marc w · April 12, 2019 at 5:16 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Wade LeBlanc vs. Wade Miley, 7:10pm

So, this game pits the two Wades against each other, two lefties who both pitched for the 2016 M’s, where LeBlanc was acquired to eat the innings Miley would have, had he not been dumped traded. Both Wades feature unimpressive fastballs, and both have been susceptible to the HR in recent years. As such, both were projected to pitch around 110-120 IP this year at a mediocre/below average rate. ZiPS was higher on both, and in particular Miley, while Steamer was more pessimistic. Any projection system had to figure out what to do about their surprising 2018s. Both pitchers posted solid ERAs, and if their fielding-independent stats weren’t as sparkly, they were better than they’d been in a while. Miley famously started using a different pitch in Milwaukee, but he wasn’t striking anyone out. LeBlanc *was* getting some strikeouts, but his FIP improvement was largely down to strand rate and the ever-fickle HR/FB ratio. Tough to bet on that.

While the pitchers were similar, with similar concerns and similar reasons-for-what-passes-for-optimism, the context of the two teams employing them couldn’t be more different. The Astros want to win another World Series and have assembled their team accordingly. Their line-up projects to be one of the game’s best, even if they’re not playing like it right now (my view is warped by the M’s; every other team looks pitiful, like dead-ball-era holdovers in comparison). But they somewhat shockingly passed on re-signing both Charlie Morton and 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, with the only real pitching addition being…Wade Miley. Is there a better sign of baseball’s odd competition problem than the presumptive division winner and playoff team ditching Dallas Keuchel for Wade F$%^ing Miley? It’s been all of two games, so caveats abound, but here’s the deal: Wade Miley looks a hell of a lot like Dallas Keuchel right now. God damnit, Astros.

The M’s weren’t supposed to contend at all, and their low-dollar extension of LeBlanc helped keep a solid, potentially undervalued starter and clubhouse guy around. If he wasn’t projected to be league average, well, who cares from the 4th starter on a rebuilding team? He could help mentor some of the young guys (like Marco Gonzales), and he could give the Erik Swansons and Justus Sheffields in the org some additional seasoning time. Except now, the M’s are suddenly relevant and winning a ton of games. They could conceivably need quality innings out LeBlanc. Can he deliver them? I’m going to be honest, I don’t really know. But I also know that it hasn’t mattered yet, and nothing about…pitching will matter until the offense stops partying like it’s 1999. May the party never stop.

Seriously: before the year, everyone identified pitching as a serious weakness, with the bullpen a particular cause for concern. So far, those worries have been pretty spot on. The M’s are yielding 5 runs a game, and while the rotation has at least limited walks, the bullpen is giving them out like candy. But here, in a weird, almost poetic inversion of the M’s problems over the past few years, the M’s caught a break: everyone else sucks too.

For years, the M’s suffered not because they didn’t really understand their own talent level, but rather because they couldn’t see where that level put them vis a vis their rivals. They were right about themselves, but wrong about what that meant. I’d guess the same thing happened with the FO this year, and I will raise my hand and say that I know with 100% certainty I’ve been wrong thus far about what the M’s bad bullpen *means*. It’s meant nothing. Will it continue to mean nothing? Ehhh, probably not, but it’s important to see that M’s bullpen’s 5.34 BB/9 or 13% walk rate isn’t close to the worst in the league. The Astros and Angels (?) have been amazing by peripherals or raw results, respectively, but it hasn’t been as important as run scoring for the M’s (or, for the Rays, overall run prevention). It’s early, and so production in one area will cover for a bad showing somewhere else, and I don’t expect relievers overall to be this bad, but after years of awful luck, the M’s very much known weakness smacked headlong into a more unknown, collective weakness in the league.

