Game 68, Astros at Mariners

June 19, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 14 Comments 

Roenis Elias vs. Lance McCullers, 7:10pm

The last series against the Astros went…very poorly, and after dropping the home-and-home series with the Giants, this clash with the division leaders takes on even more importance. The M’s have languished behind Houston (and Anaheim) for months (staying mostly between 6-10 games back), and the only thing that’s changed over the past month is that Texas (?) suddenly started playing out of their mind and passed the M’s too. The M’s are running out of time. Opportunities like these, to make up a small chunk of the gap quickly, are vital if they want to get back into the race. It just feels odd, though, to talk about opportunities and playoff odds. This team has been unlucky, to be sure, but it’s flawed.

The M’s face fireballer Lance McCullers again today – the young righty held the M’s hitless for 5 innings 5 days ago. McCullers uses a plus fastball – it’s 95+ – and a big curve with two-plane break. He has a change-up that he uses sparingly, but he’s essentially been a two-pitch pitcher thus far, and that limited repertoire has been more than enough. As I mentioned last time, McCullers has shown some odd reverse platoon splits thus far, and he had them (though not as extreme) in the minors as well. His curve in particular has given lefties fits; they’ve come up empty on nearly half of their swings at it, and they’ve taken it for strikes a bunch, too. In all, lefties have put less than 9% of his curveballs in play. In the minors, McCullers big flaw was his control, but he’s been remarkably accurate thus far in the majors. His control lapses 5 days ago are somewhat noteworthy – his 4 walks were the most he’d given up thus far. The M’s need to be patient and make him work the way they did in Houston. Only this time, you know, get some hits too.

The Astros have seen essentially all of their prospects hit the ground running in the big leagues. McCullers has been dominant, Vincent Vasquez looks intriguing, if flawed, and Carlos Correa currently sports a line of .349/.378/.628, which is not too shabby. This week they’ve called up slugger Domingo Santana, a Joey Gallo-like all-or-nothing slugger that had torched the PCL this year. Santana bats righty, so we’ll see him tonight against the left-handed Roenis Elias. Evaluating prospects based on their first 1/2 season – or first month – is a fool’s errand, but it’s harder and harder to escape the conclusion that the M’s player development lags that of their rivals. Carlos Correa was the #1 overall pick, and had been anticipated for a while. But McCullers and Santana offered a mixture of upside and major question marks, but over time, they’ve…what’s that thing that prospects are supposed to do? oh yeah…*improved.* The Rangers were excellent at this until injuries and some down years pushed them to the brink of a wholesale rebuild. But Chi Chi Gonzalez arrived earlier than expected, and Joey Gallo’s prodigious strikeout rate has been balanced by his prodigious power. The M’s simply don’t have the impact prospects that can change their outlook in the near term. Chris Taylor’s a good player, but not someone who can impact the overall team offense. The M’s needed DJ Peterson to take a big step forward, but it simply hasn’t happened yet.

That’s an issue, as the M’s are noteworthy in their reliance on homegrown talent. Perhaps it’s not a huge surprise that the team led by a former scouting director is a draft-and-hold teambuilder and not a compulsive wheeler-dealer like Billy Beane or the Rays under Friedman and Silverman, but the M’s have given their prospects a very long leash. This isn’t a criticism, by the way – you can develop a team in a number of different ways, and building through the draft is a great way to do it. The Rangers have essentially done this too, making a splash in the trade for Fielder or the signing of Choo, but developing the complementary pieces themselves. But if you’re going to go that route, it’s all the more important that the players you identify and teach produce. Kyle Seager was a home run for the player development group, and Brad Miller is a solid single at this point. But the M’s badly needed to fill out the roster with others, and for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened enough.

Today’s Star Wars night line-up:
1: Morrison, 1B
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Trumbo, RF
7: Smith, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
SP: Elias

A week ago, John Lannan of Albuquerque dominated the Rainiers, firing 8 shutout innings at Cheney Stadium. The Rainiers appear to have figured out what went wrong, as they knocked Lannan around on their way to 12 runs on *22* base hits. Sam Gaviglio, who gave up 6 runs in 5 IP 5 days ago, threw 6 shutout innings for Tacoma. Zach Shank and Steve Baron, two recent call-ups from AA, both had four hits in the game. Today, Forrest Snow makes the start opposite Yohan Flande. Mike Curto reports that Justin Ruggiano is expected to join the club in time for the game.

