Cactus League Split Squad Day – M’s vs. Royals and Padres

marc w · February 27, 2018 at 12:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Clayton Richard, 12:10 (audio on and also
Andrew Moore vs. Wily Peralta, 12:05 (audio on Mariners Radio Network)

The first split squad day features two moderately interesting pitching battles. Or at least, as interesting as it gets in February in which both starters will go 2 IP at most.

At one point early in last season, Clayton Richard and James Paxton were neck and neck in Baseball Prospectus’ DRA value metric. They got there in very different ways, of course: Paxton struck everyone out and held a very good Astros line-up in check. Richard had a great opening start of 2017, then got hit hard in his next two. FIP loved – and loves – Paxton, while DRA seemed enamored of Richard’s sinker and general contact-limiting approach. Richard’s sinking FB runs about 91, with heavy, heavy sink and tailing action. He throws from off near 1B, and features a change and so-so curve at 81. All in all, this is kind of a LOOGY-ish repertoire, and indeed, platoon splits have been his undoing with the Padres. One of the key values of plus velocity is the ability to neutralize platoon splits, as we see with James Paxton. Paxton’s career splits are actually reversed, and even after lowering his arm slot (which would help righties pick up the ball), he’s still dominating opposite-handed hitters. Sure, lefties fare even worse, but the point is righties are not some sort of unsolvable problem the way they were for Richard.

The key issue with Richard, as with so many pitchers last year, is the long ball. Since lowering his own arm slot, Richard has bumped his GB rate to near 60% or even above, limiting the number of fly balls he allows. The problem is that those fly balls seem to be particularly well struck – so well that even Petco Park couldn’t contain them. Normally, a 19% HR/FB ratio screams out for regression, but going into year 3.5 of the new HR era, it’s not clear where we should regress that number towards. Plus, there’s the issue that Richard’s average exit velocity on fly balls/liners was above average.

Andrew Moore and Wily Peralta is another match-up of opposites. Moore came through the system needing to prove he had just enough stuff to be a #5 starter, something many evaluators thought he’d struggle to accomplish. He’s closer than many would’ve thought, in large part due to impeccable control. Unlike Richard, Moore’s an extreme fly-ball guy, so he’s also going to run a low BABIP (Richard’s was over .350 last year, while Moore’s was under .250), but like Richard, Moore was utterly undone by home runs. That’s going to be his top priority this year – to figure out what he needs to do to avoid dingers and give his team a chance. Lefties were a particular challenge, as he gave up 8 HRs to them in just over 100 plate appearances, for a ratio of not-close-to-acceptable.

His counterpart today is former Brewer Wily Peralta, who despite minor league K:BB ratios that pale in comparison to Moore’s, got a chance to start and put together a very solid 2014. Peralta averages 96-97 with his fastball and sinker, giving him one of the best starter velocities in the game. He’s never limited walks, and he’s had a problem with home runs, platoon splits, AND stranding runners, all of which snowballed last year, leading to an ERA nearing 8 and a replacement-level FIP. He signed a one-year deal with the rebuilding Royals because as long as he still throws 97, he’s going to get chances. Every pitching coach in baseball wants a project like Wily Peralta, and you can see why: if he ever figures it out, he’s going to be really, really tough to hit. His slider features some solid downward movement, and has been a solid pitch for him over his career.

The issue is why his fastballs simply don’t get past hitters. Since the rabbit-ball era really took hold in 2016, Peralta’s giving up a SLG% of about .550 on his four-seam and nearly .500 on his sinker. He’s done this despite adding velocity through this time period, and the pitch’s results have deteriorated as it’s gained speed. It’s pretty odd.

In Peoria:
1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3b
6: Zunino, C
7: Ford, 1B
8: Andreoli, RF
9: Miller, LF

Three CFs!

In Surprise:
1: Bishop, CF
2: Romine, SS
3: Gamel, LF
4: Vogelbach, DH
5: Perkins, RF
6: Motter, 3B
7: Hague, 1B
8: Beckham, 3B
9: Gosewisch, C
SP: Moore

Felix was struck by a line drive in his forearm/elbow area, but x-rays were negative, and so he’ll just take some time off while his contusion subsides. Scary, scary moment in the 2nd of yesterday’s game. Speaking of contusions/good results from x-rays, Dan Vogelbach’s foot is good enough that he’s been given the start today at DH; Junior Lake was originally supposed to start there, but it’s good to see Vogelbach’s ready to hit again…and he should get a game at 1B in the next few days.


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