Game 26, Mariners at Indians

marc w · April 30, 2017 at 9:53 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Chase de Jong vs. Josh Tomlin, 10:10am

The M’s have a chance to steal a road series against one of the AL’s best teams and turn what could’ve been a disastrous road trip into a sign of hope. After losing the first three in Oakland, the M’s awoke last Sunday morning in last place and sporting the AL’s second-worst record. A win that day and then a series win in Detroit – coupled with the Astros cooling off a bit – has changed things, if only slightly. The M’s offense looks much different now, even after facing some tough pitching on the trip.

Injuries mean that their starting pitching really needs to step up, and thus in this game that probably feels a bit more pivotal than it is, the M’s give the ball to Chase de Jong, who’ll make his first big league start. The righty’s four-seam fastball is arrow-straight, and with a bit more rise than usual. His primary breaking ball is an intriguing slurvy slider, that’s thrown at 81 MPH, just 9 MPH less than his fastball, but which features almost 12-6, curve-like break. The vertical break on it would seem to pair well with his fastball, and he’s got an actual curve that’s a bit slower to further change batters’ eye level. He has a change-up with armside run, but he hasn’t used it much; we’ll see if he goes to it today when he’s facing batters a second time.

His MLB sample is tiny, but de Jong’s not going to strike a ton of batters out. His fastball command’s been so-so, and he’s yet to record a swinging strike with it (at 90 MPH and straight, it’s never going to be a swing-and-miss pitch), but he’s generated surprisingly few with his slider. He’s not doomed or anything, as he’s actually posted some decent results in Tacoma and in his four-inning long relief appearance…I’m just still trying to figure out exactly how he’s done so.

His opponent today is control expert Josh Tomlin. Armed with a fastball even slower than de Jong’s, Tomlin’s succeeded by keeping the ball low and away to righties and lefties. This has transformed him a bit from a Blake Beavan clone in his early years (2011-2012) – a guy who’d post vanishingly low K rates and BB rates, but who’d give up plenty of fly balls and home runs – to a ground ball pitcher these days.

Unlike many pitchers, Tomlin seems to change not just his pitch mix from year to year, but also the shape of each pitch. In 2014, his fastball got well over a standard deviation more than the average ‘rise.’ Last year, as if adapting to his new game plan, it has *less* vertical movement than average. He’s also gone from pitching off his fastball and using a cutter as his breaking ball to essentially using his 85 MPH cutter as his primary fastball, and mixing in sinkers and curves along with it. At the same time, he’s transformed his platoon splits. Early in his career, they were normal, or perhaps a bit exaggerated, as lefties hit him much harder than righties. For the past several *years* this pattern’s essentially reversed, and now it’s righties that have done more damage. A command-and-control righty that targets the outside of the zone may seem like an awful match-up for Taylor Motter, but the splits have me wondering. The M’s appear to be banking on this being small sample weirdness, and have their lefty-heavy line-up in there today.

1: Segura, SS
2: Gamel, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Heredia, CF
7: Vogelbach, 1B
8: Ruiz, C
9: Powell, LF
SP: “Tasty” Chase de Jong

Congratulations to Boog Powell, now up with the team and forcing the M’s bullpen back down to a more normal 7 players. Powell made his MLB debut yesterday…kind of. He was announced as a pitch hitter, which induced Terry Francona to summon Andrew Miller from the pen. That in turn resulted in Scott Servais pulling Boog back and pinch-hitting Chooch Ruiz. As Powell was announced, he wasn’t eligible to play in the game again, and had his name written in the box score…he just didn’t…you know…DO anything. Today, he’ll get that chance. As always, he has a very discriminating eye at the plate, and has drawn walks wherever he’s been (when he’s not suspended, that is). The actual hit tool is a bit more of a work in progress, as he’s hit in the mid .260’s with very little power in about 325 PCL plate appearances in 2016-17.

