Cactus League: Happy First Felix Day of 2016

marc w · March 14, 2016 at 12:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Baseball mitosis once again, as the M’s split into two to take on the Rockies and Diamondbacks simultaneously.
vs. Colorado:
King Felix vs. Tyler Chatwood, 1:10pm (Televised on Root Sports and

vs. Arizona:
Taijuan Walker vs. Zack Greinke, 1:10pm (

Happy Felix Day. By this point in spring, the thrill of seeing recognizable players making recognizable baseball actions starts to wear off, and while there’s still some excitement about Opening Day, there’s also a realization that there are still weeks worth of practice games to slog through. That’s why it’s always nice the way Felix parachutes into the fray a good 2-3 weeks later than the non-royal Mariners, providing a nice jolt of energy (and sunshine, lollipops and rainbows) to the proceedings. He’s done this pretty much every year, so it’s not injury-related. It’s just his royal prerogative, kind of like the weird, Guy Frieri-influenced hair he’s sporting.

He’ll face off against Tyler Chatwood, the sinkerballer who hasn’t pitched in a big league game since April of 2014. Chatwood was an Angels prospect many years ago, back in the days when the Angels thought to have prospects, and after a weird, not-so-great debut season in which he mixed a lot of walks with very few strikeouts, he was shipped to Colorado in exchange for new Mariner, Chris Iannetta. The Rockies saw a very young, hard-throwing arm who could get ground balls, which even Colorado hasn’t figured out how to turn into home runs. His initial run for the Rockies wasn’t great, as his BABIP and walks produced plenty of baserunners. In 2013, though, he produced a very solid year, with a GB rate approaching 60%, not even a high BABIP could spoil his ERA, and the lack of dingers made up for his still-ugly K:BB ratio. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last. Very early in 2014, he blew out his elbow, just as he had as a high-schooler in Southern California. Repeat-TJ surgeries have a longer rehab time, and the assumption that he’d miss all of 2015 proved correct (he technically got in 4 innings in the California League). He’s back now trying to re-take his rotation spot, and given the state of the Rockies, he’s probably got a good shot to do so. He throws a sinker (and four-seamer) around 94 (er, he used to, at least), along with a so-so change and curve, and the slider he refined after moving to the Rockies org. The slider’s actually capable of missing bats, but Chatwood’s never going to be a big strikeout guy. If he lacks the wide platoon splits you might expect from a sinker/slider pitcher, it’s only because he hasn’t been particularly good against either side.

In the other game, Tai Walker tries to build on his eye-popping performance the other day by facing off against the D-Backs and Greinke, the biggest FA acquisition of the off-season. Greinke seemed to turn a corner with the Dodgers, posting career-low walk rates in both 2014 and 2015 while maintaining an elite strand rate. The K:BB ratio remains impressive, but the Dodgers may have been scared off a bit by his absurdly low BABIP in 2015 and a very low HR/FB ratio. In his career, Greinke’s never been someone with an extremely low BABIP, but he has shown some signs of being able to limit HRs. That’ll be put to the test as he moves from a HR-suppressing park in LA to a great hitting environment in Arizona. Still, that strand rate’s pretty interesting, and if he’s able to keep that up, he could again allow fewer runs than his FIP might predict. The D-Backs are such an interesting team. The sabermetric crowd pilloried them for the Shelby Miller trade (rightly so, in my opinion), but that’s just a symptom of a broader disagreement with the club. The D-Backs believe they’re entering their window to contend, and the moves for Greinke and Miller show that they may have actually yanked it forward by a year or so. Their core of Goldschmidt, Pollock, Greinke and now Miller is as good as any in the league, but many in the analytic crowd still feel that their depth, the supporting cast around that core, isn’t good enough to win a tough NL West. Trading for Jean Segura or hoping for growth from Yasmani Tomas make perfect sense to Arizona, while the likes of Dave Cameron scoff that they’re actually hurting their chances to contend in 2017-18. We’ll soon see if Arizona can actually compete with LA or San Francisco, let alone Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Vs. Colorado:
1: Martin, CF
2: Marte, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lind, 1B
6: Gutierrez, RF
7: Iannetta, C
8: Taylor, 3B
9: Powell, CF

Vs. Arizona
1: Aoki, CF
2: Sardinas, SS
3: Seager, 3B
4: Smith, RF
5: Lee, 1B
6: Zunino, C
7: Robertson, LF
8: O’Malley
9/SP: Walker


One Response to “Cactus League: Happy First Felix Day of 2016”

  1. Westside guy on March 14th, 2016 2:02 pm

    Spring training narratives are funny. The broadcasters seem to mostly understand people are working on stuff, coaches are looking at various things and experimenting, etc… but that memo doesn’t seem to have made it to a lot of the fans.

    I’m waiting for the “What’s wrong with Felix?” Twitter traffic after today’s game.

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