Game 116, Padres at Mariners

marc w · August 7, 2019 at 12:29 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Joey Lucchesi, 3:40pm

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to write about lefty Joey Lucchesi, then 3/4 through his rookie season for the Friars. He started very well, but faded as platoon splits started to catch up with him. In the end, he gave up 22 HRs on the year, and *21* of them were against righties. As I wrote, his signature pitch, a funky “change-up” didn’t really work against righties because it wasn’t a change-up at all: it was just a regular slider gussied up with a new name. But the name didn’t make it harder to hit: while righties generally struggle a bit against a change from a lefty, they would be expected to fare well against a slider from a lefty. So, odd start aside, things looked pretty normal – righties do well, lefties not so much, and with 90-91 MPH velo, Lucchesi had 5th starter written all over him.

So, how’s it going a year on? He’s, uh, got reverse platoon splits. No, no, this probably isn’t his true talent splits, but the whole narrative that righties had him booked looks a bit incomplete. Righties whiff on over 40% of their swings against Lucchesi’s…uh..breaking pitch. They still do okay against his sinker, but even there, it’s remarkable to allow a .422 SLG% against it to opposite-handed hitters in the year of the home run. Joey Lucchesi figured some things out.

He’s still got a deceptive delivery, and a bit more run than perhaps batters would expect given his arm angle. But there’s nothing crazy here, except of course the label he attaches to his “change-up.” It just seems to work. Again, and I apologize for harping on this so much, this should be Yusei Kikuchi’s *floor*. Kikuchi’s got a deceptive delivery too and hides the ball well behind his torso. He has significantly more velocity than Lucchesi, and has a harder breaking ball. Neither one spins their breaking ball all that well; Kikuchi’s slider spins more than Lucchesi’s, but Lucchesi’s is slower, so for velo-adjusted spin, they’re quite close, with Lucchesi ahead a bit. But the point is: there’s nothing Lucchesi has that separates him clearly from Kikuchi. If anything, Kikuchi is clearly the superior talent. But look at results, and you get a very different picture.

The M’s believe they’ve found something with Kikuchi, and I hope they’re right. I still suspect that he may be tipping his pitches, as there’s absolutely no way a pitcher should be getting demolished on breaking balls the way Kikuchi has been. For Kikuchi’s sake, I hope today’s the start of a new, more deceptive, more effective run that’ll continue throughout the year and into 2020.

1: Smith, RF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Santana, DH
4: Vogelbach, 1B
5: Murphy, C
6: Seager, 3B
7: Nola, 2B
8: Lopes, LF
9: Broxton, CF
SP: Kikuchi

The M’s lost RP David McKay to Detroit on waivers. Kind of an interesting move to waive him, and it forfeits one of the better development stories the M’s had. McKay was acquired from Kansas City for a dollar, and shot through the system until stumbling a bit in AAA and then MLB this year. Oh well; his control issues and extreme fly-ball nature don’t mix well with the current game, but he missed bats.

Ryon Healy underwent surgery on his right hip yesterday, ending his season officially (it’d been pretty clear before that, though). Hope he recovers and is able to play, though spinal stenosis is no joke.

The M’s have plenty of open slots on the 40-man, which should indicate that they’re gearing up to add players who are not currently on it come September. Justin Dunn will hopefully be one of them, but we should see Jake Fraley assuming he heals from a quad injury.

Tacoma’s heading to Oklahoma City to face the Dodgers new uber-prospect, SS Gavin Lux, who’s annihilating PCL pitching as Mike Curto details. Nabil Crismatt will get the unenviable task of trying to slow him down.

Justus Sheffield was on again as Arkansas easily beat NW Arkansas 6-1. Sheff went 6 scoreless with 6 Ks and *no walks*. Kyle Lewis doubled. Today, Ljay Newsome starts for the Travs, trying to extend a run of solid starts to begin his high-minors career. Of note though, the strikeout stuff that got him promoted hasn’t quite made it to Arkansas – he’s got just 6 Ks in over 15 innings in AA after racking up 124 in 100+ IP for Modesto.

Speaking of Modesto, they lost to Inland Empire 6-2 as Clay Chandler continues to struggle to adjust to the offense-friendly Cal League. The two teams will face each other again tonight.

West Virginia lost to Rome, 8-6 despite Onil Pena’s 15th HR. West Virginia’s got today off.

Everett was off for the Short-Season All Star Game pitting the Northwest League against the Pioneer League. Despite the NWL being a higher classification, the Pioneer League won 11-7. Everett’s Patrick Frick went 2-5 with a double, but Damon Casetta-Stubbs took the loss after giving up 5 runs in his one inning of work.


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