Game 76, Mariners at Padres
Mike Montgomery vs. Ian Kennedy, 7:10pm
The M’s head to San Diego for a quick 2-game set before finishing their road trip in Oakland. Quick one tonight, as I’m slammed, so let’s do some bullet points. Ehhh, numbered list. It’s something I default to, and we can’t go changing things up.
1: Mike Montgomery’s first start after his remarkable CG shutout is a big test. He’s again in a spacious, HR-suppressing park, but more than the results, I’m curious to see his approach. Does he have confidence in the cutter he displayed against the Royals? Or will he opt for more curves? I think having a third pitch is going to be crucial for him, but he hasn’t really needed it yet.
2: I wrote about Ian Kennedy back in May, and noted that his FIP’s elevated due to the huge number of HRs he’s allowed thus far. A month and a half on, that’s still the executive summary on the right-hander. K rate and walks are pretty much where they’ve been, but he’s just hemorrhaging gopher balls, which is kind of tough to do in San Diego. A year ago, in just over 200 IP, he gave up 16 dingers. This year, in 69 IP, he’s already at 15. There’s no big platoon issue driving this, either. Last year, he gave up 8 HRs to lefties, and 8 HRs to righties. This year, it’s 8 and 7. His career HR/9 shows a bit of a difference, but his FIP is still 4.00 to lefties and 3.97 to righties. Dingers for everyone!
3: The Padres’ pitching staff has scuffled (DINGERS!) – they’ve got an ERA over 4, and that’s just not going to cut it in Petco Park. Their FIP is a bit better than that, though a 3.89 FIP is still nothing to be proud of. But the blame isn’t solely the pitchers. The Padres have been victimized by a horrendous defensive outfield – they’re the inverse Royals in a way; the Royals have mediocre pitchers that look good in part because of their OF. The Padres have above-average hurlers who post sub-par numbers because their OF’s approach can be summed up as “wait ’till it stops rolling, then pick it up.” That said, until all of that fabulous statcast data’s in the public domain, we’re still really estimating how to apportion blame between fielders and pitchers. UZR incorporates batted ball type and specific locations to make its determination that the Pads OF is bad. Matthew Carruth’s Runs Above Average tables at StatCorner take a high-level view – there’s no attempt to distinguish between “Easy” and “hard,” it’s just the run values on ALL fly balls. If you look at THAT view, the Padres look bad, but not horrendous…they’re better, in fact, than the Mariners. Part of this may be because the Padres don’t actually give up too many fly balls. And then there’s the issue we’ve talked about, which is that way too many fly balls that the Pads have allowed have flown over the fence – that’s not affecting UZR, but that means that comparatively few FBs are driving a huge impact defensively. In any event, the M’s need some fly ball hitters, and Kennedy and his rising fastball is liable to give up some elevate-able contact.
4: Speaking of BABIP, back in April, the M’s had an atrocious BABIP, and it clearly cost them runs and games. Taijuan Walker seemed to run a BABIP of .500 or so, as did James Paxton. But over the past few months, it’s steadily improved. It’s now above average, which is kind of remarkable given their OF – Nelson Cruz is not an OF, but he played there frequently before his recent injury. The gains have come primarily on the infield, which makes some sense – they’ve got a good 3B, a good 2B, a steady 1B, and then they’ve got Brad Miller. Many fans continue to see him – as the M’s themselves did for a time – as a defensive liability. But at this point, that view’s harder and harder to justify. Every measure of defense seems to like him, and just looking at the IF unit as a whole, or the TEAM as a whole, there’s credit that has to flow to people. This is a good defensive IF, and Miller’s the guy getting most of the chances. It’s interesting, and not something I’d have expected, even as a big Miller supporter.
5: Line-up time!
1: Morrison, 1B
2: Cano, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Smith, LF
6: Jackson, CF
7: Miller, SS
8: Zunino, C
The Rainiers got crushed last night 14-1 by El Paso and their rowdy Chihuahuas. The Rainiers made 4 errors, and they yielded back-to-back 6 run innings. Just ugliness. Today, Las Vegas comes to town to face Tacoma and rehabbing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. ‘Kuma was solid in his first Tacoma start, though he only made it 4 innings and complained about his mechanics. He’ll probably throw more pitches today (Curto says 85-90), and may make another start after that. He’s facing former Mets starter Dillon Gee, who lost his spot in the rotation – and ultimately the 25 man roster – when Noah Syndergaard (and then Steven Matz) were promoted. He was pretty publicly miffed about that, but wasn’t picked up on waivers when the Mets outrighted him. Game time’s 6:05 – perfect night for a game if you’re in the area.
Jackson shut out Birmingham (is it me, or have these two teams been playing for a month now) in lefty Anthony Fernandez’s second AA start. Fernandez had a 40-man spot and was a promotion candidate early in 2014 before suffering a ligament tear and undergoing TJ surgery. The M’s DFA’d him to pick up Mike Kickham in the winter as Fernandez rehabbed in Arizona. He went 4 scoreless and struck out 7 in yesterday’s game. DJ Peterson is showing more signs of life, and the righty hit his 5th HR, too. Today, the Generals have a travel day as they head…somewhere other than Birmingham (technically, they head home to host Mobile).
Bakersfield was off yesterday, but they won on the 28th behind a strong start from lefty and snake-wrangler Tyler Pike. No word on tonight’s starter, but the Blaze begin a series against Modesto tonight.
Clinton built a lead and then withstood a Peoria comeback, winning 6-5. Jefferson Medina had a so-so start, and Osmer Morales was shaky in relief, but Ronald Dominguez pitched the final two innings without incident. Gianfranco Wawoe hit his 4th HR of the year. Zack Littell gets the start for the Lumberkings today against Peoria’s Austin Gomber.