Game 63, Mariners at Rays

marc w · June 8, 2018 at 6:23 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Wilmer Font, 4:10pm

This was always going to be the “breather” series in a very tough stretch for the M’s, but I don’t know if we knew just how much the Rays’ outlook had changed until recently. As I mentioned yesterday, the Rays are in 3rd in the AL East, and until their sweep in Seattle and some stumbled against the Nats, their record wasn’t too bad. Their decision to cut salary and essentially quit trying – or even pretend to try – for the wild card has had some impacts. Gone are their 4th and 6th-best hitters by wRC+ (Denard Span, Brad Miller), as well as their erstwhile closer. They’ve called up Jake Bauers who wasn’t exactly destroying the International League. Maybe the one good thing to come out of the past week/ten days has been Chris Archer heading to the DL with an abdominal injury. How’s that good, you ask? Archer characterized it as a mild problem that he would’ve played through, but that rest may take care of the issue for good. With the team’s motivation sunk, I think it’s great that Archer realized he needs to focus on his own career. Staying healthy nearing the trade deadline is critical for both Archer AND the Rays, and I’m sure the Rays newfound conviction to playing the kids helped Archer make the decision to take 10 days of rest.

Archer pitched pretty well against the M’s last week, so the M’s won’t complain, either. In Archer’s place is a pitcher who may be his opposite. Archer’s remarkably steady, having made at least 32 starts four straight years, and who’s reliably generated strike-outs, a few too many walks, and good FIPs to go with solid but not spectacular ERAs. Wilmer Font has produced a season of gaudy, even rococo awfulness. There’s nothing steady about a season that’s seen him play for three teams in three months. If Font qualified for the ERA title, he’d rank in the top 20 in HRs-allowed despite having pitched 1/3-1/4 of a starter’s workload. Batters are slugging over 1.100 on his slider, meaning it’s one of the worst sliders in the league, which just heightens the differences between he and Archer.

Font throws 95, but it hasn’t helped him quite yet. With the Dodgers, Font gave up 5 HRs in 10 1/3 IP this year, or 5 in 48 batters faced. That dog pretty clearly will not hunt, so he was DFA’d and ended up on the A’s, who were sick of similar problems with former Mariner Emilio Pagan. You can see the appeal – he throws hard, misses a few bats, and if you just wait for regression to deal with those HRs, you might have something. Font’s HR troubles laughed in the face of your “regression.” The impossible is nothing, they seemed to say, and actually improved on that HR rate, giving up another 5 dingers in just *37* batters faced. I haven’t sat around and counted HRs in a MLB batting practice session, in part because I’m not allowed to, and in part because it seems like a spectacular waste of time, but I honestly wonder if that’s not a higher HR rate than you’d see in one. Sure, Nelly Cruz probably hits more than 5 in 37 quasi-At Bats, but if you looked at the entire session, I’m reasonably sure it’s lower than 5-for-37. The A’s dropped Font like a hot rock.

The Rays were interested, because of course they were. Not only is Font making the league minimum, but high HR rates are not exactly a turn-off in the St. Petersburg area. Andrew Moore is in the right org for him, just as Jake Odorizzi was, and just as Alex Cobb and others were. The Rays probably don’t mind Font’s fly-ball tendencies*, but they’d just need to make a few tweaks. They appear to have done just that. Font has had many, many problems, as both his fastball and his two breaking balls have been utterly destroyed. Would another pitch work? He’s had a change, but he’s not used it much at all. BrooksBaseball counts all of 1 (one) thrown in his Dodger tenure this year. He threw 4 in his first game in Oakland, and then another 5 in another game. So, arriving in Tampa, he’d thrown 10 of them all season. In 4 games with the Rays, he’s at 18. More than just the usage, though, the Rays seemed to have changed it.

To be fair, so did the A’s…they just didn’t seem to like it. That solitary cambio with the Dodgers looked the way his 2017 changes did – that is to say, it had *less* armside run than his fastball, and about 4-5″ less “rise”. They were thrown at 84 or so. With the A’s, that vertical drop was accentuated, bringing the gap in rise up to about 8-10″. In all, it looked like a solid splitter, albeit one that he didn’t have much faith in (or the A’s didn’t have faith to call). With the Rays, it has slightly more horizontal run than his fastball (helped by a slightly different release point for ALL of his pitches), and a bit less vertical movement – but that’s in part due to the fact that he’s throwing it harder, 85-88 MPH now. It now looks more like a split-finger fastball, and in particular, like Alex Cobb’s old pitch, the one he taught to Odorizzi. I’m not sure if that makes Font *good* or anything, but at least Font’s not challenging records or credulity with his HR rate (he’s given up 1 with the Rays). This is pretty much what I’d expect the Rays to do with Andrew Moore, another pitcher with a serious gopherball penchant.

