Game 13, Mariners at Indians
Wade Miley vs. Carlos Carrasco, 3:10pm
The M’s head to Cleveland to face one of the better teams, on paper, in the AL. Projection systems swooned over the Tribe, and their formidable starting rotation, but the actual season’s been a mixed bag thus far. Their actual runs allowed has come in far above predicted levels, which seems to happen about as often as the Royals beat their preseason projections (note: the Royals are once again beating their preseason projections). On paper, it’s pretty weird: the Indians staff, led by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, light up the radar guns, strike out a ton of batters and walk comparatively few. That’s a recipe for gaudy fielding-independent stats, and that’s just what Cleveland has. But as we talked about last year, the Indians hurlers have long given up a few more runs than those FIP stats would predict.
Now, the Indians long suffered with a horrendous team defense – they were essentially then anti-Royals there for a while – but with the promotion of Francisco Lindor, and swapping Lonnie Chisenhall out of third and into RF and then signing Juan Uribe, that shouldn’t be a glaring weakness anymore. But last year, today’s starter Carlos Carrasco put up an ERA about 8 tenths of a run higher than his FIP, and that was with half a year of Chisenhall-in-RF and Lindor at SS. Why? Part of the reason might be the fact that Carrasco’s built to induce whiffs, and if batters make contact with his pitches, they generally do pretty well with them.
This article at Pinstripe Alley mentions some of the numbers on Carrasco and speculates why it is that his results on contact are so much worse than Jacob DeGrom, a pitcher whose fastball is a statistical doppelganger for Carrasco’s. Carrasco’s short stature and lower release point mean that his stride’s not that long, giving batters more time to react to his pitches – his “apparent velocity” as measured by statcast is lower than his actual velocity, reflecting this extra time batters have to decide whether or not to swing.
That’s not to say he’s a comfortable at-bat for hitters. He’s got well-above average velocity, two devilish breaking balls that generate whiffs on about half of the swings against them, and a real weapon in his splitter-like change-up. It’s that last pitch that makes him a threat to lefties as well as righties, and it helps him generate well above average ground ball rates as well. That combination of strikeouts, low home runs (thanks to the grounders) and low walks is tough to beat, so the only issue with him has been a slightly elevated BABIP. If you ignore balls in play, Carrasco’s clearly an elite pitcher. Hell, even Tony Blengino’s contact management view had him the 2nd best starter in the AL Central last year to Chris Sale. But that’s *despite* of his contact management, not really because of it. He gives up relatively few flies and line drives, but the ones he gives up are hit harder than average. Last year, his non-grounder contact came off the bat faster than average, and his overall exit speed rates are above average again in the early going this year.
Despite the results, you know whose average exit velocity is much *lower* than the league average thus far? Wade Miley’s.
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
Tacoma lost to Albuquerque last night 11-6, despite TWO MORE HRs from Mike Zunino, who’s absolutely crushing the ball right now. He’s homered in 5 straight games, with 6 total HRs to 3 Ks in that span. As you might imagine, that’s resulted in lots of calls to promote him, but I’m with Brendan Gawlowski that the entire point of 2016 is to avoid reacting to short swings in performance, whether good or bad. Way back in his first taste of the PCL, Zunino mashed in road parks, but showed some holes, especially at home. Let’s let him get several months of work in and then reevaluate. The worst thing the M’s could do would be to call him up and have him caddy for Chris Iannetta 5 days a week. The other white-hot player on the club, Chris Taylor, hit his first HR as well, and also added a double. After looking a bit passive in the first series, he’s hit 7 extra-base hits in his last 7 games, hitting safely in all of them, and striking out just 5 times. He’s been walking less, but it’s good to see him actually drive the ball instead of fight pitches off and try to work the count. Cody Martin takes the mound today against Jeremy Guthrie, in the rematch of a game back in Cheney 5 days ago.
Jackson beat Birmingham 9-3, as DJ Peterson had his best game of the year, going 3-4 with his first HR. Tyler O’Neill added his second dinger, and Edwin Diaz was sharp over 5 IP, yielding 2 hits and striking out 8. Diaz now has 24 strikeouts to just 2 walks in 16 IP. A great, great start for the lanky Puerto Rican. Ryan Yarbrough starts today. Speaking of O’Neill, he had a great 2nd half in the Cal League last year, but as a guy with some swing-and-miss in his game, I worried a bit about how he’d adjust to the high minors and the advanced pitching of AA. No need. O’Neill’s still struck out 12 times in 10 games, but he’s done plenty of damage, and that’s against a very good slate of experienced starters, particularly in the first series of the year. He’s got a slash line of .317/.364/.537, and while it’s perhaps too early to put much stock in that, he’s showing he’s more advanced than the K rate would indicate.
Bakersfield lost a tough one in *15 innings* to Modesto, 3-2. The Blaze scored a run in the first, and then went quiet for hours, but things looked good in the 14th when Tyler Marlette crushed a Craig Schlitter pitch to left for a HR. Isaac Sanchez couldn’t hold it, giving up the tying run and sending the game to the 15th. Despite getting Drew Jackson on base, the Blaze couldn’t ignite a rally, and the Nuts ended up scoring another run off of Sanchez in the bottom of the inning to win it. Anthony Misiewicz was solid for 6 IP and Ramon Morla had one of his better outings as a pitcher, K’ing 3 in 2 scoreless innings. Tyler Herb takes the hill for Bakersfield today.
Clinton got lit up by Peoria, 11-3. It was a tight game going into the 6th, but the L-Kings bullpen struggled, with Nick Kiel ineffective in relief of starter Lucas Schiraldi and then Spencer Herrman’s first outing of the year resulting in another 4 runs in 1 2/3 IP. They’re back at it tonight behind Zack Littell.