Game 64, Mariners at Giants

marc w · June 15, 2015 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Taijuan Walker vs. Tim Hudson, 7:15pm

The M’s begin play today with the fewest runs scored in the AL, rapidly fading playoff hopes, and a system that can’t boost the big league club the way their rivals’ can. Following a depressing series in Houston that saw their already dire run differential worsen, they’ve called up James Jones to bolster the bench. I understand completely that this is a short-term move, and that all of the roster re-jiggering had more to do with a series of really short outings by the starters than anything, but all the context in the world doesn’t make it any easier to explain. The M’s haven’t gotten an immediate boost from trading for Mark Trumbo, and since then, with the team in real danger of falling completely out of the race in a wide-open, no-great-teams AL, they’ve juggled relievers and brought up a pinch-runner. “What else could they do?” asks the sympathetic fan, unwittingly damning the front office even more.

The Giants strong start has petered out, and they enter tonight’s game on a four-game losing streak. They’ve fallen 3.5 games behind the Dodgers, who’ve played .500 ball for a month. Despite the highly anticipated match-up with Madison Bumgarner, it’s been the Giants offense that propelled them to that great start. And that offense is, from the point of view of an M’s fan, absurdly balanced. Buster Posey is consistently great, but they’ve been buoyed by the development of Brandon Crawford, their erstwhile glove-first SS, and his double-play partner, Joe Panik. Their patience with Brandon Belt has been rewarded, and unheralded prospect Matt Duffy has held his own at 3B after Casey McGehee crashed and burned. Thanks to their post-season successes in recent years, they’re an easy team to hate, but we’ve once again reached the point in the year where I just want to learn as much as possible from the teams who seem to be building a better mousetrap than the M’s. Houston’s rebuild looks nothing like the Giants retooling, as you’d expect, but the Giants success is clearly not just about throwing all of that World Series tv revenue at problems. *No one* thought Brandon Crawford was going to hit. The Joe Panik draft pick was almost universally derided. While we in M’s land have to remind ourselves over and over that aging curves describe a population, not a player; that the growth we expected from [Fill in player you are currently most frustrated with] isn’t some kind of birthright, and hey, luck of the draw, right? Other teams seem to be doing a bit better with raw talent – flawed talent – and molding it into roster help. At this point, it’s probably easier to start looking for people who know how to do this than to hope for rapid improvement in the current front office.

Tim Hudson makes his 25th career start against the M’s tonight, and tries to recapture his 2014 form against the struggling M’s offense. A year ago, Hudson continued his late career success with a 2.1 WAR season. His sinker’s lost only a few ticks, and it still allows him to post elite ground ball rates. Coupled with good control and an above-average infield defense, and Hudson can still succeed despite the fact that his K rate continues to fall. His strikeout pitch is a cutter at about 83-84mph that he typically saves for righties. He’s also got a splitter that functions as his change-up, so lefties see a lot more of that. But so far this season, something’s been amiss with that splitter. Last year, he got whiffs on about 16% of his splitters, and batters put it in play about 22% of the time. This season (small sample alert, of course), lefties have swung and missed at just *6%* of splitters, and they’ve put it fully one third of them in play. Without a swing-and-miss pitch to lefties, Hudson can’t strike southpaws out. He’s faced 124 lefties this year, and has struck out all of 7 of them. 2 of those came against Francisco Liriano, a pitcher. While his splits don’t show it this year, this is a good time to set a lefty-heavy line-up.

Taijuan Walker is coming off of three consecutive strong starts, with a K:BB ratio of 21:3 in that span. What’s actually changed for him is somewhat tough to determine. His pitch mix has changed a bit – before this streak he threw his cutter/slider more and his four-seam fastball a bit less, but that doesn’t seem like it could explain this. I don’t think he’s using his high fastball more – if anything, it looks like he’s using it less (compare this picture to this one), and burying some fastballs at or below the knee. Whatever it is, the quality of contact against him has dropped markedly. Sure, some of this is his HR luck regressing a bit, but a lot of this is simple control. He’s throwing both his fastball and splitter for strikes more often, and presumably getting into better counts as a result. He’s also avoiding the center of the plate, though that may be due to the counts he finds himself in as well. Whatever it is, this version of Taijuan is as encouraging as the previous iteration was frustrating.

1: Morrison, 1B
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smith, LF
7: Miller, SS
8: Zunino, C
9/SP: Walker

Forrest Snow struggled with his command yesterday, but still threw 7 strong innings, yielding just one hit and one run against Albuquerque. Snow has given up exactly one earned run in each of his last 6 starts. Logan Bawcom starts for the Rainiers today, who are going with a bullpen day to open the series against Reno. Danny Farquhar’s arrival can help bail out the bullpen in the rest of the series.

