Game 58, Indians at Mariners
Wade Miley vs. Cody Anderson, 7:10pm
Let’s be clear: last night’s loss hurt. As Texas walked off Houston, the M’s fell a season-high 4 games behind the division leading Rangers, AND they’ve fallen further behind Cleveland in a hypothetical wild card race. The M’s have to keep their eye on a number of teams, and four-game losing streaks have a way of negatively impacting all sorts of potential races.
All that said and acknowledged, hooooly smokes, that was an encouraging game. James Paxton has somehow cloned Noah Syndergaard’s right arm and attached it to his own left side. That’s the only explanation I have for this. James Paxton, the frustratingly inconsistent, injury plagued 27 year old, now throws as hard as Noah Syndergaard, the fireballer that throws faster – by a mile – than any other starter in the game. I keep trying to come up with some sort of precedent for this, and I just can’t. The past few years have taught us a lot about how velocity aging curves aren’t set in stone, and that even veteran hurlers can suddenly add velocity. But essentially all of those cases are guys going from 90-92, or 91-93, touching 95. Paxton was already at the far tail end of the velocity distribution (especially for lefties), and, well, James Paxton’s fastball last night averaged *99mph* and touched 101. 101! From a lefty starter! There are no precedents for this, because lefty starters don’t throw 101. You can’t look at their background or evolution, because they do not exist. Aroldis Chapman is a lefty and the hardest thrower in the game, but he’s a reliever who many thought *should* start. Chapman’s never started a big league game, and made only a handful of starts in the minors. But he *did* start a spring training game back in 2012 in Peoria against the Pads, so we can see what he’d be like as a starter. In that game in late March, Chapman threw 61 fastballs with an average velocity of 96.7mph. In last night’s game, Paxton threw 61 fastballs with an average velocity of 99.0, and a higher peak velocity than Chapman. Let that sink in. It hasn’t fully sink in to me yet.
The only analogs I can think of involve position players. JD Martinez adding over .100 points to his ISO and going from a slap hitting mediocrity to a power hitting force, but then, he was a power hitting slugger in the minors. Joey Bautista’s the poster child for this late transformation, but even there, he’d always shown power…he just lacked opportunity and a good hit tool. Then there are comeback stories, sort of like Mark Lowe’s last year, in which a guy who once threw 95 fades and bumps around in the low 90s for a few years before returning to his former strength. That’s nice and all, but even last year’s Mark Lowe wasn’t the kind of dominant force he looked like when he first came up with Seattle, and what we’re talking about with Paxton is jumping to an entirely different level of ability.
So why’s he still getting hit? That’s a good question, and one I’d like to look into as the season goes on. His new mechanics may give right-handers a longer look at the ball, but then again his velocity jump eats away at that. He’s still missing his location every once in a while, but I saw some good swings on very well located pitches too. Tough to say, at at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts showing more platoon splits than he did as an over-the-top pitcher.
If Paxton wasn’t enough, Edwin Diaz followed him and made his own MLB debut. To say it was electric is again to understate things. Many people talked about how it reminded them of Mark Lowe’s debut. I thought about Rafael Soriano’s first two games in Seattle, when he hit 100 and struck out 6 in a combined 6 IP. Why? Because Diaz threw 7 fastballs *averaging* 99.53mph, topping 100 a few times, as in this strikeout. His slider was tight and induced perhaps the best swinging strike of the night. The M’s lost a game, but may have gained an elite set-up man.
Hats off to Trevor Bauer, though, who threw the best game I’ve seen from him. Even in solid starts in the past, and his duel with Tai Walker last year comes to mind, he’d be breezing along and then give up a hit or a walk and then a HR that just killed his chances at a win. Last night, TWO deep drives from Seth Smith were caught on the warning track, and that was the difference. Still, he had much better command than I’ve seen – walking one, for example – and his curve was elite. He also got out-of-zone swings…exactly what he hasn’t been able to do all year.
Today’s game is as much of a must win as you can get in early June. The M’s face Cody Anderson, who’s making the spot start as Danny Salazar’s shoulder is hurting. Anderson was demoted to AAA after stinking up the joint as a starter early in the year. He had good ERA thanks to an extremely low BABIP in 15 starts last year, but when his BABIP shot up, he’s been disastrous in 2016. He’s still not walking anyone, but he’s given up 10 HRs and 56 hits in total in just under 40 IP thus far. He’s been bad against everyone in 2016, but he’s still not shown an ability to get lefties out. In his career, they’re slugging .485 off of him, and remember, that includes his mostly successful 2015. This is kind of a surprise, as his best pitch may be his change-up. The only problem is, it’s been much more successful against right-handed hitters. He’s got a cutter that he throws mostly to righties, but he’ll throw the change to lefties and righties alike. His fastball’s 93-94 or so and has some solid armside run.
1: Aoki, CF
2: Smith, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lee, 1B
7: Lind, DH
8: Marte, SS
9: Clevenger, C
Tacoma dominated Las Vegas 9-1 last night, as Chris Taylor went 4-4 with a walk. Las Vegas is flipping the script today, leading Tacoma, er, 9-1, despite a HR from Mike Zunino. Today was Adrian Sampson’s first really bad start of the year.
Jackson lost to Pensacola last night as Reds prospect Amir Garrett was spectacular over 6 IP, giving up only an unearned run. Dylan Unsworth starts for the Generals tonight.
Bakersfield beat San Jose 8-5 behind homers from Joe DeCarlo (who’s now homered in 3 straight games) and Kyle Petty. Tyler Pike starts for the Blaze tonight, looking to build on a 12 K performance in his last game.
Zack Littell starts for Clinton in Wisconsin tonight.
Finally, the hitting star of the day is probably OF prospect Brayan Hernandez, who went 5-6 in the DSL M’s 15-1 win in the Dominican.