Game 52, Mariners at Padres
James Paxton vs. Christian Friedrich, 7:10pm
What is normally a celebration is now a day of reflection and somber determination. Our great King has been sent to the 15-dal DL, retroactive to May 28th, with a calf strain. That’s…let’s be clear, that’s a good limb for a pitcher to injure, assuming (as seems to be the case) that a pitcher must injure something. Now is not the time for histrionics and wailing. Our King would want us to soldier on. But clearly, we can’t do what we normally do, not just because Felix isn’t pitching, but because Felix was injured in the very ACT of celebrating. Celebrations themselves seem suspect right now. Time for Marshawn Lynch-style handshakes for the next few HR celebrati..er, I mean, observations.
The M’s announced Paxton was coming up last night, which made for a very uncomfortable evening of trying to tell myself that the move wasn’t about Felix, even though it was pretty obvious from the timing that the move had everything to do with him. Paxton’s been solid in AAA overall, but his line is the product of some serious peaks and valleys. He’s given up more runs than innings pitched in three of his 10 starts on the year, but in the other 7, he’s given up a TOTAL of 3 earned runs. Adding in unearned runs brings it up to 6, but that’s still less than a run per start. His K:BB ratio are better now than they’ve ever been at the level, and he’d have a brilliant FIP if it wasn’t for some HR problems: his HR/9 is a career high, setting aside a weird 12-inning stint in 2014. He’s striking out more than a batter per inning for Tacoma, a bit more than he did in his last extended AAA time in 2013, but the biggest improvement has come in his control.
One of the many things that’s always confused me about Paxton is the fact that he’s displayed even or reverse platoon splits at the big league level. Seriously, take a look: the very few lefties to face him have hit a combined .314/.403/.419, while righties hit .206/.276/.321. FIP sees through the huge BABIP issues with the lefties, but still shows him with essentially even splits. In the minors, however, Paxton’s shown sizable splits, and that’s continued this year, where lefties hit just .136 off of him, while 5 of his 6 HRs have come against righties. I’m assuming the Pads will stack their line-up with righties, so here’s hoping his BABIP devil magic against MLB right-handers continues.
Christian Friedrich is someone I’ve always kept an eye on after seeing an impressive start against Tacoma on his way to the majors in the Rockies org. Unfortunately, injuries and altitude torpedoed his career. After being waived by Colorado this spring, he signed on with the Angels – a team that could seriously use some pitching depth right now. After a physical, they decided not to take him, and he was sent back to Colorado, who then waived him. I mentioned he was pitching in the Cal League for the Padres org back in April, and, well, here he is, pitching for the big club. He’s made three starts for them thus far, and he’s coming off a real gem: 7 shutout innings giving up just 3 hits and a walk, while striking out 5 D-Backs. He had serious control problems in his first two starts, but he hasn’t paid a high price for it, in part because he hasn’t given up a dinger yet. He’s getting more grounders than he did in Colorado, which is interesting because he has a very, very similar release point and throwing motion to Paxton. Both are lefties who release their fastball about 7′ above the ground, and generate the kind of backspin you’d expect from such over-the-top deliveries. It’s interesting, then, that their *other* pitches look nothing alike. Paxton’s curve is much firmer, and thus has a bit less vertical drop than Friedrich’s. Friedrich’s cutter has strong vertical drop, especially compared to his fastball and change, while Paxton’s is more of a horizontal breaking pitch.
1: Aoki, LF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Lee, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Sardiñas, SS
9: Paxton, SP
Abbreviated MiLB news today, but wanted to point out that Patrick Kivlehan rejoined Tacoma today in time for their day game against Salt Lake. Kivlehan had 3 hits in the game, and lead off man Ketel Marte had 2 – both players doubled. Tacoma won 5-1 behind a solid start by Brad Mills.
Kivlehan was the player to be named later in the Leonys Martin/Tom Wilhelmsen trade this winter, but he struggled mightily with Round Rock, hitting .184/.252/.262. Texas then offered him back to Seattle, and so he’s back with the team he played for last year.