Game 65, Mariners at Twins

marc w · June 12, 2017 at 4:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yovani Gallardo vs. Adalberto Mejia, 5:10pm

We saw this match-up 5 days ago in Seattle, with the M’s overcoming an early deficit to win it on Mike Zunino’s walk-off 2R shot. That one pretty much went according to script: the M’s struggled to string together some base hits, but made up for it by hitting *four* HRs to essentially out-slug the Twins. Minnesota pitching has the highest HR/9 rate in the American League, with the M’s leapfrogging the Rangers to rank merely 3rd-highest.

These two teams are susceptible to the gopher ball, and they both need their offense to essentially compensate for that. Neither the M’s nor the Twins are going to challenge the Yankees or Astros for pure slugging ability, so they need to add value in other ways. As mentioned before they hit Safeco, one key way the Twins do this is by fielding the ball exceptionally well. They’re one of the few teams who probably wouldn’t swap out Jarrod Dyson’s CF defense for their own guy’s, as Byron Buxton developed into one of the better defenders around, even as his bat’s failed to develop at all. Miguel Sano moving from a bad RF to a credible 3B is one of those moves that’s hard to tease out of the stats, but is part of the reason their defensive efficiency is much, much higher this year. The other way they help themselves is their selectivity – tonight’s Twins line-up has six players with a 10% walk rate or better, including the first four in the line-up (5th hitter Max Kepler’s all the way down at 9.4%). That’s propelled them to the best walk rate in the game, and made up for their solid-but-unspectacular performance when they actually do hit the ball.

I hinted at this when the Twinkies were in town, but the primary driver of their pitching staff’s sky-high HR-allowed numbers has been their performance at Target Field. They’ve given up 36 road HRs and 52 at home. That works out to a HR/9 mark of 1.28 on the road, but a staggering 1.68 in their home park. If you look at their statcast-based park factors, Minnesota still grades out as a pitcher’s park, meaning a fly ball at 95 MPH is less likely to do damage there than, say, in Arizona. That’s fine, and answers a very specific question very well, but there’s the rather important issue that if you want to see a ball crushed at optimal angles and speeds, you should go to Minnesota and Detroit. It’s quite possible that Detroit and Minnesota damped the production batters might expect on perfect contact, but it seems odd to call a park a “pitchers park” if batters are smashing the ball all over the yard.

This was the dilemma I raised last year, when Safeco graded as a pitcher’s park despite allowing the most HRs in all of baseball. Safeco’s HR rate has regressed a lot, it’s true, but we’re seeing the same sort of thing play out this year in other traditional pitcher’s park. A big objection to this is that these numbers are highly dependent on the home team’s approach – both Detroit and Minnesota like batters to hit the ball in the air, presumably to gain the advantage of the park effects that statcast finds. But at what point do those seemingly intuitive strategic decisions become self-defeating? Tony Blengino asks, “How much better would Miguel Cabrera‘s career numbers be if he played in a more neutral park?” It’s a reasonable question! And yet, Cabrera’s had a better HR rate at home in 4 of the last 6 years, and Detroit’s seen the most “barrels” per pitch of any park in baseball – and Minnesota isn’t *that* far behind. Maybe a 95-mph fly ball would fare better somewhere else, but do these parks generate more 95-mph fly balls, making up for a lack of production on each hard fly ball in sheer quantity? I’d argue that they do. A fastball (four-seam/sinker/two-seamer) crossing the plate at or above the middle of the zone is much more likely to be hit in the air in Minnesota and more like to be a “barrel.” Minnesota’s in the top 10 in the percentage of fly balls/line drives that go for HRs, too. Maybe those HRs would’ve gone 5 feet further in Arizona, but that’s not rescuing the Twins’ collective FIP. Again, it’s possible that a ton of this has to do with the specific pitchers that Minnesota employes, but is that enough to push Target Field’s HRs per game mark to 2nd highest in the league, behind only the Yankees’ bandbox? The expected wOBA of every ball put in play this year is highest in Detroit, and second highest in Minnesota. In terms of actual production, Detroit still leads, while Minnesota’s 4th – but still higher than that expected wOBA figure. Your 2017 pitchers parks, everybody!

