Game 102, Red Sox at Mariners

marc w · July 25, 2017 at 5:45 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Drew Pomeranz, 7:10pm

Happy Felix Day! It’s always great to have a Felix Day after a dominating pitching performance like Paxton’s last night. He’s really putting that injury and mechanical hiccup from May/June behind him and reestablishing himself as one of the AL’s top starters. I also wanted to say hi to the relatively new “Maple Grove” cheering section, populated by a bunch of familiar faces to anyone in the M’s blogosphere/twittersphere. They featured prominently on the broadcast last night and then got a mention on ESPN, too. The team’s getting into it, and went so far as to give them an actual maple tree, and reporters asked Paxton about it after the game (he’s pro, unsurprisingly). They’ll be in section 182 for Paxton’s next start, which looks like it’s Sunday.

Rob Arthur of had a great article yesterday about pitchers adjusting to the HR surge by throwing more high fastballs. I’ve talked a bit about this as it related to Felix, and then a bit about Boston, Detroit and Minnesota trying to use this strategy to limit HRs. But while DET/MIN have failed, Boston’s been great. No team in baseball throws higher fastballs than the Red Sox, and the Red Sox have the 2nd-lowest ground ball rate behind Detroit. But while the Tigers/Twins/Mariners give up tons of HRs, Boston’s actually got a lower-than-average HR rate as a staff – they’re tied with the Yankees, and only surpassed by Cleveland and Kansas City among AL teams. It’s not that they’re generating a ton of pop-ups, either – the M’s are actually way better at that. Instead, they’re simply generating weak contact among all hit types – they have the highest average fastballs, the highest average pitches put in play, and the lowest wOBA on fastballs in baseball.

Now, some of this is a function of employing the likes of Chris Sale, David Price and others, but you can see the Sox strategy by looking at how it’s changed recent acquisitions. Drew Pomeranz, tonight’s starter, throws the highest average fastball of any starter besides Jake Odorizzi – it’s over 3′. Chris Sale’s a bit behind him at 2.85′. For reference, Felix’s average fastball is just
Last year, Sale’s average was 2.65, and Pomeranz was at 2.78 as a member of the A’s in 2015. The Sox take very good pitchers, make some tweaks to their approach, and let a very good defensive outfield do the rest. Rick Porcello, erstwhile ground ball pitcher, is the best example of the Sox new mania for high fastballs, but the whole team’s taken it to heart.

Pomeranz, a lefty, throws that super-high four-seamer at 92 MPH and a big breaking curve at 79-80. Pomeranz gets some rise on his fastball, as it looks like the Sox have him throwing a bit more upright, but the story’s the movement on his curve. He gets absurd vertical movement despite a below-average spin rate, meaning the spin he imparts is incredibly efficient – almost all of it goes towards movement, with very little gyro or bullet spin. This is somewhat reminiscent of Andrew Moore’s fastball, which, despite sub-par spin rates ranks among MLB’s best in terms of vertical movement. Pomeranz is probably a good guy for Moore to watch and maybe model himself after. While Moore’s average fastball’s pretty high – maybe the 90th percentile in the league – he may need to go higher. Right now, he’s around the plate so much that batters are hitting fastballs right in the zone. Even if it might mean risking more walks, I think Moore needs to use that vertical movement to throw pitches that look like they’ll drop into the zone only to stay a few inches higher. Moore’s curve is never going to break like Pomeranz’s, so I’m not quite sure what to do there, but a better fastball game plan may help everything else play up a bit.

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

Casey Lawrence, Lindsey Caughel, Spencer Herrman and Oliver Jaskie take the mound for M’s affiliates today. The pitching star of the system yesterday is an easy call: Anthony Misiewicz of Arkansas fired 8 shutout innings, giving up 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 7. Misiewicz was so-so in the Cal League, but has been great in AA in 5 starts. For position players, we’ll go with Joe Rizzo of Clinton, who had three hits, including a HR off of former #1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken.

In scarier news, M’s top prospect Kyle Lewis had to come out of Modesto’s game in the 4th with a knee problem. It’s not expected to be serious – more of a bruise – but everything knee-related is worrying with Lewis, who’s struggled to stay on the field this year following last year’s serious leg injury. Get well soon, Kyle!


4 Responses to “Game 102, Red Sox at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on July 25th, 2017 8:36 pm

    So I was looking at Zunino’s stats over at FanGraphs, and – I don’t know what to make of it. The dude has a wRC+ of 102, along with a strikeout rate slightly over 38%!

    A while back he was running an absurd BABIP, but now it’s back to reality… so how is he managing to stay average with that ungodly strikeout rate?

    He’s walking 7.4% of the time, which isn’t Adam Dunn territory but isn’t Jose Lopez either.

    Can he continue to be useful with that strikeout rate?

  2. Westside guy on July 25th, 2017 9:31 pm

    And of COURSE Zunino goes yard! Hahaha

  3. WTF_Ms on July 25th, 2017 11:32 pm

    Finish this!!!!

  4. Westside guy on July 26th, 2017 12:12 am

    I don’t believe it – they pulled it off!!!!!

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