Game 75, Mariners at Angels
King Felix vs. Hector Santiago, 12:35pm
Happy Felix Day
In today’s start, Felix will re-take the lead in innings pitched between 2007 and the present from James Shields. In the pitch FX era, no one’s been on the mound more. As we’ve talked about, though, all of that information simply can’t give you a picture of what Felix does, or what Felix is. Averaged out over 98mph fireballer to 92mph craftsman, you don’t recognize much. It looks a bit like Felix’s 2010 season, the midpoint of his career, and his second great campaign. But there’s very little – then or now – that’s really distinctive. There’s the sink on his pitches, and then there’s that oddly small gap between fastball and change-up velo – as Felix’s average sinker velocity has dropped by 6MPH, his change-up has actually sped up, if only fractionally. Other than that, Felix is a guy who demands a results-based analysis. Felix is great because batters can’t seem to do much against him. It’s been that way since at least 2009, even if the *specific ways batters struggle* change every now and again. It seems hopeless to predict which pitchers will have long careers, or the kind of odd late-career rebirths we’ve seen from Bartolo Colon or, to a lesser extent, Freddie Garcia, but I have little doubt Felix will have one. He may throw 87 sidearm, he may develop a knuckleball, he may actually go full Bernandez and switch pitch, but it’s coming.
Opposite Felix, the Angels start Hector Santiago, a lefty with a history of confounding FIP by stranding a ton of runners. Primarily a fastball/change/cutter pitcher, he averages only about 90-91mph on his fastball, but it has a lot of armside run. That run, paired with a good cutter, has made him very tough on left-handed batters. Against righties, he’s about as extreme a fly-ball pitcher as you’ll find, but he’s essentially average against lefties, which means he’s been able to keep them in the park. Against righties, not so much – he’s got a career HR/9 of 1.42 against them. So righties elevate the ball and hit a fair share of homers. He also walks too many of them. As such, there’s no mystery about why his FIP’s an uninspiring 4.40 this year, dead on his career mark of 4.41. The interesting bit is that his career ERA is 3.36, and it’s just 2.68 in the first half of 2015.
Normally, this is the kind of thing you just note “regression” and move on. But he’s been doing this a little while now, and it’s kind of interesting. By fielding-dependent wins, Santiago’s approaching 7 WAR in just 439+ IP. By fWAR (FIP-based), he’s at 2.8. Essentially, Santiago is pitching like a poor man’s Hisashi Iwakuma in that he’s a very different pitcher with men on than when the bases are empty. With no one on, he gives up home runs to about 3.6% of batters. If someone’s on base, that drops to under 2%. Even better for Santiago, he’s limiting hits of all kinds with men on, not just homers. The samples here are small enough and the effect large enough that luck really does look to be playing a part, but it’s always interesting to see hurlers beat FIP for multiple years. On the plus side, hey, he’s been consistent for over 400 innings. On the down side, it looks like to stay an above-average pitcher, he’ll need to consistently post better BABIPs and HR/FB marks with men on, despite no noticeable differences in pitch mix. Even more specifically, he’ll have to maintain a remarkably low BABIP on his nothing-special fastball. In his career, Santiago’s fastball BABIP is lower than Aroldis Chapman’s, Craig Kimbrel’s, King Felix’s, and Clayton Kershaw’s. That’s clearly a feature, but it has the feel of a bug as well.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Gutierrez, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Trumbo, RF
7: Miller, SS
8: Zunino, C
9: Bloomquist, 1B
SP: KING FELIX
Tacoma hammered El Paso last night 14-4. In the hot, windless night, Tacoma slugged 5 HRs, and they all came from just two batters: Jesus Montero hit 2, and Justin Ruggiano hit *3*. Ruggiano’s last came off of Jordan Hershiser, son of Orel Hershiser. The younger Hershiser is 26, and…yep, appears to have been born in the middle of his dad’s record scoreless innings streak. Justin Germano starts today against converted OF Jason Lane.
Jackson beat Montgomery 4-2 behind a solid start from Misael Siverio and Marcus Littlewood’s first AA home run. Today,
Lancaster beat Bakersfield again, this time by a score of 6-3. Dan Altavilla took the loss, going 5 IP and yielding 4 runs. Jay Baum hit his first Cal League HR and Guillermo Pimentel picked up three hits, but this game will be remembered for one reason, and one reason only: a snake delay. A large snake took the field at some point, causing a delay. Blaze pitcher Tyler Pike (who wasn’t pitching, of course) calmly grabbed the snake and removed it, and Bakersfield resumed taking its beating.
Clinton’s big comeback fell short, as they dropped a 6-5 contest to Wisconsin. Down 5-0, the L-Kings tied the game with a 7 run 7th, capped by a 3R HR from Arby Fields. But Wisconsin’s Brandon Diaz hit a solo shot in the bottom of the inning and that proved to be the game’s final run.
Everett beat Boise 6-1 behind HRs from Corey Simpson and Luis Liberato. The AquaSox got solid work from pitchers Anthony Misiewicz (the nominal starter), Andrew Moore, and Joe Pistorese. With 3 hits, Liberato’s Everett slash line is up to .432/.462/.865; Liberato won’t turn 20 until December. Takes some of the sting out of the struggles of Alex Jackson and Gareth Morgan.
Speaking of Morgan, the Arizona Rookie League’s underway, too. 8th rounder Cody Mobley debuted yesterday with 2 scoreless innings, and rehabbing OF Austin Cousino’s been getting some work in as well. Nick Neidert’s thrown 2 scoreless IP of his own, as has 4th rounder Dylan Thompson. The M’s have some projectable OFs on the roster too, including Hersin Martinez and Gareth Morgan, the linebacker-sized OF the M’s took for an overslot bonus in the competitive balance round a year ago. Morgan struggled in the AZL last year, K’ing 73 times in 45 games. Repeating it this year, he’s got a K:BB ratio of 13-0 in 6 games. It’s uh…it’s early yet. We’ll see many of these players hit Everett later on. There are fewer option this year, as the M’s no longer have a club in the Appy league – so they don’t have an affiliate in the level between the complex leagues and short-season ball.