Jackson had their own blowout win, beating Birmingham 10-1 behind another solid start from Edwin Diaz. It looks like Diaz has made some adjustments to AA. In his last three starts, he’s thrown 20 1/3 IP, given up 4 runs on 13 hits with 18 strikeouts. The Generals knocked out Barons starter Tyler Danish (a top-10/top-5 White Sox prospect) out in the 3rd, scoring 9 runs on 9 hits off of him. Today, they’ll face another big Sox prospect, righty Frankie Montas. Moises Hernandez starts for the Generals. [EDIT: This game has been rained out]

Bakersfield lost a pitcher’s duel to Stockton 1-0. Blaze starter Brett Ash was effective in 6 2/3 innings, but Stockton’s Raul Alcantara and a bunch of relievers kept Bakersfield off the scoreboard. Today the Blaze send Eddie Campbell to the mound against Dylan Covey of the Ports.

Clinton lost another tight game 5-4 to Quad Cities. Starter Lukas Schiraldi was solid, but reliever Rohn Pierce coughed up 3 runs late. Pierce, a 19th round pick out of Canisius, has had an up and down year. In late May, over four games, Pierce pitched 9 innings, giving up no runs on 4 hits while striking out *14*. But in his last 3 games, Pierce has thrown 4 innings, giving up *13 runs* on 15 hits while striking out 3. Yikes. Clinton welcomes Cedar Rapids today, and the L-Kings will send Zack Littell to the hill against Zach Tillery of the Kernels.

Everett won their season opener last night, downing the Eugene Emeralds 6-1. The AquaSox got great pitching from starter Luiz Gohara and reliever Spencer Herrman, who gave up 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 13 emeralds. The offense hit 9 singles, with 1B Ryan Uhl going 3-3 and Braden Bishop going 1-2 with a walk. Today, Taylor Byrd starts for Everett against Justin Steele – both were drafted in 2014 in the first 10 rounds – Byrd was a 7th rounder, while the Cubs popped Steele in the 5th.

Game 67, Giants at Mariners

June 18, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

Mike Montgomery vs. Ryan Vogelsong, 7:10pm

Two great out-of-nowhere stories face off today at Safeco. Montgomery was the ex-prospect, dealt by his 2nd org in a meaningless end-of-spring deal. Vogelsong was the guy who was never a great prospect, and who toiled as one of the worst pitchers in the NL for several years in Pittsburgh before going on to three mediocre years in Japan. After another mediocre year in the minors, he seemed like a guy who’d be selling insurance very quickly, but a new start with the Giants turned into one of the most head-scratching years in recent memory, when he went 13-7 with an ERA under 3 in 2011. Now, that was pretty unsustainable – boosted as it was by a ridiculous strand rate and a so-so K:BB ratio. He regressed in 2012 somewhat, but was still an effective, important hurler for the WS champs. His K:BB ratio even improved thanks to a decline in his walk rate; even in the minors, Vogelsong always had issues with free passes, so that was an encouraging sign. What’s more, he seemed to have a legitimate strikeout pitch – a better-than-average curve ball. He also threw a sneaky fastball at 92 and a cutter that was effective against righties.

Early on in his bizarre renaissance, his change-up seemed to be an effective pitch against lefties, too. He had regular platoon splits, but his change allowed him to battle lefties to a draw, and then his curve/cutter/FB combo made him especially tough on righties. Starting in 2013, though, everything fell apart. The change that had been so good was terrible. Lefties swung and missed less, and put it in play more. And when they did, they were hitting fewer grounders and way more line drives. Overall, Vogelsong got fewer grounders AND gave up HRs on a higher percentage of fly balls – a bad combination for a guy who was no longer missing many bats, and whose velocity had dipped noticeably, perhaps impacted by the broken hand he suffered at the plate in a May contest against the Nats.

