Game 150, White Sox at Mariners

marc w · September 15, 2019 at 12:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Justus Sheffield vs. Ivan Nova, 1:10pm

Everything just feels better after a dominant Felix performance and a walk-off HR (?) win. The Seahawks seem to move better, the September call-ups have more potential – even the rain seems fresher and more nourishing than normal rain. This is what Felix does to us, and, sure, what pro sports does to otherwise normal brains. I’m still sad it’s ending the way it is, but if I had to answer the question, “What do YOU, the fan, get out of investing time/energy/money in the hedge fund investors world of pro sports?” I would point them to Felix’s career in Seattle. In every way, this would seem to be a disastrous 15 years, and from the raw wins/losses/championships point of view, it probably was. But Felix transcends all of that; through him, all of that churn, all of that effort, had a beautiful kind of reasoning. This doesn’t really make sense, I know, and maybe it’s a fools errand to try to wring meaning out of a story that could more easily be written as a tragedy, but Felix puts a smile on your face, so whatever.

Today, Justus Sheffield tries to continue a solid little run. He’s still too hittable, and the command isn’t great, but he’s finding a way to compete and win at the big league level at a very young age, and there’s nothing wrong with that. He had good success with his fastball against Cincinnati, but it’s still concerning he’s been unable to get swings-and-misses with it, even as he crests 95 MPH on the pitch. That helped balance some slight struggles with the slider, which remains his best pitch by far. We’ll see how he uses it today against a free-swinging team; this should be a good match-up for him.

On the hill for Chicago is veteran sinkerballer Ivan Nova, who came up with the Yankees and tossed a very good 2011 season – a fact I’d forgotten, as I was caught up at the time in lamenting the suddenly clear fact that Dustin Ackley would not be saving the Seattle Mariners. After injury troubles and occasional HR issues, he was remade in Pittsburgh under the sinker-whisperer, Ray Searage. The Sox signed him, figuring their own 2010-era Guru pitching coach could help, but he’s regressed across the board. He still throws his sinker a ton, but it’s much less successful now that batters can elevate it and the ball is made of flubber. He’s given up a lot of HRs, which is one reason DRA isn’t a fan (and hated him even during his Pittsburgh run). His FIP’s over 5, so it’s not just BP’s metric that’s down on him. Of course, he’s run an ERA under that FIP for years now, though with 9 unearned runs, that may be due more to the official scorer than any contact-limiting prowess. Still, as with so many pitchers in this HR-addled era, it’s tough to get a purchase on just how valuable it is to give up more than 5 runs per 9. Park factors matter a lot, particularly in parks like Chicago’s, which are so HR-friendly. By BBREF’s RA/9-based WAR, he’s easily above average. Even with that ugly FIP, Fangraphs thinks he’s within shouting distance of a league-average season for a starting pitcher. That leaves Baseball Prospectus on its own, pointing at all of the HRs, the 204 hits in less than 173 innings, the K% under 14% and screaming that Nova’s a sub-replacement-level scrub. They gave him an astonishing -3.1 WARP on the year; for all of you who think DRA is irrationally fixated on Marco Gonzales, take heart: it hates Nova much, much more.

1: Long, 2B
2: Nola, 1B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Lewis, RF
5: Vogelbach, DH
6: Murphy, C
7: Moore, LF
8: Walton, SS
9: Smith, CF
SP: Sheffield


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