Game 84, Tigers at Mariners
Taijuan Walker vs. Kyle Ryan, 7:10pm
Many years ago, the M’s had a farm system that was short on impact talent, but had a number of more-or-less MLB-ready pitchers on hand in the high minors. There was very little upside in the group, but they could go out and not embarrass the club, and who knows, maybe they’d compensate for poor velocity with experience and guile once they made the adjustments to the big leagues? For years, I’d argue with Dave Cameron in the comments here that Cesar Jimenez or Bobby Livingston or Travis Blackley or Ryan Feierabend should get a legitimate shot. We agreed we didn’t like freezing out these guys by signing the likes of Carlos Silva to long-term deals, but we differed in our assessment of how lefties with 87mph fastballs and slurvy sliders transition from the high minors to the bigs.
Dave’s pessimistic take seems pretty accurate, though Feierabend lives on in the minors. Livingston got hurt after playing for Cincinnati, and Blackley had that one improbable good year with Oakland, but by and large, this group couldn’t quite overcome their lack of pure stuff. I’ve often thought about how odd it was that the M’s had so many players of the same type at the same level at more-or-less the same time. Blackley, Livingston and Jimenez all played for the Rainiers in 2006, and Feierabend came up in 2007. Sure, they weren’t the ONLY players in the system. Clint Nageotte was different, and the offense had a lot of high-ceiling promise in Adam Jones and Jeff Clement, but the M’s clearly saw this template – the high-80s lefty, especially change-up guys – as undervalued, and they practically horded them. I thought about that era of the M’s a lot as I was looking into Kyle Ryan’s skillset. The Tigers started the year with lefty Kyle Lobstein, a one-time Rule 5 guy out of the Rays org, in their rotation. The bespectacled Lobstein’s a lefty with an 87mph fastball who strikes almost no one out, but, at his best, is a perfectly respectable 5th starter thanks to a good ground-ball rate and general pitching intelligence (low HR rate, good with men on, etc.). Anyway, Lobstein’s shoulder started barking in May, but the Tigers had a facsimile in AAA in lefty Blaine Hardy. Hardy’s the fireballer of the group with an average FB of around 89-90, but he’s been so effective in relief that the Tigers decided to keep him in that role, and call up *yet another facsimile* in Kyle Ryan.
Ryan throws a four-seamer and sinker at 88-89, a cutter at 85 and then a slider and change-up that he’ll go to occasionally. Like Lobstein, Ryan is not a strikeout pitcher; his K% was 15% or lower in the *minors* and he’s had control issues off and on since coming up. Lobstein and Hardy don’t have much to throw at right-handers, but they’re able to control lefties. Ryan never had much in the way of platoon splits, and while that’s often a plus, it’s sometimes a sign you don’t have a good breaking ball. Ryan’s cutter’s a decent pitch, but despite it, a slider and a freakish release point, lefties haven’t been bothered by Ryan at all. Ryan releases the ball about a foot further towards 1st base than Charlie Furbush does – the only guy I can think of in that 3-4′ from the center of the plate release point was Carter Capps when he played for Seattle. Given the angle and the arsenal, it looks like a good match-up for the M’s righties, though this isn’t a game where Trent Jewett should shuffle everything to minimize lefty plate appearances. This is Detroit’s Ryan Feierabend, or their Cesar Jimenez after their Feierabend got hurt. To my great surprise, big league teams never seemed to mind facing our 87mph lefties. The problem is, I won’t be surprised about any outcome in this game. If they hit 3 HRs, well yeah, of course. If they get 4 hits in another depressing 3-1 loss, well yeah, of course.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Gutierrez, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Trumbo, DH
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Zunino, C
9: Taylor, SS
You…you tried to minimize lefty PAs, didn’t you? Ah well. If Taylor’s going to be on the team, he should probably play now and again, but the strange insistence that they are NOT platooning Taylor and Miller looks harder to defend when you see this. If you’re doing it, defend it – there’s a case to be made. Otherwise, maybe it’s time to stop making definitive statements about the shortstop position only to self-sabotage them a few days later. Just more weirdness in a weird year.
As bad as this offense has been, I’m enjoying the fact that Taijuan Walker’s quickly becoming appointment television. The right-hander’s quick adjustments and newfound command have been stunning, and it’s amazing both how different and how similar he is to the guy who looked absolutely lost in May.
Tacoma lost to the Fresno Grizzlies 8-2 after Forrest Snow had his worst start in quite a while, and Andrew Kittredge gave up an 0-2 grand slam to catcher Max Stassi. Roenis Elias starts tonight for Tacoma for the first time since his recent demotion. He’ll take on Fresno sinkerballer Mike Hauschild.
Jackson edged Mississippi 2-1 thanks to 6 innings of 1-hit, shutout ball from Edwin Diaz. The Puerto Rican struck out 7 and walked only 1. Jordy Lara was the hitting star once again with a 3-4 night. His .731 OPS this year is bad for a corner guy, and disappointing considering his huge year in High Desert last season, but in this org this year, it looks downright powerful. Moises Hernandez starts for Jackson today.
Bakersfield beat Stockton 4-1 as Eddie Campbell and Will Mathis both went three scoreless innings. Dan Altavilla faces off with Giants prospect Keury Mella tonight as the Blaze head to San Jose.
Clinton was rained out in Quad Cities yesterday; they’ll make that one up today. Tyler Herb starts Game 1 of the double header while Jarrett Brown takes the mound in Game 2.
Hillsboro held on for a 2-1 win over Everett. Lane Ratliff gave up 1 run but took the hard-luck loss as Hops starter Cody Reed struck out 10 in 6 shutout IP. LF Corey Simpson had a golden sombrero on the night. The two teams face off again tonight with Anthony Misiewicz starting for the AquaSox.