Game 102, Diamondbacks at Mariners

marc w · July 29, 2015 at 12:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Patrick Corbin, 12:40pm

Happy Felix day in the actual day time, everyone.

While the King’s fielding-independent stats are down, he’s still having a remarkable season, and one that FIP may tend to underestimate. His K:BB ratio is a bit worse than it’s been in recent years, but at the same time, his strand rate and ground ball rate continue to rise. The key here, as usual when discussing veteran (as opposed to flamethrowing-rookie) Felix is his change-up. Felix went from throwing curves to lefties to throwing change-ups to lefties, and the platoon issues that cropped up occasionally (like in 2008) vanished. The pitch produced a lot of ground ball contact *and* whiffs, but the key thing was that it generated swings. All of those whiffs and ground-outs helped lower his walk rate, and then his command improved to the point where the pitch type didn’t really matter: he’s never going to have control problems again. In 2014, Felix greatly increased the number of cambios he threw to *righties*, which meant that he was throwing more change-ups in general. As a result, his ground ball rate shot up from 51% to 56%.

Felix can essentially choose his ground ball rate now, as we can see when he’s in a jam. With the bases empty, Felix gets ground balls on 53% of balls in play. Once runners are on, and especially with RISP, his use of the change increases to nearly 40% of all pitches thrown, and his GB% soars to 62%. It’s important to note that his GB rate’s rise this year isn’t solely due to the change-up – Felix is using more curve balls than ever before. Fully 1/5th of his pitches are now curves – a level he’s never been at in the pitch fx era. This is a pitch mix we haven’t seen since April of of 2007.

As usual whenever I choose to write about something, Jeff Sullivan’s beaten me to it and done a better job of it. The wrinkle here isn’t *just* that Felix’s curve is again so good that it gets swings out of the zone and takes in the zone, but that it’s every bit as grounder-heavy as his change. It isn’t swung at as much – which is nice in certain high-leverage situations – and consequently, it’s not put in play as much as the change. But when it IS put into play, it’s remarkably difficult to elevate, and in 2015, Felix is throwing a ton of it with men on base, and particularly to left-handers. It’s a pitch that no one’s managed to drive all year – not only has he not surrendered a home run on it, he hasn’t given up a double. This isn’t to say it always generates bad contact – his batted-ball velocity on curves isn’t elite. But exit speed is only one part of the puzzle: angle matters, too. What Felix’s curve seems to do is trade angle for velo. Collin McHugh, just as an example, has a good curve, and batters have tended to put it in play more slowly than they’ve put Felix’s in play. But because so much of the contact against Felix is on the ground, that contact can’t do much damage. Batters are slugging .307 against McHugh’s this year, while they’re slugging just .096 against Felix’s.

Today’s opponent is Patrick Corbin, once a throw-in prospect from the Angels in the Dan Haren/Joe Saunders deal, he saw his velocity grow and turn from a pitchability lefty potential #5 starter into a solid #3. Of course, that was before Ulnar, God of Elbows paid a visit to him in 2013, and thus Corbin is only just returning to the big leagues this month. So far, he’s looked good – his velocity is actually up a tick compared to 2013, and he’s still getting very good run on his fastball. He’s got a so-so change-up that moves just like his sinker but comes in 10mph slower, but his best pitch is a good slider with two-plane break. Because of its downward movement, he’s comfortable using it to righties as well as lefties, and both have struggled against it. Thanks to the slider, Corbin’s o-swing% has been well above average, and it’s touching 40% in his first 22 IP back this year.

He throws both a four- and two-seam fastball, preferring to target the top of the zone with the former, while moving the latter around. The slider is thrown down and away to lefties and low and in to righties – that is, it’s thrown to the same spot no matter who’s batting. He’s got good command, but for whatever reason, he’s given up a fair number of home runs already in his four starts. Part of this may be due to throwing more four-seamers this year, but he’s actually given up more off the sinker. Perhaps it’s rust after the long layoff, but the M’s should be somewhat aggressive – he’s been prone to mistakes with his fastball, and the M’s need to capitalize.

