Game 123, Mariners at Rays – Stuck in Neutral

marc w · August 18, 2017 at 4:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Erasmo Ramirez vs. Austin Pruitt, 4:10pm

The M’s face yet another of their many wildcard rivals tonight as they head to St. Pete for a series with the Rays. Both the M’s and Rays made some interesting moves to shore up their clubs for the playoff push, with the Rays acquiring 1B Lucas Duda from the Mets and Steve Cishek from, uh, the M’s, while the M’s upgraded their rotation with Erasmo and their bullpen by acquiring David Phelps. Teams like Baltimore, Toronto, Texas and Anaheim did nothing, rationally seeing that their odds were miniscule and that it didn’t make sense to give up young talent for a quixotic push for a one-and-done game. Since that time, the M’s have risen and then fallen back to the pack (and then behind it a bit), and the Rays have fallen from 2 games over and about 1/4 odds for the wildcard to 3 games under, with WC odds of just 9%. These teams did the “right” thing and have seen several teams that all but announced they were giving up pass them in the standings.

Today’s game marks Erasmo’s first return to Tampa since his trade from the Rays, and making it even more interesting is that Austin Pruitt essentially joined the rotation thanks to the series of moves culminating in the Erasmo-for-Cishek swap. The M’s acquired Erasmo on July 28th, and later that day, Austin Pruitt made his first start. Pruitt’s stuff isn’t all that remarkable: he throws an arrow-straight four-seam fastball at around 92, a slider with primarily downward movement, a 12-6 curve, and a change. Movement-wise, you’d expect him to be an over-the-top, Andrew Moore-style arm, but there’s nothing remarkable about his release points, either. This is about as generic as it gets, with the possible exception being that he gets very, very little horizontal movement on anything he throws. But he’s been OK for the Rays, first out of the pen and now in the rotation. A low walk rate helps, of course, and he’s kept the ball in the park pretty well, especially by 2017 standards. Like so many young Mariner hurlers, his fastballs (he also has a sinker he’ll throw on occasion) have been hit pretty hard – as I’ve mentioned, a lot of the revolution on elevated contact has been the result of batters waiting for an attacking fastballs. But UNlike so many Mariners, Pruitt’s attempting to work around it by throwing these problematic pitches less and less. On the year, he’s thrown a slider, curve or change-up 57% of the time. As a result, he’s given up far more balls in play on bendy stuff than on his fastballs. This isn’t exactly a recipe for greatness: Pruitt’s BABIP’s very high, and that’s a big reason why his ERA’s way higher than his FIP. Maybe his breaking stuff simply isn’t good enough to do this long term, I don’t know. But this is a prescription I’ve urged some M’s to take a look at.

Not sure what to make of it, but he’s put up ridiculously backwards platoon splits on the year. He’s a rookie, so you’d expect that to regress; it could be noise. But the lack of movement and the fact that his change seems to be his best pitch make you wonder where it’ll regress towards.

Erasmo’s pitched pretty well for Seattle, particularly given his need to stretch his arm back out after being limited to bullpen duty this season. One thing seems a bit strange, though, and that’s a drop in his K rate of late. It’s only a few games, but he’s only K’d 3 of the past 45 batters he’s faced. Why? I’ve been wondering about this as Andrew Moore’s K rate tumbled upon his promotion to MLB, and Marco Gonzales has K’d just 1 of the last 38 hitters he’s seen. That’s a bigger issue, and one we’ll need to dive into soon, but for now, I wonder about the M’s approach to the fastball. Before his move to Seattle, Erasmo threw four-seamers and sinkers a combined 41% of the time; four-seamers were particularly rare, at under 9% of his pitches. Since moving back west, Erasmo’s throwing more than 51% four-seam+sinkers, with his four-seam usage doubling to 16.5%. His four-seam’s been good this year, so maybe that’s a good idea, but it’s just a striking example of how different the M’s and Rays approach to pitching seems to be.

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

Newfangled line-up with Danny Valencia in RF – the M’s won’t hesitate to make defensive subs later in the game, of course. Kyle Seager returns from an illness that kept him out a couple of games.

It’s been a while, so let’s do a quick check of the M’s affiliates. At present only one of them, Modesto, is in line to make the playoffs. Modesto won their division’s first half title, so will get to go to the California League playoffs despite a so-so second half of the year. Tacoma, Clinton and Arkansas are all but eliminated at this point. Everett’s only a game back of Vancouver for the division lead, but they’re 29-31. Tacoma’s 61-64, while Clinton’s 12 games under .500 and Arkansas is 13 under.

Randy Bell, Steven Ridings, Tyler Jackson, Nick Neidert and Christian Bergman are your pitching probables today in the system. Mike Curto notes that yesterday snapped a string of 13 consecutive days with a Rainiers roster move. Yikes.


One Response to “Game 123, Mariners at Rays – Stuck in Neutral”

  1. mrakbaseball on August 18th, 2017 7:17 pm

    Home sweet dome. I guess that section that Cruz homered in is no longer called “the beach”.

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