Nothing will top the surprise of Vogelsong’s 2011 season, but 2014 was remarkable in its own way. Fully healthy, his velocity ticked up by 1 mph, and he was suddenly effective again. There didn’t seem to be any change in approach or arsenal, it’s just that everything clicked for a while. He posted a career low walk rate, and his K% crept up near 20%. The incredible strand rate was clearly a one-year phenomenon, so he’s clearly a back-of-the-rotation starter, but for a twice-buried journeyman, another effective year – and another WS title – was a hell of a reward for years and years struggling in the baseball wilderness. This year, he’s actually made a significant change in approach. He’s throwing fewer change-ups, and he’s replaced it with more reliance on his four-seam fastball. His curve’s no longer even an average breaker, but he’ll still throw it about 1/5th of the time. It’s still a decent ground-ball pitch, but he tends to hang them. The cutter’s his two-strike pitch to *lefties* these days, while righties get fastballs. His platoon split issue is more acute now, and this is another game – like we saw against Hudson – where the M’s really need to get lefties into the line-up.

Montgomery faces a team that’s worse against lefties – they’re still better than average, but it’s a distinct advantage. The problem is that Montgomery’s an odd kind of lefty. As I mentioned last time, he’s much better against righties than lefties thus far, and that pattern held true in the minors as well. The key to this match-up is how he’s able to control the troika of Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. In Montgomery’s last start, the Astros’ lefties, Colby Rasmus and Jason Castro were 3-6 with 2 BBs, but he kept them in the park, and did enough against the rest of the line-up to be the only Mariner to walk out of Houston with his head held high.

1: Morrison, 1B
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cruz, DH
4: Smith, LF
5: Trumbo, DH
6: Miller, SS
7: Ackley, 2B
8: Bloomquist, 3B
9: Zunino, C
SP: Montgomery

[EDIT] Whoa, sorry, big (late) revision to the line-up with Cano and Seager sitting. When’s the last time Ackley played 2B? Looks like May of 2013 – not sure, though. Did he have the odd game at 2B after shifting to CF back then?

Colin O’Keefe had a good article at LL about an odd paradox: the M’s offense is terrible, despite the fact that the M’s rank highly in the percentage of balls they’ve hit at least 100MPH. The Giants offense has been great, despite the fact that they’re awful at hitting the ball hard. This *is* odd, and since ball exit speed data is so new, we don’t really know how it correlates with hitting stats. But for obvious reasons, there has to be *some* positive correlation there, and it’s probably sizable. One thought is that while the M’s are hitting the ball hard, they’re hitting a number of 100mph smashes on the ground, where they do less damage. Jeff had a great post a month or so ago about Robbie Cano’s poor start, and how he’s hitting the ball hard, but hitting more grounders. The other obvious issue concerns what happens when the M’s don’t make contact at all. The M’s strike out a lot, the Giants don’t. The M’s ISO is great, particularly once you factor in their home ballpark, while the Giants have the 24th-best ISO. The M’s hit the ball hard, but don’t hit it enough. The Giants put it in play, and good things have tended to happen as a result. There’s got to be more to it than that, of course (the M’s platoon splits are another problem, as the M’s are much better against lefties than righties) – but those are a couple of contributing factors, I’d think.

Tacoma beat Reno 9-6 to win their first series there…ever. Franklin Gutierrez extended his hitting streak to 20 games. The Rainiers head to Albuquerque, where Sam Gaviglio faces off with John Lannan.

Jackson got smoked by Birmingham 8-1 yesterday. Jabari Blash had 2 doubles in the contest, and DJ Peterson tripled, but the rest of the Generals couldn’t figure out Barons starter Myles Jaye. Edwin Diaz starts for Jackson against the White Sox #7 prospect, right-hander Tyler Danish. The sinkerballer posted a brilliant ERA last season across two levels, but that hides (as ERA is wont to do) a bunch of hidden un-earned runs. In his minor league career of 225+ innings, Danish has a 2.44 ERA, but a 3.23 RA. Lots and lots of grounders plus low-minors fields and low-minors fielders probably explains a lot of that gap.

