Game 156, Indians at Mariners

marc w · September 24, 2017 at 11:34 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Corey Kluber, 1:10pm

It’s a Sunday in September, so a game like this between an already-qualified Cleveland team and the out-of-it M’s would always get eclipsed by the NFL in general and Hawks fever more specifically. But the past 24 hours have ensured this game will have even less of an impact on the consciousness of the US sports fan. And that’s as it should be. The President’s bizarrely decided to go to war against the NFL and much of the NBA, giving the protests sparked by Colin Kaepernick and, more recently, Michael Bennett, not only more visibility, but more urgency. Baseball’s belatedly getting in on the act, with A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell taking a knee during the anthem; the M’s will get to see that soon, as they head to Oakland after today’s game.

Corey Kluber’s quietly posting one of the more remarkable seasons in recent baseball history. He comes into play today with a K-BB% of nearly 30%, a mark not even Clayton Kershaw’s reached. If the season ended today, he’d have a better K-BB% than Curt Schilling’s 2002, and the highest mark since Randy Johnson’s unearthly 2001 season. Perhaps surprisingly, he’s doing it without the kind of ridiculous raw stuff that powered Randy Johnson’s dominance. Kluber throws a four-seam and sinker, both around 93. By movement, the pitches are unremarkable, generating less horizontal AND vertical movement than average. By spin rate, Kluber’s sinker (his primary fastball) gets above average spin, but ranks behind guys like Andrew Triggs and Kendall Graveman. Of course, that’s not the pitch that makes him an ace. Kluber’s best pitch – by far – is his slurvy slider, a pitch that sweeps across the zone like Carson Smith’s. Like his fastball, the pitch doesn’t look THAT interesting by the raw numbers – its spin rate is nothing special, and it doesn’t have the kind of gap in vertical movement between his fastball that might make it a whiff-inducing pitch. However he does it, it’s one of the most remarkable pitches in the game. As I’ve talked about at length, the pitch types that get the most swings are fastballs and change-ups. Batters gear up to attack fastballs, and they swing at cambios because they are designed to look like fastballs. Breaking pitches get a lot of chase swings, but hitters that identify them often don’t swing; pitchers take advantage of this by dropping a curve into the zone for called strikes. Kluber throws his breaking ball out of the zone most of the time, but still manages to induce a swing on 60% of them.

Only Noah Syndergaard comes close, and his “slider” is really more of a cutter, without as much sweeping horizontal movement as Kluber’s. However he does it, Kluber’s slider is probably the best single pitch in the game right now, as Jeff argued earlier this month. Righties are slugging .092 on the thing this year, while lefties are at .176. Again, there’s no reason why a sinker/slider guy (which is reductionist, but hey, he throws a ton of both) should lay waste to lefties like this, but here we are. I have no idea what the Indians saw in Kluber when he was a middling starter in the Padres system, but he’s become something unique and remarkable. May the M’s one day pull off a similar trick.

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

Jean Segura sprained the middle finger on his right hand on that bizarre play last night in which Ariel Miranda tried to throw out a runner at 2B on a comebacker. It doesn’t sound serious, which is good, but it was one of the most unlucky/flukey injuries to a Mariner since Franklin Gutierrez was concussed on a pickoff attempt.


One Response to “Game 156, Indians at Mariners”

  1. mrakbaseball on September 24th, 2017 4:12 pm

    We’ve known it for weeks but it became official today, baseball’s longest playoff drought is a year longer. It just continues!

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