Game 78, Royals at Mariners

marc w · June 19, 2019 at 3:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Brad Keller, 3:40pm

Getaway day on a blustery, sunny day in the northwest, and the Royals are going for a sweep. I know I’ve been pessimistic and gloomy recently, and I’d kind of like to change that, but yesterday’s game was one of the more hopeless, most perfunctory losses I can remember. This wasn’t coming up short in a competition, this was a denied insurance claim – a loss to someone who didn’t know a competition was going on. Homer Bailey was once a great prospect, and is probably better than the 5+ ERA he brought into T-Mobile park, but my goodness, the offense looked utterly hopeless, and once again, Yusei Kikuchi seemed frustrated by his own ineffectiveness.

I’ve talked so much about his fastball results, but it’s worth noting the Royals didn’t really pick on his fastball. Jorge Soler hit a slow curve out to right center, and it looked like Whit Merrifield picked on an inside slider. There are a number of ways to be ineffective, of course, but I do wonder how much of his poor fastball results can be tied to pitch recognition. That is, is his fastball “bad” because hitters somehow know it’s a fastball really early? That can be the result of tipping pitches, but it can be different-but-related things, too, like falling into predictable sequencing. I still maintain there’s a good pitcher somewhere inside Kikuchi, and this staff’s inability to find and nurture that pitcher is a pretty telling failure. It’s magnified by the ineffectiveness of the entire bullpen, but Kikuchi feels worse because he’s pretty clearly the most talented pitcher the M’s have. If this is what you wring out of talented hurlers, then a plan to repurpose all of the M’s upcoming “financial flexibility” into free agent starters may not produce as much as it should. Fix your pitching instruction, M’s!

Today, the M’s face groundball maven and ex-Rule 5 guy Brad Keller, who turned in an out-of-nowhere excellent season last year after being plucked from Arizona’s system. His K rate’s never been that good, and it’s worse this season. To make matters worse, his barely-adequate control (For someone who doesn’t get many Ks) has deteriorated this year. The only thing that’s keeping him effective (and he’s been effective this year) is the fact that he avoids the long ball. He has two fastballs, both around 93, 94 MPH. He’s got a sinker (duh) that has a bit of armside movement and decent-ish sink, but it’s actually not his primary heater. He’s also got a four-seamer that’s arrow-straight, with a bit less-than-average rise. It doesn’t look like a pure fly-ball pitch, but it also doesn’t look like a ground ball machine. It gets above-average grounders, but it gives hitters a different look, with different movement in the horizontal and vertical axes. It’s an interesting pitch, all the more so because it looks *so much* like Kikuchi’s. Keller averages just less than 1″ of horizontal movement on his four-seam, and 8″ of vertical rise. Kikuchi is at 2.7″ and 8.9″, respectively. Keller averages 93.8 with his, Kikuchi’s at 93.4. In his career, batters are slugging .387 off of his four-seamer, whereas batters are slugging .604 off of Kikuchi in the early going. Both have good sliders, and both have change-ups that are rarely-used and not much to write home about. Kikuchi even has that solid slow curve, which Keller doesn’t throw. I…I don’t know. I’d love to know why a rando Rule 5 guy can make nearly the same basic pitches “work” and Kikuchi can’t. I don’t believe Kikuchi can’t, so I can’t understand why his results have been so much worse.

1: Smith, CF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Santana, RF
4: Vogelbach, 1B
5: Narvaez, DH
6: Seager, 3B
7: Murphy, C
8: Gordon, 2B
9: Moore, LF
SP: Gonzales

Tacoma beat Round Rock 3-1 behind a strong start from Sean Nolin and HRs from Shed Long and Robert Perez (who hit an inside-the-parker). They’re off today.
Arkansas beat Corpus Christi 6-3 behind a HR from Donnie Walton, and a 2B from new Traveler Mike Ahmed (brother of Nick Ahmed), and solid relief pitching. Justus Sheffield turned in 5 very good IP, giving up 1 earned, striking out 7, and only walking 2. The two teams are back at it today.
Boise beat Everett 7-2, with the Hawks jumping on AquaSox reliever Matt Martin to score all 7 runs. Starter Kelvin Nunez scattered 6 hits in 5 scoreless, striking out 2. DeAires Moses tripled, the only XBH out of Everett’s 3 total base knocks. Everett faces Boise again tonight, with opening day starter Juan Mercedes on the hill.
The AZL Mariners moved to 2-0 on their season by beating the Brewers 9-4. Rehabbing 3B Connor Hoover doubled and homered. RP Luis Curvelo pitched 3 scoreless with 4 Ks. The team faces the Dodgers AZL affiliate today.


2 Responses to “Game 78, Royals at Mariners”

  1. Celadus on June 20th, 2019 11:13 am

    I’ve also noticed that in some at bats a hitter will be prepared for and hit a pitch from Kikuchi that looks perfectly placed and with adequate to excellent movement.

    Enough examples that I’d guess sequencing over tipping pitches. My sense of tipping pitches is that the pitcher betrays what pitch he’s going to throw, but not necessarily the location, whereas predictable sequencing can betray both pitch and location.

  2. LongDistance on June 21st, 2019 7:45 am

    Just a random observation: they’ve been playing .500 ball for the past two weeks. It’s almost like we’ve seen three different teams come out this year. The Astonishingly Great, The Somewhat Expected But Not To This Point Ugly, and the Perfectly Mediocre. Although, in what passes for baseball gravity in Seattle, .500 doesn’t represent mediocre, but something actually positive. So this latest personification seems (IMO) “games over” Seattle Mediocre.

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