Game 46, Athletics at Mariners

marc w · May 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Zach Neal, 7:10pm

After a riveting walk-off win against the heart of the Oakland bullpen, the M’s go for a series win facing a pitcher making his first big league start. This has happened a few times already this year, but when I saw the probables, I had no earthly idea who Zach Neal was. That’s always confusing, as I like to *think* I’m conversant with the 40-man roster of the AL West. In this case, I think the A’s front office and even Neal himself are all as stupefied as I am that he’ll take the hill at Safeco tonight. Neal was drafted by the Marlins in the 17th round in 2010. After a couple of so-so campaigns, he was released in 2013. The A’s picked him up, and he gave them a few more mediocre seasons. He’s not a strikeout guy, with minor league K rates around 15% or so. His control was fine, as he was stingy with walks, but that’s not the same as having elite command – he’s been very hittable at every level, which is why his runs allowed have been rather poor in the minors. He’s got a career AA ERA over 4, and a AAA ERA near 4, but that doesn’t tell the whole story: Neal’s given up *55* unearned runs across those levels, pushing his RA/9 to near 5.

Like a number of pitchers, he’s gotten better with more time at each level – he hasn’t had initial success, but with experience, he’s able to hold his own. That seems to be what’s happened this year, as he’s been Nashville’s best pitcher from a runs-allowed standpoint despite having less stuff and prospect cache than others. Still, it’s kind of amazing that a guy who, despite playing in the high minors the past few years, wasn’t invited to big league spring training and was nowhere near the 40-man is now making a big league start. Nominally, he’s replacing Sonny Gray, the A’s ace who’s been a shell of his former self and is now on the DL. The M’s have to like their chances.

There’s one small catch. Neal’s fastball has a lot of sink on it, and he’s got a so-so cutter/slider thing as well as a curve that doesn’t drop all that much. All of which points to extremely low spin rates on all of his pitches. High spin rate guys get a lot of attention, and for some good reason – the right kind of spin makes a pitch move, and movement is obviously useful. That said, there’s some value in being at the other end of the distribution. A ball that moves a lot LESS than people expect can be confusing in its own way. The poster boy for low spin rates last year was Kendall Graveman, whose sinking fastball and curveless curve kinda sorta worked for a back-of-the-rotation arm. It hasn’t worked this year in large part, but even last night, it’s been decent against the M’s. I don’t know of a way to search for M’s hitting against low-spin guys; if you want to make the intuitive leap that low-spin = ground ball guys, then the M’s have done fairly well. But they’ve also struggled against guys who don’t K or walk many batters, and in Neal they’ve got one. Neal is an underdog, and may get lit up tonight. I’d just feel better if he didn’t remind me so much of Graveman.

To be fair, Graveman has more movement on his pitches than Neal. Neal’s FB sinks a bit and is arrow straight, like an underpowered version of Garrett Richards’. But whereas Richards gets an insane amount of spin on his breaking balls, Neal’s just float up there as if they weren’t spinning at all. It’d be remarkable if the A’s didn’t throw a guy who did the same thing just yesterday. Still, the fact that even his fastball has very little armside run differentiates him from Graveman enough. And let’s not forget: because Graveman’s struggled so much the 3rd time through the order, the A’s got him out early yesterday. They’ve made some roster moves to give their pen some depth, but they may need to leave Neal in longer than they’d like, and if they DO go to the pen in the 4th-6th, it’ll be the B team there for a while. After beating up on the first string, the M’s should have some confidence today.

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

As you can see, Luis Sardinas, having spent 10 days in the minors, can now be recalled from AAA, swapping spots with Chris Taylor.


32 Responses to “Game 46, Athletics at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on May 25th, 2016 5:43 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Chris Taylor go to another org as part of a “maybe a change of scenery will help” trade. He’s better than what we’ve seen, but at this point he probably gets a bad case of the yips whenever he hears he’s heading to the big club.

  2. stevemotivateir on May 25th, 2016 6:36 pm

    I’ll admit that I was surprised to see Taylor optioned back, but I’m not complaining. I could easily see Taylor shipped off as well, Westy. I don’t think that will happen right away, but if he’s lacking confidence, or just can’t settle down, they don’t have much choice. They don’t have the flexibility to stick with him through the crap times, as Texas is hot on their heels.

    Yes, I just actually used the expression hot on their heels, and I believe that’s a first for me.

  3. Sowulo on May 25th, 2016 8:05 pm

    Well isn’t this an interesting development! The M’s scoring runs at the Safe!

  4. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 8:07 pm

    If Martin has to be put on the DL (and dammit to that) do they recall Taylor (can they?) or do they call up Romero?

  5. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 8:08 pm

    I guess someone paying attention to the Rainiers game will be able to tell us if anybody suddenly gets pulled from that game.

  6. Sowulo on May 25th, 2016 8:09 pm

    When I read Marc’s description of Neal’s lack of movement on his fastball I thought it sounded like a description of a batting practice fastball.