Bakersfield beat Inland Empire 7-2 behind a solid start from Dylan Unsworth and 6 hits from the 1-3 hitters in the line-up. Today, the Blaze heads to Stockton to take on the Ports and starter Raul Alcantara, who had been the A’s #3 prospect heading into 2014, but an injury-plagued year pushed him down to #9 this year.

Clinton lost to Quad Cities 2-0 in 10 innings; Jamie Richie hit a 2-r walk-off homer to win it. Pat Peterson was great, but got no run support from the L-Kings. Reliever Hawtin Buchanon, who’d struggled mightily thus far, had an encouraging outing, throwing 1 2/3 hitless IP and getting all 5 outs as Ks. He mixed in 2 walks, but he gave the fielders a nearly 2-IP break, which is considerate of him. Lukas Schiraldi starts for Clinton tonight against Brock Dykxhoorn which is an extremely Dutch name. The Canadian faced Clinton back in May.

And today’s opening day for the Everett AquaSox. You’ve read JY’s preview, and you can listen in to Pat Dillon’s call here, or on AM 1380 in Everett. Luiz Gohara gets the opening day start this year. In his first NWL start of last season, he gave up 5 runs in 2 1/3 IP. Tonight will probably be better than that. He’s actually made one start on the year already – a 5 inning appearance for Clinton, in which the big Brazilian scattered 4 hits and a walk and kept Cedar Rapids off the scoreboard. Alex Jackson will bat 3rd tonight and play RF. DII slugger Ryan Uhl starts at 1B, and bats 8th. UW-product Braden Bishop bats 7th, while local kid Jordan Cowan leads off.

2015 Everett Aquasox Preview

June 18, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 9 Comments 

The past several years, I’ve had to deal with a minor conundrum. On one hand, I liked having an extra minor league affiliate in Pulaski because yay baseball but it also provided one more thing to stare at, one more team that I probably wouldn’t preview, and an environment and park factors that I didn’t quite know what to do with. Booo baseball. Then in the offseason, the Yankees snapped up Pulaski and we went back to having effectively two short-season summer affiliates plus two abroad (now both in the Dominican because Venezuela is not safe right now).

The boon of this for fans in this region is that, since there are fewer places for top prospects to go, the Everett team looks like it could be pretty darned talented this year. This will likely place the team in contrast to last year’s last-place squad. Scout/manager Rob Mummau will also be taking over again as manager, so anyone who was anticipating seeing Dave Valle outside of the broadcast booth is not in luck this year.

The areas of intrigue for me are primarily the outfield, which has something interesting at every position, and the rotation which is unusually structured and has at least three pitchers I’m already interested in. The backstops, eh, they’ll probably handle the pitching staff, and the infield’s hitting will likely be limited to the corners if it gets it there. The bullpen, which contained thirteen men on first roster release, is a place one could get lost in and I’m not quite sure what to think of it outside of a few members. Overall, this team should have a good amount of power and enough going on in the rotation to keep them in games. Looks like a competitive squad to me. And with the accelerated signing process and the college-heavy draft, I would expect that this is mostly the team we have, barring some contributors who are filling in elsewhere at the moment. Let’s get to it.

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Game 66, Giants at Mariners

June 17, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 12 Comments 

King Felix vs. Madison Bumgarner, 7:10pm

Happy Felix Day. It’s a perfect day for anything, really, but *man* is this a good day to watch Felix work. The weird, split home-and-home four game series with the Giants shifts to Seattle, so we won’t have to worry about the King taking a fastball on the finger. Instead, we can take in what feels like the most anticipated pitching match-up of the year so far.* Madison Bumgarner, post-season star and the Giants ace, gets the start for San Francisco. For years now, I’ve used Bumgarner as the template for pitchers who throw slider after slider (or cutter; the border is porous) without regard to the handedness of the batter. Bumgarner’s best pitch is his cutter, and so he’s going to make you hit it. In 2012, he threw about 40% cutters, and threw it more often against *Righties* which goes against the standard assumption as well as research on pitch-type platoon splits. It clearly didn’t hurt him, though. He held righties to a sub-.300 wOBA in 2012, and in his career overall. He’s got the standard platoon splits, but he’s so good against all batters that platoon splits miss the point.