Jackson beat Mobile 8-6 thanks to HRs from DJ Peterson and Dario Pizzano. The latter’s HR came off of rehabbing big leaguer Patrick Corbin. Jackson won an early game today behind a solid outing from Misael Siverio and three hits from SS Tyler Smith. Of note, reliever Brian Moran struck out 4 in 1 2/3 IP in his 2nd outing with the Generals. The righty was once on the cusp of a 40-man spot with the M’s – and a possible active roster spot, but he was picked by the Angels in the Rule 5 draft then blew out his elbow. This was his fourth outing of the year as he rehabs from TJ surgery. The righty with a fastball that sits 87-88 has surprising deception, and has racked up strikeouts throughout the minor leagues.

Bakersfield destroyed Modesto 11-3, getting starter Eddie Campbell his third straight win after his awful start to 2015. Tyler O’Neill and Austin Wilson had 2 hits each, but Jay Baum led the team with 4. Dan Altavilla takes the mound for the Blaze as they face ex-affiliate Inland Empire, who’ll start Victor Alcantara.

Clinton’s slide continued, as they were swept in a doubleheader at Fort Wayne. One was a pitcher’s duel that the Tin Caps won by a score of 2-1; Tyler Herb was the hard-luck loser, throwing 6 IP with 6 Ks and 2 runs allowed. There was no hard luck loser in the other game, as Fort Wayne won 16-1. Osmer Morales started and pitched poorly, but Rohn Pierce followed with a nightmare of an outing. In just 1/3 of an inning, Pierce gave up 8 earned runs on 8 hits, including a 3R-HR. Ouch. Jefferson Medina starts today for the reeling L-Kings.


21 Responses to “Game 64, Mariners at Giants”

  1. jak924 on June 15th, 2015 5:33 pm

    With Jones back, mariners can finally dump hackley.

  2. WestyHerr on June 15th, 2015 5:37 pm

    Giants have been slumping bad. We’re the perfect remedy.

  3. Sportszilla on June 15th, 2015 6:45 pm

    The most depressing thing about watching this team struggle is that, unlike for most of the rest of the decade+ of mediocre/bad baseball, it’s really, really hard to find any hope for the future. Felix is great, but that won’t last forever. Seager is a very good player, but he’s also mis-cast as the centerpiece of an offense. Cruz has been great, and might stave off Father Time for another year or two, but that’s a risky gamble.

    And I think Mark’s point about player development is the real damning one. Outside of Seager and possibly Brad Miller, it’s hard to think about another player who’s clearly exceeded expectations within the organization, and even those successes are more than cancelled out by the failures of Smoak, Montero, Ackley, and (arguably) Zunino. Sure, prospects bust at an alarming rate, but the Mariners expended a ton of real assets (#2 and #3 overall picks, Cliff Lee, and Pineda) to acquire a group of players who have essentially amounted to little more than replacement level.

    Given the scary possibility that Robinson Cano is already in the decline phase with eight years left on the deal, the likelihood that Walker and Paxton remain talented but frustrating, and the reality that any hope for internal improvement is at best a couple of years away, and a part of me is hoping that the season spirals out of control. As Dave and others have pointed out, it’ll be quite the seller’s market this year, and while the Mariners aren’t exactly overflowing with great players, the chance to cash in a few rather uninspiring vets for at least a bit of future help would be welcomed.

  4. Bremerton guy on June 15th, 2015 7:14 pm


    I don’t trust Jack Z to trade in a used car. I have no faith that he would exact proper compensation or legitimate prospects even for our aging veterans who might elicit some interest from other teams in the hunt.

  5. Woodcutta on June 15th, 2015 7:26 pm

    It is like the M’s runs are gated by RNG.

  6. Westside guy on June 15th, 2015 7:36 pm

    People seemed to agree that the Mariners overpaid for their big veterans – any argument was whether or not people were “okay” with that. But a side effect of that the Mariners would have a harder-than-usual time trading them away – the next GM will likely have to plan on paying a very big chunk of Cano’s and/or Cruz’s salary, should they decide to attempt moving them.

  7. mrakbaseball on June 15th, 2015 8:03 pm

    Bavasi was fired seven years ago tomorrow.

  8. Westside guy on June 15th, 2015 8:30 pm

    It would be funny if two GMs in a row were fired on the same day. But I don’t think the M’s are far enough out where that would happen. Besides, what indications exist point to the ownership group being of the same old school “dingers are everything and defense doesn’t matter” 1960s mindset Jack Z exhibits. And, as we’ve seen before, crappy seasons are usually followed by an announcement that Jack Z was extended the previous off season.

  9. californiamariner on June 15th, 2015 8:33 pm

    I was laughing to myself watching Taijuan try to bunt.

  10. Woodcutta on June 15th, 2015 8:42 pm

    I’ve never really understood not being able to bunt at the MLB level. When I was younger and still played baseball (high school) it was one of the easiest things to do. Is it just a lack of practice?

