Cactus League Game 4, Mariners at Reds

marc w · February 26, 2020 at 11:05 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Justin Dunn vs. Sonny Gray, 12:05pm

After a brutal slugfest versus the Cubs, and then a tidy pitcher’s duel against the Brewers, the M’s head to Goodyear to take on the new-look Reds. The Reds have some new players, but the story of their off-season has been a thorough overhaul of their player development. They brought in former Vanderbilt Pitching Coach Derek Johnson last year, and he seemed to make an immediate difference. The Reds pitching staff ranked #27 in baseball by Fangraphs’ WAR in 2018, but shot up to #9 last year. Not content with that, the Reds bolstered the coaching staff around Johnson by hiring local pitching development guru Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball to work as director of pitching initiatives, and promoting an old Driveline client, Caleb Cotham, to Director of Pitching as well as assistant pitching coach.

Today’s starter, Sonny Gray, was one of the beneficiaries of Johnson’s tutelage last year. After a down year-and-a-half with the Yankees, Gray looked like the pitcher who came up with the A’s years ago, tossing 175+ IP with an ERA of 2.87 and a DRA of 2.98. His FIP wasn’t quite *that* good, but he posted his best strikeout-minus-walk ratio of his career, and actually lowered his HR rate despite moving to a small ballpark in the year of the superball baseball. The velocity and movement on his pitches haven’t really changed. He’s still got a four-seam fastball with lots of cut (hence his high spin rates), no horizontal movement, and not a ton of vertical movement. His best secondary is his curve, with lots of two-plane break. Over the years, he’s mixed in a sinker, and with the Yankees, that essentially became his primary breaking ball. That changed last year…kind of. He throws his sinker a lot to right-handed bats, taking advantage of the pitch’s natural pitch-type platoon splits. But he hardly threw it at all to lefties, giving them a mix of four-seamers, curves, and sliders. Overall, he threw fewer fastballs and more breaking balls, and he threw fewer sinkers in particular. While platoon splits have never really been Gray’s problem, he was able to dramatically reduce hits and HRs overall while maintaining essentially even splits. Now: this may be the result of a drop in BABIP, just as his struggles in NY may have resulted from the opposite problem. But I think there’s more going on here, as shown in that K rate and K-BB%.

Today marks the first of two really intriguing starters for Seattle. Today, Justin Dunn starts, while tomorrow it’s top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert. The Reds, of course, were the team Dunn faced in his…uh, less than stellar MLB debut. He’s had an off-season to put that behind him, and Dunn taking a huge step forward this year would do wonders to accelerate the M’s path to contention. On paper, the M’s rotation looks absolutely dire. Just getting to “below average” would be a real developmental win for the org, and with talent like Dunn, it’s an attainable goal.

1: Fraley, CF
2: Nola, C
3: C. Gonzalez, RF
4: Vogelbach, DH
5: White, 1B
6: Wisdom, 3B
7: Juliooooo Rodriguez, LF
8: Gordon, 2B
9: Haggerty, SS
SP: Dunn


2 Responses to “Cactus League Game 4, Mariners at Reds”

  1. Paul B on February 26th, 2020 11:16 am

    I got rid of directv this year. Regarding MLB app blackouts, is that both home and road? Can you watch the broadcast for the opposing team or is that blocked too?

    With people dumping cable and satellite in droves, MLB needs to change.

  2. Longgeorge1 on February 26th, 2020 9:03 pm

    I am on YouTube TV and MLB blacks out all Mariner games home and road.

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