For more details on what to expect from Adalberto Mejia (and Yovani Gallardo), check out the game preview from 5 days ago. As fascinating as this rematch is – and let’s hope it’s as exciting as the game last Wednesday – the real story of the day is the MLB draft. As I write this, the draft hasn’t started, and we’ll probably find out who the M’s selected at #17 either just before or during the contest. For now, if you’d like to check out some last minute mock drafts, here are some links. David Peterson of Oregon, Jake Burger of Missouri State and TX prep arm Shane Baz are some of the names associated with the M’s.

1: Gamel, LF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Heredia, CF
9: Smith, SS
SP: Gallardo

Your daily M’s transaction update: Emilio Pagan’s been optioned to Tacoma, with Casey Lawrence coming back up.

The big story in the minors yesterday was King Felix’s encouraging performance at Cheney Stadium. Felix was perfect through 4, and ended up getting the win, giving up a run on a hit and a walk in 5 IP (he K’d 5). THAT’S more like it, El Cartelua. DJ Peterson homered, and now has 13 hits in his last 6 games, going 13-24 in the span with 3 HRs and only 2 strikeouts. Tacoma’s off tonight.

The NW Arkansas Naturals continued their mastery of the regular Arkansas Travelers, scoring 3 runs in the 8th to come back and win 10-9. The Travs had 3 players get 3 hits each, but the pitching obviously wasn’t sharp. Justin DeFratus starts today.

The *second* biggest story in the M’s minors yesterday was the 2017 debut of last year’s first round pick, Kyle Lewis, with Modesto. Lewis walked, got caught trying to steal second, and was then swapped out for another OF in the 4th. Hmmm; he was supposed to play 5 IP, but obviously came out earlier than that. He didn’t come out after the CS, but instead after making a catch in CF. The Nuts lost a close one, 3-2, against Stockton, by the way. Tonight they face San Jose, with Nathan Bannister on the bump for the Nuts.

Clinton easily handled the Peoria Chiefs last night 9-5, getting 3 HRs and 4 IP of solid relief from Kyle Hunter and Jack Anderson. They played an early one today, and Clinton again emerged victorious – this time by a score of 7-6. Luis Rengifo homered, Joe Rizzo was on base 4 times, and Anthony Jimenez had 3 hits for the Lumberkings, but the big hits came in the 9th with Clinton down a run. After back-to-back doubles tied the game, Luis Rengifo stole 3rd, and then came home on a Rizzo sac fly.


6 Responses to “Game 65, Mariners at Twins”

  1. Sportszilla on June 12th, 2017 5:54 pm

    Wise of the Mariners to score a ton of runs, with Gallardo on the mound I’m not sure any lead is safe.

  2. Microsoft Zunino on June 12th, 2017 7:04 pm

    Evan White seems like a nice draft choice, especially after some of the other picks folks were hoping would fall into the M’s laps got snapped up. If you can’t clone John Olerud, draft the closest thing you can find.

  3. mksh21 on June 12th, 2017 7:33 pm

    Well hey instead of converting high demand position players to first base and DH, why not just draft a 1st baseman….

  4. Westside guy on June 12th, 2017 7:58 pm

    Nice easy game tonight, it seems. 11-3 with that Valencia home run.

    (I just got home)

    Okay, now it’s 12-3 with Zunino’s home run! Wish they’d shown the AB, though…

  5. Milendriel on June 12th, 2017 8:22 pm

    This lineup is insane. Imagine if Segura were healthy too…

  6. Grayfox3d on June 12th, 2017 9:13 pm

    Wow… this team when clicking looks so good! I just want consistency, That blue Jays Series was crap. Lets keep this train rollin baby!

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