Game 60, Indians at Mariners
Nate Karns vs. Josh Tomlin, 7:10pm
**Welcome to the organization, Kyle Lewis. The M’s selected the OF out of Mercer (college) with the 11th pick in today’s first round.**
It was nice to see Taijuan Walker have another dominant start last night. I’m not sure if it was the plan going in, or if he and Chris Iannetta kept going to it after they saw the kind of swings Cleveland had on it, but Walker threw a *ton* of fastballs. 84 of them, in fact, leading to 52 strikes without a ball in play, including 14 whiffs. Even better, none of the 11 heaters the Indians put in play went for a hit. It all added up to one of the better single-pitch outings I can remember from a Mariner starter. You may remember I said something similar back in April after today’s starter, Nate Karns, tossed a bajillion curve balls at Houston in a dominant win of his own. I talked afterwards about Karns’ impressive pitch type linear weights of -2.86, meaning that the change in run expectancy after each curve totaled up to -2.86 runs for the Astros. The curve was “worth” nearly 3 runs on its own, the highest mark (at that point) of any M’s starter in the year. I mentioned in that piece that Tai Walker’s fastball was the last single pitch by a Mariner starter to best that -2.86 mark, when he shut out the Twins a year ago, and I mentioned that Jose Fernandez of the Marlins turned in an astounding -4 run performance with his curve in a 14K shutout in 2014. Why am I harping on this? Last night, Walker’s fastball tallied -5.85 runs. It’s a counting stat, not a rate stat, so it shows that Walker went to it a lot, and essentially every single one did something good for the M’s, whether a foul ball, a grounder at an infielder, a swinging strike, etc. Amazing. I haven’t checked too much, but that’s got to be at or near the top of the single-game scores in the past…I don’t know how many years. Kershaw doesn’t throw enough of any one pitch to get there, nor does Arrieta. Syndergaard might, and a homerless game from Max Scherzer might get there, but I haven’t found one yet (Scherzer got up to -4.44 in 2015).
So, Karns. Did he take a lesson from that game against Houston and refine his high-fastball, low-curve arsenal? Er, no, he’s kind of reinvented himself since then. While he’ll still throw his rising four-seamer, he’s now picked up a sinker, and is using it even more than his four-seam. Ok, it’s not exactly NEW – he threw it going way back to his debut with Washington. But over his time in Tampa, he relied more and more on his elevated four-seamer to get fly balls and limit BABIP – and to hide his curve. He’s gone back to the sinker now, at least according to BrooksBaseball, presumably to give hitters a different spin and also to limit home runs, a long-standing issue for him. This year, he’s kept his HR rate under 1 per 9 IP, which is solid for a fly baller like Karns, and he’s had better results over his career with his sinker, so this isn’t an ill-considered shift. That said, as he’s thrown more sinkers, he’s thrown fewer curves, and I’m not sure what to think about that. The curve sure looked like his best pitch. To be fair, he probably can’t throw 50+ per game the way he did against Houston in April, and it’s possible the increased fastball usage may give each curve a bit more impact. But he hasn’t been noticeably better since using the sinker, so it’s hard to say.
Josh Tomlin is a righty throwing an 88mph fastball and an 86 mph cutter. Especially to righties, he’s essentially a cutter-first guy, throwing it more than his fastball. To lefties, he’ll mix in a change and curve. Coming up as an unheralded, underpowered guy, Tomlin made a name by posting incredibly low walk rates. But in general, he was only as successful as his BABIP, which bounced around as it does for many pitchers. In 2011, he was a savvy, intelligent guy who just knew how to pitch. In 2012, he was pitching scared, and needed another weapon. His results could vary wildly, but one thing never changed: Tomlin’s always given up a lot of home runs. That’s kind of a big thing to overcome, especially for someone who’s never going to rack up strikeouts, but when his BABIP allows, Tomlin will run an ERA that, while not exactly great, at least beats his HR-driven FIP, which is fairly consistently ugly. He’s going for the Chris Young package, in a convenient travel size, but there’s a reason I call Chris Young a magical giant (at least until this year…yeesh): 99% of pitchers can’t count on *consistently* low HR/FB ratios or *consistently* elite BABIPs. Tomlin’s BABIP in 10 starts last year was an incredible .199. It’s .262 this year, so his results have been OK, but he’s given up 23 HRs in 20 starts over just 126 IP. Even a “good” BABIP as opposed to “insane” is going to make it tough to hang on, and remember that Tomlin allowed a .320 mark as recently as 2014 (when he also missed bats somehow…weird). It’s a winnable game, M’s, so go win it.
1: Aoki, CF
2: Smith, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, DH
6: Lind, 1B
7: Marte, SS
8: Iannetta, C
9: Sardinas, 3B
As I mentioned yesterday, Tacoma opens a homestand tonight against Reno, and Bob Dutton says Leonys Martin will start in CF for the R’s. Sinkerballer extraordinaire Donn Roach is on the hill.
Jackson’s magic number is down to 1 after a thrilling 8-4 win over Pensacola. The star of the game was…let’s see, few different guys had 2 hits…walk for Heredia…I’m going to give it to Tyler O’Neill, who doubled and won the game with a walk-off grand slam. O’Neill had *all 8* RBIs. The kid has been unreal in 2016. The Generals host Pensacola again tonight. What do you do for an encore, Tyler?
Bakersfield hosts Stockton tonight, and are attempting to win their 9th straight. Eddie Campbell takes the mound for the Blaze.
A day after shutting out Wisconsin, the Clinton Lumberkings found themselves on the wrong end of a 9-0 whipping. Art Warren suffered his first loss of the year. Pablo Lopez starts tonight for the L-Kings opposite rehabbing big leaguer Matt Garza.
Here’s an interesting article on the M’s new draft strategy at MLB.com. Tom McNamara’s been the head of the scouting side under Zduriencik, and kept the role under Dipoto, and he spoke fairly candidly (for the M’s) about the changes. The discussion of “risk metrics” was interesting, and matched up a bit with this article at THT, showing that early first round college bats are still a bit better than HS ones. The other finding was that by the end of the first round, the college bats got worse, but the HS ones didn’t. It’s always tough to know what to make of these studies, especially given how much a single player *coughMikeTroutcough* can influence the results. Some of the best players in the game were drafted out of HS, like Trout, Kershaw, Machado, McCutchen, but Trout was the 5th HS position player taken in 2009, and McCutchen was the 3rd HS position player taken in 2005. There’s clearly a higher floor with college arms/bats, but the generational talents, at least recently, have mostly come from the HS ranks. As Chris Crawford mentioned, it’ll be interesting to see how this picture changes over time. The THT study looked at the 02-09 drafts, meaning Machado, Bryce Harper and Carlos Correa weren’t included. That’s not a knock on the methodology; to do it right, you have to give players time to demonstrate performance in MLB, but it’s possible the same methodology will produce dramatically different results on the 2010-2017 draft classes.