Game 8, Mariners at Royals – Two Very Similar Pitching Staffs

marc w · April 9, 2018 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Jakob Junis, 5:15pm

The M’s head to Kansas City to take on the struggling Royals today. For all of the issues with projections and the whole “you can’t predict baseball” trope, people have noticed that the 2018 Royals were probably going to suck for about 2-3 years. Here we are in 2018, and…yeah. The Royals position players rank dead last in total WAR, in a near tie with…wait a minute, Cleveland? That doesn’t fit my narrative, so please ignore it for now. With Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer leaving for greener pastures and free agent riches, the Royals have jury-rigged a team together, though having Mike Moustakas drop back into their laps when no one wanted him certainly didn’t hurt. All told, the Royals are tied for the fewest home runs in baseball, with just 2, and they’ve squandered a great K% with a terrible BABIP. They’re hitting .205 as a unit, but it’s worse than that: it’s an exceptionally empty .205.

Their pitching staff is no great shakes either, but they’re perfectly fine. To date, they’ve been remarkably similar to the Mariners’ hurlers. They rank 24th and 25th in K%, and 18th and 21st in BB%. Both groups are extremely fly-ball oriented, ranking 25th and 27th in GB%, and that’s a partial reason that both staffs are running very low BABIPs – they rank 27th and 29th in that metric. Thanks to James Paxton, the M’s staff as a whole throws a bit harder, but limit it to relievers, and they have the exact same average fastball velocity. The Royals have had slightly better results to date, and that’s thanks to the longball. The M’s staff has surrendered the highest HR/9 mark in baseball, and it’s not close. Some of this may be due to the opponents each club has played, as KC got to deal with the equally abysmal Detroit Tigers to start the year, but then, the M’s have played a few frigid games at home and in Minnesota, then two in HR-suppressing San Francisco. As always, the M’s HR troubles bear watching as the season moves along.

In all, Kansas City’s a park that favors pitchers a bit. The spacious OF paired perfectly with their defense-first style, and it’s interesting to see them recreate that approach on a budget, with Jon Jay swapping in for Cain. Paulo Orlando and Alex Gordon are holdovers from the Royals heyday of 2014-15, and are glove-first guys, helping to balance out the arrival of sluggers like Jorge Soler and Lucas Duda. The Royals pitching approach of trying to elicit fly ball contact makes some sense, then, and to date it’s worked decently. The M’s staff hasn’t been bad, per se, but they continue to struggle in balancing the desire for fly balls and a low BABIP with the need to avoid the long ball. Maybe KC’s a place where the park effects will handle that balance for them.

So the two clubs are similar at a macro level (at least for pitching; on offense, not so much), and today’s probables are mirror images of each other. They’re not *identical*, as Jakob Junis doesn’t throw a change-up more than 2-3 times a game and there’s the matter of his right-handedness. But he’s got two different fastballs and a slider that he’ll throw to righties and lefties alike. He throws from the same lowish-3/4 arm slot as Marco Gonzales, albeit flipped towards the 3rd base bag instead of 1st. Importantly, Junis disguised his slider quite well in his first start of the year, a game that saw him pitch 7 scoreless. Gonzales had a solid outing, but he’d like to avoid the 2 dingers he gave up in San Francisco.

Like last year, Gonzales seems to have a very different release point for his signature change-up than he does for his fastballs, and that may be one of the reasons his change has never quite had the kind of on-field results you’d expect from such a good looking offering. Last year, his average horizontal release point with his four-seamer was 2.08 feet, but for change-ups, it was way over at 2.61 feet (these are the distances from the center of the rubber). That seems pretty noticeable to me. Junis’ four-seam release point is 2.48′, and his slider is a near dead-on 2.49′. More like that, Marco! To his credit, the gap was a bit lower this year, as Marco’s slightly lower arm slot has pushed his four-seam release point out a bit – it’s still not all that close to the change, but it’s in the same zip code, I guess.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Haniger, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Vogelbach, 1B
7: Heredia, LF
8: Ichiro, DH
9: Freitas, C
SP: Gonzales

Ryon Healy injured his ankle in a postgame workout the other day, so he joins Zunino/Cruz on the 10-day DL. RP Chased Bradford’s up from Tacoma to take his spot on the 25-man roster.

