Game 35, Angels at Mariners
Nate Karns vs. Nick Tropeano, 7:10pm
The first-place M’s host the reeling Angels tonight, a team facing the loss of their starting shortstop, and big off-season acquisition, Andrelton Simmons. They’ve gone from a rotation headed up by Garrett Richards to one relying on
Andrew Heaney (whoopsadoodle) and whatever BABIP mojo Jered Weaver has left. All of this has led to a spate of stories about the possibility of trading the Angels superstar, Mike Trout. Will this actually happen? No. But Trout self-evidently can’t make the Angels contenders on his own, and there sure as hell aren’t any reinforcements coming from the minor leagues. His value to the Angels is high, as he’s their marketable superstar, but not as high as it would be to other teams, who could use Trout in a playoff race. It’s all very logical, and in the final analysis, it’s just for fun. But it has to feel familiar: how many years have we endured the idle speculation of national writers about the necessity of moving Felix Hernandez to a contender, or musing on the prospect package that might get the M’s attention. As an M’s fan/Felix fan, that sort of thing was excruciating, even as people would say it was for the club’s own good. This memory, and this Meg Rowley piece at BP about how the Angels struggles and what M’s fans do about them, has me in the weird position of feeling bad for the Angels. I didn’t think it was possible either.
Today’s game features an interesting pitching match-up between two somewhat similar pitchers. I wouldn’t have picked them as similar before today, but hey, that’s research for ya. What leaps out at you from Nick Tropeano’s Fangraphs page is the way that so many peripherals are essentially cranked to 11, Spinal Tap style. K/9? Over 10! BB/9? Sky-high! Home runs? It’s rainin’ dingers! This is a Rob Deer-style, er, Joey Gallo-style for you younger folks, line-up. Fully 41% of his plate appearances end in a K, a walk, or a homer. That’s odd to me, because when Tropeano first came up with Astros, he seemed like an unremarkable, pitch-to-contact 5th starter. OVer time, he’s figured out how to use his slider to miss bats, which is great, but he likes missing bats so much, he’s also missing the strike zone. Despite the great slider, he doesn’t get batters to chase all that much. It’s just that when they do, they’ve got no hope. It all adds up to a right-hander throwing 90-91, and posting an overall contact% this year of 68.8%. After his 20-K game, Max Scherzer’s contact% was 72.2%. Noah Syndergaard’s is 69.9%. Only Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez have lower contact% numbers.
But it’s not just that his three-true-outcome stats are cranked up. His BABIP allowed is .345! He ranks in the bottom 20% in expected linear weights given his batted ball velocity/angle – that is, even the contact he DOES allow is similarly jacked up. Strand rate? Insanely high. Fly ball rate? Top 5 in baseball, ahead of Jered Weaver, and within range of Chris Young’s. Nick Tropeano doesn’t do half-measures, apparently.
So, how many pitchers are there that, like Tropeano, have K’d over a quarter of batters they’ve faced, and walked at least another 10%? There are 9 thus far, and tonight’s match-up features two of them. Yes, Nate Karns has a *higher* K% (lower K/9, because Tropeano gives up more hits, walks, homers, everything), and a high walk rate. Whereas Tropeano’s three-true-outcome percentage was 41.2%, Karns’ is 39.7%. While Karns’ BABIP is a boringly average .295, the contact he’s allowed is among the loudest in baseball. Remember how Tropeano’s in the bottom 20% for contact quality? Karns ranks 486 out of 492 in expected linear weights per ball in play. Both Tropeano and Karns have been fly-ballers, and they’re lucky enough to play in parks that suppress fly ball damage. That said, their contact rates should account for park, so by these statcast numbers, they’re still giving up a lot of loud outs.
Looking at Jeff’s post about Drew Pomeranz made me think of Karns, too. Pomeranz is another of the 9 high-K, high-BB pitchers, and he’s off to a hot start with San Diego. He’d been a swingman for Oakland for a few years, and was then traded to SD for the about-to-be-non-tendered Yonder Alonso. This year, Pomeranz started throwing his curveball much more than he had in the past, and mixing it with high fastballs. Sound like anyone on the M’s? This year, Karns’ curve usage is up over 10 percentage points, throwing a fair number of high FBs, and reaping the benefits of both high Ks and low BABIP. Karns’ ERA is 0.70 runs better than his FIP while Pomeranz’s is 0.82 runs better. (Tropeano’s is 1.20 runs better, because of course it is).
1: Aoki, LF
2: Marte, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Smith, RF
7: Lind, 1B
8: Iannetta, C
9: Martin, CF
News from the minors today includes the call-up of Gary Sanchez to the Yanks. The power-hitting Sanchez has been a big prospect for many years, and makes his debut tonight. The other call-up is former #1 overall draft pick and long-time cautionary tale, Matt Bush, who’ll join the Rangers tonight *12 years* after going #1 overall in the 2004 draft.
Adrian Sampson pitched well for Tacoma, and the Rainiers clung to a 3-2 lead before blowing it open with a 9th inning grand slam and a 9-5 win over Fresno. Chris Taylor had three hits and a walk, and Daniel Robertson had the aforementioned salami. Sampson gave up just 2 hits and 1 earned run in 8 IP. Donn Roach starts for the R’s tonight.
Jackson scored 3 in the 5th to take a 3-0 lead over Birmingham, but the Barons put up a 7 spot in the 7th to win, er, 7-3. Ryan Horstman gave up 6 runs without recording an out, which really stings the old stat sheet. Tyler O’Neill doubled for the Generals, who send Ryan Yarbrough to the hill tonight.
Sam Coonrod and the San Jose Giants confused Bakersfield en route to an easy 6-0 win. The Blaze managed three singles all night. Tyler Pike’s weird control problems had something of a relapse last night, as he walked 4 in 5 IP with just 1 K. The Blaze host Stockton tonight, who start Casey Meisner, an Oakland pitching prospect, and the main return in the Tyler Clippard deal a year ago.
Clinton downed Peoria 5-4 thanks to three hits from Dalton Kelly and a home run by Connor Hale. Art Warren starts for the Lumberkings tonight.