In more recent years, though, Bumgarner’s tweaked his approach slightly. After throwing “only” 1/3 cutters in 2014, he’s dropped again to under 30%. Instead, he’s making more use of his curve ball, a pitch he’s thrown since coming into the league, but kind of got lost behind his cutter and change. His curve has been effective against lefties, and seems at least as good or better to righties. The M’s seem to do well on curves; Brad Miller, for one, waited on a Tim Lincecum curve beautifully for his HR the other day, and they’re 3rd in baseball in pitch type linear weights against them.

If you don’t like this match-up, you…wait, why are you here? Are you lost? For the rest of us, here’s hoping some well-deserved hype and our own high expectations aren’t setting us up for a fall – a scenario that seems pretty common for M’s fans.

1: Jackson, CF
2: Cano, 2B
3: Cruz, RF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Trumbo, DH
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Bloomquist, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C

The story about the Cardinals poking around the Astros’ proprietary data keeps getting stranger, with people now focused on what penalties might be forthcoming – first from the Department of Justice, and then from MLB itself. As Nathaniel Grow argues, MLB may not have much discretion at all to levy stiff penalties like a post-season ban. DOJ can issue criminal penalties, but it’s not clear that it will. Both the Computer Fraud and Abuse act of 1984 and the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 seem like they provide easy justification to prosecute, but it’s still not clear exactly what the Cardinals *did* once they broke in. Especially in the case of the CFAA, it doesn’t really matter, but if they just got in and started sending trolling messages, that seems like a different thing than actively mining it for insight, something more like a textbook case of industrial espionage. The problem is that we’ll never really know – some low-level office employee will be found, and I’m sure he/she’ll swear they did it as a joke. But that probably won’t appease Astros fans, and even if it was a joke, disseminating it to Deadspin (if the Cardinals did this – it’s not clear, and probably never will be) seems like escalating that joke pretty far.

Tacoma lost to Reno last night 14-7 after surrendering the game’s final 10 runs. Lucas Luetge got shelled in 2 2/3 IP in relief of Stephen Landazuri, who didn’t have a tidy appearance himself. Shawn O’Malley went 4-5 and Stefen Romero hit two doubles for the Rainiers, while Jamie Romak finished a double away from the cycle (with 5 RBIs) for the Aces. Justin Germano starts today against D-Backs prospect Aaron Blair, the guy I mentioned not too long ago when he faced off with Edwin Diaz and Jackson.

Speaking of Jackson, they face off with Birmingham today with Jimmy Gilheeney on the mound. Myles Jay starts for the Barons.

Bakersfield lost to Inland Empire 9-6, as the Sixty-Sixers put up 7 runs in the 7th inning. Kyle Schepel, the recent indie-league signee, made his Cal League debut in the 7th, and it didn’t go well – he gave up 5 runs without recording an out. Lost in the meltdown was an encouraging start from Tyler Pike, who went 6 solid innings and, more importantly, K’d 5 to just 1 walk.

Clinton snapped a dispiriting 15-game losing streak, beating Quad Cities 6-5 on a walk-off HBP in the 11th inning. Joe DeCarlo got the game-winning plunking, and also homered in the game. Pat Peterson tries to extend the L-Kings winning streak to 2 today against the River Bandits and starter Jorge Perez. Quad Cities is an Astros affiliate, so double-check the locks, and review your IT security protocols, Lumberkings.

* That doesn’t mean it’s the best. The Felix/Chris Archer tilt almost certainly takes that particular baked-good, but I think those of us on the west coast didn’t quite realize that Chris Archer had gone and pulled a Kershaw. We know now.

Game 65, Mariners at Giants

June 16, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 16 Comments 

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
9/SP: Happ

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)

Game 64, Mariners at Giants

June 15, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 21 Comments 

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.

