Cactus League Game 9, Mariners at Royals

marc w · March 2, 2019 at 12:01 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Brad Keller, 12:10pm

A year ago at this time, I talked about how home runs were becoming more important to scoring, and thus the M’s emphasis on stringing base hits together didn’t sound like a great plan, especially if they couldn’t figure out how to arrange a pitching staff capable of keeping the ball in the yard. I focused on HR differential as opposed to the M’s vaunted “Control the Zone” metric, and noted that the M’s were giving up more HRs than they hit. So, thus far this spring, the M’s have hit 12 dingers and yielded just 8. Kyle Lewis can’t stop hitting the snot out of the ball, and meanwhile no one can touch Justus Sheffield. I’ve said it already this spring, but I don’t think the M’s could have looked any better.

Does that change their projections for the season? Eh, no, not really, but 1) it’s fun to see, and 2) you can dream on changes in PD that could produce such wonders as Dee Gordon drawing 2 walks in a game and sporting on OBP north of .500. Yes, yes, tiny samples, I get that. But I’m just not sure we’ve seen even tiny samples in which Gordon’s looked this patient, or Lewis this dangerous. Justus Sheffield looks like a different pitcher from his scouting reports, set aside his disastrous couple of innings in the Bronx. Domingo Santana looks like his 2017 self and nothing like the 2018 model.

Brad Keller is a righty with an arrow-straight four-seamer that almost looks cutter like, and then a sinker with a bit of armside run. His breaking ball is a solid slider, and he’s developing a change. He can get it into the mid-90s, but doesn’t miss a ton of bats – instead, he uses his odd four-seam movement and decent command of his slider to generate ground balls and avoid dingers. It all added up to a surprisingly good season for the Royals last year – not bad for a Rule 5 pick. It’s interesting – he doesn’t do the typical sinker/slider thing of pounding the knees with low and sinking pitches. Instead, he’ll throw any pitch in any location. Something about his delivery and then the movement on his pitches allows him to get ground ball contact pretty much everywhere. Sure, he’ll get a few more at the bottom of the zone or below, but I’m still kind of amazed a guy can get a fair number of groundballs throwing four-seamers in the middle of the zone. Elevate, Mariners, elevate!

1: Long, 2B
2: Crawford, SS
3: Santana, LF
4: Vogelbach, DH
5: Healy, 1B
6: Lewis, CF
7: Ichiro!, RF
8: Moore, 3B
9: Freitas, C


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