Game 114, Orioles at Mariners
Taijuan Walker vs. Chris Tillman, 7:10pm
A day after Adam Jones homers against his ex-team, the other big part of the infamous Bedard trade takes the hill against the M’s – the team he’s had the most success against of any team in baseball. In 7 starts, Tillman is 6-0 and has given up just 26 hits in 43 innings pitched. The M’s have *slugged* .272 against Tillman, and that includes Tillman’s early years in baseball, when he was ineffective on the whole.
As I mentioned yesterday, the Orioles have done well in assembling a staff of pitchers who are a bit more effective than their FIPs would suggest. Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Tillman have all traditionally given up a lot of HRs, but have tended to post better RA/9 numbers than their FIP. By fielding-dependent WAR, Tillman posted a pair of 4-WAR seasons in 2013 and 2014. By fWAR – which is FIP-based – he was a bit over 4 for both years combined. This season, Tillman’s even reduced his HR rate, down just below 0.8/9, which is remarkable improvement for a guy who seemed to live at 1.2/9 and higher. Unfortunately for Tillman, while FIP *still* doesn’t accurately describe his runs-allowed this season, it’s now UNDERestimating it. A disastrous start to the campaign left Tillman sporting a 4.41 FIP and a *5.40* ERA.
Since then, though, Tillman’s transformed himself a bit. As this great interview with Eno Sarris demonstrates, he’s made a series of adjustments that’ve been rewarded with a series of excellent starts. Tillman’s four-seam fastball gets more vertical rise than any other FB in baseball, and that’s been the key both to Tillman’s low ground ball rate, but also – once his command improved a bit – his low BABIP. When that wasn’t working, Tillman began mixing in more of his rarely-used sinker. Some of the changes Sarris documents – a spike in GB%, a drop in BB% – might be directly influenced by that alteration in his repertoire. But even while he’s made other changes – a shift on the rubber, and taking a bit of steam off of his change-up – the overall picture seems out of whack. It’s not like he’s suddenly throwing the sinker a ton; he’s still under 20% with it since July 1. And while the change has a bit more drop, he’s thrown fewer than 100 in that time. But in the 2nd half, the fly-balling, HR-absorbing, control-challenged pitcher who was bailed out through a low BABIP and consequently high strand rate has put up the numbers of a control-artist sinkerballer. Tillman has allowed no HRs in the 2nd half, put up a GB% of 54% in July and nearly halved his walk rate. Thanks to a minor ankle injury, this is his first start in the month of August, and I for one am kind of curious to see if any of these changes are immediately apparent. If not, I have a hard time believing Tillman’s magic transformation based on a month of data. I have no trouble believing that he’s successfully hexed the Mariners, however. That’s practically irrefutable.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, RF
4: Cano, 2B
5: Smith, LF
6: Trumbo, DH
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Miller, SS
9: Zunino, C
Another baseball GM has been let go. First came the surprising news about Detroit’s Dave Dombrowski, who Ryan Divish wrote about as a potential M’s target a while ago. Today, the Brewers GM Doug Melvin stepped down, and the owner announced he’d retained a search firm to help locate a candidate with an analytical background.
Tacoma had an off day yesterday, and welcome Sacramento to town. The opener tonight sees Edgar Olmos making a spot-start for the Rainiers while Nik Turley – a one-time Yankees farmhand the Giants org picked up last year – starts for the RiverCats.
Jackson scored the game’s final 5 runs but still came up short in a 6-5 loss to Tennessee yesterday. Jabari Henry hit his 5th HR, but it wasn’t enough. Edwin Diaz took the loss. Today, Steven Landazuri starts opposite Jeffry Antigua.
Bakersfield was also off yesterday, and they open a series against the one team in the league with a worse record: Lake Elsinore. Brett Ash starts for the Blaze.
Clinton must regretfully return to the baseball diamond today after a blessed off-day. They’ll host Lansing behind returning starter Ryan Yarbrough. Yarbrough shot into the M’s top-10 prospect lists after a brilliant campaign in Everett, but has struggled this year and went back to Peoria for a stay in extended spring training for a while.
Everett beat Vancouver 4-2 as Drew Jackson notched another 3 hits, taking his OPS on the year to .942. Ryan Uhl homered, and the AquaSox bullpen surrendered no runs and 1 hit in 6 IP in relief of starter Andrew Moore. Jose Santiago starts tonight in Vancouver.