Game 37, Angels at Mariners
King Felix vs. Hector Santiago, 1:10pm
Happy Felix Day.
I started this series mentioning that I felt bad for the Angels, and that somehow, through their cavalcade of injuries and awful luck, they seemed less detestable. Yeah, so that lasted all of 48 hours.
Today’s match-up is a repeat of the game back on April 23rd, when Hector Santiago worked his high-fastball, hard to square up magic for 6 solid innings. As I mentioned then, Santiago’s in the Marco Estrada/Wei-Yin Chen family of pitchers who throw a lot of rising four-seam fastballs, and attempt to pitch around the occasional home run that this approach produces. Like Estrada, Santiago’s ERA’s been much better than his FIP, which is sky high due to an elevated HR rate. The key to this approach is that the rising FB seems to help Santiago maintain a very low BABIP (something ignored by FIP). One reason why is a consistently high pop-up rate. Even those fly balls that find the outfield tend to have a low BABIP.
Santiago’s fastball is only 92mph, and he doesn’t throw a ton of breaking balls. Instead, his secondary offering is a big change-up, that kind of reminds me of Mike Montgomery’s. It’s a decent pitch, and it gives him something to use against right-handed hitters. That said, he’s not able to reduce or eliminate his platoon splits the way some high-rising, over-the-top FB guys can – righties have hit him much harder over his career than lefties. The change-up allows him to post essentially equal K rates to RHBs/LHBs, but righties’ HR/9 is triple that of lefties. Why? For whatever reason, Santiago has vastly different batted ball profiles depending on the handedness of the hitter. Against lefties, he’s essentially league average – a few more GBs than FBs, and an overall GB% of 44%. But against righties, he’s about as extreme a FB hitter you’ll find, with a GB% under 30% over his career. All of those fly balls mean more HRs, and that’s why you’ll see a righty-stocked line-up today. The gap in batted ball outcomes is consistent between his FB and CH, but it’s still striking: lefties have a GB% on Santiago’s four-seam of 44%. For righties, it’s 20%.
Felix’s fastball velocity seems to be trending up again, as he averaged 91 against Tampa and 90-91 against Oakland in his last two starts. That’s not to say everything’s back to normal. He’s still struggling a bit to miss bats, but the contact he allows has never been better. He’s still getting great results with his change and curve, and he’s mixing in a bit more of his four-seam fastball in recent starts. His FIP’s still ugly thanks to that weirdly high walk rate, itself a product perhaps of batters’ increased patience against him. Batters’ swing rate against Felix has dropped by 5 percentage points this year, which is odd, and bears watching. Has Felix just thrown a few more obvious balls, or is this part of a deliberate strategy, especially when Felix’s command appears to be off?
1: Aoki, LF
2: Marte, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Iannetta, C
6: Seager, 3B
7: Lee, 1B
8: Gutierrez, RF
9: O’Malley, CF
SP: El Cartelua
Welcome back, Shawn O’Malley, who’s swapped places with fellow utility man, Luis Sardinas.
Tacoma beat Omaha 3-2 thanks to a solid start from Joe Wieland and another HR from catcher Rob Brantly. Today, Cody Martin takes the mound against Omaha’s Brooks Pounders.
Jackson beat Mobile 3-2, as Brett Ash pitched into the 7th IP. Ash had blanked the Shuckers for 6, but gave up a game-tying two-run HR to Kevin Cron in the 7th (Cron’s CJ’s brother, and a guy who spurned the M’s when they drafted him out of HS). Undaunted, the Generals got a bases-loaded walk in the 8th to re-take the lead, and Emilio Pagan made it hold up. The Generals play two today, with Dylan Unsworth and Andrew Kittredge starting today.
Bakersfield took a 9-1 lead, and then held on for a 9-6 win over Stockton. Andrew Moore was sharp for 6 IP, with only a solo HR sullying his line, but Thyago Viera had a bad time in his 1+ IP, giving up 5 runs. Kyle Petty and Daniel Torres each had three hits for the Blaze.
Clinton was swept in their double header against Peoria, with Nick Wells taking the hard-luck loss in game 1’s 3-2 game, and Joey Strain absorbing a well-deserved L after giving up 5 runs in the 9th in Peoria’s 7-2 win. Art Warren starts today’s game.