Game 31, Angels at Mariners

marc w · May 4, 2018 at 5:03 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Garrett Richards, 7:10pm

The M’s host the Angels this weekend in what’s now a must-see series for a completely different reason than we thought a few days ago. With Shohei Ohtani on track to pitch…maybe…on Sunday, this was supposed to be Ichiro’s chance to face another Japanese icon, and perhaps a fitting way to close the curtain on his playing days. Instead, he’s already a member of the front office, but given the way the M’s, Angels, and Astros have played, the three clubs enter today separated by a grand total of a half game. The Astros have fallen back to earth thanks to an encounter with the Yankees, while the Angels struggled with both the Yankees and Red Sox. Sure, sure, the M’s have had the easier schedule to date, but they’ve done what they’re supposed to and win series against inferior teams. The Angels are coming off a sweep of the Orioles, so they know a thing or two about that as well.

Tonight’s game features the Angels’ Garrett Richards, a pitcher I’ve long thought could be great if he could stay healthy. I even picked him as a potential Cy Young vote-getter before the season started, a prediction that now looks…well, it’s early, and how about that Braves pick, huh? Let’s talk about that instead! Richards has his highest ever K/9, and it’s not even close. Unfortunately, he’s going through something affecting several good pitchers this year: a three true outcome explosion. From 2013-2017, Richards’ walk rate stayed around 7%-8%. A bit higher in 2015, the one year he’s eclipsed 200 IP, but lower in 2017. This year, it’s currently at 15%, essentially right where he was this spring (14% in the Cactus League). Worse, he’s given up 4 HRs already, the first time he’s had a HR/9 over 1.0 since his 2011 cup of coffee.

His GB% is still elite, driven by his 96 MPH cutter/four-seamer that has high spin and extremely odd movement. He backs that pitch up with two of the highest spinning breaking balls in the game, a slider and curve that’s he’s using more of now than in prior years. His contact rate is an extremely low 72%, and while he’s not getting a lot more whiffs, he’s tricked batters into NOT swinging at strikes. Batters are offering at just over 53% of strikes, the lowest rate for any starter in the game. That sounds great, but then you look at his walk rate again and realizing that they’re not swinging for a very good reason. If they do nothing, he’s liable to walk them.

This pattern – lots of Ks, lots of walks, lots of HRs, and few swings – is happening to a few other talented pitchers. Robbie Ray’s K/9 would lead baseball if he qualified, and is somehow still ahead of James Paxton’s, but batters are swinging at just 41% of his pitches and taking advantage of a 14% walk rate. They’re waiting until they get a pitch to hit, and then crushing it, as Ray’s HR/9 is also the highest of his career. Paxton’s overall season numbers look like they might belong in this group, but I’m guessing he’s graduated from it, as has a clear example from last year, Blake Snell. Yu Darvish, with a BB/9 of 4.80 and a HR/9 of 1.80, is the new kid in this class.

Of course, the M’s aren’t exactly a patient team. With an above-average swing rate and below-average walk rate, they may be just what Richards needs. Or they would be, if they didn’t have the kind of power that can really hurt a pitcher who’s struggling with the long ball. Lay off low sliders and hunt middle-middle cutters, and you’ll be fine, M’s. Meanwhile, Mike Leake needs to give them a chance. Leake has the highest average exit velocity of any pitcher with at least 100 batted balls, and the second highest average fly ball/liner – which is a problem, given his sudden lack of ground balls. Leake looked like his old self against Cleveland in his last start, so it’s not all hopelessness and dingers. If he made an adjustment, that’s great (he threw more sliders last time out, but nothing too striking).

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Haniger, RF
7: Healy, 1B
8: Gamel, LF
9: Freitas, C
SP: Leake

The best article on Ichiro’s shock retir..whoops, transition, came from Patrick Dubuque, to no one’s shock. It’s over at BP, and it’s a free article, so go read it now.

The Tigers have sent Miguel Cabrera to the 10-day DL, and have decided that John Hicks, their back-up C/bench bat, will get the majority of the ABs that Cabrera misses. This is itself pretty unremarkable, but M’s diehards may remember Hicks as the glove-first C prospect the M’s drafted out of Virginia in the 2011 draft headlined by his college batterymate, Danny Hultzen. Hicks had a great year in High Desert, but other than that was not known for his hitting; he played in Tacoma for parts of 2 seasons, and was decidedly below average in both, with a slugging percentage under .400. He got a cup of coffee in one of the many lost years the M’s had in the Zduriencik era and came to the plate 34 times, going 2-32 with a stunning 18 strikeouts. He was DFA’d after that and bounced around AAA a bit, but the Tigers signed him in 2016. He’s now come to the plate 77 times for Detroit and has a cumulative slash line of .265/.328/.455 with 8 HRs, which is 8 more than I would’ve bet he’d ever hit. This isn’t a “why do they always get better?” lament, this is a just another hilarious example of baseball’s bizarre developmental paths. Good for John Hicks.

Matt Harvey will be DFA’d tomorrow after refusing a minor league assignment. It’s a move that seems to be in everyone’s best interest, as the odds that there remain things that the Mets could tell him that he hasn’t already tried are pretty low. His behavior makes the decision even easier for New York, but if he’s going to get back on track, it’s exceedingly unlikely that it’d happen in that organization.

