Game 124, White Sox at Mariners
Taijuan Walker vs. John Danks, 1:10pm
The Mariners have been cycling through bullpen arms at quite a clip; Rob Rasmussen has been up and down a few times just within the last week, and now Charlie Furbush and Joe Beimel are on the shelf with shoulder injuries. With Carson Smith tiring, the M’s need fresh arms. But after last night’s bullpen implosion, they decided they’d seen enough of Fernando Rodney and Danny Farquhar. The Fernando Rodney Experience will be some other fanbase’s thrill ride, and Danny Farquhar will return to Tacoma just 8 days after leaving. Bullpens are notoriously volatile, but the M’s in 2015 seem to have suffered every possible problem. In context-neutral stats, the Mariners bullpen has the worst walk rate in baseball, the 7th worst HR rate, the 4th-worst ERA and the 5th worst FIP. But if you add context to the picture, things look even worse somehow. They’ve had the most meltdowns of any group in the AL, meaning that they’ve had *64* relief appearances that have dropped the M’s win probability by at least 6%. By RE24, or the sum of the run-expectancy changes of each plate appearance, the M’s bullpen has been the worst group in MLB – worse than the dumpster fire in Oakland.
The M’s face veteran lefty John Danks today, the White Sox highest-paid player in 2015. Despite suffering from injuries and ineffectiveness since 2011, his five year extension that covered 2012-16 will net Danks $65 million, or DOUBLE what Chris Sale’s 5-year deal will pay him, or $10m more than the *combined* outlay for the 5-year deals for both Sale ($32.5m) and Jose Quintana ($21m). It’s a bad contract, is what I’m getting at. To his credit, this looks somewhat
better less awful than it did a year ago, when Danks velocity continued to slide under 89, and when control problems cropped up. He’s not throwing hard now, but his FB velocity’s slightly higher than it was last year, and his walk rate’s under his career average. That’s helped his FIP look better than it has in some time, hence his decent fWAR figure, but unfortunately problems with righties and stranding runners have led to a very familiar RA/9.
When he was a good starter – 2008-2011 – Danks used a good change-up to neutralize right-handed bats, and gave his name to the Danks theory, or line-ups in which the Rays would stack with *lefties* to make it harder for Danks to use his best pitch. From 2008 through 2010, Danks posted reverse splits each year. In more recent years, though, his change-up hasn’t been nearly as effective, and righties have been teeing off. Righties have 5 HRs off his change, and he’s never really found an effective breaking ball against them. Danks’ GB% has been trending down as well, as righties learn to elevate his change. In his heyday, Danks’ change was something of a ground ball pitch. It didn’t show natural sink, but the difference in movement between his FB and change was large enough that batters would swing over the top of the latter. The percentage of balls in play off of change-ups has dropped by over 10 percentage points since then, though, and that’s meant more fly balls in total…and thus more HRs. The M’s could really use enough runs to put the game out of reach, and to ease the pressure that’s mounting on their beleaguered bullpen.
1: Marte, SS
2: Jackson, CF
3: Cruz, RF
4: Cano, DH
5: Gutierrez, LF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Trumbo, 1B
8: Miller, 2B
9: Sucre, C
The most important appearance for the M’s today won’t take place in Seattle. James Paxton makes his first rehab start for Tacoma today, his first game action since going on the DL with a strained tendon in his finger. If the M’s are going to be good at some point in the near future, Paxton figures to be a contributor.
To replace the roster spots of Rodney and Farquhar, the M’s have brought up Roenis Elias and reliever Logan Kensing. Elias will work out of the pen for now.
The Rainiers host Memphis, who’ll start lefty John Gast. Gast had TJ surgery as a high school senior, and after shooting through the Cardinals system, made his MLB debut in 2013. Unfortunately, he then suffered a serious shoulder injury, and has been inconsistent this year as he attempts a second major comeback. The Rainiers won the finale in Colorado Springs 7-4. Jabari Blash hit his 27th HR of the year, and Chris Taylor had 3 hits. Logan Kensing pitched a scoreless inning in relief of Forrest Snow, and then learned he’d be headed to Seattle after the game.
Jackson lost to Biloxi 2-1, despite getting 6 scoreless innings from starter Edwin Diaz. Tyler Smith singled and walked, making it 17 straight games in which he’s reached base. Stephen Landazuri starts today.
Bakersfield beat San Jose, thanks in part to yet another HR from Canadian slugger Tyler O’Neill. The RF has now homered in four straight games and has an even 30 on the year. Dan Altavilla starts today for the Blaze against Christian Jones, a sinkerballer who was drafted out of the U of Oregon in 2013; it’ll be Jones’ first start of the year after 34 relief appearances in the San Jose pen.
Zack Littell threw 8 scoreless innings for Clinton, but it wasn’t enough as Cedar Rapids scored 2 in the 9th to win 2-0. Kernels starter Sam Gibbons had quite a day, throwing 8 scoreless of his own, and yielding just 1 hit and no walks while striking out *12*. A single by 9th hitter Arby Fields was the only offense of the day for the L-Kings. Tyler Herb shares the mound with Cedar Rapids’ Randy LeBlanc, another sinkerballer who’s spent most of 2015 in the bullpen.
Everett edged the Tri City DustDevils 3-2, picking up the eventual winning run in the 7th on an error by the DustDevils pitcher. Drew Jackson went 4-4 with a walk, pushing his OBP on the year to .460. Joe Pistorese got the win in relief, tossing 4 1/3 scoreless, giving up a single and a walk while striking out 5. The ex-WSU cougar now had 40 Ks to just 6 walks in 37 2/3 IP on the year.