Game 18, Mariners at Angels

marc w · April 24, 2016 at 12:14 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Wade Miley vs. Matt Shoemaker, 12:35pm

The M’s finish up a three game set in Anaheim in this match-up between disappointing middle-of-the-rotation starters. With Matt Shoemaker, the problem’s been pretty clear since his first season, but his ability to mitigate or compensate for it has steadily dwindled. Armed with a very good splitter, an improving slider and a below-average fastball, Shoemaker can miss bats, but batters have consistently punished mistake pitches. His HR rate was acceptable in his rookie campaign, and his splitter allowed him to post a near-elite K:BB ratio. Last year, the HR rate crept up to 1.6 per 9 innings, at the very fringe of what any pitcher can allow and remain on the plus side of replacement level. His K:BB ratio regressed a bit too, and thus Shoemaker was worth less than 1 fWAR in 135 innings. After giving up just 2 HR on his plus splitter in 2014, resulting in a SLG%-against of just .227, batters hit 9 on it last year, good for a SLG%-against of .435.

It’s still his big swing-and-miss pitch, but he’s using it less this year in favor of a slider. It doesn’t have much horizontal break, but it’s got some vertical drop, meaning it’s actually a bit more split-like than most sliders. That’s going to be a big pitch for him, as his split, for whatever reason, has been more effective against lefties, and he uses it much more like a traditional change-up. For Hisashi Iwakuma, the splitter is a great equal-opportunity pitch, but Shoemaker’s FB/SL to righties and FB/Splitter to lefties. Last year, that slider wasn’t quite good enough for that approach to work, and he put up reverse splits. In the tiny sample we have thus far, Shoemaker’s now throwing a blizzard of sliders at righties, but it hasn’t quite solved his problems with same-handed bats. When righties swing at the slider, good things happen for Shoemaker. The problem is that they’re taking too many, and that’s put Shoemaker behind in too many counts, leading to a lot of walks and a lot of hard-hit balls. I don’t mean to suggest that the M’s stack the line-up with righties; in his career, his splits are just about even.

Wade Miley’s been a problem for different reasons. No starter in baseball’s got a worse BABIP than Miley; after three starts, his BABIP sits at a credulity-straining .480. He’s got a K:BB ratio of 4, and all of the obvious “bad luck” boxes are checked, so we should just await regression, right? I’m not so sure, actually. Miley’s made some notable adjustments this season, presumably under the direction of the M’s staff. In years past, he was a solid ground-ball pitcher, which had less to do with the movement on his pitches or the pitches themselves and more to do with how he used them. This year, he’s using his four-seam fastball a bit more, and he’s using it in a completely new way. Take a look at this chart of the vertical location, on average, of his hard (fastballs), breaking and offspeed pitches over his career:
Miley vertical location

He’s never thrown his fastball above the middle of the zone…until now. It kind of makes sense – he was moving from Boston, a place where elevated lefty fastballs were punished severely, to Seattle, a park that suppresses right-handed contact. The move to elevated fastballs has gotten him more whiffs, and that may be helping his K%, which would be great if it weren’t for all of the runs he’s allowing. The sample’s still small that you don’t want to overreact and change a gameplan too early, but I’m always a bit suspicious of attempts to improve a pitcher by telling them to overhaul their entire approach. I mean, it works for some guys, but for every Brandon McCarthy, you hear about plenty of pitchers who get into trouble by abandoning an approach they’d honed over many years.

1: Aoki, LF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lind, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Clevenger, C
8: Martin, CF
9: Marte, SS
SP: Miley

A few days after Bakersfield played a 15 inning contest, the Clinton Lumberkings one-upped them by beating Cedar Rapids in an *18 inning* pitcher’s duel, 2-1. To make matters worse (or better, I guess?), it was game 1 of a double-header. Clinton wrapped up a split by winning the nightcap 3-0. Thus, in 25 innings yesterday, Clinton held the Kernels to just a single run. It’s Sunday, so the LumberKings and Kernels are already back on the field – Zack Littell is pitching for Clinton.

Also in the minors, Tacoma lost their third straight, dropping the opener of their homestand 8-4 to Sacramento. Chris Taylor extended his hitting streak and Mike Zunino doubled, but Joe Wieland had another poor start, failing to get out of the 2nd inning. Cody Martin starts for Tacoma this afternoon.

