Game 36, The Loneliness Of the Middle-Inning Reliever

marc w · May 10, 2018 at 3:35 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. JA Happ, 4:05pm

Juan Nicasio has a 19:1 K:BB ratio, and an ERA of 6. Nicasio’s fastball has induced whiffs at scarcely believable rates, and his fastball has been hit very hard when batters make contact. This is in some sense the issue with small samples, and early in the year, anyone’s numbers are small sample, but that goes triple for relievers. I know I’m not exactly comfortable watching the game when he’s in, but it’s also hard to pinpoint why. He’s missing bats and not walking anyone! The BABIP will regress! Everything’s fine justpleaseputinDiaznow.

Can the new statcast numbers uncover something about the way he’s throwing or shed some light on how much of his BABIP has been “Earned” through crappy pitches? Uh, no, not really. To be fair, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what’s really predictive in the great wave of new data we’ve got access to. I console myself by thinking that the same is true for other, smarter, analysts. I think they can help show that sometimes a pitcher’s BABIP looks bad because *he’s pitching bad* and you can’t wait for the regression fairy to just magically fix him. Other times, the results seem to show just how incomplete our picture is if we look *just* at speed off the bat and angle, however much better it is than using fly ball/ground ball/line drive buckets to bin batted balls. Here’s an example. Here are two M’s hurlers, with their performance in 2018 in three familiar statcast metrics, expected wOBA, average launch angle, and average exit velocity:

Pitcher xwOBA Launch Angle Exit Velocity
A 0.309 21.2 90
B 0.309 17.5 88.6

Slight differences in velo and angle, but not much, and the exact same expected results based on angle/velo.

How about since May 1?

Since May 1st xwOBA Launch Angle Exit Velocity
A 0.387 18.3 92.5
B 0.277 17.1 91.3

Now the difference in xwOBA is massive, even while the other numbers aren’t much different. And pitcher B’s xwOBA’s way better despite giving up harder contact.

The reveal: A is of course Juan Nicasio, who has not enjoyed May at all. His ACTUAL wOBA-allowed this month is nothing like .387, which’d be bad: it’s .614, which is ridiculous. B is a guy named James Paxton, who’s given up some loud contact, but much of which has been hit at people, or at least within diving range (luv you Kyle Seager). Overall, they’re pretty similar by any number of measures: they’re missing bats, and they’re missing bats *with fastballs*. As a result of their approach and perhaps a philosophical adjustment, both have seen their ground ball rates tumble this year, and thus, both have high HR rates (remember again though about the whole small sample thing). The more you dig, the more similar they look. It’s the 30,000 foot view – the “how many runs did they give up?” type question – that makes them look completely, utterly dissimilar. I’ll try to remember that as I watch Nicasio and realize that I’m unconsciously watching through gaps in my fingers.

You know who looks absolutely awful by Statcast measures? Mike Leake. Yet another hurler with a GB% that’s fallen through the floor, and he’s someone who’s given up some of the hardest hit balls in the game. Mike Leake is better than he’s looked thus far, that much is clear. He just hasn’t pitched like it in recent weeks. He’ll get back to his normal, somewhat boring, predictable, reliable self, but it’s been a rough go, really since his first start against Cleveland.

1: Segura, SS
2: Haniger, RF
3: Canó, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Healy, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Zunino, C
8: Heredia, CF
9: Romine, LF
SP: Leake

I don’t get playing Andrew Romine in an OF corner, I really don’t. Taylor Motter had options, isn’t good, etc., I know, but don’t we pretty much know that Romine can’t hit? I’d think even Romine would argue he helps in other ways. A no-hit, glove-first back-up SS/3B/2B is…well, it feels very 1983, but whatever, I grew up with those guys. A no-hit glove-first OF corner/1B…what…who ordered that?

The Rainiers beat El Paso 8-5 behind a good start from Rob Whalen and HRs from Taylor Motter and Cam Perkins. The R’s also got solid relief from Darin Gillies for 2 scoreless IP before a man named Tucker Healy finished up, giving up 3 meaningless runs in the 9th. The M’s apparently picked him up from the A’s org a few days ago after he’d been released from the Midland Rockhounds (AA Texas league). Huh. Max Povse starts for Tacoma tonight against Luis Perdomo, a mainstay of the Padres rotation the past few years. He stunk up the joint in April and was optioned to the PCL not too long ago.

Arkansas was off yesterday, but they’re starting up another series against Springfield tonight with Andrew Moore on the mound opposite the Cardinals’ Chris Ellis. Ellis was part of the big Andrelton Simmons trade, as he and Sean Newcomb went to the Braves org in exchange for the SS. Then, he was part of one of the many, many deals involving Jaime Garcia the past few years, this one sending him from the Braves to the Cards org. He got knocked around a bit last year in AA/AAA, but he’s been solid in the Texas league this year.

San Jose beat Modesto 9-5, scoring all 9 runs in a huge 6th inning explosion. Reggie McClain was cruising up to that point, but stumbled and then Jack Anderson couldn’t staunch the bleeding. Gareth Morgan homered, but as Rick Randall noted on Twitter, he’s now got 70 strikeouts in 117 at-bats (and just 6 walks). Danny Garcia starts tonight against the Giants’ Conner Menez, who’s been tough thus far: he’s got 37 Ks in 25 1/3 IP, and sports a RA/9 of 1.42.

Clinton lost to West Michigan 8-5, as noted in yesterday’s post. On the plus side, OFs Jack Larsen and Dimas Ojeda ran 4th and 5th in OPS in the Midwest League, and figure to get a look in the California league before too long. Ryne Inman starts for the Lumberkings tonight against Javier Assad of South Bend, as Clinton kicks off a series with the Cubs affiliate.


3 Responses to “Game 36, The Loneliness Of the Middle-Inning Reliever”

  1. mrakbaseball on May 10th, 2018 7:11 pm

    Mike Leake was somewhat boring, predictable, reliable and the Mariners hit the ball out of SkyDome en route to another series win on the road.

  2. heyoka on May 11th, 2018 3:44 am

    The ussmariners win.

  3. mksh21 on May 11th, 2018 9:21 am

    I have nothing to back this up, but the Mariners always seem to bash the ball at SkyDome. I live two hours from there (Rochester, NY) and should have got my lazy ass up there, but week day baseball in a foreign country and Toronto traffic just sapped my desire 🙁

    Im just gald we don’t totally suck and the lineup doesn’t suffer week long blackouts like in seasons past. At least 2! people always seem to be hitting and its not always the same ones.

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