Game 70, Red Sox at Mariners

marc w · June 15, 2018 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Rick Porcello, 7:10pm

Last night’s 2-1 loss is the kind that, in other circumstances, would feel bitterly frustrating: the M’s lost despite a strong 7 IP from Felix, they got the first two runners in the 9th on and then squandered them, classic Mariners, right? I don’t know about you, but it felt almost encouraging. If this club gets actual production from Felix, they look less like an overachieving group and more like a solid team that’s playing just a touch over their heads. If they are in the game against the league’s best team, with a former Cy Young winner on the hill, and with the M’s giving the ball to their worst starter (god it sucks writing that), then this team can play with anyone. I mean, we knew that, but given that even great teams will lose 60-70, I don’t feel bad at all about that one going into the loss column. Sure, it’d be nice if the Astros stopped winning, but I’m honestly not as interested in them. The M’s need to hold off the Angels, and that effort’s going swimmingly right now.

Big Maple’s going for the M’s tonight, giving them their best odds per Fangraphs/538, and while Rick Porcello’s having a solid year again, I think neutrals would agree that Paxton’s the best starter going tonight. Porcello came up as a sinkerballing ground ball kid with Detroit, and one who had a good amount of success, but who never quite pitched up to his solid #3 peripherals. Boston pretty clearly reworked his entire approach, and while he’s had some serious ups and downs, he turned in a Cy Young campaign two years ago and is again pitching like a good #3 in what’s one of the league’s deepest rotations. Initially, Boston had him throw more of his four-seam fastball, the pitch that made him the most talked-about high school pitcher in the 2007 draft (and whose bonus demands saw him slide down the 1st round). His GB% fell dramatically right as the HR surge was getting underway, leading to a big increase in runs-allowed despite a career high in K rate. 2016 was much, much better, as his HR/FB ration dropped, allowing him to take advantage of his newfound ability to miss bats. He went 22-4 and earned his first Cy Young. Last year was another campaign tanked by HRs and BABIP, followed by 2018 in which those trends reversed, making him look solid again.

His K:BB has been pretty stable in Boston, but he’s shifting his approach a bit, using a lot more breaking balls, especially his slider. Interestingly, that increased use of bendy pitches has put a stop to his free-falling GB%, and it’s back up to just over league average after three years below it. Yes, he’s sitting on a career low HR/FB, and so some of this year’s success is luck. But he’s also reducing the number of fly balls allowed in the first place.

That last series against the Mike Trouts has put a bit of a damper on the M’s amazing trend towards limiting HRs-allowed, something Boston’s also been quite good at this year. Felix did a brilliant job against the Red Sox’ big three of Mookie Betts, JD Martinez and Andrew Benintendi last night, and that’s something Paxton will have to repeat tonight. The M’s best hitters, Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura, have been worth about 13.5 runs above average this year, which is great before the halfway point of the year. Boston’s big three have all passed the 20 run mark at this point, with Betts the best of the bunch at 30.4.

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

As you saw in last night’s game, the M’s made some moves, optioning Dan Vogelbach back to Tacoma, DFA’ing Mike Morin, and calling up RP/SP Rob Whalen and RP Nick Rumbelow, who found his way into a one-run game. Rumbelow pitched for the Yankees in 2015, and did pretty well, then had TJ surgery and a setback and hadn’t pitched competitively this season until this month. He showed the exact same fastball velocity he did back in 2015 – around 93 MPH. He still showed the same secondaries – a change and a slider – but they’ve been transformed a bit. While his FB velo was unchanged, the other pitches were much, much faster. The slider (called a curve at Brooks) was over 4 MPH faster last night, averaging over 85. The change-up was a bit firmer, but it had a bit more downward break. I don’t want to make too much of this, as he only threw two of them, and both were pretty bad, but it’s something to watch for. Dipoto obviously loves the guy, and the M’s used him in a tight ballgame in the 8th, which shows the confidence they have in him. I still don’t see a whole lot that’s noteworthy about the FB, but the change could be interesting in the future. I suppose I should mention that his release point is right smack above the midpoint of the rubber, so he may have less in the way of platoon split issues, but we’ll see. For now, it’s just good to see him out there again now that his neck issue has subsided.


4 Responses to “Game 70, Red Sox at Mariners”

  1. Grayfox3d on June 15th, 2018 8:15 pm

    This is embarassing… an absolute meltdown by the defense. Is this the return to norm we have been dreading?…. I hope not.

  2. Stevemotivateir on June 15th, 2018 9:29 pm

    ^It’s one game and they’re currently just one run behind.

  3. pdome01 on June 15th, 2018 10:55 pm

    And some how they win!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ยก!!!!!!!!!

  4. Grayfox3d on June 16th, 2018 3:11 am

    So happy they pulled that out. I tend to over react sometimes but I am always glad when they prove me wrong.

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