Game 42, Mariners at Reds
FELIX vs. John Lamb, 1:10pm
Happy Felix Day!
Dan Straily somehow held the M’s in check yesterday, but then the Reds had to go to the bullpen, and…wow. It’s one thing to see their stats and how comprehensively bad each and every one looks, but it’s another to see a former prospect come in and plunk the tying run in, and generally turn a 3-1 pitcher’s duel into an 8-3 laugher remarkably quickly. Beyond the HRs, the walks and the total lack of command, though, that HBP to Cano really stands out. It occurred to me, however briefly, that maybe the Reds just never explained the rules to their relief pitchers. Tony Cingrani was once a fascinating, if divisive, prospect, with jaw-dropping strikeout totals despite a so-so fastball that he’d throw 90% of the time. Some saw him as a gimmick pitcher, a guy with a funky delivery that the league would figure out. Others saw a deceptive genius, who didn’t need secondary stuff because batters literally couldn’t see the ball. After a brilliant rookie season as a starter, he’s been in something of a free-fall, with walks rising and HR troubles. The “gimmick pitcher” school of thought is ascendant now, but he still seems like someone who might break out with a change of scenery.
The M’s struggled a bit against Dan Straily, but they’ll get their right-handed line-up in there today against lefty John Lamb. Swapping things around, and getting Dae Ho Lee more PAs sounds great, but it’s kind of amazing how similar Straily and Lamb are. Straily throws his FB at 90, and it gets 5″ of armside run and around 10″ or so in vertical “rise.” Lamb throws his fastball at 90, with 5″ of armside run and 10″ of rise. Straily’s best pitch is his slider, which comes in at 85, with 2″ of gloveside break and with 8″ less vertical movement than his FB. Lamb’s cutter is 85-86, with 0″ of horizontal movement, and 7″ less vertical movement than his fastball. They both also throw a change, though Lamb’s is quite distinct: it’s thrown in the 70s, and despite the fact that gravity can work on it a bit more, it has much less “drop” than Straily’s. It’s actually been Lamb’s best pitch, getting swinging strikes and IF pop-ups, while his cutter is more of a pitch-to-contact offering, that at least gets ground balls. Interestingly, Lamb’s big, slow curve has even better results, albeit in a tiny sample: Lamb doesn’t throw it much. When he does, it’s hard to miss, as its average speed this year is just 68mph.
It’s hard to remember now, but waaay back when, all the way back in the dark ages of 2013, the Royals weren’t known for beating sabermetric projections, or instilling deep doubts within Base Runs’ breast, or speedy outfields and shutdown bullpens. No, back then, the Royals were famous for taking tons of high draft picks, unreal low-minors performances, and the best farm system ever, and clumsily crushing it into dust and frayed tendon. Mike Montgomery led BA’s rankings in 2010, while Mike Moustakas took the top spot in BP’s list, but both had John Lamb near the top (he was BP’s top Royals pitching prospect). By 2011, the hype was deafening: this Royals group was the best set of prospects many had seen in one system in years, and Lamb and Montgomery were neck and neck at the top. And then it all starting falling apart: Montgomery’s ascent stalled out in AA, and that high minors transition was no easier for Chris Dwyer. Danny Duffy retired for a while, then came back, but command and injuries have limited his effectiveness. Johnny Giavotella hit well in AAA, but didn’t get much of a shot with the big club, and fell on his face when he did. Wil Myers didn’t stick at C, and then got moved in what seemed like a terrible deal at the time. What about Lamb? Shortly after making his first big league training camp, he blew out his elbow, missing most of 2011 and 2012 rehabbing after TJ surgery. The doctors proclaimed him healthy in 2013, but he got hit hard, and worse, never felt healthy. After ditching the Royals training regimen and getting his own from a late-night informercial (you should really read that Minda Haas Kuhlmann interview linked above), his shoulder/arm/elbow finally started feeling better, and the results returned…just in time for him to be a part of the Johnny Cueto deal last year.
He seemed to thrive in the Reds org, striking out 58 in just under 50 IP for Cincinnati last year. That said, his ERA ballooned thanks to a sky-high BABIP and a few too many walks. This year, the BABIP remains, but the strikeouts are conspicuously absent. His K/9’s almost been cut in half, with his cutter especially getting fewer whiffs than last year. Not sure what’s going on there. In any event, his FIP is completely unchanged from last year: it was 4.16 in 2015, and it’s 4.16 last year. Unfortunately for Lamb, without a change in batted ball luck, his ERA’s not changing either: it was 5.80 last year, and it’s 5.79 coming into today’s game. The BABIP thing looks like horrible luck, but it’s never really been a strength. It was .326 in AAA for the Reds last year, and .480 in just three starts for Louisville this year. He’s the anti-Straily in that regard, I guess. Still, I always kind of root for the supposed “busts” from that insane Royals system. I’m glad Mike Montgomery’s found a home in the bullpen here, and I still want to see Lamb toss some 68mph curveballs for strikes…against someone else. Go M’s.
1: Marte, SS
2: Seager, 3B
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Lee, 1B
6: Iannetta, C
7: Gutierrez, LF
8: Martin, CF
9/SP: King. Felix.
I need another Felix HR. Great ballpark for it today.
Tacoma won their 4th straight, 9-4 over Iowa. The R’s broke open a tense 5-4 game with a 4 spot in the 6th. Mike Zunino homered, and Stefen Romero had 3 hits to bring his season line up to .373/.434/.611. Boog Powell added 3H from the leadoff position. James Paxton starts tonight for Tacoma against Iowa’s Alex Sanabia (a former Marlins starter).
Jackson dropped a 3-2 contest to Chattanooga. Reining pitcher of the week in the SL Dylan Unsworth took a hard luck loss, giving up 1R in 4 IP with 4 Ks and 0 BB. Kyle Hunter let two more score, and the Generals 2 run rally in the 6th fell short. Tyler O’Neill hit his 10th double, and Leon Landry made two incredible catches in the OF. Jordan Pries starts for Jackson today.
Bakersfield was on the wrong end of a one-run game too, losing 5-4 to Lake Elsinore. Kyle Petty homered for the Blaze, and Anthony Misiewicz pitched fairly well, but Misiewicz tired in the 7th, and reliever Vinny Nittoli couldn’t shut the door. Tyler Herb looks to shake off a bad outing in his last start and get back to what’s made him one of the more eye-opening minor leaguers thus far.
Speaking of one-run losses and hark luck decisions, Burlington shut out Clinton 1-0 despite getting only 4 hits in the game. Nick Wells went 5 2/3, but clearly didn’t have his best command, walking 4 to just 1 K. Overall, the L-Kings walked 8 Bees. Art Warren starts today’s game.