    Guess I was right…..

  7. Sowulo on May 25th, 2016 8:16 pm

    Tacoma’s game today is already over….but if Martin has to DL, I’d guess they’d bring up Boog Powell. They need the defense in CF.

  8. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 8:18 pm

    That’s not a bad idea (Boog) – but I’m not sure they would skip over Romero’s production in AAA – to this point. Intersting dilemma … Thanks for planting the Boog seed idea.

  9. djw on May 25th, 2016 8:28 pm

    Is Powell on the 40 man? (Is the 40 man full?)

  10. Sowulo on May 25th, 2016 8:29 pm

    Romero is raking. But he’s not a CF. Defense is just as important (or more so) at Safeco.

  11. Sowulo on May 25th, 2016 8:29 pm

    Boog is already on the 40

  12. stevemotivateir on May 25th, 2016 8:51 pm

    The Lindecutioner has struck again.

  13. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:23 pm

    Yes, I know Romero is not a CF. I’m not arguing the value of defense with the CF position, either. I’m wondering if the team would bridge the short period of time in a way that was consistent with their early season plan of using Aoki in CF on occasion – while using O’Malley wherever they need him most at any given time. Romero has performed at the AAA level and the team has shown a desire to reward performance, so my initial thought was Romero (assuming Martin is placed on the DL). However, I do appreciate the input re: Boog

    And yes, Boog is on the 40 man. So is Heredia.

  14. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:26 pm

    And the thought of Aoki in CF is not sitting well with my dinner. He would be bad if not horrible, but it doesn’t mean the team wouldn’t consider doing it – on a quasi limited basis – for a short period of time.

    Maybe Martin did only “tweak” the hammy and the speculation will be a “moo” point … With props to Joey Tribiani.

  15. Westside guy on May 25th, 2016 9:30 pm

    They have to call up Boog Powell – after all, the Twins will be in town starting Friday.

    Oh, wait – he was an Oriole, wasn’t he? Who am I thinking of?

  16. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:31 pm

    If you had said “Orioles” I would have completely understood you, Westy.

  17. Westside guy on May 25th, 2016 9:33 pm

    I think I was confusing him and Harmon Killebrew.

  18. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:35 pm

    You self-corrected before my post posted you sly dog, you.

  19. Westside guy on May 25th, 2016 9:35 pm


  20. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:36 pm

    I think you were really thinking Rusty Staub – because he didn’t play for the Twins, either.

  21. Westside guy on May 25th, 2016 9:37 pm


    Hey, I had to work late – what happened to Martin, anyway?

  22. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:38 pm

    In the spirit of grayfox3D:


    I’m lolling myself.

  23. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:42 pm

    “Tweaked” his hammy sliding into 2B on a steal attempt – . Or on the jump into the slide. Grabbed his hammy right away Stayed in the game. Eventually landed at third and then got caught in a rundown on the “go on contact” play … Which he handled with the grace and dexterity of a one-legged man.

  24. californiamariner on May 25th, 2016 9:43 pm

    I really hope Martin is okay, that would be a pretty big loss.

    But, Holy Adam Lind!!!

  25. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 9:43 pm

    Kinda what I look like when I’m running on the treadmill and impersonating myself running.

  26. stevemotivateir on May 25th, 2016 9:54 pm

    My vision had Lind killing a man. I didn’t think it would be an entire team.

  27. msfanmike on May 25th, 2016 10:00 pm

    Your visions must be on Brazilian standard voodoo time and 24 hours early … But pretty accurate, nonetheless.

  28. stevemotivateir on May 25th, 2016 10:09 pm

    I don’t practice Candemble, or Quimbanda, but I am 4 hours ahead in the winter here; 24 hours ahead in the dream world.

  29. Grayfox3d on May 25th, 2016 10:20 pm

    I’m at work tonight, I work graveyards at Amazon so no LOLing from me, but at least I’m here in spirit. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of that A** whoopin tonight! I really hope Martin is ok, its the worst timing for him to get hurt right when he’s starting to get going. Hurry back soon buddy!
    Thanks for thinking of me Mike, I love you guys.

    P.S. Is Dave Cameron still a M’s fan? He should come say hi.

  30. Westside guy on May 25th, 2016 11:19 pm

    I don’t think Cameron is a fan anymore. I am pretty sure I’ve heard him – as well as Jeff Sullivan – talk about how having a job where you have to write about baseball sort of drives that out of you, because being a fan is somewhat at odds with being able to write about the game as a whole in an objective manner.

  31. Westside guy on May 25th, 2016 11:28 pm

    And by “fan” I mean “fan of a particular team” – not a fan of the game in general.

  32. Notfromboise on May 25th, 2016 11:32 pm

    Lind bumped his .SLG over 100 points in one day.

    I think I’m just as excited about the fact that it was in Safeco.

    Bummer about Martin. I was digging his Mike Cameron impression there for a while.. Good kid, hope its day to day instead of a full 15.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.