Game 10 – Mariners Invade the Bronx
Nate Karns vs. Luis Severino, 4:10pm
The M’s escaped a winless homestand thanks to Dae Ho Lee’s heroics (and some really awful defense from the Rangers), but they still need to figure out why they can’t score. The problem’s particularly acute against starters – the M’s have scored 14 runs in 220 plate appearances against starting pitchers. In *100* fewer PAs, they’ve managed *18* runs against relievers. Given the high-octane arms stocking modern MLB bullpens, that’s kind of insane. The M’s themselves have pretty normal splits: their starters have given up more runs, and have higher opponent averages and the like, than their reliever colleagues. In part, all of these weird small-sample things are related – the M’s have struggled against starters, and because many of those starters have been lefties, they have awful platoon splits, etc. We’ll have to see what adjustments they make, and which concerns are real and which are spurious.
Tonight, they face the Yankees’ 22-year-old phenom, Luis Severino, a right-hander with a very good fastball. Severino commands it pretty well and it averages 95-96, so he can touch the high 90s on occasion. His second pitch is a hard slider at 89-90, with a bit of glove-side break and sink. Scouts have raved about his change-up, which also comes in around 90, for years, and the results on it are impressive: lots and lots of whiffs, and lots of ground-ball contact. He uses it a bit like a split (though it has different movement), as he throws it in the zone very infrequently, but it still induces plenty of swings. On the whole, Severino’s an impressive package of bat-missing and ground-balls, and he impressed in his 11-start call-up last year.
It’s early, of course, but Severino’s shown some strange platoon splits. Lefties have had a much harder time hitting him, and their wOBA against Severino is awful. Righties are kind of feast-or-famine: they’ve struck out far, far more than lefties, and essentially never walk against him. That said, their overall batting line isn’t bad. In these kind of samples, it’s easy to say that all of this is just luck, but it makes me wonder. Clearly, Severino’s command and what I’d imagine is some deception helps him against righties. It’s not so much that his slider’s a dominant weapon against them – his *fastball* is just as effective. But when he misses, righties hit the ball hard. He’s faced more lefties than righties overall, but he’s given up more hits, more XBH and 6 of his 9 HR-allowed to righties. Is this because he doesn’t throw his change-up against them? Maybe, but if the change-up was as good as we’d heard, he’d have a better K:BB ratio against *lefties*.
One thing I’ve often wondered about when looking at a pitcher’s average release point is how much it matters when a pitcher releases different pitches in different spots. That is, it seems like it’d be a pretty big ‘tell’ if a curve release point is significantly higher or lower than a fastball’s release point. But what counts as “significantly?” Hitters pick up on all sorts of things, things that often don’t seem to have any obvious relationship to pitch type. Pitchers may not even by conscious of them. So when you have something that is clearly quite obviously related to the pitch, like a release point, my assumption is that batters would be all over it. Clear, definitive proof of this is kind of hard to come by. Getting back to Severino, he seems to have three different release points for his three pitches. The gap between FB and SL isn’t huge, so I don’t know that it’d drive his results, but looking at the gap between FB and CH, it looks… I don’t know. What do YOU make of this (it’s from a start last September):
I’d think that a lefty might be able to ascertain that, but we don’t have a lot of evidence that they can. How about the SL/FB groups? If you went up guessing slider, would that gap be enough to let you know a split second earlier that you were right (or wrong)?
I’d been thinking about this already, because you see the same thing in Tony Zych, and he’s only got TWO pitches. I was watching an appearance not that long ago and thought I could tell what pitch was coming based on his release. Here’s his release point map:
That’s… those are two, distinct, non-overlapping groups. Tony Zych has been great this year, by the way, so this is absolutely not a kiss of death. I just wonder how that works for some guys, whereas others do the tiniest thing different with their glove, or position their feet, and a bench coach or player is instantly all over it. In any event, hitters have struggled against Severino’s fastball, but righties are also slugging somewhere north of .450 on it. Do righties somehow have a better view of his release point? Is this how a slider-heavy right-hander like Zych has reverse splits (tiny alert, I know)?
1: Aoki, LF
2: Smith, DH
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lind, 1B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Martin, CF
9: Marte, SS
I was talking with a friend today about the Rainiers’ hot start – they completed a sweep of the El Paso Chihuahuas last night. They aren’t loaded with prospects or anything, and in true Dipoto fashion, the tie that binds them together is that almost all of them were absolutely god-awful somewhere in 2015. But they also have some success in the slightly more distant past, and make up an interesting group of players for the right player development staff to mold or improve. Cody Martin’s a good example – a guy who made it to the majors last year, and then got sent down, then sent to Oakland, and ultimately released by a pitching-starved club. He wasn’t perfect last night, but he looked excellent at times, much as Adrian Sampson – who got crushed in 7 starts in Tacoma last year – did over the weekend. Stefen Romero flopped in another call-up last year, and was merely adequate in AAA as a bat-first corner-OF, but he’s been great so far. Even Chris Taylor, who’d walked a bunch in the early going, but still not reminded anyone of his brilliant 2014 start, hit the ball hard last night. It’s early, and pitchers often look good at Cheney stadium on a cold, rainy April night, but there are signs of actual depth here. I’ll take it. James Paxton starts tonight in Albuquerque, as the Rainiers meet up again with Shane Carle, the righty they touched for *11 runs* in 4 IP on Sunday.
Jackson raced out to an 8-2 lead last night in Chattanooga, but ended up losing 11-8 thanks to 9 straight runs in the late innings by the Lookouts. Ryan Yarbrough was solid through 5, but Steven Landazuri gave up 5 runs in 1/3 of an inning in relief. Tyler O’Neill hit his first AA homer, and DJ Peterson doubled for his first XBH of 2016. Another slow start for DJ, unfortunately. Sam Gaviglio starts tonight against Aaron Slegers of the Lookouts (a Twins affiliate, by the way).
Visalia edged Bakersfield for what feels like the 5th time already, this time 7-6 in walk-off fashion. Ex-3B prospect Ramon Morla lost it on a 1-out, walk-off double from Cody Regis. Morla blew a save against Visalia back on the 10th as well. Kyle Petty homered for the Blaze. Tyler Pike starts tonight in Visalia.
After a great first outing, Zack Littell had a forgettable start against Cedar Rapids, as the Kernels topped the L-Kings 7-3. Braden Bishop got on base twice, and threw out a runner at the plate, too. Kyle Wilcox takes the mound tonight for Clinton, opposite Sam Gibbons, a lefty out of Australia. The Twins (yes, another Twins affiliate) have scouted Australia well, with one of their better prospects, Lewis Thorpe, hailing from Oz as well – Thorpe missed all of ’15 with TJ surgery. It’s been 15-16 years since the M’s were the undisputed kings of antipodean scouting, bringing in Chris Snelling, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Travis Blackley, Craig Anderson and more.