Game 60, Angels at Mariners

marc w · May 31, 2019 at 4:52 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Tyler Skaggs, 7:10pm

It’s a gorgeous Friday in the Northwest, it’s light out until quite late. It’s the perfect night for a ball game, but Tacoma’s out of town, and if I’m honest, I’d go to Safeco because it’s an awesome – if pricey – bar. Watching vets like Leake who’ve (fairly) chafed at being part of this step back get rocked isn’t entertaining, and while Shed Long and Seattle’s big boy, Dan Vogelbach, is still drawing walks, he’s in a tailspin, too. I’ll go to Safeco, I’m not swearing anything off. I’ve been with them through worse than this. But I think it’s fair to acknowledge that watching this rotation right now has the feel of watching the 2010 M’s attempt to hit.

Yesterday, the M’s most talented hurler, Yusei Kikuchi, got battered by a so-so Angels line-up missing Andrelton Simmons. In 3 1/3, he gave up 10 hits and struck out nobody. For this team, he throws quite fast at 93.5 MPH, but despite a deceptive delivery, hitters are teeing off on his fastball. The Angels knocked two HRs off the pitch, bringing his season total to eight, and giving him a .308 BA-against on heaters, with a .567 SLG%. There’s no reason for that. Unlike some other starters, Kikuchi has stuff, and while his FB doesn’t have impressive movement, the angle, deception, and speed of it are MLB-quality.

Mike Leake has the 2nd-slowest sinker in the league (among those who’ve thrown at least 200 of them), and it’s trending downward. Batters have an average of…I keep checking this to make sure I’m not seeing things… .490 off of Leake’s primary fastball this year. They are slugging 1.078 against the pitch. His usage of it is also trending downward, as you’d expect, but Leake’s a sinkerball guy. That’s been his bread and butter since college, and while his slider’s good, he’s got to get to it. It’s easy to say that 88 MPH is useless in this day and age, but the ONE guy with a slower sinker is Kyle Hendricks, who’s having a fine year, his sixth in a row. You *can* pitch with low velo; it’s hard, and you need great command and a deep arsenal, but at least on paper, Leake seems to check the boxes. But watch him pitch right now, and you wonder how long the M’s can keep sending him to the wolves.

The M’s say all the right things about using data to help pitchers maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. I think they’re trying to do those things. But something’s clearly, clearly gone awry here. Everyone’s velocity seems to be down, and their average fastball’s among the least effective (both four-seam and sinker) in the game. I get why the M’s may want to focus on low-spin pitcher or not chase highlight-reel velocity. I get why, aside from Kikuchi, they wanted to stick with in-house options in a step-back year. But you still have an obligation to help them succeed, and at the moment, there’s very little evidence of that happening. The odds of them getting much for Leake are essentially nil, and with Gonzales scuffling (and with his own velo drop to puzzle over), even the M’s titular ace might not return enough to make them M’s consider it.

Things are never quite as dark as they seem in the midst of a long losing streak, but it’s becoming more and more clear that the entire coaching re-think on the pitching side has not produced the desired results. That could change, but unless it does, and does soon, it sets a troubling trend. The M’s know what they want to do, and don’t know how to do it, or who can help them do it.

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

18 year old Robert Perez continues his hot start as an emergency fill-in for Tacoma. Just promoted from the DSL to make his stateside debut, he had 3 more hits in Tacoma’s double header sweep last night. It’s just 25 PAs, but his line is now .364/.440/.545.


5 Responses to “Game 60, Angels at Mariners”

  1. Stevemotivateir on May 31st, 2019 7:06 pm

    Where’s Safeco?

  2. MKT on May 31st, 2019 8:40 pm

    “Where’s Safeco?”

    This is a good example of why I categorically refuse to use or even learn the corporate names that are attached to most ballparks these days.

    The Kingdome was always the Kingdome. If Safeco had wanted to call it the Safeco Kingdome that would’ve been fine, we could still call it the Kingdome.

    But T-Mobile Park or whatever crap corporate name they’ve changed the ballpark name to? Nope. And then they’ll have to change the name again if a new sponsor comes along, or the corporation merges with another, or the corporation turns out to be a bunch of crooks (Enron Field anybody?) I call it the Mariners’ ballpark or the Seattle ballpark.

  3. LongDistance on June 1st, 2019 1:13 pm

    I never thought that the name Safeco would evoke any sort of nostalgia.

  4. mrakbaseball on June 2nd, 2019 2:16 pm

    You cringe every time you’re reminded about Dipoto talking about building around players like Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzales. I believe he was sincere too.

  5. heyoka on June 3rd, 2019 6:08 am

    I understand the M’s pitch-to-hr-contact strategy.

    The idea is to wear out the opponent – hitting all those dingers will drain their energy and give the M’s a chance to take advantage.

    Very cutting edge.

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