Game 136, Mariners at Athletics
King Felix vs. Jesse Chavez, 6:05pm
Happy Felix Day. Our valiant King was signed under the Pat Gillick regime, made his debut during Bill Bavasi’s tenure and signed his extension under Jack Zduriencik. Felix doesn’t seem to care much about the team’s front office, and I don’t think he should, but it’s frustrating to watch the way the M’s have wasted so much of Felix’s peak. At least Ichiro got to play a bit of playoff baseball. One of the most damning indictments of the GMZ era is that their record was so poor despite Felix pitching at or near Cy Young level every year.
Jesse Chavez faced the M’s 2 starts ago, and also in July; he’s still the same sinker/cutter guy he’s been for the past few years, though he is throwing a curve ball now – a pitch he wasn’t throwing back in July. He’s struggled against lefties this year, as his cutter hasn’t been quite as effective as it was in 2014.
Felix’s velocity seems stable, though of course it really ought to be considering that the M’s are giving him some extra days off. Like pretty much every Mariner, a big reason why Felix’s stats aren’t quite as royal as they normally are is that he’s struggled with men on base. With men on, his wOBA against is essentially dead on his career average. But with men on base, it’s been considerably worse. His FIP is about the same either way, so this is essentially a BABIP-driven phenomenon. Normally, you’d say that he’s just gotten unlucky and he’ll be back to being Felix in short order, but we’ve seen this so consistently from the M’s, you’ve got to wonder if something else is going on.
The offense’s situational struggles have received a lot of attention – their .289 wOBA with men in scoring position is the worst in the AL. But the M’s pitchers have been consistently worse with men in scoring position as well, and it hasn’t just been a bullpen problem. If you check out the M’s record just using base runs – which strips out context and just tallies up the puts and takes from each plate appearance – the M’s projected record (65-70) is nearly dead on their actual record (64-71). This doesn’t mean that sequencing hasn’t been important, though – it just means that abysmal offensive performance with RISP has been almost entirely counteracted by the abysmal performance of the pitching staff. Just counting up the hits and outs, the M’s are projected to score 4.33 runs per game. In actuality, they’ve scored just under 4. The pitching staff “should have” given up 4.5 runs per game, but they’re actually giving up a bit more than 4.6. You can look at their pythagorean record and say that the M’s have gotten lucky, but the real story is why other teams convert more baserunners into runs on offense and strand more runners on defense.
Their BABIP with men on is bad as a team, as you’d expect, but that still an odd driver of a phenomenon like this. Like Felix, the M’s GB% goes up with men on and with RISP, and you’d expect BABIP to go up along with it. They’ve given up more balls classified as hard hit, but the change is small and it isn’t matched by a change in LD%. It’s tough to know what – if anything – is going on. I’d love to ask potential GMs what they think is going on, just to hear how they think and what kind of information they want. More than that, though, I’d like Felix to get back to being Felix, and I want his defenders to assist him in doing that.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smith, RF
5: Morrison, 1B
6: Trumbo, DH
7: Miller, CF
8: Sucre, C
9: O’Malley, LF
SP: El Rey
Very Maddon-esque to bat Sucre 8th.
Cruz’s hamstring is still a bit sore, and Guti’s groin necessitated an early exit from yesterday’s game, but this would probably have been O’Malley’s game anyway with the righty Chavez on the hill.
Las Vegas beat up Tacoma 9-4 despite 3 hits from Chris Taylor. Mets prospects Dilson Herrera and Brandon Nimmo homered and Dillon Gee gave up 1 run in 7 strong innings. Mike Montgomery starts for the R’s today.
Chattanooga dominated the Jackson Generals 8-2. The Lookouts had 14 hits and drew 6 walks too, with 3 from Twins prospect Max Kepler. Misael Siverio wasn’t sharp. Dylan Unsworth starts today, so we’ll see a South African pitch to a German OF.
Bakersfield continued their recent run, blanking the San Jose Giants 2-0. Tyler Pike scattered 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 7 in his 7 IP. Pike also had 7 shutout innings in late July, but last night was his best outing of the year – his 7:1 K:BB ratio last night is loads better than the 4:3 from his earlier start. The Blaze got two unearned runs off Martin Agosta, which was nice, as Agosta fanned 9 in 6 innings and then turned things over to overpowering reliever Ray Black. Today, Ryan Yarbrough will try to match Pike as he shares the mound with Christian Jones, a lefty out of the University of Oregon who’s pitched out of the pen this year.
Eddie Campbell threw 7 solid innings of his own in Clinton’s 3-1 win over Beloit. The lefty didn’t fare well in the Cal League, but he’s been very sharp since his return to the MWL in August. Closer Ronald Dominguez is on a roll of his own, with 23 Ks and just 4 walks in his last 8 appearances, covering 18 1/3 IP. Lukas Schiraldi starts for the L-Kings today.
Vancouver destroyed Everett 12-5. Drew Jackson went 0-3 with a couple of walks. Today, Jackson was named the MVP of the NWL with a slash line of .362/.437/.452 – not bad from a cannon-armed SS. OF Corey Simpson is on an 0-13 skid right now with 9 Ks. He drew the dreaded platinum sombrero yesterday with 5Ks in 5 plate appearances. No word on today’s starter for Everett. The AquaSox finish off this series with Vancouver tomorrow, then head home to start their playoff series with Tri-City on Monday – the series begins in Everett. If you’re in the area, go.