Game 81, Mariners at Angels

marc w · June 30, 2017 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Ariel Miranda vs. Parker Bridwell, 7:07pm

The Phillies series could’ve gone better. After cresting the .500 mark, the M’s now find themselves back at 39-41, falling behind not only the AL East teams, but their divisional rivals in Texas and Anaheim. That’s what makes this series so big – the M’s face a key divisional/wild card opponent, and face Parker Bridwell, Ricky Nolasco and Jesse Chavez. The M’s have a rough back of the rotation at times, but you’ve got to like your chances to win a road series when you see probables like that. Of course, the M’s have looked superior on paper plenty of times – including both Phillies games – and fallen flat. It’s not enough to be better, you’ve actually got to PLAY better, too.

So, Parker Bridwell. I’m assuming he went to the same east coast prep school as Whit Merrifield. Bridwell was drafted and, uh, “developed” by the Orioles organization, a group which has had its challenges in turning draft picks into MLB starting pitchers. While his raw stuff was fine, he got hit pretty hard everywhere he went. In an extended stint in the short season NY Penn League, he gave up more than a hit per inning, leading to an RA/9 well over 5. He pitched in A ball for parts of three seasons, and has a career ERA of 5.42 to show for it (that’s an RA/9 of an even 6.00 over 278 IP!). He got a bit better as he moved up from a runs allowed point of view, but he was also coming out of the pen a lot more, and in any case, his walk rate crept up, too. The Orioles called him up briefly in 2016, and when he started the year off poorly for AAA Norfolk, they cut him. The Angels stepped in, and when he didn’t fall on his face in Salt Lake, they called him up. Predictably, he’s put up superficially decent numbers in his 4 games (3 starts).

He’s somehow got an ERA under 3 despite allowing 5 HRs in just 21 1/3 IP; every part of that is hard to do. He throws a fairly straight four-seamer at 93 and a sinker with a bit of armside run. It’s kind of funny – if you compare the velo and movement on his fastballs to Felix Hernandez’s, they’re quite similar. Felix’s fastballs have averaged about 94 over the pitch fx era, and have similar movement. Bridwell gets to that movement in a very different way, as his release point’s much higher than Felix’s, but solid velocity, a good sinker, and a slider and cutter…. you can see why Bridwell kept getting chances (and kept moving up the chain) despite poor results.

I’ll give the Angels credit, though. They appear to have helped Bridwell throw more strikes, as his walk rate’s come way down from where it was a year ago (and all the years before it). The four-seam and slider in particular have improved, at least as far as hitting the strike zone. The slider in particular looks like an interesting pitch, but he doesn’t throw it enough to know for sure. He’s relied more on his cutter, but I can’t understand why. In his very brief MLB career, he’s given up 3 HRs on the pitch despite throwing it a grand total of 85 times. And his four-seam fastball? 4 in 112 pitches. I know, I know: these HR rates can’t last, but HR trouble has been a constant issue with him. He’s ecumenical with them, too, as lefties and righties both hit him pretty well. He’ll throw the sinker much more to lefties and stick to four-seamers with righties (this seemingly counterproductive strategy has been a hallmark of Angels’ staffs for years).

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

So how ARE the Halos ahead of the M’s, given who’s in their rotation and given that Mike Trout hasn’t played in a long while? A good defense is part of the reason; they’re much better by ERA than FIP (their pitchers have given up a ton of HRs), and defense is one reason why. But another important one is sequencing. By BaseRuns, this is a 39-44 team. That’s still better than I’d have expected, but they’ve managed to turn three losses into wins thanks to how they’ve strung their hits/outs together. They’ve “beaten” BaseRuns on both sides of the ball, but the biggest impact has come in run prevention. The biggest reason the Angels are where they are is because their bullpen is surprisingly good. They give up far fewer HRs, post a great K:BB, and have been assembled on the cheap. Ex-Rainiers closer Blake Parker leads the group in WAR, and has put up a K-BB% over 30% somehow – a tiny bit higher than it was with the Rainiers in early 2016. Another ex-Rainier, Yusmeiro Petit, has been great for 35 IP, and Portland native (and early Jerry Dipoto draft pick) Keynan Middleton has come up and thrown 100 MPH fastballs to strike out 25 in 24 IP. By WPA, the Angels bullpen has been two full wins better than the M’s, and by WAR, they’ve been four wins better. The Angels are 1.5 games better in the list that matters.

Tacoma coughed up a late lead last night, but that was just to build some drama: Tyler O’Neill hit a walk-off 2R HR in the bottom of the 9th to beat Las Vegas 7-5. Jean Machi’s scuffled of late, giving up 5 runs in his last 2 games (2 1/3 IP). Christian Bergman was great for 6+ innings for the R’s. Today, Rob Whalen takes the mound against Albuquerque at 7:05. With the M’s out of town and perfect weather, I mean, c’mon. No brainer, right?

San Antonio scored 6 in the first and just coasted to a 6-3 win over Arkansas last night. Justin deFratus settled down after that awful 1st IP and pitched into the 6th. Ian Miller had 2 hits (including a 3B) plus a walk. Brett Ash starts today’s game against the Missions. Remember, the San Antonio Missions franchise will soon move up to AAA, with the Texas League replacing them with a new team in Amarillo, while Colorado Springs drops from the AAA PCL down to the rookie-level Pioneer League.

Modesto got a great start from Reggie McClain and a HR from Joe DeCarlo in an easy 8-1 win over Visalia. McClain went the distance, scattering 6 hits and striking out 9 against 0 walks. McClain needed that, after struggling for much of June following a brilliant April+May. The 4-5 starts surrounding his chicken-chasing championship saw his ERA rise from 2.60 at the beginning of the month to 4.00 before yesterday’s command performance. Nathan Bannister takes the hill tonight.

Clinton lost to Kane County 5-3 after allowing 4 runs in a decisive 6th inning. C Yojhan Quevedo had two hits for the L-Kings. Brandon Miller starts tonight’s game for Clinton.

Hillsboro walked off Everett last night 5-4 on a single with two outs in the 9th. After loading the bases with no outs, reliever Matt Clancy nearly wriggled out of trouble, getting a 3-2 fielders choice, and then inducing a pop-out from Arizona’s 1st round draft pick this year, Pavin Smith. Oh well. Speaking of first rounders, M’s 1st pick Evan White got his first professional hit in this game. Ryne Inman starts for the AquaSox tonight. College baseball strikeout maven JP Sears was at it again for Everett, striking out 4 in 1 1/3 hitless innings. The 11th round pick out of the Citadel now has 9 Ks in 3 1/3 IP. He’s allowed 2 batted balls in those innings, giving him an infinite GB/FB ratio and a .500 BABIP to go with his K/9 rate of 24.3. Just as a reminder, Sears K’d 142 collegians in 95 1/3 IP as a starting pitcher this year. Wow.


2 Responses to “Game 81, Mariners at Angels”

  1. Westside guy on June 30th, 2017 6:15 pm

    Parker Bridwell – sounds like a guy who should be wearing a crested blazer and playing cricket.

  2. mrakbaseball on June 30th, 2017 7:14 pm

    I still can’t believe Mike Scioscia has been the manager of the California Angels for 18 seasons.

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