Game 149, Astros at Mariners
Ariel Miranda vs. Doug Fister, 1:10pm
The last two games have nearly cut the M’s playoff odds in half; it would’ve been worse if the Blue Jays, Orioles AND Tigers hadn’t all lost yesterday. But that’s cold comfort to a fanbase that’s seen the M’s offense look terrible in consecutive games – games that had an outsized impact on their chances of playing in the postseason.
I’m sure that’ll elicit lots of armchair psychology about the M’s wilting under pressure, but the Astros have had the M’s number all year. Lots of teams have bad games, and the Astros have looked just as helpless whenever they’ve played the Rangers, but it’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder if the Astros’ advanced scouting hasn’t spotted something. Dan Vogelbach’s slow start hasn’t helped much, either, and with Adam Lind healthy again, Vogelbach heads back to the bench today.
Doug Fister’s skirted danger the whole year, and while his FIP’s edging towards replacement level, he’s given up a decent number of runs for a 5th starter. This late-period Fister isn’t striking anyone out, and his trademark control is mostly gone, too, so his K-BB% has dropped to its lowest level ever. He’s giving up more HRs than he did in his peak, too, which explains why his FIP’s been below average for three years running. It’s not really BABIP that’s bailed him out; it was over .300 last year, and it’s .291 this year, right in line with his career numbers. Instead, he’s been much better (or much luckier, depending on your view of how much a pitcher controls his own sequencing) with men on base. In the past, he had a low BABIP and very low walks allowed in all situations. Even in recent years, his bases-empty HR/9 and men-on-base HR/9 climbed together. But this year, as he’s giving up an awful 1.59 HR/9 with no one on, his men-on-base rate has plummeted to 0.54. In rate terms, he’s given up a HR in 3.9% of PAs with no one on and just 1.6% once someone reaches. Hisashi Iwakuma did something similar for years, of course, so it’s not like you can just chalk it up to luck. But given Fister’s waaaay low HR/FB ratio with men on (he’s still giving up fly balls, they’re just not making it to the wall) AND the fact that this split is limited to 2016 makes it hard to give Fister all of the credit.
Speaking of bad luck, Fister’s been annihilated by left-handers this year, something that hasn’t been a consistent problem for him in the past. Given that track record, and another HR/FB-driven difference, we probably shouldn’t get too carried away with the whole “he can’t get lefties out anymore!” stuff. The advantage isn’t as big as his raw slash lines would indicate, but it’s an advantage nonetheless. If the M’s lefties get some challenge pitches from Fister, they need to deal with them. Speaking of lefties: Nori Aoki is now hitting .333/.381/.488 since returning from AAA. I wouldn’t have that he was capable of that over any stretch, particularly since he was slugging .313 when he was sent down.
1: Aoki, LF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lind, 1B
7: Martin, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: O’Malley, SS
I’ll admit I’m feeling somewhat nauseous about Miranda making this start, by far the biggest game he’s even been a part of. That said, I’m reminded of a game in 2014 when the M’s had a must-win against the Astros and turned to rookie Cuban lefty Roenis Elias, and Elias pitched 6IP, giving up just a single run. He kept his team in it, matching up against M’s nemesis, Collin McHugh. I’d take one of those, Mr. Miranda. (Yoervis Medina gave up a run in that one, and the M’s lost 2-1. Even the scores in this series remind me of previous crushing losses in September to the Astros).
Speaking of nausea, Ketel Marte’s made 4 errors in his last 5 games and he’s 3 for 16 in that span. Since HIS return from injury rehab, he’s slashing .244/.281/277. I don’t think anyone will mind seeing Shawn O’Malley in there today.