So is Font just the opener? I believe they’re going to hand the ball to Matt Andriese after Font, but with Archer down, I’m not sure if they’ll try to get more than 3-5 batters out of Font. All of these openers can tax the bullpen; Ryne Stanek threw more pitches than I think the Rays would’ve liked, so I’m not sure if he’s available. At least Austin Pruitt gave the 7, so guys like Romo may be available. That’s good, because Andriese’s season high in innings pitched this year is…3 1/3, a mark he’s hit just once. Andriese has a straight fastball at 93 or so, and pitches off his best pitch, a hard split-change thing. He’s what you imagine when you hear the phrase “pitches for the Rays.” Incidentally, while the concept of the “opener” could work in some applications – like Romo-facing-the-top-of-the-Angels-line-up or something similar – this feels a lot more like a good old fashioned bullpen day. An opener who was completely different from the following pitcher might work; a righty followed by a lefty, or an 88-MPH junkballer followed by a 96 MPH fireballer – something to maximize the platoon advantage or mess with hitters’ timing. Today is…not that. It’s two righties with similar fastballs, similar off-speed pitches, and poor breaking balls. Go M’s.

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

Dakota Hudson and Memphis shut out Tacoma last night 6-0. Ashton Goudeau took the loss in relief of Lindsay Caughel, who went 3 scoreless. Ex-MLB starter and recent indy league signing Ross Detwiler starts for Tacoma tonight.

Arkansas lost a late lead to Tulsa, as the Drillers scored 5 in the last two innings to win 6-4. Chase de Jong tossed a quality start, giving up 1 R in 6, but Scott Kuzminsky gave up 4 runs in the 8th, and newcomer Daniel Schlereth gave up another in the 9th. Braden Bishop doubled and walked, continuing his absolutely torrid streak. Bishop posted a .610 OPS in April, raised it to .789 in May, and has gone nuts in June thus far, with a 1.382 OPS in 30 ABs. Nathan Bannister starts tonight opposite old org signing Justin DeFratus for Tulsa.

Modesto scored a run in the 9th to beat Visalia 1-0. The Rawhide’s Riley Smith and the Nuts’ Darren McCaughan were locked in a pitcher’s duel, and Seth Elledge got the win with a scoreless 9th. Elledge has 36 Ks in 24 IP and could probably stand to try things out in AA now. Randy Bell starts for Modesto against the anachronistically named Melvin Adon.

Clinton beat Burlington 8-2 on HRs by Ryan Costello and Greifer Andrade and a good start by Nick Wells. Sam Delaplane tossed 1 2/3 IP, and now has 41 Ks to 10 BB in 26 IP. Hey, he could replace Elledge in High A? The Lumberkings send Clay Chandler to the mound tonight, an undrafted free agent they signed last year. He’s been solid for Clinton this year.

* You really have to admire Font’s commitment to the bit – in his short career, he’s somehow managed to have a very high fly ball rate, AND a high HR/FB rate, *AND* a high BABIP-allowed. That’s really, really hard to do. Small samples can produce anything, but this is remarkable.


7 Responses to “Game 63, Mariners at Rays”

  1. Grayfox3d on June 8th, 2018 6:42 pm

    2 nights in a row for Colome…. maybe he shouldn’t pitch against his former team.

  2. WTF_Ms on June 8th, 2018 6:50 pm

    They do make things interesting every night!

  3. Grayfox3d on June 8th, 2018 7:02 pm

    The Mariners are TROLLS!!! They are trying to prove you can win all the 1 run games… I’ll take it. Gives me a near heart attack but a win is a win.

  4. Grayfox3d on June 8th, 2018 7:03 pm

    Now to root on the Rangers! Let’s go Texas!

  5. Stevemotivateir on June 8th, 2018 7:03 pm

    Trying to run on Zunino…

    Bad idea.

  6. Grayfox3d on June 8th, 2018 7:06 pm

    I don’t like to see players get hurt, but with Ohtani getting hurt this could maybe put some distance between the Mariners and Angels.

  7. Grayfox3d on June 8th, 2018 7:13 pm

    June 30th 2017 is when the Mariners got their 40th win last season. Good turn around if I do say so my self as of this moment.

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