Game 146, Mariners at Angels

marc w · September 14, 2018 at 7:59 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Odrisamer Despaigne, 7:10pm

Mike Leake is putting the finishing touches on the most Mike Leake season ever. He has a career FIP of 4.13, but this year that’s shot up all the way to…4.14. His ERA is right at 4, very close to his career average of 4.11. Mike Leake is perhaps the most freakishly consistent pitcher at the seasonal level I’ve ever seen, which is pretty wild considering how inconsistent he can appear from game to game or even month to month. He’s already topped 2 fWAR, and is something like an unsung hero on a team like this one that has needed some consistent innings out of the rotation like few other clubs. That’s great, and Mike’s been worth every penny they’ve given him, and it’ll be nice to have someone like him in the rotation in 2019.

Having said all of that, can you imagine being fired up to watch Mike Leake face Odrisamer Despaigne, cast off by the Florida Marlins AAA club and picked up and sent straight to the bigs by the Angels? I think the Angels season can be aptly summed up in the pitching probables here. If you’re reaching for Despaigne, something’s gone horribly, irreversibly, wrong. It’s September of a contending year (albeit past-tense contention now) and there are no prospects playing, just Mike Leake (known quantity) versus Odrisamer Despaigne (known, bad, quality). I…I realize we’re all at that point of disconnecting from the 2018 M’s, and every once in a while I try to fight that off by looking at something underlying a player or the team’s predicament as a whole. Today, I’ve got nothing.

Well, OK, not *nothing*. Jeff Sullivan wrote a cool article at FG the other day about the Mets’ home park dramatically limiting BABIP, and doing so, at least potentially, by limiting exit velocities. It interests me because it seems so akin to Safeco; HRs were really hard to hit at Citi field when they opened it, so they did a big change of the OF dimensions in 2012 or so, around the time that Safeco’s outfield got pulled in. Both parks are now ~ average-ish for HRs (more so Citi than Safeco in 2018), but now it’s very hard for fly balls to find a hole in the smaller outfields. That’s a known factor; it’s not news to teams at this point. But the effect seemed to be to dramatically weaken the Mets’ home field advantage. Their winning percentage at home minus their winning percentage on the road from 2012-2018 was the lowest in baseball, and in fact was the only negative in the game. Just above them, and the only team within miles of them, is the M’s.

To be fair, much of this stems from the tail end of the Zduriencik years, where the club struggled mightily everywhere, but *especially* at home. The weird effects brought on by the new hyped-up baseball seemed like they could destroy the M’s, as Jerry Dipoto didn’t factor in the rabbit ball when targeting Wade LeBlanc (the first time), Drew Smyly, etc. In his defense, they’ve actually performed better at home in his tenure as GM, but it *does* make you question – again – the strategy of building an offense around base hits. I raised this when the M’s got Dee Gordon, but there seemed to be a concerted effort to avoid walks when bringing in offensive players, and the idea was that you’d just trade walks (and some homers) for a bunch more singles. That’s risky when pitchers now strike out so many batters, and when teams have tons of relievers capable of throwing 98, WITH the platoon advantage to neutralize your string-hits-together strategy in the late innings. But to run this strategy *in Safeco* seemed to be piling risk on top of risk. The M’s team batting average of .263 is the product of hitting .263 on the road, but just .243 at home. Sure, they’re not as heavily punished for that lower performance, because Safeco has a lower run environment, making each out slightly less costly. But at the macro level, at 30,000 feet, the M’s built their club *against* their home park, and they’re getting hammered for it.

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


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