Game 127, Athletics at Mariners
King Felix vs. Chris Bassitt, 12:40pm
Happy Felix Day. The M’s and A’s played a game in which both bullpens logged a lot of innings without giving up a run. That’s kind of incredible, given their track records.
The M’s face right-hander Chris Bassitt today, a part of the big Jeff Samardzija trade that also netted the A’s SS Marcus Semien. Bassitt wasn’t a big prospect, but was big-league ready thanks to a solid four-seam and sinker, a slider and slow curve. While his brief cup of coffee with the White Sox hadn’t gone well, the A’s talked him up as a rotation candidate in the spring, and after starting the season in AAA and then moving to the A’s bullpen, he’s been the 5th starter for a few months now. After getting stretched out a bit, he’s been on a roll, with quality starts in his last 7 outings – the last time he failed to make it 6 IP was the last time he faced Seattle, back on July 5th – and that was only his 2nd start of the year.
Bassitt’s a fly-ball pitcher despite the fact that none of his pitches have much in the way of rise. Looking at the movement on his pitches and his arsenal, you’d expect an above-average GB%, but that’s not what we see – his rate of 41.3% is well below average. Since arriving in Oakland, he’s done two things that have helped him figure out MLB. First, he’s added over 1mph on his fastball – he now throws 94 pretty routinely and touches 97. Second, he’s developed a plan of attack against left-handers. With the White Sox and in the minors, Bassitt’s sinker/slider-heavy repertoire produced big platoon splits. He had – and still has -a change-up, but it hasn’t been very effective and he doesn’t use it much. Instead, Bassitt’s now throwing lefties a lot of four-seamers, a pitch with much lower platoon splits than the sinker. In addition, he mixed in his slow curve so lefties can’t sit on his slider. That slider’s tightened up a bit too – it’s thrown around 85, and has more horizontal movement than it did last year – and while neither breaking ball is all that great on its own, using the two in combination seems to work for Bassitt. This is exactly why Taijuan Walker needs to work on a true slider this offseason.
Part of the reason for Bassitt’s grounder-averse ways is that he’s pretty comfortable pitching up in the zone. And this isn’t limited to his four-seam; he’ll throw low and away sliders to righties, but against lefties, he’ll often target the top of the zone with his breaking balls, which isn’t something I’ve seen many pitchers do. Working the sides of the zone instead of the bottom may produce more fly balls, but it might also help him avoid pulled contact. His 29% opposite-field contact rate would be well above average for starting pitchers, and the percentage of hard-hit balls he’s allowed ranks 2nd in baseball, behind only Dallas Keuchel. This helps explain why his actual runs-allowed are so much lower than his FIP and xFIP would suggest, but it also leaves fans with a choice: by the newfangled quality-of-contact stats, he looks like a very good pitcher. By good old fashioned DIPS-stats, he’s only average. We know how well DIPS metrics like xFIP predict future ERA, but we don’t know as much about what “hard hit%” *means* for a pitcher going forward, or how reliable it is. Some pitchers, like Keuchel, clearly have an ability to generate weaker contact, but just as many supposed “FIP-beaters” fail to maintain their DIPS-defying ways, plenty of pitchers can’t seem to maintain elite levels of contact management. So we’ll see; for the A’s, even if he’s “just” average, that’s still a great return for the 2nd piece in the Samardzija trade.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, RF
4: Cano, 2B
5: Smith, LF
6: Trumbo, DH
7: Morrison, 1B
8: Miller, CF
9: Sucre, C
SP: The King
Tacoma’s Chien Ming Wang was coming off two stellar outings heading into last night’s game against Memphis, but he couldn’t make it three straight. Wang gave up 8 runs in the first 3 innings in Tacoma’s 8-2 loss. Ji-Man Choi, who’s rejoined the Rainiers following surgery and rehab on his leg, had 2 hits. Tyler Olson starts for the Rainiers tonight.
Jackson was shut down yet again by another Rays hurler, this time it was Austin Pruitt’s turn. Pruitt went 8IP, giving up just 2 hits, walking none and striking out 8. In the three games of this series, the Biscuits starters tossed 21 innings, gave up 0 runs on just 7 hits and struck out 29. It won’t get any easier for them today, as they now face one of the Rays actual top prospects in Taylor Guerrieri. The former 1st rounder suffered TJ surgery in 2013 and then a suspension for a drug of abuse, but he’s put up great numbers when healthy. Jimmy Gilheeney takes the mound for the Generals.
Bakersfield beat Visalia 9-6 thanks to two HRs from OF Chantz Mack. Ryan Yarbrough was solid for 5 IP, and while the bullpen was a little shaky, the Blaze torched ex-M’s minor leaguer Brett Shankin for 8 runs in 2 2/3 IP. Tonight, Brett Ash shares the mound with Visalia’s Ryan Doran.
After getting 1-hit twice in the span of 3 days, the Clinton Lumberkings finally went out and silenced another team’s bats. Eddie Campbell pitched well, tossing 8 shutout innings, surrendering only 3 hits against Quad Cities. Lukas Schiraldi faces off with Astros’ prospect Agapito Berrios, which is a name you don’t see every day. The Panamanian righty has given up just 2 runs in 4 midwest league starts.
Everett beat Salem-Keizer 4-1, with Jake Brentz tossing 6 innings of 1-hit, shutout ball. Braden Bishop had 4 hits in the game, and has been red hot since beginning his pro career a bit slowly. He’s the NWL’s player of the week, and has hit safely in 14 of his last 15 games. Drew Jackson had 3 hits of his own, pushing his OBP to .466. While Jackson has little in-game power, his speed is a real asset: he’s stolen 42 bags this year and been caught only 3 times. Anthony Misiewicz starts for the AquaSox tonight.