Game 65, Mariners at Giants
JA Happ vs. Tim Lincecum, 12:45pm
Yesterday’s game was one of those great games that makes the disappointment of this year and the past several years…well, not “worth it,” but “more tolerable.” The M’s looked like the team we thought we’d get. Taijuan Walker was great again, and it’s easier to see him as a fixture in the rotation now. The M’s got timely hits to take a lead, then added to it late in the game. The bullpen quietly did their job. The cynic in me argues that this was the easiest game for them, facing a pitcher who seemed like a good bet to struggle against the M’s lefty-heavy line-up. But it was a game – just one game, of course – that pushed cynicism out of the way for a couple of hours, and that was refreshing. Please don’t completely overwrite that memory with another ugly, punchless loss like you did in the Houston series, M’s.
Seattle’s prodigal son returns next week, but the M’s pay him a visit today. The right-hander’s glory days of 2008/2009 are long gone, but Lincecum’s enjoying a modest improvement over the ugly 2012 and 2014 campaigns…seasons that ended in World Series wins, of course. His runs allowed and FIP are lower than they’ve been in a while thanks to an improvement in BABIP and HR/FB, which casts some doubt about how “real” this improvement really is. Lincecum’s K rate continues to fall – it’s fallen every year since 2009 – and his walk rate has edged back up over 10% as well. Likewise, his velocity continues its long-term slide. He debuted averaging 95, then sat in the low 90s in recent years. This year, he’s just under 89mph.
That said, he’s clearly still capable of brilliance – he’s tossed no-hitters in two of his worst seasons, after all. It’s consistency that’s eluded him; 95mph and a dominant split/change gives a pitcher a margin of error that 89mph doesn’t, and when he’s not on, he’s gotten roughed up. Since the start of 2014, he’s thrown 6 games of at least 7 IP in which he’s given up no runs. But he’s also thrown 6 games of under 5 IP with at least as many runs allowed as innings pitched, and he lost his starting gig late in 2014 because of it. Interestingly, at least to me, is that he’s never had platoon splits. Over his career, his raw splits are slightly reversed, with lefties faring a bit worse than righties. By FIP, it’s essentially a dead heat.
One of the reasons for that is his splitter/change-up. Lincecum’s fastballs have almost no armside run (his four-seam is cutter-like in that it moves *away* from righties), and the same is true for the split – its break is almost entirely vertical, and it generates lots of whiffs, even as it (and the rest of his arsenel) has lost velocity over the years. Lefties see the pitch a lot – about 40% of the time. To righties, he uses his slider (79mph) and the occasional curve ball (75mph). Lefties see more of his sinker, while he throws his four-seam to right-handers. Since the start of 2012, righties are slugging over .500 on that four-seam fastball while lefties are under .400 against both four-seam and sinker. Given the pitch’s movement and these results, I don’t get why Lincecum wouldn’t reverse things, and throw righties more sinkers, as they’re generally much better against same-handed hitters.
1: Morrison, 1B
2: Smith, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Jones, CF
7: Miller, SS
8: Zunino, C
The Rainiers bullpen day started a little slow yesterday, with Reno taking the lead off of Logan Bawcom, but Tyler Olson was great for 4 IP and the bats came alive, leading the Rainiers to a 10-4 win. Chris Taylor doubled and tripled for the Rainiers. Stephen Landazuri starts today against 80s teen-movie villain Parker Frasier.
Jackson, as mentioned yesterday, beat Mobile 6-2, and they’ve got a travel day today before welcoming Birmingham to West Tennessee tomorrow.
Bakersfield beat Inland Empire 9-8 in extra innings. The bats bailed out starter Dan Altavilla, who was knocked out in the 2nd after giving up 6 runs. Despite not having an extra-base hit, the Blaze pieced together 12 singles and 7 walks to get their 9 runs, and won it in the 10th on a walk-off wild pitch. Tyler Pike starts today for Bakersfield.
Clinton was rained out in Fort Wayne, meaning that yesterday was perhaps the first time every affiliate won, or, more accurately, didn’t lose. It’s been a rough year in the M’s minors.
The M’s draft picks have begun signing contracts. Nick Neidert signed a slightly over-slot deal for $1.2m, while Andrew Moore signed for just under-slot at $800,000 even. Moore will report to Everett, who start their campaign on Thursday, with a home series against Eugene. Slugging small-school 1B Ryan Uhl was a senior, and signed for a well-under-slot bonus of $50,000 – he should be in Everett too. Righty Kyle Wilcox, out of tiny Bryant College, signed for just under slot at $225,000. HS righty Cody Mobley, whom the M’s selected in the 8th round, had a commitment to the University of Evansville, but the M’s gave him a bonus equal to the slot value of a pick a few rounds earlier. 10th round pick Darin Gillies, a RHP out of Arizona State, signed for $10,000.
The biggest story in baseball isn’t that the Padres called up Pat Murphy to manage the club, but the investigation into the hack and leak of Houston’s internal trade discussions last year. You may remember when Deadspin published 10 months of internal wrangling and haggling near the trade deadline. Well, the FBI’s been investigating the hack, and they’ve named a suspect: The St. Louis Cardinals. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow came from STL, so maybe he just never changed passwords, but this seems like a pretty big deal. We’d all been wondering what the next analytical insight in baseball might be, and what sorts of problems math/IT genius could apply their skills to. But maybe it’s simpler than all of that: maybe hacking is the next market inefficiency? (Hat Tip: Mike Curto)