1: Jackson, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, RF
4: Gutierrez, LF
5: Trumbo, DH
6: Miller, 2B
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Zunino, C
9: Taylor, SS
SP: El Rey

The M’s promoted DJ Peterson to Tacoma this morning; an interesting move given Peterson’s struggles at the plate this year. Maybe a change in environment will do him some good.


16 Responses to “Game 102, Diamondbacks at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on July 29th, 2015 1:22 pm

    Just peeked in. Felix gave up four runs in the first? Is he okay?

    I wonder if he’s just gotten as worn down by this team as the rest of us have been…

  2. jak924 on July 29th, 2015 1:35 pm

    Jack Z. better be packin’ his bags.

  3. eponymous coward on July 29th, 2015 1:54 pm

    So, looking like the M’s need to play like a 95 win team the rest of the year just to get back to .500…


  4. Dismal Nitch on July 29th, 2015 2:55 pm

    Once again, I’m sure we’ll all glad we don’t have a need for a catcher who can hit.

  5. seattleslew on July 29th, 2015 3:32 pm

    In your face, Jack. Welington Castillo is what we needed. You got him, which I thought was a miracle, and then you gave him away for something the M’s didn’t need. Jaso for Morse all over again.

    Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice, shame on me.

    Fool me three, four, five times… and you’re gone.

  6. rgreentee3 on July 29th, 2015 3:43 pm

    Stick a fork in this season. Swept by Arizona and the Hawks report at the end of the week. Is there something at the higher levels of management that creates this team of underachievers?

  7. Westside guy on July 29th, 2015 3:43 pm

    Haha, why does Gameday currently list Fernando Rodney as “On Deck”?

  8. r-gordon-7 on July 29th, 2015 3:47 pm

    seattleslew, “Fool me three, four, five times…” and “me” = Mariner Front Office/Management/Ownership in standard operating mode…

  9. msfanmike on July 29th, 2015 3:59 pm

    Nice homestand fellas! I hope to be seeing fewer of you when the team returns to town.

  10. jak924 on July 29th, 2015 4:01 pm

    Time to sell, Jack and get anything you can to replenish your flop minor league system that you’ve wrecked. Do the right thing for the team—not to save yourself. That ship has sailed.

  11. bluemoonking on July 29th, 2015 5:14 pm

    Let’s hope the ship has sailed. The last three were supposed to determine the season (or so I heard). Well the M’s went 0-3. I guess it did. PLEASE DON’T LET JACK SELL UNTIL A REAL GM COMES IN. That is assuming that the front office will actually find someone qualified.

  12. Grayfox3d on July 29th, 2015 8:00 pm

    Must be nice to have a good team and a good farm, Rangers just picked up Hamels and still got to keep a bunch of their top prospects. Rangers, Angels, Astros keep getting better mean while Mariners are just shitting the bed and sleeping in it like its the cool thing to do.

    Supposedly the Yankees talked to Jack Z about Ackley but of course Z wants more more more for his players….

  13. JMB on July 30th, 2015 7:43 am

    Rodney really was “on deck”, I think… Morrison left the game, Trumbo moved from DH to 1B so the pitcher slot had to bat.

    In a season of disappointment (isn’t that every season?) this feels like the low, at least to me, at least so far.

  14. Westside guy on July 30th, 2015 8:14 am

    Ah, that makes sense. I see now that Morrison got hurt… jammed his thumb or something like that. Thanks, JMB.

  15. Westside guy on July 30th, 2015 2:00 pm

    Dustin Ackley just got traded to the Yankees.

    I imagine he’s their starting second baseman, which is a big need for them AND his best position.

    Good luck, Dustin. I suspect you’ll do well in New York.

  16. seattleslew on July 30th, 2015 2:42 pm

    I hope he does. The M’s got more for him than I thought, at least by the numbers and reports.

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