Wade Miley throws a cutter now, and he’s essentially ditched his old slider. The fastball’s down to more of a side-dish as well, at around 20% of his pitches. The cutter’s thrown around 88 with the fastball at 90, and he’s got a curve and change as well. In his very good first full-season in the bigs in 2012, Miley looked like a pitch-to-contact command/control guy with a very low walk rate, but he wasn’t able to hold onto it. Over time, he gave up more fly balls and a lot more walks, and he did so *right* when the ball got juicy, punishing fly ball pitchers without great command/control. Two years ago, I thought he’d be out of baseball by now, but here is again, with a walk rate of 4% and a GB% of nearly 60%. Like I said, it’s very Keuchel-esque. While it’s not peak Keuchel, we can perhaps call it suburban Dallas.

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

The M’s made a couple of roster moves today, adding Shawn Armstrong and RJ Alaniz to the pen. To make room, Matt Festa and Erik Swanson head to Tacoma.

Tacoma dropped the finale of their series against El Paso 6-2, despite two hits each from JP Crawford and Shed Long. Tyler Danish got tagged with the loss, but Ryan Garton was solid in relief. Today, they welcome the Albuquerque Isotopes, with Justus Sheffield facing off against the ‘Topes Evan Grills, a 26-year old Canadian lefty dropped by the Astros org in 2016 and signed by Colorado in 2018.

Arkansas moved to 7-1 by holding on for a 9-8 win over their favorite punching bad, the Tulsa Drillers. The Travs led 8-1 before some seriously shaky relief work made it interesting. Jake Fraley hit his first HR in the org, and Zac Grotz went 4 scoreless for Arkanasas, striking out 6. Like Grills, Grotz was drafted by Houston, but has been in and out of a few more orgs since his release in 2016. Anthony Misiewicz takes the hill today for the Travelers.

Modesto ran into a red hot Brady Feigl and got blanked by Stockton, 5-0. Feigl shut them out over 6 IP with 9Ks, moving his K:BB ratio in two Cal League starts to 17:3, and his ERA down under 1. If you’ve heard of Feigl, it may be because of this bizarre coincidence reported on last year by Levi Weaver and Katherine Acquavella. There are now two pitchers in pro ball with the same, uncommon name of Brady Feigl, and weirder still, they look like twin brothers, even though they’re not related and aren’t the same age. Anyway, M’s prospect Damon Casetta-Stubbs got into his first game action in the high-minors yesterday, giving up 4 unearned runs in 2 1/3, but striking out 3. Not bad for a high school draft pick last year. He’ll probably move to a short-season affiliate when they get going, as he’d only played for the rookie-level Arizona M’s last year after the draft.

West Virginia blanked Augusta at home 4-0 behind what may be Ryne Inman’s best start in the Org. Inman went 6 scoreless, giving up 2 hits, 1 walk against 8 punchouts. Julio Rodriguez went 0-5, but Jarred Kelenic continues to shake off a slow opening week by going 3-4. Elias Espino get the ball tonight for the Power.


6 Responses to “Game 16, Astros at BASEBALL’S DOMINATING, INVICIBLE FORCE”

  1. Sowulo on April 12th, 2019 7:39 pm

    good start…..keep it going!

  2. Sowulo on April 12th, 2019 7:59 pm

    YAY!! D0-MIN-GO!

  3. Stevemotivateir on April 12th, 2019 8:02 pm

    Only made Miley throw 17 in the 2nd.

    Sure, they got two runs, but he’s going to make it to the third now. Four isn’t far fetched.

  4. marc w on April 12th, 2019 9:25 pm

    I’m just glad Miley looked like the guy who pitched for Seattle and not like the guy who came in w/2 solid starts. Very few GBs and tons of hits. Now, c’mon offense, come back and beat these guys.

  5. marc w on April 12th, 2019 10:07 pm

    :taps earpiece:
    I’m getting word that having a bad bullpen does, in fact, matter, at least tonight. More on this story as it develops.

  6. schwingy on April 12th, 2019 11:09 pm

    How hurt is LeBlanc?
    : (

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