Game 161, Athletics at Mariners
Roenis Elias vs. Sean Nolin, 6:10pm
The A’s Sean Nolin is something like Mike Fiers, who the M’s saw recently. His fastball is only 89-90 or so, but it’s arrow-straight with a lot of vertical rise. Like Fiers, he tore through the minors, posting gaudy strikeout numbers at pretty much every level. That’s how you get stories like this written about you. Unlike Fiers, though, Nolin hasn’t been able to make a slow rise-ball into a strikeout pitch in the big leagues. With a nearly even K:BB ratio and predictable HR rates, Nolin’s really scuffled since coming over as part of the big Josh Donaldson deal. His slider may be his best pitch, but without plus break, that isn’t saying much right now. He’s also got a curve and a change. Nolin made his A’s debut against the M’s back in early September, and will make his 6th start today – he had a couple of good, if short, outings early on, but is coming off two poor starts.
Roenis Elias has had a remarkably similar season to his rookie year of 2014. By K%, BB% and even ERA, it looks like a shot-for-shot remake. His HR rate is slightly higher, and thus his FIP isn’t what it was last year, but he looks like the same guy who surprised the league last year. That’s not to say he succeeds through deception and unpredictability, though. At the end of last year, Jeff Zimmermann wrote about Elias’ predictability. When he was ahead in the count to lefties, he threw a ton of curveballs. Setting aside his two different release points for RHBs and LHBs, he seems to have very different release points for his fastball and breaking ball. Batters would seem to have less trouble reading a pitch from Elias than just about any other pitcher in baseball, unless Fernando Rodney is tipping his pitches again. So is that something he fixed in 2015? No, it’s not. Last year, he threw curves 68% of the time he had two strikes vs. lefties. This year? 63%.
And yet, lefties can’t hit it. They’re hitting .116 on the pitch this year, and .117 in Elias’ two-year career. The release point may help, but I think Elias is more deceptive than I’ve given him credit for. The problem is that *righties* get a much better look at it, and while the pattern isn’t as extreme as it is to lefties, they seem to have noticed that Elias throws a lot more curves when he’s ahead. That’s led to one of the stranger splits I can think of. Batters have hit 6 HRs when *behind* in the count against Elias, while only 5 HRs when ahead in the count. Compared to the rest of the league, Elias is really, really good this year when he’s behind in the count (sOPS+ of 76), great in even counts (sOPS+ of 66), and awful when he’s ahead (sOPS+ of 154). Platoon splits are, with few exceptions, a fact of life in baseball, but this seems like a correctable flaw for Elias.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cruz, DH
4: Cano, 2B
5: Gutierrez, LF
6: Trumbo, RF
7: Montero, 1B
8: Miller, SS
9: Sucre, C
That abdominal issue that sidelined Robbie Cano for a few games a while ago? Turns out it’s a sports hernia, and Cano’s scheduled a surgical repair for it in about 10 days. Doesn’t sound like it will impact his off-season or spring training timelines at all.
Bob Dutton’s not about Cano also included the list of minor league awards for the M’s system. Co-players of the year were Jesus Montero and Tyler O’Neill, while Edwin Diaz won starting pitcher of the year and left-hander Paul Fry won reliever of the year. None of those should surprise those of you who followed the recaps this year. Fry’s numbers were remarkable: a 113:24 K:BB ratio in 80 innings over two levels with zero home runs allowed. Diaz dominated the Cal League, but had some trouble in AA. He’s still the toolsiest pitching prospect the M’s have, touching the high 90s with his fastball. O’Neill and “Heart and Soul” award winner Jabari Blash tied for the system lead in HRs with 32. While they’ve got strikeout issues, both looked better in the season’s second half.