  11. eddieranch on June 15th, 2015 9:37 pm

    Living in Bay Area, this is the first Ms game I’ve watched this year. Hard to believe this is the team, who has played the last few weeks. Leadoff hitting, RISP success, a bit of power, great starting pitching, and winning w/out Cano or Cruz doing much. Nice.

  12. Don Money on June 15th, 2015 9:45 pm

    This is the type of game I anticipated seeing all year. TW is really making strides from game to game, great to see a homegrown talent develop. Woodcutta, you are comparing facing HS pitchers with ML pitchers? Looking forward to an exciting second half of the season, especially if Cano has made his correction!

  13. eddieranch on June 15th, 2015 9:59 pm

    Yep, me too Don Money. And maybe Iwakuma regaining his form as a serious #2, who knows!

  14. Don Money on June 15th, 2015 10:04 pm

    The trade of Erasmo for Montgomery seems to be working well for both teams, I really didn’t think they’d get much value for him. JZ might have hit on that one.

  15. Westside guy on June 15th, 2015 11:42 pm

    Good to see Taijuan flashing his stuff lately, for sure. And while it’s true both teams headed into this game in a funk, someone had to win and it’s nice that it was our guys.

  16. Woodcutta on June 16th, 2015 3:51 am

    I’m not comparing bunting at the high school level to the major league level. When I still played baseball, bunting was the easiest thing to do. Hitting, fielding, and pitching were (and I’m assuming it is the same in MLB) much harder and required a lot more time and effort. I also wasn’t just talking about Walker and/or pitchers but all of the players in MLB. There just doesn’t seem to be many players that actually know how to or can execute a successful bunt.

  17. dc24 on June 16th, 2015 9:05 am

    Well in the AL, you just don’t see bunting as much so I don’t really think some players take the time they need to on it. It’s the same as everything else in baseball as in you need reps to become successful and can’t just pick it up cold turkey. And pitchers in the AL just don’t handle a bat very often, that’s why Taijuan looks lost up there. I bet if he was in the NL he’d be one of the better hitting pitchers because we know most teams viewed him as an outfield prospect coming out of HS and they showed the footage of him going yard in BP the other day, but taking one day of BP the day before the game isn’t going to cut it against almost any pitching, much less MLB pitching.

    Also, as stated before it’s much harder to bunt a 95 MPH fastball as opposed to an 80 MPH fastball. I remember the other day when Zunino was trying to bunt, I don’t think he had a successful sacrifice bunt attempt in his pro career until then. It’s hard to ask people to do something they aren’t used to doing.

    All that being said, it is frustrating because yeah I’ve been able to bunt successfully since Little League and it shouldn’t take a MLB player that much repetition. It’s also on the coaching staff too because they need to be spending more time on it I believe, especially with certain players struggling like Ackley and Zunino.

    Good win last night though, if and I do mean if we can keep Walker at this pace, get Felix back to normal, and have Elias, Happ, and Montgomery be steady, we have a decent rotation with help from Iwakuma hopefully coming later and Paxton returning too. If we get Cano going, we’re a different offensive team too. Lots of ifs though.

  18. Westside guy on June 16th, 2015 9:43 am

    I’m not sure Zunino is a good example to show “bunting is hard”, since someone who’s really bad at hitting in general is probably really bad at any particular type of hitting too. 😉

  19. mksh21 on June 16th, 2015 10:22 am

    I have no problem with AL pitchers sucking at bunting. They probably practice for one day before an interleauge game. The fact they don’t use the DH in all interleague games is just moronic. All NL teams have somebody on the bench who can hit and “play” DH (or rest a starter and let him DH). Anything an AL pitcher does in the batters box is a miracle.

    Basing it on home park is absurd. It should be based on what disrupts the game more. It makes more sense for a bench player on a NL team to DH than a pitcher from the AL to “hit”.

    I agree with some of the above. Bunting a straight 80 MPH in high school cannot be compared to bunting a 95 MPH fastball with movement in the Majors. If you haven’t had an official at bat in months and about 5 for your career, there isn’t much to do to prepare for it.

  20. dc24 on June 16th, 2015 12:10 pm

    Well Zunino isn’t a good hitter now, but he’s been a good hitter throughout every level I’m sure until now. How many times do you think he was asked to bunt in high school and at Florida?

    Another thing I failed to mention is that some people just flat out don’t like bunting. I had a guy I played in high school with that was one of the fastest kids to ever come through our high school and he hated bunting, and therefore never really worked on it and wasn’t very good at it. Our coach tried and tried and tried, but he just didn’t want to do it.

    Not saying this is right, but it is some of the mentality players have I’m sure.

  21. kaleyk on June 16th, 2015 12:18 pm

    I so agree mksh21…totally pointless to send anyone up to the plate that has zip for experience at the ML level…. I hate the DH rule but the only thing I hate more is watching pitchers bat.

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