Tacoma tried to get in a double-header yesterday at rain-soaked Cheney Stadium; they finished the first, then pushed the second game to tonight. So, in Game 1, we’ll get our initial look at Max Povse, who faces off with 2017 Rainier/Mariner Chris Heston. In Game 2, Lindsey Caughel, just called up from AA Arkansas, will make his AAA debut against wily veteran TBD for Sacramento. Neither Tyler Herb nor Rob Whalen were all that effective last night, but the R’s bullpen outdueled Sacto’s, with Erik Goeddel getting the win after John Andreoli walked it off with a 7th inning HR. Andreoli’s off to a hot start, as is IF Zach Vincej.

Arkansas got out to a 7-0 lead against Corpus Christi and then held on after the Hooks scored 5 in the 9th to make it interesting. Johendi Jiminian was great for 5 2/3, giving up just 1 hit and 1 walk (0 runs) with 5 Ks. Spencer Herrman was charged with all 5 runs in relief, though a couple scored after he gave way to Matt Walker. Tonight, Nathan Bannister leads the Travs against Cionel Perez and Corpus Christi. The Astros signed Perez out of Cuba before last season, and the young lefty was decent but unremarkable across three levels.

Modesto got blitzed 14-9 by the Lancaster JetHawks last night, as Danny Garcia struggled early for the Nuts, and then new-to-the-org reliever Colin Rodgers struggled late. Rodgers is one of several pitchers the M’s got from the Royals org near the end of spring training in a minor trade. Logan Taylor doubled and homered for Modesto, while rehabbing Ben Gamel went 1-4. Tonight, Darren McCaughan makes his season debut. McCaughan was a 12th round pick out of Long Beach State last year, and pitched all of 12 innings in the Arizona league; this is a “push” assignment, similar to the one Nathan Bannister had last year.

Clinton had a double header yesterday, and both games were shutouts. They lost the first 1-0, with Tommy Romero the hard-luck loser after striking out 8 and giving up just 2 hits in 5 2/3. The bats came alive in the nightcap, though, and Oliver Jaskie and two relievers K’d 11 Kane County Cougars in 7 innings. CF Jack Larsen hit a grand slam. Speaking of unknown hurlers, tonight’s starter is Raymond Kerr, an undrafted free agent signed out of Lassen Community College last August. Kerr pitched all of one inning in the AZL, and now takes the hill in the Midwest League. At age 23, he’ll need to move quickly.


13 Responses to “Game 8, Mariners at Royals – Two Very Similar Pitching Staffs”

  1. Westside guy on April 9th, 2018 5:36 pm

    Marco Gonzales is not having a good game – I wonder if he’ll make it out of the first inning?

  2. mrakbaseball on April 9th, 2018 5:44 pm

    He did! It took 43 pitches but he made it!

  3. WTF_Ms on April 9th, 2018 5:50 pm

    I was wondering when the Mariners of old were going to show up. Here they are! 75 wins max this season.

  4. Jake on April 9th, 2018 6:27 pm

    At least Dipoto built up the starting pitching staff! I can’t wait to see Tyler O’Neill in the All-star Game in two years.

  5. WTF_Ms on April 9th, 2018 6:49 pm

    Yeah, the [edited: ] pitching is looking pretty AA right now.

  6. Westside guy on April 9th, 2018 6:54 pm

    Ugh. This game, on the other hand, is not looking good at all…

  7. stevemotivateir on April 9th, 2018 6:58 pm

    Let’s overreact to individual bad starts. That makes things better?

    It’s a bad game. We’re going to see more bad games. We’re going to see great games as well.

  8. Westside guy on April 9th, 2018 7:01 pm

    Hey there Steve,

    While I agree with you – it doesn’t make this particular bad start any more watchable. 😛

  9. WTF_Ms on April 9th, 2018 7:15 pm

    So there have been a few “bad starts” in this very young season. It’s not looking good at all.

  10. stevemotivateir on April 9th, 2018 7:27 pm

    We’ll be at .500 if we lose this one. We’ll likely be leading MLB in HBP’s as well, which is worthless, but interesting.

  11. mrakbaseball on April 9th, 2018 7:28 pm

    Well, at least the Mariners won’t be no-hit.

  12. stevemotivateir on April 9th, 2018 7:30 pm

    ^Exactly–and they might even throw a few hits of their own if this keeps up, which would be entertaining if nothing else.

  13. stevemotivateir on April 9th, 2018 7:48 pm

    Taylor Motter brought in to toss a few strawberries…and gumdrops.

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