Game 72, Mariners at Tigers

marc w · June 22, 2016 at 4:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Michael Fulmer, 4:10pm

Is this road trip over yet? Remember when fans were convinced the M’s biggest problem was playing at home? Good times.

The M’s, who now find themselves just a half-game up on the 3rd place Astros, face Detroit’s young Michael Fulmer today at Comerica Park. Fulmer, a right-hander whose fastball sits at 96, was the big prize the Tigers got from the Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes deal about a year ago. After slowly moving up in the Mets system since being drafted in the 1st round in 2011, something clicked and he posted great numbers at AA first in the Mets’ system, and then carried that success over to Detroit’s affiliate. While he gave up a few too many HRs early in the year in AAA, he’s been something of a revelation for Detroit, with solid K rates, and some poor contact leading to very few runs scoring against him – this is how he had a long (33 1/3 IP) scoreless IP streak earlier this year.

It’s funny – when he was in the minors, he was one of those prospects (James Paxton was another) that many saw as a future reliever. Good FB, good slider, command is so-so, and his change-up is worse than that. Lots of effort in the delivery, etc. In the Fangraphs’ article on the Tigers’ top prospects, Fulmer’s ceiling in the rotation was given as a #3 starter, with a better chance to be a late-inning reliever. I’m not trying to pick on Fangraphs, or the broad consensus about Fulmer’s strengths and weaknesses at the time or projected 5-10 years into the future, but I struggle to see that picture when I look at what he throws. His four-seamer, as mentioned, averages 96, with very little horizontal movement and lots of vertical rise. That great slider is thrown around 86-87, drops quite a bit compared to the fastball, and has little horizontal cut to it. But the “below average” change-up…now that looks like something. It, too, is thrown quite hard, at 85 or so, has 7″ of armside run, and even more vertical “drop” than the slider. It looks like a very solid splitter.

Of all Fulmer’s pitches, it’s that change-up that he’s thrown for strikes the most, it’s the pitch that’s gotten the most swings, and yet it’s the pitch that’s been put into play the *least*. When it is, it’s overwhelmingly on the ground. It’s his third pitch, and he uses it as such: he throws it mostly to left-handers, and he throws it most when he’s *behind in the count*. It’s amazing to me to look at the pitch results after looking at how he uses it. In 3-1 counts to opposite-handed hitters, and you have results like this? This is in no way a “below average” pitch. Luckily for the M’s, he doesn’t throw nearly as many of them. His slider’s a good pitch too, to be fair, and he’s comfortable throwing it to lefties, but man, that change looks intriguing. My broader question is: did Fulmer’s change-up suddenly get a whole lot better? Did he improve his arm action and/or command, and so the lingering worries about it are more outdated than out and out wrong? Or is there something about a change-up that’s harder to evaluate, especially when looking at a fireballing FB/SL guy’s third pitch? 2 strike sliders low and away *look* really good, and they are of course. But do evaluators overrate them vis a vis a solid change that can keep lefties off balance, even if it doesn’t make them look completely silly?

Anyway, Fulmer’s running reverse splits thus far. Well, he’s striking out a ton of righties, and walking too many lefties, but lefties just haven’t hit him very hard at all. Righties are pulling the ball against him at a rate 10 percentage points higher than lefties, and lefties have zero HRs against him. The change is something to watch, is what I’m saying.

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

The M’s starter for Friday won’t be Tai Walker, who’s still struggling with tendinitis in his foot. And it won’t be new Rainier Zach Lee. Instead, it’ll be ex-Padres/Blue Jays soft-tossing lefty change-of-speed guy Wade LeBlanc, whom the M’s just acquired for “cash considerations.”

In addition, Tom Wilhelmsen is back in the M’s bullpen after signing a deal with Seattle. The Rangers dropped him from their 40 man the other day, and the bartender refused an outright assignment to AAA. The overworked bullpen needs help, and I think Wilhelmsen is much, much better than he showed in Texas, but I’d like to hear an actual explanation for what happened down there, whether mechanical or mental. To make room, Jonathan Aro’s headed back to Tacoma. The M’s will need to make another move to get LeBlanc on the active roster.

I’m going to be on a quick family trip for the next few days, so I can’t promise to get anything up. Hopefully a line-up or something, but even that’ll depend on phone reception. Hopefully the M’s will have figured out whatever it is that’s causing them to lose repeatedly by the time I’m back.


77 Responses to “Game 72, Mariners at Tigers”

  1. Dennisss on June 25th, 2016 9:53 pm

    Diaz pitches in the eighth in a one-run game. He might be their best bet for that role.

  2. Westside guy on June 25th, 2016 10:04 pm

    Woo hoo!

  3. Dennisss on June 25th, 2016 10:05 pm

    Whew! A winning streak!

  4. Westside guy on June 25th, 2016 10:07 pm

    So the two post-game guys, Brad Miller and Dave Valle, are sitting there with two Surface tablets in front of them – we’re supposed to assume they’re using them, right?

    Except every time Brad checks a note, he looks at the paper notebook he has sitting right *next* to the Surface. Neither he, nor Dave, look at the Surface at all.

    Another Microsoft PR win!

  5. Dennisss on June 25th, 2016 10:08 pm

    Brad Adams?

