball, while righties have fared well. But lefties (small sample alert) have feasted on everything else. Against righties, his solid change-up has been mostly effective, though they’ve punished the odd hanger. But righties seem to see his FB pretty well, and I’m pretty skeptical that a slider will help all that much against opposite-handed hitters.
All of that said, when ever I hear his name, I don’t think about his arsenal, his high flyball rate or his control. I think of the Dead Kennedys. “California, Oberholtzer, California OBer-Holtzer….”
1: Jackson, CF
2: Trumbo, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3b
6: Weeks, LF
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Zunino, C
9: Bloomquist, SS
SP: KING FELIX
Defense? Who cares. Look for strikeouts, Felix.
The draft’s complete, and you can review a list of all 40 selections here in Ryan Divish’s post-draft round up. Of special note is the brief interview with scouting director Tom McNamara regarding 20th-round pick Parker McFadden of Yelm. I’ll have a draft recap highlighting a few of the picks in a little bit too.
The Rainiers went to extra innings last night, but came away with a 3-2 victory thanks to a two-run, walkoff blast from Jesus Montero. The game was a pitcher’s duel between Rockies uber-prospect and #3 overall pick in the 2013 draft Jon Gray and Tacoma’s not-an-uber-prospect Stephen Landazuri. The latter has struggled mightily in recent games, and yesterday wasn’t really an exception, but he minimized the damage through 4 1/3. The Rainiers bullpen, which has really solidified in the past month or so, held the line until Edgar Olmos gave up a run in the top of the 10th, but Montero’s two-run shot won it. Jon Gray threw 100 in college and jumped from a 3rd-round prospect to the #3 overall pick. But he simply hasn’t shown that elite stuff in the minors, particularly the high minors – he pitched 8 strong innings, but struck out 4 with 3 walks. The PCL is not a cakewalk at all, but he’s given up 79 hits in 68 IP with just 45 Ks. His development is a bit reminiscent of his friend Eddie Butler, another righty with a huge fastball who was oddly hittable in the minors. From AA on, Butler just stopped missing bats, and while he’s safely in the Rockies rotation, he looks nothing like the potential #2 he was in A ball. Gray has gone from a guy with true ace potential to a game-manager type in the PCL, and while I’m sure he’ll be a big leaguer for years, the Rockies better figure out why. Is this an approach that they teach? Has his velocity fallen off markedly, as some scouts have suggested? I don’t know, but while he’s righted the ship after a disastrous start in 2015, he’s yet to demonstrate elite stuff in the high minors. Today, Justin Germano takes the hill for a firework Friday at Cheney.
Jackson also came away with an extra-inning victory, beating the Mobile Bay-Bears 6-4 in 11 innings. This was the first game the Generals faced off with their ex-teammates Jack Reinheimer and Gabby Guerrero, two prospects the M’s traded in the Mark Trumbo deal. The two ex-Generals went a combined 0-8. Jimmy Gilheeney started and through 6 decent innings, and then the game became a bullpen battle. The Generals won it when Adam Miller gave up 4 hits in the 11th; Trey Cochran-Gill saved it for Trevor Miller who threw two scoress innings. Today’s game is a prospect showdown between Edwin Diaz of Jackson and Aaron Blair for the BayBears – Blair’s the D-Backs #3 prospect, while Diaz ranked as the M’s #6 prospect.
Bakersfield’s Dylan Unsworth pitched effectively for 6 innings, but the Blaze couldn’t figure out the wonderfully-named Modesto starter Johendi Jiminian, who threw 7IP of shutout ball. Nelson Ward tripled for the Blaze’s only XBH. TBD gets the start for Bakersfield against Modesto’s Harrison Musgrave.
Clinton lost to Lake County 4-3 despite a HR from 1B Kristian Brito. Indians #9 prospect (according to BA; Sickels had him at #5), 1B Bobby Bradley, homered for the Captains. Zack Littell leads the L-Kings against Lake County lefty Justus Sheffield, the Indians #4 prospect and the 2014 national player of the year.