Edwin Diaz got BABIP’d to death, and the Generals lost to Pensacola 10-4. He struck out 8 to just one walk, but gave up 8 hits and was victimized by a couple of fielding errors as well. On the plus side, Tyler O’Neill swatted two home runs. The Canuck’s season line is up to .304/.385/.571. Ryan Yarbrough starts today.

Bakersfield lost to Lake Elsinore 4-2, as they couldn’t figure out the Storm’s starter, Dinelson Lamet. Lamet struck out 9 in 6 scoreless innings, and while the Blaze managed two late runs, they couldn’t pull off the come-back. Drew Jackson had 3 hits, and RF Chantz Mack had 3 of his own, including a home run. Tyler Herb starts for the Blaze today.


19 Responses to “Game 18, Mariners at Angels”

  1. mrakbaseball on April 24th, 2016 12:52 pm

    Hey, Seager did something!

  2. Notfromboise on April 24th, 2016 12:56 pm

    Earl Weaver would be proud, nothing but strikeouts and 3 run homers. It’s hard to get to .550 OPS sporting a .146 BA. That’s Rob Deer-esque.

    Too bad HRs don’t affect his BABIP, poor kid.

  3. Notfromboise on April 24th, 2016 1:07 pm

    Speaking of guys hitting in the .140s that can sock it occasionally…. Senor Pujols.

    Somewhere, in the distance, you can hear the sound of James Paxton fist-pumping.

  4. Westside guy on April 24th, 2016 1:12 pm

    Bottom of the first, and I can already tell we’re in for a real pitchers’ duel.

  5. Westside guy on April 24th, 2016 1:48 pm

    I thought Martin wasn’t supposed to be a power hitter?

  6. Westside guy on April 24th, 2016 1:51 pm

    Marte is having himself a nice day so far!

  7. MrZDevotee on April 24th, 2016 1:55 pm

    I think two doubles for Marte is my favorite bit of hitting for the day– he had looked horribly lost a week ago.

  8. Notfromboise on April 24th, 2016 2:29 pm

    Miley crawling his way though 6 innings is another unexpected (and welcome!) surprise.

    West – maybe Martin’s the first in a long line of hitters who will come to Safeco to rejuvenate their careers. Maybe!

  9. Grayfox3d on April 24th, 2016 2:33 pm

    Its fun having the lead!

    I just feel like once the Mariners get some type of lead,they have a habit at getting them selves out really quickly, like 1-3 pitches per batter. It would be nice to try to add a little to this lead.

  10. Kazinski on April 24th, 2016 2:42 pm

    The M’s should be swinging early in the count, both Alverez and Rasmus are pounding the zone. They were patient with Shoemaker 3 walks in 3+ innings then they punished him when he came in the zone. Now that you’ve gotten to the bullpen patience is no longer a virtue. They’ve only struck out once since Shoemaker left so they are making contact.

  11. Westside guy on April 24th, 2016 2:47 pm

    So a post-game giveaway of bags of Cedar Grove compost is an actual upcoming Mariners’ promotion? Seriously?

  12. Westside guy on April 24th, 2016 2:50 pm

    A friend of mine has a shelf full of Mariners’ give-aways… I’m looking forward to seeing a bag of compost join the collection.

  13. Westside guy on April 24th, 2016 3:11 pm

    Seth Smith has also been looking good so far this season!

  14. Westside guy on April 24th, 2016 3:23 pm

    Woo Hoo! 6-3 road trip!

  15. californiamariner on April 24th, 2016 3:28 pm

    Solid road trip, now the real trick is seeing if they can solve the Safeco woes when they get home.

  16. Kazinski on April 24th, 2016 3:31 pm

    It’s also nice to see Smith healthy enough to play RF so Cruz can play his natural position.

  17. MrZDevotee on April 24th, 2016 3:54 pm

    It’s fun just being able to SAY “it’s fun having a lead”…

  18. Notfromboise on April 24th, 2016 4:28 pm

    For a team that has had very little go right, it’s pretty stellar to not only be .500, but only half a game out of the division lead.

  19. ck on April 24th, 2016 6:34 pm

    Nine and nine for the local Nine, nine names to WP’s…Promising start for the M’s this season. Evan with three relievers on the DL, the Bullpen is above average, as is the fielding, and hitting (compared to last year’s M’s ).

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