Game 15, Marlins at Mariners
Yovani Gallardo vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 7:10pm
It was great to see the M’s honor Ichiro before yesterday’s game, and I’m glad they’re marking his return with a bobblehead giveaway that honors his time in Seattle as well as his current status as a Marlin. He’s simply one of the most interesting stars Seattle’s had the fortune to host, and baseball will be worse off when he’s gone. There will be another fireballing phenom in the mold of Noah Syndergaard, and there’ll be more Bryce Harpers, more do-it-all CFs like Trout and Griffey. I’m not confident we’ll see anything like Ichiro again, and that’s too bad. Maybe I’m wrong, and we’ll get someone who seems dropped in from another time and planet who changes how we look at the game, and how we look at the players. I hope we do.
Ariel Miranda was something, wasn’t he? The M’s ravaged rotation needed someone to step up, and Miranda did so. He’s still varying his release point like crazy, but he’s throwing a ton of strikes now. In his first 8 big league starts (7 with the M’s), Miranda posted a BB/9 of 3.78. He’s made 7 starts since, and has pitched in a few more innings than the first sample, and he’s posted a BB/9 of 2.02 in them. That’s a noticeable improvement, arbitrary endpoints or not. I mentioned his splitter when the M’s acquired him last August, and thought it looked like an intriguing pitch as opposed to the somewhat uninspiring change-up he favored at the time. Maybe the M’s agreed, because he’s changed his pitch mix and he threw twice as many splitters as regular change-ups last night.
The other noticeable thing about Miranda is that he gets all sorts of movement on his fastball. It’s not a *great* pitch or anything, but he combines vertical and horizontal movement like almost no pitcher I can think of. That made we assume that Miranda was some sort of high-spin savant, and that maybe spin rate was one of the facets of his game that attracted the Mariners when discussing the Miley trade with Baltimore. But now we don’t have to assume, and can actually measure spin directly thanks to trackman. And out of 412 pitchers to throw a fastball this season, Miranda’s spin rate ranks…381st. What?
I’ve linked to it before, but this article by physicist Alan Nathan talks about spin and the difference between gyro spin (which does NOT cause pitch movement) and transverse spin (which DOES). Clearly, nearly all of Miranda’s spin must be transverse, as something’s clearly creating break. Of course, the problem is that total spin is the combination of transverse and gyro spin, and Miranda’s stated spin rate from statcast simply isn’t big enough to generate movement like we’re seeing. Pitch fx imputes spin from its measurement of movement; it’s not measuring spin directly. THAT system assumes Miranda’s fastball averages over 3,000 RPMs, whereas statcasts’s direct measurement – including gyro spin – is *under* 2,000, and well below average. Nathan plotted pitch fx transverse spin against trackman spin and found some pitches/pitchers with higher transverse spin than total, a situation he calls a physical impossibility. The culprit may indeed be measurement error in one or both systems, but the magnitude of it here is so striking, it makes me wonder if anything else is going on.
He’s not quite in Miranda’s class in terms of movement, but a guy with above average vertical and horizontal movement is actually tonight’s opposing starter, Wei-Yin Chen. And wouldn’t you know it, Chen’s total spin is almost an exact match for Miranda’s. Chen’s sitting at #380, one spot ahead of Miranda. His fastball still has plenty of vertical rise, and gets more arm-side run than you’d expect, but he’s somehow doing so in ways that statcast can’t really detect. Chen’s rise makes him a fly ball pitcher, and with balls continuing to fly out of Safeco, that seems like a good match-up. Of course, the M’s haven’t fared well against fly ballers, per BBREF’s batting splits, but then again the sample’s so tiny, it’s probably meaningless.
Yovani Gallardo’s something of a chameleon on the mound, as he’s been an extreme fly-baller and an extreme ground-baller, seemingly at will. I’d love it if he could just decide to go back to being a high strikeout guy, but I realize that’s not going to work. Given the long-term decline in his control, too, he’s essentially got one way to survive in baseball: become a contact manager. Somehow, he seemed to manage it in Texas, posting a very low HR rate and stranding a bunch of runners. The idea that Gallardo’s results were luck and not skill-driven seemed confirmed as he collapsed last year in both command and HRs-allowed. But while his exit velocity was good in 2015* and worse-than-average last year, it’s been excellent thus far in 2017. It hasn’t really mattered, as his BABIP approaches .400, but it’s a…not-awful sign, especially when paired with his gains in pitch speed. What does all of that mean? I have no idea!
1: Heredia, LF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Motter, SS
7: Valencia, 1B
8: Ruiz, C
9: Dyson, CF
Tacoma keeps winning, because no one can hit against the R’s staff, as I mentioned yesterday. Tacoma’s team ERA of 2.25 is easily the best in the league, ahead of 2nd place…wait, what’s this? Colorado Springs? Tacoma’s performance seems a bit more sustainable than that of the Springs, as Tacoma’s got a much, much better K rate and K:BB ratio. Fresno’s team ERA is over 6 at the moment. I love early season stats. Tacoma heads to El Paso to take on the Chihuahuas. Sam Gaviglio gets the start tonight.
Max Povse and the Arkansas Travelers take on San Antonio tonight.
Modesto hosts Stockton again, as Pablo Lopez looks to get it going. He’s coming off two pretty poor 3 IP starts.
Clinton knocked around Matt Garza, scoring 5 runs on 9 hits in 5 2/3 IP against the rehabbing big-leaguer in a 5-4 victory. Today, they dropped a 9-5 decision to Wisconsin and Brewers’ prospect Marcos Diplan. Diplan was actually the big “get” for the Brewers when they traded Yovani Gallardo to Texas a few years back.
* By “good” here I mean that it was well below average on fly balls/line drives, while being normal on grounders. The next year, it was his flies/liners average that moved into below-average territory. The grounder velocity’s been pretty consistent.