Game 120, Mariners at Rangers
Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Chi Chi Gonzalez, 5:05pm
Hisashi Iwakuma takes the mound for the first time since his no-hitter last Wednesday, and he’ll be facing one of the Rangers’ top young arms in right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez. Iwakuma’s command allows his so-so fastball velocity to play up; ask Adam Jones how an Iwakuma rising fastball looks when you’ve got to keep an eye out for the splitter. If Gonzalez is to achieve his potential, he’ll need similar command, as he doesn’t have a clear knockout weapon like Kuma does. Instead, Gonzalez mixes two different fastballs with a slider and change (plus a rarely-used curve) to induce weak contact.
Although his four-seam fastball touches 94-96, it averages somewhere around 92. The four-seam is arrow straight with a below-average amount of rise; it’d look like a sinker if it wasn’t for his *actual* sinker, which has more, uh, sink along with a bit more armside run. His slider impressed scouts in the minors – it’s firm, and has two plane break, if not a whole lot of it. He’s got a decent if typical arsenal, but Gonzalez pitches as if he were allergic to whiffs. Even his *slider* elicits whiffs on fewer than 13% of swings against it, and his sinker gets fewer than that. This is why he’s currently sporting a K:BB ratio *under* 1 – he’s given up 24 walks and struck out only 19 of the 207 batters he’s faced. Even in the minors, bat-missing was never a big part of his game.
That didn’t stop him from garnering attention from prospect-hounds, though. In Kiley McDaniel’s top 200 list at Fangraphs, Gonzalez slots in at 27, in the middle of a run of pitchers including Jose Berrios, Robert Stephenson, Luis Severino and Jake Thompson. Everyone around him has fastballs in the mid to upper 90s, and displays potential to be a #1 or #2 starter. Scouts absolutely love Gonzalez’s hard-to-define pitchability and believe he was practically guaranteed to be a #3-4 starter in the big leagues. Not knowing a whole lot about the guy after he was drafted (in the first round in 2013, out of Oral Roberts), I find that kind of fascinating. I think scouts believed he would become an elite ground-ball pitcher – a Tim Hudson type – and that his slider would allow him to miss enough bats that he wouldn’t be pigeon-holed as “just” a ground baller. What we’ve seen – in what’s obviously a very small sample – is a bit different. The slider functions more as a cutter, and doesn’t seem geared to get strikeouts. Moreover, he’s comfortable using his four-seam against righties, including up in the zone, which means his GB rate against them isn’t noteworthy at all.
Despite an identical fastball mix to righties and lefties, he looks like two different pitchers depending on who’s standing in the box against him. Lefties put his sinker in play a ton, and they deal with Gonzalez’s change-up, the pitch with the most sink of any of his offerings. As a result, they’ve got a GB:FB ratio of 3:1. Righties have put his four-seamer into play a bit more, and see quite a few sliders, a pitch they’ve not had any trouble elevating. Thus, his GB:FB ratio is a touch over 1 against RHBs. He can’t strike anyone out, so he’s a very low average, but high SLG% guy against righties and a higher average but low SLG% against lefties. Overall, they’ve got nearly identical wOBAs, but HOW they got them is completely different.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Cano, 2B
5: Smith, RF
6: Jackson, CF
7: Miller, LF
8: Morrison, 1B
9: Sucre, C
Tacoma lost a tough one last night 2-1, on a 2-out walk off single. Forrest Snow threw 5 scoreless innings for Tacoma, and Eric Surkamp threw 7 scoreless in reply. All 3 runs scored from the bottom of the 8th on. Today, Roenis Elias takes the mound against once (and future?) Dodgers prospect Zach Lee. Lee got a huge bonus to buy him out of a football scholarship at LSU and moved quickly, but had a tough year in AAA last year for Albuquerque. This year, he’s been much better, in what’s admittedly a friendlier pitching environment. Lee too doesn’t rack up strikeouts, but his control’s much improved and that’s meant a lot for him thus far. He made a spot start for the Dodgers this year, and while that wasn’t exactly a great showing, he’s still on the map for a team who’s lost quite a few SP innings to injury.
Bakersfield lost to Lake Elsinore 3-1, as Scott DeCecco gave up 3 runs in the 4th. Dan Altavilla starts for the Blaze today.
Everett shut out Spokane 5-0 behind Enyel de los Santos, who struck out 6 in 5 IP and WSU-product Joe Pistorese who K’d 4 in 3 IP. Nick Wells makes his 2nd start today for the AquaSox after his brilliant debut for the M’s org on the 13th.
Jackson hosts Biloxi today, and Clinton kicks off a series against Burlington – Misael Siverio and Tyler Herb will take the hill for their respective clubs.