Game 133, Mariners at Padres

marc w · August 29, 2018 at 12:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Erasmo Ramirez vs. Joey Lucchesi, 12:40pm

After one of the most baffling, frustrating losses of the year last night – a night in which Jacob Nix shut down the M’s offense despite not registering a single strikeout over 8 1/3 frames – the M’s face another rookie hurler with funky mechanics and something of a trick pitch. What could go wrong?

Joey Lucchesi roared out of the gate in April, confusing hitters with his frankly bizarre change-up. Lefties couldn’t elevate the ball at all, righties didn’t see it well, and Lucchesi’s delivery added enough deception to make him a surprisingly tough at-bat despite 91 MPH velo. More recently, the sheen (or novelty) is wearing off, and righties in particular seem to be figuring something out. They’re starting to hit for average against his weird churve and hit for power against his heavy, sinking four-seam fastball. A part of this may be that for all of its supposed novelty, Lucchesi’s signature pitch doesn’t look too odd by movement. It only looks odd when you insist on calling it a change-up.

Lucchesi (a lefty, btw) has a sinking fastball and than a “change” that moves 1″ *gloveside* and has about 1″ of vertical drop. That’s…that’s not a change-up. I’m going to acknowledge here that it’s Lucchesi’s pitch, not mine, and that he throws it with a change-up grip. I’ll stipulate that it may look kind of change-uppy out of his hand or something, but if we classify pitches based on what they DO, and not how pitchers developed them or what they like to call it, it’s very, very clearly not a change. A change typically breaks armside, often more than the fastball. A splitter may have little armside run, but when it’s cutting like this, I can’t fathom why he’d call it a change.

Per BrooksBaseball, but not Statcast, Lucchesi also throws the occasional curveball. The pitch is mentioned in the article linked above, so I have no doubt Lucchesi firmly believes he throws one, but here’s the thing: it has the exact same velocity, horizontal movement, and vertical movement as his “change-up.” I’m not a strict baseballing essentialist, but I’d like to point out that, at least to batters, when you have two pitches that are completely alike in everything save perhaps the pitcher’s intent, you do not in fact have two pitches.

What do we have here? We’ve got a pitcher throwing a change-up that looks absolutely nothing like a change-up, and a curve that has very little movement compared to a ball thrown without spin. That…that sounds weird. But everything takes on a very different cast if we just called all of his non-fastballs sliders. By movement, they become completely normal – boring, even. Whatever Lucchesi wants to call it, and however many of them Lucchesi insists there are, it looks for all the world like Lucchesi throws a fastball at 91 and a slider at 79-80. He’s still got some deceptiveness, but everything else starts to make sense- a brilliant start that fades as batters adapt to his three-pitch mix that isn’t a three-pitch mix at all. The “churve” that’s so beguiling initially starts to seem a bit more hittable once you stop trying to think of a change that moves like *that* and just look slider.

This isn’t to suggest that Lucchesi’s terrible. Lefties really do have trouble elevating the ball, and he misses a ton of lefty bats…exactly what you’d expect from a lefty who throws sliders all the time. The platoon splits, the righty HR trouble, all of it makes perfect sense if we just give up the fiction of the “churve.” Now, last night, the M’s couldn’t quite figure out Jacob Nix, who, despite an actual, really good, change, can’t quite disguise his pitches. You can have flaws, even big ones, and beat this offense if things break right. The M’s need to ensure that things don’t break right for Lucchesi, or they give themselves too much work to do against the A’s. Yes, the M’s still have 7 games left against their Wildcard rival, but they can’t afford to slide further back than the 5.5 game hole they find themselves in now.

1: Haniger, LF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Healy, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Zunino, C
8: Maybin, CF
9: Erasmooooo

The M’s brought up Shawn Armstrong, the former Cleveland Indians reliever and the standout star of Tacoma’s bullpen this year. Nick Rumbelow’s been optioned back to T-town, whose home schedule is now over. Armstrong was dominant down the stretch, and is still an intriguing guy, as I wrote about back when they picked him up late last year.

I haven’t written much about the M’s system, as I just got tired of writing about minor league free agents doing stuff in AAA/AA while the few impact prospects the M’s had struggled or had TJ surgery. Since that fatalistic shrug, though, Evan White’s been on a tear, as John Trupin details at LL. I’m not completely convinced yet, and the Cal League’s a great place to show some pop, but it’s a well-argued piece and a very, very hopeful sign. It helps make up for Kyle Lewis’ disappointing 2018 and helps make the wait for Julio Rodriguez go a bit faster.


5 Responses to “Game 133, Mariners at Padres”

  1. WTF_Ms on August 29th, 2018 2:51 pm

    Well, apparently everything has gone wrong in this series. ‘‘Tis the end of our run. As I always say, maybe next year?

  2. Jake on August 29th, 2018 5:09 pm

    Rumbelow was optioned to AA, not Tacoma.

  3. schwingy on August 29th, 2018 10:55 pm

    The Ms just seem so ‘soft’. Who fights on this team? I know this has no bearing on baseball play, but when was the last time this team brawled? If someone punched them in the face, it seems they’d reply with a high five and a smile. We just seem so far away from having a team that is ready to compete by grinding out at bats from the first out

  4. mrakbaseball on August 30th, 2018 10:31 am

    I think the ’98 & ’99 teams had 3 or 4 brawls a year, how did they finish in the standings?

  5. schwingy on August 30th, 2018 10:26 pm

    Sorry, not my point. I was speaking figuratively. Fight, grinding out at bats from the 1st inning. Somehow we need to develop a more physically and mentally tough group of players. We have a few ‘nice’ pieces here and there, but when you compare us to the elite teams right now we seem like a universe away. Maybe they’ll go on some amazing run and prove me wrong. I’d love that. I like Servais’ approach overall, but we still need a lot of horses to pull this cart.

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