Game 81, Mariners at Athletics
King Felix vs. Kendall Graveman, 1:05pm
Happy Felix Day, and Happy 4th to you all. This season has been so painful, but it’s nice that we cans still celebrate every now and again. The M’s dinger-fueled romp yesterday was the perfect appetizer to today’s game, a chance to win a road series against the formerly-hot A’s and watch Felix perform yet again. And crucially, we can do all of this while grilling and drinking with friends. Not bad.
Today the M’s face righty Kendall Graveman, a sinkerballer the A’s got from Toronto as part of the Josh Donaldson deal. Graveman, a right-hander, throws a sinker, cutter and change, and he’ll mix in a curve at times. The repertoire sounds a lot like Jesse Chavez, and in fact Graveman’s release point is nearly an exact match of Chavez’s. But in terms of pitch movement and shape, the two are very, very different. Graveman doesn’t have much velocity; his fastball is around 91, and he’s got the low strikeout rates that you might expect from mediocre raw stuff. Instead, Graveman gets good sink with pretty much everything he throws. His change-up has splitter-like movement, and he should be able to throw it to righties and lefties, but it doesn’t look like he does (despite telling David Laurila that he does). Instead, he’ll throw righties his slider-like cutter that comes in at 86 and has very good horizontal movement (unlike Chavez’s more fastball-like cutter). The sinker and change-up are his big ground ball pitches, and they’ve pushed his GB% near 50% – it’s above average, though not in Felix’s class.
That could become a problem for him. Graveman doesn’t have the stuff for strikeouts, and (rightly) attempts to use what he CAN do to his advantage. But without really high GB rates, he’s kind of stuck in the middle – he’s not great at managing contact, control or strikeouts, and doesn’t seem to have any elite attributes to balance that out. He’s giving up over a HR per 9IP, and while tiny samples are all we’ve got with him, it’s not clear how that’s going to change unless he does something different, particularly with that cutter. Graveman’s cutter is noticeably slower than his fastballs, and while it’s got movement, it’s got less sink than you’d expect given everything else Graveman throws. And despite the horizontal movement, righties have destroyed the cutter thus far while lefties have fared well on his sinker. That sounds more dismissive than I mean it to – I think Graveman could be a solid #4 in time. But right now, he’s getting by on an amazing strand rate.
Baseball-Reference shows that the M’s have fared pretty well (ok, for *them*) against ground ball pitchers. By bbref’s definition, Graveman probably wouldn’t qualify, but I think this is a proxy for how the M’s do against pitches (not pitchers) of a certain type, and Graveman throws a lot of those pitches. The M’s have a number of fly-ball hitters with a pronounced uppercut in their swing, and Graveman’s sinker feels like it could fall into their wheelhouse. This year, Seager and especially Zunino have been much better against GB pitchers, while Cruz has been good against everyone. It’s Oakland, it’s the Mariners, and Graveman’s been better since his late-April demotion, but this isn’t the worst match-up for the M’s line-up.
1: LoMo, 1B
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smith, LF
7: Trumbo, DH
8: Miller, SS
9: Sucre, C
SP: El Rey
Day game after a night game and all, but it’s fitting that Zunino finally gets a match-up that looks decent for him…and Sucre gets the start.
So the M’s made a series of moves last night precipitated in part by the end of David Rollins’ rehab stint. The M’s have called up Rollins, righty Mayckol Guaipe and OF James Jones, and sent down Vidal Nuno, Roenis Elias and Tom Wilhelmsen. Nuno was the easy call, but the other two are somewhat surprising. Elias has been burned by the HR ball of late, but has been steady performer in the rotation. Wilhelmsen’s inconsistency is tough to figure out. This year, his strikeout rate’s up, but he’s been doomed by a terrible BABIP (it’s .413!). His FIP is almost two full runs better than his ERA, so in some sense this feels like penalizing Wilhelmsen for bad luck. You figure Wilhelmsen will work with Jaime Navarro for a few games and then swap places with Guaipe again. Jones is just biding his time until Hisashi Iwakuma returns on Monday, so this’ll be a short stay for him. I’m excited to see Rollins in the majors though. We talked him up in the spring, and he’s looked solid in AAA this past month.
Tacoma outslugged Las Vegas 12-7 at Cheney. There were 5 total HRs in the game, with the Rainiers’ Steve Baron, Patrick Kivlehan and Stefen Romero all homering. Neither starter was good; Stephen Landazuri gave up 4 runs in 4 innings while Vegas’ Rainy Lara apparently didn’t appreciate the hot, dry weather and gave up 7 runs on 10 hits (2 HRs) in 4 IP. Danny Farquhar had his best outing of the year for Tacoma, throwing 2 1/3 perfect innings with 5 Ks. The R’s took the lead for good in the 5th off of hard-throwing reliever Vic Black, who’s in AAA to rehab a groin pull. Today, the R’s head to Fresno to take on the Grizzlies and recently-demoted Astro Brett Oberholtzer.
Jackson lost the completion of their July 2nd game, but came back to beat Mobile 1-0 in a rain-shortened game behind Misael Siverio’s 6 shutout innings. The Generals prevailed after what looked like a game-tying sacrifice fly was taken off the board when the umpire ruled the runner had left 3rd base early. Former Mariner Dominic Leone got the win in the first game. Today, Jimmy Gilheeney starts for Jackson as they start a series against Mississippi. Prospect Tyrell Jenkins starts for the M-Braves.
Bakersfield topped Modesto 3-2 thanks to another strong start from Tyler Pike, who went 6 2/3 IP and struck out a career-high 10 batters. Paul Fry got the save, and deserves some attention for his excellent 2015 season. In 48 2/3 IP, the lefty now has 63 strikeouts to 12 walks, and he’s been equally tough on righties and lefties. Bakersfield returns home and begins a series with Stockton today.
Kane County beat Clinton 3-2. Catcher Wayne Taylor hit a 2R HR early, but that was it for the L-Kings offense. Jefferson Medina starts for Clinton tonight against the Cougars.
Luiz Gohara had another disappointing start in Everett’s 9-3 loss to Tri-Cities. He didn’t make it out of the 1st inning, giving up 3 runs…hope he’s OK. Everett’s home tonight to kick off a series with the Hillsboro Hops, the Diamondbacks NWL affiliate. Taylor Bird starts for Everett opposite Tyler Bolton.