M’s vs. Kershaw, Seager vs. Seager: Cactus League Game 3

marc w · February 25, 2018 at 11:56 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Clayton Kershaw, 12:10pm

Yesterday’s game featured very few players who’ll start games for the M’s this year, and the go-ahead run scored on a wild pitch. Today’s game features the best pitcher of his generation, and marks the very first time the Seager brothers – Kyle and Corey – will face off on a professional field. Oh, and for good measure, Nelson Cruz and Robbie Cano are back in the line-up. It’s a good one to watch.

Gonzales is essentially a microcosm of the tension between the M’s front office and the projection systems. The M’s viewed Gonzales as a huge get last year, sending one of their top prospects in Tyler O’Neill for the lefty who was coming off of TJ surgery. In his comments about him, Jerry Dipoto essentially laughed off his recent (and even career) numbers, saying that sometimes you see a guy return after injury and he’s simply not the same any more. Uh, in a good way, though.

One reason is velocity. Gonzales was throwing harder than he had in his initial call-ups in St. Louis down the stretch for Seattle, and of course velo matters. It didn’t help his results, but it’s the kind of indicator that helps explain why the M’s might see a breakout coming. Second, as John Trupin explains in a detailed article at LL, is a change in mechanics. He’s dropped his release point, and moved it out towards 1B a bit, lowering his arm slot in general, and giving his fastball (and his secondaries) more horizontal movement as well as, perhaps, unlocking some velocity.
Here’s his vertical release point – it’s subtle, but it’s pretty clear:
Gonzales' vertical release points

Finally, as Shannon Drayer’s article this morning explains, he’s attempting to bring back another pitch – a cutter – that he’d shelved since his arm troubles began several years ago. When he came up, Gonzales used a hard slider/cutter, especially to lefties, fairly often. He hasn’t thrown it since 2014, though, as he was up and down and then shelved with TJ surgery and rehab. The Cards told him to scrap the pitch, which is a bit harder on the elbow than fastballs/change-ups that allow the arm to pronate more, until he’d built up enough healthy innings, and he kept to that plan last year. Still healthy, it’s about time for him to start using it in games (he’s throwing it in bullpen sessions), though, interestingly, he tells Drayer he sees it as a weapon against *righties* this time.

All of those adjustments are critical, because as last year showed, he needs to make some changes. Despite the improved velocity, his fastball wasn’t an effective pitch overall. It got more whiffs, but much, much harder contact. As Trupin notes, part of that may be that the velocity gap between his FB and change dropped, making his change less effective (and it’s true, it WAS less effective). Finally, he pretty clearly needs something else to throw at righties, who’ve hit him especially hard, solid change-up or not. In summary, there are plenty of reasons to think Gonzales has plenty more in the tank than M’s fans have seen, and that he’s close to making the leap from frustrating prospect to solid #3/4 starter. None of those reasons are found anywhere in his statistical record, but they’re found in what we would’ve called scouting reports years ago. This is not 2003, and sabermetric fans are, to put it mildly, nowhere near as anti-scouting as we once were, or as Michael Lewis wrote. It’s too early to see if those scouting indicators are going to start showing up in Gonzales’ results, but I’d like to see more evidence that they’re real and developing. Let’s see him use that slider/cutter, and let’s see how his velo’s doing.

Today’s line-up:
1: Gamel, LF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Zunino, C
7: Perkins, RF
8: Ford, 1B
9: Miller, CF
SP: Gonzales

A largely “real” line-up, plus a couple of intriguing additions. Ian Miller is the speedburning CF prospect NOT named Braden Bishop. Miller’s another very good defender, and is perhaps even more deficient in power/isolate slugging. On the plus side, he’s a brilliant baserunner, stealing 43 bags last year and 49 the year before while being caught just 8 times *in 2016-17 combined*. That’s a 92:8 ratio, which is good.

Logan Morrison hit 38 bombs last year and just signed a 1 year, $6.5 M deal with Minnesota, leading to this barbed tweet from national writer Matthew Pouliot:

In good news about the 1B position, the x-rays on Dan Vogelbach’s foot were negative – no broken bones, just a deep bruise. He should be ready to play in a few days. Nick Rumbelow came out of yesterday’s game with the trainers, seemingly due to a small cut. Hopefully that too’s a day-to-day situation and nothing serious.


3 Responses to “M’s vs. Kershaw, Seager vs. Seager: Cactus League Game 3”

  1. MissouriMariner on February 25th, 2018 2:05 pm

    Thanks for the write up. Not sure if I can be excited about this M’s team but am excited to see baseball return to action.

  2. Westside guy on February 25th, 2018 6:13 pm

    It’s comforting to know that baseball is back, even if you’re not confident about your team’s chances (and I am most assuredly NOT confident).

    I’m afraid I’m on the pessimistic end of the divide Marc mentioned yesterday. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I will be very surprised to see that happen. I like Jerry Dipoto, he’s very personable and probably a great guy to talk to over dinner… but I’m not as sold on his actual analytical acumen as I was a year or so ago. Please prove me wrong, Jerry & Co.

    But, still – baseball is back!

  3. SergeantSuj on February 26th, 2018 10:22 am

    Low expectations is the best place to be as an M’s fan. When our expectations are high we get into trouble!

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