Game 63, Mariners at Astros

June 14, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

Roenis Elias vs. Lance McCullers, 11:10am

Well that’s more like it, Mariners. The M’s playoff odds got slightly better, but they’re given less than 1/2 the chance of winning the division as either Houston or LA, and that’s a problem. BP’s odds, which seem to rely less on preseason projections somehow (they regress actual wins/losses less, I’d guess) have Texas with twice the odds of winning the division, whereas Fangraphs still sees them as a bad club that’s played out of its mind for a month.

Texas and Houston are two of the stories of baseball this year, as both clubs seemed to be in rebuilds, but are now fighting for playoff spots. Neither team had a lot of established MLB talent on their opening day roster, especially with Yu Darvish missing the year. There’s Adrian Beltre, sure, and then there’s…Dallas Keuchel? Scott Feldman? Elvis Andrus? They had mostly young rosters, and a wave of talent in the minors – if they struggled, they could presumably sell off whatever vets they had and bolster the ranks of cost-controlled prospects. As it’s happened, they haven’t struggled at all, and thus this wave of talent is entering the league playing meaningful games on good teams. Joey Gallo is filling in for Adrian Beltre, and hitting balls like this. Houston recently brought up a decent chunk of their AA-affiliate’s opening day line-up with SS Carlos Corea, today’s starter Lance McCullers, and Vince Velasquez. The Twins were expected to be going nowhere, but they’ve called up OF Byron Buxton as they fight to re-take the lead in the AL Central from KC. Today, the Indians got into the act, bringing up SS Francisco Lindor. As Jeff mentioned earlier, the AL has completely defied the projections – the Twins are above .500, the M’s aren’t – and thus the teams laden with prospects aren’t playing for next year.

Take McCullers, for example. A year ago, he was in high-A Lancaster’s rotation, where he struggled with control and the long-ball. He struck out more than a batter an inning, but walking 5.4/9IP and giving up 18 HRs in 97 innings pushed his ERA to the mid-5s. He had a live arm (see the K’s), but little idea where it was going. Houston moved him up to AA Corpus Christi, and something clicked. In 29 IP, McCullers struck out *43* while giving up just 15 hits, and posting an ERA safely under 1. When injuries hit Houston’s rotation, the Astros called him directly to the big leagues. Despite the huge K%, McCullers control still wasn’t perfect in AA. And as we’ve heard from high-K sluggers like Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo, the big-league strike zone is actually a bit smaller than the one called in the minors. What would the over/under on McCuller’s walk rate in the majors be, considering these facts? So far, McCuller’s walk rate is just 4.9%, half what it was in AA, and about 8 percentage points lower than his Cal League mark. McCullers is still striking everyone out, and he’s still hard to hit, but he’s finding the zone much more often.

Moreover, he’s continued to dominate opposite-handed hitters. The big league sample is tiny, of course, but lefties haven’t figured him out at all – they’re hitting .143. Kind of like with Mike Montgomery, though, we can see that this isn’t new – he was very tough on lefties through the minors, posting a better K rate against lefties than righties. But unlike Montgomery, McCullers has a low 3/4 arm slot – his release point is more than a foot lower than the big lefty’s. And while Montgomery used a great *pitch* to post reverse splits, I think something else is going on with McCullers. To be fair, McCuller’s change has looked quite good, but he just doesn’t throw it enough to explain why lefties have struggled. Instead, I think his delivery is especially deceptive to lefties. His arm drops down and back during his delivery, and as he turns and strides forward, his body hides the ball, especially to left-handers. He doesn’t hide the ball by throwing across his body (the way Danny Hultzen did, and which made him so effective against righties), but by that point, it’s probably tough for lefties to know where the ball is.

So the first-place Astros have two members of 2014 Lancaster’s rotation, both of whom scuffled in the Cal League, and both of whom then annihilated AA in short stints. If something’s going on with player development here and this isn’t either bad luck in 2014 or great luck in 2015, then this is a remarkable story.