  6. Westside guy on June 25th, 2016 10:09 pm

    Hahaha yes Brad Adams.

    I guess I need note cards to keep my Brads straight.

  7. Dennisss on June 25th, 2016 10:13 pm

    Cishek has not been terrible by any means, but he really doesn’t inspire confidence in a close game.

  8. Westside guy on June 25th, 2016 10:14 pm

    I know what you mean, Dennisss.

  9. Westside guy on June 25th, 2016 10:22 pm

    I was trying to think of when the Mariners had ever had a lights-out closer. I guess Rodney was, for one season. But, other than that, it seems like we’ve only had cross-your-fingers-and-keep-your-antacids-handy guys.

  10. mrakbaseball on June 26th, 2016 2:43 am

    Brad Adam, not Miller, not Adams.

  11. Westside guy on June 26th, 2016 10:16 am

    Sure it’s not Omar Bradley?

  12. Notfromboise on June 26th, 2016 11:59 am

    @Westside: JJ Putz had two rock solid years in 2006/2007. That was the only one that really came to mind.

    If you go all the way back to 2000-2, Sasaki was a ROY and followed it up with two all-star teams.

    But yeah, it’s been a minute.

  13. Westside guy on June 26th, 2016 1:06 pm

    Oh, yeah, how did I forget about Putz? I guess when they fade, it’s hard to remember they were ever that good.

    Daimajin was good, but I remember how much he always seemed to be sweating… he would sorta make me think he was struggling, even when he wasn’t.

  14. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 2:48 pm

    What in the actual f**k!!! How many damn extra base hits do you need to give up!!!!!! My god! Paxton looks good one game then goes to shit for 3 games!

  15. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 2:49 pm

    Strike out… Double / double / double / triple…. And the inning is still going! Cmon

  16. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 3:07 pm

    I wish we had a Matt Carpenter

  17. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 3:39 pm

    Oh look, Vincent giving up ANOTHER home run when we’re either tied or have a lead….

  18. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 3:39 pm

    And another one…. I hate this bullpen with a passion.

  19. Notfromboise on June 26th, 2016 3:46 pm

    @Westy – Putz was really lock down.. The only time I really felt the game was over when they took the mound in the 9th. Schooler, Rodney, Kaz & the rest never truly let us rest easy.. And you could probably argue that Schooler and Kaz benefitted more from being parts of great teams with more opportunities to pad stats.

    As for the current game in progress, I love seeing Guti hitting. Maybe he’ll be the inverse Griffey Jr and struggle with injury until his early 30s and then blossom into a .900 OPS guy for another 10 years.. Ya never know! 🙂

    On another side note.. Leonys Martin has really been above and beyond what I even hoped for entering the season. He doesn’t quite have the speed, but he looks an awful lot like Mike Cameron out there in the field and (surprisingly) with the pop in the bat. Kinda like how on the radio yesterday they were talking about Marte looking remisicent of a young Harold Reynolds.

    Those retro jerseys are fun, we need to sport those more often. Those Royal Blue Cardinal road jerseys are also another retro fashion that might be better served to replace the current trend.

    I really, really like those Mariner throwbacks far more than the Marlin teal.

    This might just mean i’m getting older. Get off my lawn!!!

  20. Notfromboise on June 26th, 2016 3:51 pm

    I’m pretty sure there is a MLB by-law that giving up a homer to Tommy Phan is immediate grounds to terminate a contract, or at least an automatic AAA option.

    Like, you don’t even get to shower or head to your locker, you head down the visitors tunnel to the parking lot, find the nearest form of public transport.. Utter the codephrase ‘I lost a Phan Duel”… plop on the seat next to the driver, and spend the next few hours down the highway, thinking about what you’ve done.

  21. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 3:51 pm

    That 3rd strike call on Seager was bogus!!! Wow

  22. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 4:05 pm

    Oh just Mariners giving up 4 more home runs today, no big deal right… Garbage.

  23. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 4:22 pm

    And there goes another one to Pham, it seems so easy for other teams to hit home runs in safeco, hell the worst player on their team can hit them there but the Mariners…. If we’re lucky we get 1 a game.

  24. Grayfox3d on June 26th, 2016 4:23 pm

    Wow……… 6 home runs now…. How many have they coughed up this series. This is just stupid you don’t win any games with shit hole pitching like this.

  25. mksh21 on June 27th, 2016 8:28 am

    David Aardsma had one great season at closer in 09, then regressed, then hurt every single thing you can in an arm, I was stunned to see him throw 30 innings for Atlanta last year, seemed like he last pitched for us way longer than 6 years ago. Time flies when you are blowing leads.

    More importantly he is the FIRST player listed in the baseball encyclopedia.

  26. MKT on June 27th, 2016 9:25 pm

    The Mariners have had a few shut-down closers. Anyone with say 3.5 WAR or more in a single season has to be considered to be “shut-down” and the Ms have had three:

    1982 4.4 Bill Caudlll
    1991 3.7 Bill Swift
    2008 4.0 J.J. Putz

    We could probably relax the criterion to 3.0 WAR or even lower, but some might claim that those pitchers were not shut-down closers.

  27. JMB on June 28th, 2016 11:30 am

    Guys — St. Louis just hit another homer.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.