Game 146, Angels at Mariners
King Felix vs. Nick Tropeano, 7:10pm
Happy Felix day. If you’re able to see through your disappointment in the season, the M’s are actually pretty fun to watch right now. Today’s game looks like a mismatch on paper, and I’d certainly take a mismatch on the field.
Tropeano is a former Houston Astro, who some of you may remember made his big league debut last year against the M’s down in Houston. Flipped to Anaheim in the deal that sent Hank Conger to Houston, he’s spent nearly all of 2015 in AAA – I say NEARLY all, because he’s made 4 spot starts throughout the year. After pitching quite well in the PCL in 2014 – he was the league’s pitcher of the year – he struggled in the high-altitude environment of Salt Lake, though some of that may be due to the abysmal team surrounding him. Still, for a guy with a reputation for command and pitchability, his line with Salt Lake doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The walk rate was far too high, and while his strikeouts were up, Salt Lake exerted the kind of influence you’d expect on a fly-baller like Tropeano. That combined with problems stranding runners (whither the “pitchability” people talk about?), and it was a forgettable year.
Still, he’s come up and in very limited duty looked like what you’d want out of a back-of-the-rotation starter. He’s displayed command in the bigs, if he didn’t in the PCL, and he’s getting more strikeouts than he did in Houston. The problem is that he hasn’t stopped giving up runs. His FIP is awesome, thanks to the fact that he’s STILL not given up a HR in his 8 big league starts, but his ERA and RA/9 are awful. Regression may help with his BABIP or strand rate, but it’s going to come for that 0% HR rate, too. One of the reasons why it’s zero – at least this year – is that he’s pitched each of his four previous starts in dinger-suppressing Anaheim. This is his first road start, but he’ll still yet to play in a neutral park, let alone a hitters’ park like Texas.
Coming up, the report on Tropeano was that he had a so-so fastball at 90-91, but a good change-up that generated whiffs. In his very, very brief career, what we’ve seen is *slightly* different. His four-seam fastball is indeed 91, and has very un-remarkable movement, sure, but his change-up has been somewhat problematic. It gets some whiffs, but not too many, and this year, batters have knocked it around without much trouble. Instead, it’s been his slider – a pitch not really mentioned much in reports – that’s been his best offering. The slider gets two-plane break and, unlike his change-up, gets actual sink. This year, he’s started to use it to lefties as well, and he’s throwing a few less change-ups.
In the minors, Tropeano showed pretty large platoon splits – another sign that his change may not have been a great pitch, or that his slider was underrated. Thus far, that hasn’t been true in the majors – it’s been righties who’ve done much of the damage. Of course, his career’s too new to know what to make of that, but he hasn’t been a guy who’s struggled due to seeing tons of opposite-handed hitters.
King Felix remains awesome.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Cano, 2B
5: Smith, RF
6: Trumbo, 1B
7: Gutierrez, LF
8: Miller, SS
9: Sucre, C
SP: Felix Hernandez.
The M’s won’t face him in this series, so I can just bring it up here: the Angels’ young righty Andrew Heaney is one of the first big league players to try a new way of mitigating the risk a pitcher making the league minimum faces: he’s selling a chunk of his future revenue. A company called Fantex (which has deals with a few NFL players) will pay Heaney $3.34 million in exchange for 10% of his future earnings – from salary and endorsements alike. Heaney gets a life-changing amount of money even if his arm falls off tomorrow, while Fantex then effectively sells “shares” in Heaney’s future earnings. Fantex mitigates some of Heaney’s risk, and then Fantex disperses that risk across however many people buy shares. It’s a very interesting arrangement, and I’m eager to see how many people sign up – both players and regular joe “shareholders.” Apparently, the MLBPA is on board with it, which makes some sense – we’ve seen teams like Houston offer their own way for youngsters to mitigate risk: signing small long-term deals at below market (but still above league-minimum) rates. George Springer turned them down, and stayed in the minors as a result, while Jon Singleton signed such a deal, to the consternation of the union. Having an option to mitigate risk that doesn’t artificially suppress future earnings – and isn’t directly with management – seems like a decent deal. Of course, we’ll have to see how willing Fantex is to offer larger sums – Fantex probably can’t or won’t offer as much as teams will. Risk-averse players may still go the Singleton route. In any event, it’ll be fun to watch. Which pre-arb players in the M’s system would you buy stock in?