Today’s line-up:
1: Smith, RF
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Sucre, C
SP: Elias

Mark Trumbo was supposed to start in LF, but he’s been scratched due to back spasms. Rickie Weeks was DFA’d yesterday to make room for Danny Farquhar – we’ll see if anyone picks him up. I thought for sure someone would take a flyer on Justin Ruggiano, but they didn’t, so he’ll get outrighted to Tacoma.

Tacoma rallied late, but couldn’t come back from a 6-0 deficit in yesterday’s 6-3 loss to Albuquerque. Shawn O’Malley and John Hicks had two hits each, and Andrew Kittredge was fantastic in relief of Sam Gaviglio – Kittredge pitched 4 shutout innings, striking out 2 against no walks. Kittredge continues to rack up frequent flyer miles shuttling between AA Jackson and Tacoma. Forrest Snow starts for Tacoma today against the delightfully named Yohan Flande.

Jackson beat Mobile behind a solid start from swingman Moises Hernandez and another good day at the plate by LF/DH Dario Pizzano. Trey Cochran-Gill got a nearly 3-IP save in the 7-2 win. Today, Jake Zokan faces off against Brandon Sinnery.

Bakersfield held on to beat Modesto 5-4, thanks to another big day from Tyler O’Neill, who hit his 14th HR of the year. The Canadian corner OF will turn 20 later this month, and while his OBP is ugly, he’s starting to hold his own in the Cal League. Austin Wilson also homered, but that brought his SLG% – again, in the Cal League – to .299. It’s been a rough season. Eddie Campbell takes the hill today for Bakersfield, while the well-traveled TBD starts for Modesto.

Clinton was rained out yesterday in Fort Wayne, so they’ll play two today. Tyler Herb and Osmer Morales are the starters for Clinton.

Game 62, Mariners at Astros

June 13, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 7 Comments 

Mike Montgomery vs. Collin McHugh, 1:10pm

We’ve talked a few times this year about the adjustments Collin McHugh’s made this year. He now pitches off of his slider/cutter, a pitch he throws about 40% of the time. He’ll throw four-seam fastballs only about 1/3 of the time. His curve’s still his swing-and-miss pitch, and he’ll use that about 1/4 of his pitches, and he’s got a change-up that he uses against lefties. The way he uses that slider – to righties and lefties alike, and all the damn time – it’s functioning as a cutter. Like many pitchers, he’s essentially using it as a cut fastball to neutralize lefties or to get grounders. McHugh’s problem is that the pitch hasn’t been working all that well. *Righties* are hitting .356 off it, and have as many extra-base hits as they do strike-outs. The only HRs he’s given up to lefties on the year have come on the pitch as well. Worse, righties have started to hit his fastball as well, and that’s led to a dramatic shift in his platoon splits. Last year, he dominated lefties and righties alike, with righties faring a bit worse – as you’d expect. His splits against lefties haven’t really changed, but this year, righties have a slash line of .297/.349/.506, and thus it shouldn’t be much of a shock that he’s now facing many more righties than lefties (the opposite was true last year).

We’re still talking about less than half a season, so I don’t want to suggest that McHugh’s will always run strongly reverse platoon splits. Eventually, he’ll figure out what he’s doing/not doing with his fastball and cutter, and eventually his HR/FB ratio will fall back to normal levels. And maybe all of this is just bad luck; his cutter/slider was effective against righties last year, after all, and that’s the bigger sample. But beyond the loud contact it’s generated, it’s got a different shape. His cutter has less vertical drop this year than last year, and if that seems like data mining to fit the narrative, it also seems like it might be a problem. That said, the pitch seems to be generating the same number of whiffs, ground balls and line drives as it did last year – it’s just that more of them are going over the fence. It *could* all be luck, but it’s tough to explain this chart, which shows how hard batters have put his slider/cutter into play this year:
There are an awful lot of 100mph+ exit speeds here. I’d love to compare it to 2014, but I can’t. Instead, I can just say that McHugh’s percentage of batted balls over 100mph looks a lot more like Kyle Kendrick’s than Garrett Richards.

