Game 47, Twins at Mariners

marc w · May 17, 2019 at 5:19 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Martin Perez, 7:10pm

You know, I’m starting to think Erik Swanson may not be the answer right now. After another disastrous start in which he gave up 4 HRs to the admittedly-powerful Twins, Swanson’s ERA is over 8 and his FIP is creeping up near 7. That’s not going to play. I’m not sure if the M’s are going to wait until Wade LeBlanc comes back, which could be quite soon, or swap out his turn in the rotation with either Justus Sheffield (who pitches today, so that’s less likely) or Ricardo Sanchez (who pitched last night, same as Swanson). Swanson’s an interesting arm, but he needs to make adjustments, and may need more AAA seasoning. This is one of the odd cases where the PCL using the same juiced ball as MLB can be helpful; it’d be less useful for his particular struggles if he could get away allowing fly balls in the spacious, somewhat pitcher-friendly confines of Cheney Stadium. With the juiced ball, no matter where he is, he’s going to need to learn to avoid elevated/well-struck contact. Fittingly, he’s been optioned back to Tacoma tonight.

One of the great things about baseball is the way the most unlikely players can make some adjustment and get good. Both BP and Fangraphs had articles this week about Tommy LaStella, the utility guy with the Cubs who’s turned into a power-hitting force with the Angels this year. Justin Turner is a classic example. Jason Vargas had that out-of-nowhere run in the first half of 2017, though he hadn’t been out-and-out bad before then. Brandon McCarthy years ago is another good example, and tonight’s starter Marco Gonzales is trying to turn into another. But for me, there are few such examples more perplexing than what Martin Perez is doing this year.

A prospect darling as a teenager, he made the Rangers in 2012 and had been in Texas ever since, reliably disappointing those who saw him as an uber-prospect. The reasons were pretty simple: he didn’t miss bats and he walked too many. He put a lot of runners on, and in part due to the lack of an outpitch, couldn’t strand them, meaning his ERA was generally worse than his meh FIP. And it wasn’t growing pains, either – not after seven years. Here’s a table of his K% and K%-BB% by year. It’s consistent, and consistently bad:

Year K% K-BB%
2012 14.1 5.7
2013 15.9 8.9
2014 16.9 7.7
2015 14.2 7.1
2016 12.1 3.2
2017 14.2 6.4
2018 13.1 4

So the M’s are gonna win, right? Well, here’s his numbers THIS year:

Year K% K-BB%
2019 24.0 14.6

I don’t get it. Perez signed a one-year, $3.5M deal with Minnesota and started the year in the bullpen. It went poorly, as he gave up 8 runs in 8 1/3 IP, but the Twins faced some injuries, and Perez had tons of starting experience, and…well, he’s pitched 38 IP as a starter, gone 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA and struck out 34 and walked only 9. He walked 9 in his 8 1/3 IP as a reliever! Who is this person, and why is he wearing Martin Perez’s jersey?

There are a couple of ways in which Perez looks different from his Texas days, but I wouldn’t expect either of them – or the combination of them – to be THIS effective. First, he’s throwing harder. He’s been around 95 this year, after several years between 92-94. It’s better, it’s an improvement, but he sucked when he threw 93-94, so going to 94-95 doesn’t seem that transformational. Second, he’s now throwing a cutter, a pitch he’s not used before, as his primary pitch, and sprinking in the sinker and four-seamer that used to be his bread and butter (he’d throw his two fastballs 60% of the time or more with Texas). That sounds like a big deal, but the new cutter is not wholly different from his old slider. It’s slightly faster than the fastest iteration of his slider, but then, so are his fastballs. It’s got a bit of gloveside cut and decent sink compared to his fastball, but that description works for his old slider (or at least one version of it). Whatever happened here, it’s been very effective, as Perez blanked Houston over 8 IP three starts ago, then blanked the Jays in Toronto over 7 IP the next. I have no idea what witchcraft produced this, but I don’t like it. I demand Perez go back to being boringly mediocre, or, failing that, that the M’s force him to divulge his secrets. If this is just small-sample-nothingness, then let the regression begin tonight, and let it begin loudly.

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

The Nick Rumbelow experiment is officially over, as the M’s DFA’d the righty reliever today. With that roster spot, the M’s signed old friend Andrew Moore, who they’d previously traded to Tampa, and who was recently waived by the Giants. In addition, the M’s DFA’d Zac Rosscup, who had persistent difficulties finding the strike zone, but induced a lot of strikeouts when he did. To take their place, the M’s have brought back RP Matt Festa and Ryan Garton. Garton was another reliever who came over in a trade with Tampa, and as I noted when the M’s picked up Rumbelow, Garton’s pitches moved eerily similarly to Rumbelow’s. The M’s were able to keep Garton after DFA’ing him in October of 2017 after a 13-game trial in Seattle. Andrew Moore never got going in the Rays system, and has suffered through an utterly disastrous 2019; the M’s are sending him to AA to see if they can help him find the form he had in 2016-17.

Ljay Newsome is getting bored in the Cal League. The righty went 6 shutout IP last night, yielding 3 H, 1 BB and striking out 9. The Nuts lost it 1-0 to a walk-off HR in the 9th, but maaaan. Newsome needs a new challenge.

The aforementioned Ricardo Sanchez had his third straight rough start in a loss to Tulsa, but he’s a lefty, on the 40-man, and has looked solid at times this year. The winning pitcher in last night’s game was ex-Tacoma Rainier Justin De Fratus, and Tulsa continues the theme tonight, as ex-Rainier Logan Bawcom will make his first start of the year for the Drillers.

Tacoma destroyed Reno 14-5 despite two HRs by the Aces’ Kevin Cron, the brother of Minnesota’s CJ Cron. The Cron boys did a lot of damage against the M’s/their affiliates last night. Thankfully, Cron couldn’t keep up with a Tacoma line-up that bashed 23 hits including 3 HRs. Shed Long and Braden Bishop continue to be as unstoppable at AAA as they were…stoppable in limited MLB action. Justus Sheffield gets the start tonight.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.