Game 90, Athletics at Mariners – A Disappointing First Half Comes to a Close

marc w · July 9, 2017 at 11:52 am · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Daniel Gossett, 1:10pm

Happy Felix Day. With all the talk about how/if to retire or at least downplay the King’s Court, I wonder how happy these days are anymore? When’s the last time you were unambiguously happy watching Felix? I get it; the results clearly aren’t where they need to be, but this blog started as a rallying cry against what Dave/DMZ termed “results-based analysis.” Happy Felix Day used to signify a game that was worth watching, no matter the context. Even games in 2010 were worth watching if Felix was on the hill, and you never quite knew when you’d see something remarkable, something you’d tell your grandkids about. We’re not seeing many of those games anymore, a fact which changes the context of this familiar phrase. Happy Felix Day now signifies a way to say thanks, a way to be loyal to the most loyal athlete in Seattle sports history. Is that counterproductive? I don’t think so, not unless you want to argue that Christian Bergman needs to bump Felix from the rotation, which I think is a step too far even for the most ardent “The King is Dead” partisans. So thanks, Felix. Let’s get this figured out. And Happy Felix Day.

The M’s close out the first half facing off against A’s 2014 2nd-round pick Daniel Gossett. Gossett’s best comp, to me, is the Mariners’ 2015 2nd-round pick, Andrew Moore. Gossett throws a straight, rising four-seam fastball at about 91-92, and backs it up with a change at 82, a slider at 84, and a curveball at 78-79. After a so-so beginning to his pro career, he came on in 2016, rising through three levels and striking out a batter an inning, while limiting walks. In the majors, he’s not striking out too many, but he’s all but eliminated walks. His problem is that he’s also given up 7 dingers in his first 26 IP. After last night’s game, Andrew Moore’s walk rate of 2.4% is essentially tied with Gossett’s 2.6% mark, and Moore’s K rate of 12.2% is just percentage points lower than Gossett’s nearly 14%. Their big problem, of course, is the longball. Moore’s HR rate now stands at 6.09%…over 6% of the batters he’s faced have homered. Gossett’s mark is 6.03%.

I’d love to figure out exactly what it is that makes a player capable of generating swings and misses at one level and not at another (or at least, far fewer). One hypothesis is the popular-these-days spin rate. Andrew Moore’s fastball spins a tiny bit less than league average, which means he gets a lot of efficiency out of that spin: it has more vertical movement than average despite ~ average total spin. His problem is that his breaking stuff has decidedly below average spin. This is partly to blame for his curveball’s astonishing lack of movement. This isn’t to say the pitch can’t be effective, but it may be a reason why it’s not a swing-and-miss pitch. But why would it work in AAA, then? Why did Moore and Gossett strike out so many at lower levels? If lower-level hitters are more prone to hunt specific pitches, it may not matter that a breaking ball doesn’t have killer movement. A slightly worse hitter figures to be worse at reacting to a different pitch type. That’s the hypothesis anyway; I’m aware that the M’s had another guy with killer stuff who came up and couldn’t put MLB hitters away, *despite* elite spin on his breaking ball. That was Brandon Maurer’s problem, wherein minor league lefties couldn’t figure him out, but big league lefties destroyed him (as a starter). Still, while I don’t think spin is The Answer, it may be a part of it.

Gossett gets a lot more grounders than Moore, in part because he’s got a sinker he’ll deploy occasionally, and in part because of what parts of the zone he targets. Moore’s a pretty hard-core fly-ball pitcher right now, with a GB% under 30%. That leads me to another comp that, in hindsight, is going to sound kind of insulting. I don’t mean it to be; I’m not going for hot takes here. But doesn’t this start remind you a bit of Blake Beavan’s 2011? Beavan didn’t have elite velo, and unlike Moore/Gossett, he hadn’t struck out a ton of batters in the minors. He got fly balls and he didn’t walk anyone, that was his deal. He had a rising 4-seamer, though it wasn’t as straight and back-spinning as Moore’s, but he was astonishingly accurate with it for a while. He started his big league career with 6-straight quality starts covering 41 1/3 IP, and despite just 17 Ks, he walked only 6. He had some HR issues, but it didn’t get *bad* until the next start, his first of two consecutive games with 3 HRs-allowed. Despite a K rate of only 10% – 56% of the league average – he was a decent-ish pitcher. He wasn’t able to adapt, meaning the HRs stayed around while the low-BABIP didn’t. Moore’s K% right now is…56% of the league average. He’s weathered a HR surge, but he’s still tossing quality starts. That’s great! I just hope he’s able to avoid Beavan’s fate (Beavan’s somehow only 29, and pitching in the Mets system now after a great stint in the Mexican league). Moore’s minor league record shows he’s got more bat-missing ability, but especially in this day and age, HRs are even more of a danger for a fly-ball pitcher.

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: Ruiz, C
SP: El Rey


11 Responses to “Game 90, Athletics at Mariners – A Disappointing First Half Comes to a Close”

  1. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 12:17 pm

    Hey Marc,

    While this has been a disappointing season up until now – I know that many of us still appreciate (and enjoy reading) your informative and interesting game posts.

    Heck, the game posts are sometimes better than the games themselves… there’s much less frustration and heartbreak, for one thing. 😉

  2. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 12:29 pm

    BTW while I really like Larry Stone, in this case I disagree with him completely. There’s no good way to reshape the King’s Court, and attempting to do so would risk alienating both Felix and a significant part of the fan base.

    Felix is a professional. Feedback from the fans (shouting K! K! K! K!) shouldn’t affect his approach… but it does show him the fans are behind him.

  3. Grayfox3d on July 9th, 2017 12:31 pm

    Even while the team is losing, and we are slowly losing play off hopes with each game, I would also like to extend my thanks to the USSM staff and their tireless effort to supply us readers of great context. Thank you guys! Cheers up to the second half of baseball season.

  4. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 1:55 pm

    We’re having a bit of a pitchers’ duel so far – keep it up, Felix!

  5. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 2:29 pm

    Felix is still dueling, anyway – but the Mariners’ batters have broken through!

  6. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 2:54 pm

    Given all the Felix angst many of us have expressed… it’s really nice to have a game like this, showing what he’s still capable of when he’s firing on all cylinders.

  7. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 3:24 pm


    (Okay, it was just a single… but he’s 3 for 3 today)

  8. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 3:47 pm

    Please, Diaz – don’t ruin a Happy Felix Day!

  9. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 3:51 pm

    Yeah!! “Good” Diaz seems to have shown up today.

  10. Westside guy on July 9th, 2017 3:52 pm

    Nice to have the team end the first half with a win!

  11. LongDistance on July 12th, 2017 2:58 am

    Any reason not to feel miffed by how ESPN habitually calls our 2B, “ex-Yankee Cano”?

    ESPN elitism at its most blatant.

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