Mike Montgomery’s made two starts, both at home, and fared remarkably well. He’s not striking anyone out, and he’s been lucky in pretty much every way, from a low BABIP and HR/FB to a sky-high strand rate. But he’s also been lucky in the hitters he’s faced. In his 13 IP, he’s seen 45 right-handed batters and just 5 lefties. That seems like it’d be a trial by fire for the young lefty, but I’m starting to think it’s playing to Montgomery’s strength. His best pitch is his change-up, which he throws mostly to righties. It generates whiffs, and it seems to give right-handers some trouble. Remember that in the minors, Montgomery always had a good change, and seemed to struggle to come up with a breaking ball. He’s got a curve now, but it seems to be a step behind the change. Part of the reason the change is so good is because Montgomery gets so much horizontal movement on it. It’s thrown from a high release point, but gets nearly a foot of horizontal, arm-side run (!). That’s not unprecedented or anything, but the guys who typically do this throw from much lower angles – Chris Sale and Charlie Furbush, for example. Guys who can throw over the top and get that much run often have good change-ups – Fernando Rodney comes to mind here, but perhaps that’s not the best example right now.

Looking at Montgomery’s minor league stats, he’s always run reverse splits. Since 2011, he’s struck out fewer lefties, walked more, and given up more HRs more often. The league has probably helped him by sending out nearly 100% RH lineups thus far, but he’ll see three lefties in today’s game. Should be interesting to see how he adjusts.

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

Tacoma didn’t have an extra-inning comeback in them last night, losing in extras to Albuquerque 3-2. Justin Germano pitched well for the R’s and matched Eddie Butler (the hard throwing, no-bat-missing former prospect I mentioned yesterday) through 6. Mayckol Guiape gave up the winning run in the 11th. Today, Sam Gaviglio starts for the Rainiers.

Edwin Diaz outpitched D-Backs prospect Aaron Blair in Jackson’s 4-3 win over Mobile. Diaz gave up 1 run on 3 hits and 2 BBs in 7 innings, and he struck out 7. He’s now gone at least seven in back to back starts, which is great, considering no one else on Jackson has pitched beyond 6 IP all year. I’ve mentioned Jackson’s had the worst staff in the Southern League – by a mile – but I was still stunned to hear that, courtesy of the Generals twitter feed. Moises Hernandez starts today. Here’s hoping it goes a bit better than his brother’s start yesterday.

Bakersfield lost to Modesto 4-3 despite three hits from 3B Jay Baum. Brett Ash starts today against Rockies prospect Antonio Senzatela, a hard-throwing Venezuelan righty.

Clinton gave up 2 runs in the 9th, and lost to Lake County 9-8. Chantz Mack and Joe DeCarlo homered for the Lumberkings off of Justus Sheffield, but the pitchers struggled (with the exception of reliever Kyle Schepel, who K’d 5 in 2 2/3 hitless innings. He just joined the L-Kings from the independent frontier league – he had been in the Arizona organization. Jefferson Medina starts for Clinton today as they take on Fort Wayne.

Game 61, Mariners at Astros

June 12, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 42 Comments 

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

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.

Game 60, Mariners at Indians

June 11, 2015 · Filed Under Mariners · 17 Comments 

JA Happ vs. Shaun Marcum, 9:10am

Oh great, more eastern time zone day games.

The M’s have nearly identical home/road splits, with a .690 OPS on the road and a .691 OPS at home. By wRC+, which takes into account their home park, they’ve actually been a better hitting team at home than on the road. That’s probably not what it feels like, and part of the reason is that their ISO is significantly better on the road. That makes sense, given Safeco’s HR-suppressing marine layer, but it’s still somewhat surprising – they’ve struggled at everything on the road *except* hitting for power. And because hitting for power is kind of important, they’ve more or less made it work. They enter today 14-13 on the road, but they’re just 13-19 at home.

For a refresher on Marcum’s gameplan, strengths and weaknesses, review the preview from the last time the M’s faced him, about 2 weeks ago.

1: Morrison, 1B
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Smith, RF
6: Trumbo, DH
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
SP: Happ

Go M’s

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