Game 9, Mariners vs. White Sox – On the Road

marc w · April 5, 2019 at 10:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Reynaldo Lopez, 11:10am

The M’s play their first road game of the year, and it coincides with the White Sox’ home opener.

Yusei Kikuchi’s been solid over two starts, yielding just a single walk in nearly 11 IP. Compared to his projections (which, admittedly, didn’t have a lot to go on), he’s pitching to contact a lot more – they’ve been low on the strikeouts, and really high on walk rate. Of course, Kikuchi has company in that regard: the M’s as a team are among MLB’s laggards in strikeouts. Only the Angels trail the M’s K/9, and only the Angels and Rangers trail in K% (what’s up with the AL West?). The M’s have the lowest average sinker and cutter velocities, and are below average in most of the other pitch types, but Kikuchi’s doing what he can do bring the average fastball velo up.

Reynaldo Lopez was one of the big prospects coming to the south side from the Nats in the big Adam Eaton deal a few years ago. By fWAR, he was the best player on the White Sox last year, though that’s clearly a low bar. He pairs well above average velocity with a low BABIP thanks to a sky-high fly ball rate, but while he posted a sub-4 ERA, there are red flags throughout the profile. For one, his control isn’t great; his walk rate of 9.4% was too high to balance a merely average K rate, and he’s gotten off to a slow start this year with 4 walks and a plunked batsman in 4 IP. Second, batters seem to get a good look at his pitches, because he posts way, way below average rates on out-of-zone swings and thus on contact rates. He’s thus something of the inverse of Freddy Peralta where average stuff plays up due to some deception. Lopez is perhaps the least deceptive starter out there, and I for one applaud his values of honesty and forthrightness.

The M’s still boast baseball’s best offense by Fangraphs’ wRC+, though it’s harder to see why. Their slash line of .264/.359/.520 is amazing, good for a .377 wOBA, but it’s pretty far from the Dodgers line of .289/.388/.557. But the M’s get a 162 wRC+ while the Dodgers make do with a 146. You see this up and down the list. My favorite example is that the Astros (.235/.304/.363) and Padres (.237/.299/.384) have identical wOBAs of .298, but this works out to a wRC+ of 103 for Houston, but just 82 for San Diego. What’s going on here? I thought park factors were wreaking havoc with the numbers, but I don’t think that’s it. Instead, it looks like the league averages are messing things up (wRC+ compares a team’s wOBA to league average). At the moment, the AL’s average wOBA is a 2014-esque .301, while the NL’s is at .324, where it was in 2009 or 2005. This is all small-sample noise, and the NL will cool down and the AL will heat up, but for now, the slow starts in Houston/Cleveland/Minnesota/Anaheim are pulling the average down and thus messing with the based-on-league-average stats like wRC+.


1: Smith, CF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Santana, LF
4: Bruce, 1B
5: Beckham, SS
6: Narvaez, C
7: Healy, 3B
8: Vogelbach, DH
9: Gordon, 2B
SP: Kikuchi

For the first time this year, we’ve got minor league box scores to explore. Yesterday’s opening day for the full-season minors was a good one for the Mariners, as they boasted several solid pitching performances and a number of wins.

The West Viriginia Power (A-ball, Sally League) won their first game as an M’s affiliate 1-0 in 10 innings. As you might imagine, the pitchers were the stars, with Logan Gilbert going 4 scoreless with 5 Ks, and Devin Sweet getting the win by pitching the last 3 IP with 3Ks. Jarred Kelenic batted 2nd and went 0-3 but with 2 walks, while Julio Rodriguez went 2-4 with a 2B. I’m still just stunned that the M’s don’t have an affiliate in the Midwest League, where they’ve had their single-A affiliate since at least the early 90s. Prospects from A-Rod to David Ortiz to Felix to Kyle Seager to Braden Bishop all came up through the pitcher-friendly league. Today, 2017 draft pick Clay Chandler gets the start for West Virginia; the righty was solid in the Clinton rotation last year.

In the High-A California League (and I’d be lost if the M’s moved their affiliation to the Carolina League like many want them to), Modesto held off the Lancaster Jet Hawks 7-4. Ljay Newsome K’d 9 in 5 innings with 3 R (2 earned) allowed thanks to two dingers. Reliever Sam Delaplane used a funky delivery/deception to strike out 100 in 59 2/3 IP in the Midwest league last year, and he started where he left off last year by striking out 3 in 2 scoreless IP. C Cal Raleigh homered and went 2-5, and Luis Liberato went 2-3 with a walk and a dinger of his own. OF Anthony Jimenez went 3-5 with a 3B. Lefty Ian McKinney, recently released by the Cardinals org, and a guy with some AA experience, starts for the Nuts in today’s game.

Arkansas rallied late to beat the Tulsa Drillers 6-4, scoring 2 in the 8th and another 2 in the 9th. Dodger pitching prospect Dustin May started and befuddled the Travelers for 5 IP, yielding just 2 hits, no runs, 1 walk, and striking out 9. The bullpen was more pliant, though, and the Travs took advantage. Evan White went 2-4 with a walk, and Kyle Lewis was 1-4 with a double. Jake Fraley went 2-5 with a triple. Justin Dunn was effective in his first start in the org, going 5 IP and giving up 1 R on 5H and 1BB, with 7 Ks. Delightfully-named minor league free agent Parker Markel ended up pitching the last inning with 2 Ks. The former Rays farmhand pitched in AAA quite a bit over the years, but headed off to Independent League ball last year after not pitching in 2017. Former Braves farmhand Ricardo Sanchez was DFA’d by Atlanta last fall, and he’s now in Arkansas’ rotation. The 5’11” lefty is on the M’s 40-man roster.

Tacoma had the Sacramento RiverCats beat, but a late rally tied the game and the Cats walked it off in the 11th. Starter Erik Swanson was very good, holding the RiverCats scoreless over 5 IP on 6 H, no walks and *8* Ks. The 9th-inning rally came off of Nick Rumbelow, but the big 2-run 2B that tied it was a fly ball that frankly should’ve been caught by new LF Eric Young Jr. Young began the game by losing a pop fly in the lights that went for another 2B, so it was something of a rough first game for him, though he went 1-3 with 2 BBs (Joey Curletta had the same line). Shed Long and Braden Bishop both went 2-5, and David Freitas was 2-3 with a BB. JP Crawford was 0-4. Tommy Milone will start tonight’s game against Giants prospect Tyler Beede.


4 Responses to “Game 9, Mariners vs. White Sox – On the Road”

  1. Sportszilla on April 5th, 2019 2:11 pm

    It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a reliever look as utterly incapable of getting batters out as Gearrin does right now.

  2. Longgeorge1 on April 5th, 2019 2:54 pm

    Pitchin’ and defense. As long as I keep seeing what we have today all to regularly the record is meaningless as sooner or later the baseball god will get you

  3. heyoka on April 5th, 2019 6:57 pm

    Winning pct falls by 80 pts.
    Odds of winning the division are back below 2%.

  4. williebfan on April 5th, 2019 8:47 pm

    Gearrin getting batters out?? How about throwing a strike? Perhaps Servais should pay more attention when his reliever comes in one game and throws 12 straight balls and the very next game goes 8 straight without throwing a strike. Servais does nothing….

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