Plate discipine is a good thing, and swinging at balls generally leads to horrible results for the batter. But there’s selectivity and then there’s passivity, and for too long, Ben Gamel seemed like he was tipping over the line into being passive. As a guy without much demonstrated power, he was going to need to avoid Ks to make it as a corner OF, and the number of taken strikes was killing him. That looks like it’s changing over the past week, and that’s very encouraging.

On the other side, Dan Vogelbach still looks lost. He’s swinging at less than 40% of pitches he sees, which means he’s not swinging at too many balls (other than that 3rd strike against Allen yesterday). But a so-so contact rate and a low rate of swinging at *strikes* mean that he’s been behind in counts and looking out of sorts. He’s better than this, but it’s been a very rough go in the majors for him, and with both Valencia and now Motter able to play 1B, he needs to turn things around fairly quickly, or the M’s will send him back to AAA.

Tacoma jumped on Sacramento early in a 7-4 win yesterday at Cheney stadium. Tyler Smith, Mike Freeman and Dario Pizzano all homered, and Orlando Calixte homered twice for the RiverCats…wind must’ve been blowing out last night. Tyler Smith, now up in the 2nd spot in the line-up, has his OBP up to .372. Emilio Pagan had 4 Ks in 2 perfect innings, and is positioning himself to be the next guy up. He’s not on the 40 man, but if Casey Fien loses his grip on the line-up spot again, they may give his spot to Pagan, who has 18 strikeouts in 11 innings. Chris Heston starts today against one of the Giants top pitching prospects, Tyler Beede.

Arkansas was rained out yesterday. It’s a great pitching match-up as Max Povse faces off with Jack Flaherty.

Modesto lost a heartbreaker 5-3, after giving up 4 runs in the 8th to Visalia. Anthony Misiewicz pitched well, but Joe Pistorese had his first real meltdown of the year, giving up 3 of those runs in the 8th. Braden Bishop singled in the game, and has a slash line of .330/.410/.440.

Clinton, too, was rained out. Double header today in Clinton against Quad Cities.


7 Responses to “Game 26, Mariners at Indians”

  1. stevemotivateir on April 30th, 2017 10:26 am

    Statcast shows that Vogelbach has yet to do anything with a fastball. I don’t know if he’s scared, isn’t picking up pitches early enough, or if something else is in play, but he has to show signs of life quick to justify his place. They certainly don’t need him right now, as they can stick Motter at 1B and give Powell a harder look.

  2. stevemotivateir on April 30th, 2017 10:28 am

    Ok, a little shaky, but a far better 1st than Gallardo had.

  3. mrakbaseball on April 30th, 2017 11:40 am

    Enjoy the off-day.

  4. msfanmike on April 30th, 2017 12:19 pm

    There is never a bad time for a good thing … make the game interesting, fellas.

  5. ck on April 30th, 2017 2:19 pm

    ‘…Losing…is a disease…,’ From the,”Natural.” I hope the M’s sports psychologists are better than that movie one. 33 Players played in April, some great, many not.
    The 2017 Plug ‘N Play Mariners will test GM Jerry to keep the Transaction wire humming. Vogelbach ( and several relievers so far ) looks like a square peg to me, and not quite suitable for this game of ‘Rounders.’

  6. Westside guy on April 30th, 2017 3:45 pm

    Every season I have to re-adjust to the fact that weekend away games can have rather early start times. By the time I’d gotten up, had coffee, looked at the day’s news and eaten something… This game was just about done.

    Of course the team’s tepid performance so far hasn’t exactly motivated me much to work on correcting this behavior.

  7. marksimon on May 2nd, 2017 3:42 pm

    Sorry in advance for the meta comment. This site is hard to read. It used to be a hot bed for insightful M’s discussion and now it seems to be very lightly trafficked and posted on. I have to wonder if part of that is just the font of the site. It’s really hard to read the small light-colored type. I can’t get through a post without a headache starting to come on tbh. I’m sure you are saying good things but it’s not coming through. Maybe you could break up the paragraphs into some smaller articles or something and please increase the font site-wide, and make it darker too. Cheers.

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