Gmae 134, Mariners at Astros
Taijuan Walker vs. Scott Kazmir, 5:10pm
Among the many fascinating – and not always encouraging – stats about Tai Walker’s 2015, this is one of the most striking: With no one on, Walker’s giving up a .603 OPS and has posted a HR% of 2.2%. With men on base, Walker’s giving up a .912 OPS and has a HR% of 5.5%. It’s stunning, sure, but it’s also tough to know what to do with it. He’s given up 22 HRs on the year, and now we’re looking at divvying those up. Still, Walker’s been much better than league average with no one on and he’s been much, much worse than league average once someone’s on base. There are a number of possible reasons for this, but it can’t be that he struggles from the stretch…he now throws from the stretch at all times, so that can’t be it. It could have something to do with release point variance if he’s got even a tiny bit of his head focused on a runner – his splits with a runner on 1st are the worst of all, but we’re now looking at splits of splits. It could have something to do with a change in pitch mix/approach with runners on. He throws more splitters with men on base, but he seems to have given up more solo shots on splitters.
It’s possible that we can find some physical difference by scanning the video or pitch fx – maybe there’s a subtle ‘tell’ that he has with men on. But as this great Adam Sobsey piece about Jake Arrieta shows, it’s just as likely that the difference is purely a mental one. Seriously, go read that and think about Walker and has on-again/off-again struggles with big innings and see if it doesn’t sound familiar. I don’t know why Walker can look so dominant and then struggle after a walk or HBP, but I want to feel more confident that the M’s can help him improve. Going way back to the beginning of the Zduriencik era, we all had what now seem like insanely optimistic views of the changes in approach that he was bringing in throughout the system. A new strength/conditioning approach based on sport-specific exercises would revolutionize training. Performance coaches to work on just the kind of mental adjustments that made such a difference for Arrieta would unlock potential in stalled-out prospects, etc. None of it appears to have made a difference at all, or at least, not a positive difference. And that clearly has an impact on how I’ll react when the new crew touts their specialized movement coaches or nutritional advisors. But that doesn’t mean this stuff doesn’t matter, it just means it’s really hard to know what you’re buying.
Scott Kazmir’s made some changes of his own since moving over from Oakland in late July. He’s throwing more sliders now to lefties, but given his historical splits, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that he tends to see a lot more righties. There, the changes are a bit harder to see, though he’s throwing a few less change-ups and a couple more curves. His cutter’s something of an interesting pitch, in that it’s so slider-like but without a ton of vertical movement. He throws a proper slider as well that has similar horizontal movement but much more drop. Despite the cutter’s lack of drop, it’s been an incredibly good ground ball pitch. That’s probably a good thing, as his fastball (four-seam and sinker) have a ton of vertical rise, and aren’t hit on the ground that much. The cutter combines contact (batters put in play a lot) with contact-type (batters hit it into the ground a lot), which is handy when you’re in a double-play situation. With men on 1st, Kazmir’s OPS-against this year is .479, which compares rather favorably to Walker’s 1.043.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Cano, 2B
5: Gutierrez, LF
6: Trumbo, 1B
7: Romero, RF
8: Sucre, C
9: O’Malley, CF
Welcome to the Mariners, Shawn O’Malley. The switch-hitting O’Malley hasn’t played CF in the majors before, but got a few games in LF for the Angels last year. The Richland, WA native missed nearly all of July with an injury, and after an adjustment period, finished August strong, racking up 20 total based in his last 5 games. He spent most of the year at 2B, but he did play 11 games in CF for the Rainiers.
The R’s lost in Salt Lake 10-1, despite a reasonably strong start from lefty Tyler Olson. The bullpen (Beimel, Sam Gaviglio and newcomer Matt Anderson) gave up 8 runs in 3 IP. Today, the Rainiers send James Paxton out for his next rehab start. He’ll face Nick Tropeano. Joining the R’s yet again will be 1B Jesus Montero, who is one of the rare players to get sent down AFTER rosters expand. Lloyd McClendon said they wanted to get him more ABs, and that’s harder now with Mark Trumbo actually hitting, but it’s still got to sting for Montero.
Jackson’s off today, but they finished off theirs series with Pensacola with an 8-7 win. SS Tyler Smith reacted to being named to the AFL with a 4-5 night. Edwin Diaz got the win, but it was a struggle – his 6:0 K:BB ratio in 5 IP was great, but the 9 hits and 6 runs were less great. Another AFL selectee, Paul Fry, struck out 3 but had some uncharacteristic wildness, walking 2, in the 9th.
Bakersfield shut out Lancaster 2-0 behind 7 strong innings from Brett Ash. The righty struck out 5, and then Emilio Pagan struck out the side in the 9th for a classy save. Scott DeCecco starts tonight.
Clinton thought about blowing it, but eked out a 10-9 decision over Wisconsin. The TimberRattlers scored 2 in the 9th off of Ronald Dominguez, but he got the final out. Zack Littell has been scuffling of late, and this was perhaps his worst start, going 4 IP and giving up 7 runs. It’s been a solid season overall for the 19 year old, who may be tiring given he pitched only 70 innings last season. Tyler Herb leads Clinton as they welcome Beloit tonight.
Everett briefly held a 6-1 lead over Spokane, but couldn’t hold it – they lost 7-6 on a walkoff double in the 10th. Andrew Moore started and threw 3 scoreless, but he doubled his walk total on the year. He’s now given up 2, against 43 strikeouts. Ryan Uhl had 2 hits including a double. Enyel de los Santos takes the mound for the AquaSox tonight in Spokane.