Game 15, Astros at Mariners

marc w · April 17, 2018 at 5:39 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Ariel Miranda vs. Lance McCullers,7:10pm

The M’s use their 5th starter for the first time tonight, and the timing…could be better. Facing a very good Astros team and an excellent opposing starter, the M’s have to go to the relatively unexciting Ariel Miranda. It’s a good reminder of how important it was to win last night’s game, but also a good test for the M’s offense, and a good yardstick to see how Miranda reacts to last year’s explosion of dingers.

McCullers exemplifies a new generation of pitching strategy, and one that upends what’s come before: McCullers uses 94-95 MPH fastball relatively sparingly, opting instead to throw a blizzard of slurvy curve balls. McCullers’ breaking ball is an elite pitch; for a curveball, it’s got essentially unparalleled velocity, and for a slider, it’s got exceptional vertical bite. It’s thrown from a lower 3/4 arm slot, but is every bit as deadly to lefties as it is to righties. That vertical movement means that when batters DO put it in play (they’re more likely to just whiff), they do so on the ground.

Essentially, McCullers has turned a breaking ball into a change-up/curve hybrid: it elicits the high rate of swings that a good splitter/change does, and the high GB% is common to splitters/change-ups as well…but the whiff rate and horizontal movement are typical of breaking balls. Thrown over 50% of the time, the pitch has the effect of speeding up McCullers’ fastball, and that may be why McCullers generates swings on less than 40% of his fastballs.

It’s a pretty cool trick if you can pull it off, but it’s not clear that McCullers himself is capable. He’s missed plenty of time due to injuries, capped off with a TJ surgery on his elbow. He hit the DL with back issues twice last year, and thus he has a Paxton-esque career high in MLB innings of just 125, set back in 2015.

Miranda’s made two starts thus far, one in Modesto and one in Tacoma. In his 9 IP, he’s walked 5 and K’d 7, but given up 8 runs on 12 hits. On the positive side, he’s yet to allow a HR, and the walks and hits may reflect the fact that he was just working on a particular pitch. It sounds like the M’s may option Miranda back to Tacoma after tonight in order to make room for Ben Gamel, and to give Erasmo Ramirez – who starts tonight for the Rainiers – more time.

Whatever the M’s decide to do, they’re still faced with a number of roster decisions. They made the first of them today when they optioned Taylor Motter back to AAA to make room for Miranda. They could swap out Miranda for Erasmo in a few days, or use Miranda’s roster spot for Gamel and buy a bit of time. At this point, Ichiro’s still on the club, but it’s going to be tough for him to hold that spot with Gamel back in the fold AND once Mike Zunino’s done with his own rehab.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Haniger, RF
7: Vogelbach, 1B
8: Ichiroooo, LF
9: Marjama, C
SP: Miranda

I enjoyed this John Trupin article at LL going over how the M’s have been both lucky and unlucky on the young season. Their pitching staff still rates poorly by most metrics, but it hasn’t hurt their record, while it’s tough to categorize the M’s as the beneficiaries of luck when they’ve lost so many starters to injury. Take joy from the M’s while you can, M’s fans.

There were only 2 MiLB games in the system last night, with Arkansas getting bombed 9-0 by Houston affiliate Corpus Christi in the Texas League, while Modesto was doubled by Stockton 6-3. Mike Zunino went 1-3 with a double in the latter game, catching 5 innings. Evan White had a hit and two walks, so that was his most successful day at the plate this year, but the 1B is still looking for his first extra-base hit of the year.

Tonight’s starters include Oliver Jaskie for Clinton, who leads the L-Kings into a series with Burlington; Chase DeJong in Arkansas, facing Josh James and Corpus Christi; John Richy for Modesto; and Josh Smith as Tacoma kicks off a series against Albuquerque.


5 Responses to “Game 15, Astros at Mariners”

  1. Longgeorge1 on April 17th, 2018 7:37 pm

    Erasmo went 5 2/3 and gave up two runs. He might be ready if wanted.

  2. stevemotivateir on April 17th, 2018 7:46 pm

    Tuned in just in time to watch Vogelbach seemingly not realize there was a runner on 3rd with nobody out…and throw to 2nd base.

    I want to see him pull it all together, but man, what I wouldn’t give for a competent 1st baseman that can hit.

  3. Longgeorge1 on April 17th, 2018 8:36 pm

    OK- 5 innings out of the #5 guy and just one run. Not pretty but I’ll take it. Need two innings to get to the “power trio”.

  4. stevemotivateir on April 17th, 2018 8:52 pm

    Crapass umpiring.

  5. WTF_Ms on April 17th, 2018 9:10 pm

    Wondering if there’s been a change to the “grading” of umpires this year? If so, this guy needs a D+ for this game. Otherwise holding the Astros to 3 runs is decent?

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