Rob Whalen looks to bounce back from his first poor outing of 2018 5-6 days ago, as Tacoma kicks off a road trip in Reno. Tacoma avoided a sweep at the hands of the Albuquerque Isotopes with an 8-3 win yesterday, as Gordon Beckham and Mike Marjama homered and Ariel Miranda pitched pretty well.

Andrew Moore tossed 7 brilliant innings in Arkansas’ 9-1 win over Tulsa, but the game was a 1-1 pitchers duel most of the way. The Drillers Dennis Santana gave up 1 run over 5, but the Travs scored 6 in the 8th off of Shea Spitzbarth, and another 2 in the 9th just to make sure. Chase de Jong takes the hill against Tulsa’s Caleb Ferguson tonight. Ferguson was a 38th round pick by the Dodgers in 2014, and spent a few years in rookie ball thanks to TJ surgery in his senior year of HS, but has pitched brilliantly over the last year+. He started the year as the Dodgers’ #16 prospect, but could make a push up the rankings if he keeps his solid start going. The lefty has a low-90s FB and a good curve.

Modesto beat Rancho Cucamonga 9-6. Reggie McClain tossed a quality start, and Joe Rizzo and Nick Zammarelli continued their hot hitting in the win. Former Pirates top prospect Stetson Allie worked an inning in relief in this one; I guess he’s pitching again. He was a two-way star in high school in Ohio, but was drafted as a high-90s power pitcher. After walking 37 in 26 2/3 IP, including 8 in 2/3 of an IP in 2012, he picked up a bat. He tore up the Sallie League, and had an OPS over .800 in AA in 2014, but a low average and high strikeouts meant he could never quite get over the AA hump. He started pitching again a bit in the Dodgers system last year, and is throwing this year – he has 0 PAs for Rancho – but the walks have returned. Modesto heads to Lake Elsinore to start a series against the Storm tonight, and the Nuts will have Danny Garcia on the mound.

Bowling Green scored 5 in the first signalling pretty clearly that no, there would not be an organizational sweep. They ended up winning 8-3 despite 3 hits from L-Kings OF Jack Larsen, an undrafted FA out of UC San Diego who’s slashing .308/.407/.551 on the year. Oliver Jaskie stars tonight against the Dayton Dragons’ Adrian Rodriguez, a Mexican righty who’ll be back on a minor league mound for the first time since July of 2016…must be TJ surgery?


17 Responses to “Game 31, Angels at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on May 5th, 2018 12:26 am

    That was an uninspiring game, although getting to see Pujol’s 3000th hit was nice I guess.

    I am looking forward to seeing Otani pitch…

  2. Grayfox3d on May 5th, 2018 2:13 am

    This season has alot of “feeling good feeling good” going on with the team, until of course they face good teams, then its right back down to what was predicted they would be. Winning series is great but it would be really great to beat good teams like the Astros and Angels and so forth. C’mon guys lets take 1 or 2 of these games this weekend!

  3. Westside guy on May 5th, 2018 9:07 pm

    GAME 32!!!!



    MARINERS UP 5-4!!!!!

  4. Grayfox3d on May 5th, 2018 9:27 pm

    Are you kidding me right now!!! What the hell is going on! why can’t we just beat the Angels!

  5. Westside guy on May 5th, 2018 9:29 pm

    Man, Diaz, why are you suddenly human lately?

  6. WTF_Ms on May 5th, 2018 9:29 pm

    I’m with ya. Can we just win already??? Someone had better step up and walk this off.

  7. Westside guy on May 5th, 2018 9:47 pm

    Man, Zunino is really hanging in there. Come on, Mikey!!


  8. Grayfox3d on May 5th, 2018 9:48 pm

    Westside you jinxed him! C’mon man!

  9. Westside guy on May 5th, 2018 9:54 pm


  10. mksh21 on May 5th, 2018 10:09 pm

    It’s great and all we dumped Ichiro being way past his prime and all. But wtf is the purpose of Romine being there? He never even had a prime? Cool he plays a bunch of positions but he has to be one of the worst players in history to be allowed to bat over 1000 times.

  11. Westside guy on May 5th, 2018 10:10 pm

    hahahaha… now 7-7.

  12. WTF_Ms on May 5th, 2018 10:28 pm

    I’m a firm proponent of hitting Trout in the ass with a “curve ball that didn’t curve”, and making him limp to first. Joking of course.

  13. Grayfox3d on May 5th, 2018 10:37 pm

    Get it over with!

  14. mksh21 on May 5th, 2018 10:38 pm

    Does Johnson have 2 blown saves in the same game? I know that’s not allowed but what he basically has done.

  15. Westside guy on May 5th, 2018 10:40 pm


  16. Grayfox3d on May 5th, 2018 10:42 pm

    if we lose – worst game of season
    now that we won – Best game of the season lol

    Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

  17. mksh21 on May 5th, 2018 10:44 pm

    Good lord we needed an in division type of win like that. Any game we give away to the Angels or Astros feels like 10

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