Game 13, Angels at Mariners

marc w · August 5, 2020 at 5:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Julio Teheran, 6:40pm

The M’s made things moderately interesting, but they couldn’t overcome a poor first inning by Justin Dunn in yesterday’s 5-3 loss. The young righty gave up 2 HRs and used a ton of pitches early when he simply could not find the plate. To his credit, he bounced back, getting through 4 IP without yielding any more damage. On the other hand, Dunn now has walked 16 in 13 1/3 innings, with 3 HRs given up. I’m just not sure how high the ceiling is here, sitting at 91-92 with a fastball no one swings at. He could be one small tweak away from being a consistent strike thrower, but he’s got to show that he can succeed in the zone.

Erik Swanson gave up what turned out to be some pretty important insurance runs for Anaheim on a 2R HR by David Fletcher. That came a few batters after Jason Castro’s long drive to CF was brought back over the wall by Kyle Lewis; it would appear Swanson’s long-ball issues are back. That’s too bad, because I was very impressed by Swanson’s first inning of 2020. He’s showing improved velocity this year, and he *Could* have a swing-and-miss breaking ball, but he’s just been very hittable in his short time with the M’s.

I talked a lot about what makes a fastball hittable or not in yesterday’s post, and while Andrew Heaney pitched pretty well against Seattle, it wasn’t necessarily because of his odd sinker. Worse, Shane Bieber gave up two HRs on his fastball, so my timing was off (though Bieber is still the odds-on Cy Young favorite at this writing). But baseball, like life, comes at you fast: today, the M’s face another opponent with a somewhat weird fastball. Julio Teheran has settled in as a rotation workhorse, making over 30 starts the past seven seasons. Only the great viral mess of 2020 could break that streak; not even his own bout of Covid-19 seems to have slowed him down. He’ll make his season debut tonight, but he’s a known commodity.

Teheran had swing-and-miss stuff as a top prospect out of Colombia, but as baseball’s K rates have skyrocketed, he’s now got less-than-average rates of his own. Worse, the former control guy now routinely posts high walk rates. Some of this may have been an attempt to deal with rising HR rates, another league-wide issue that has forced pitchers to make adjustments. Teheran still gives up plenty of dingers, not surprising given that his fastball (two of them, actually – a four-seam and a sinker that he’ll mix in occasionally) have dropped in velo to the point he averaged just under 90 last year. So how’s he still around? His fastball beats DIPS.

DIPS is the incredibly useful shorthand that pitchers don’t really control their batting average on balls in play. It was never a hard and fast rule, even if it was often described that way. Knuckle-ballers and some soft-tossing lefties (Jamie Moyer being a great example) seemed to be able to run lower-than-average BABIPs year in and year out, but a normal righty FB/SL/CU guy should settle in around league average if he pitches long enough. Well, that finding never made it to Colombia. Teheran has routinely run BABIPs 20-30 points lower than league average. In over 1,350 innings, his career mark is .268. In the last four seasons, it’s .258, 2nd best in the majors behind Justin Verlander’s .254. But Verlander’s got that high-velo, high-spin fastball that *should* produce lower batting averages. Teheran’s got…what, a 90-MPH sinking four-seam and running sinker. They look completely normal. Up until 2018-19, his spin rates were low.

Despite that long-running success, Teheran has made some adjustments. He’s started using his sinker more to righties, instead of lefties. He’s had long-standing platoon splits, so that was a move he probably should’ve made earlier, but whatever. He’s dropped his already-low release point, and he’s suddenly boosted his fastball spin rates significantly. Is he doing something weird? No, I think he’s just cutting the ball. The additional side-spin adds more total spin than he loses in reduced backspin, so the overall rate goes up. Is it “better?” I dunno. It certainly has less vertical movement, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s interesting is that it still seems to befuddle batters, righties in particular. In his long career, batters are hitting .236 with a .405 SLG% off of Teheran’s low-90s/high-80s nothing-special fastballs. Righties are at .206/.343. Sure, lefties fare a bit better, but even they have a BABIP in the .270s. It’s pretty remarkable, and it’s meant that his ERA consistently – every single full year in the big leagues – comes in lower than his FIP.

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

It’s early, so it’s fun to look at small-sample lines (unless you’re looking at Mallex Smith’s, in which case, don’t), but the best batting line on the M’s belongs to…Dylan Moore, who homered and hit the ball really hard quite often last night. Strikeouts killed his average last year, which seems like the kind of thing that’ll happen a lot to the 2020 M’s, but it’s lower this year, and he’s playing well. His exit velo’s the top on the team for anyone with more than a couple of balls in play (yes, above Kyle Lewis), and he stands out as so many M’s have seen their exit velo crater. Dee Gordon and Mallex Smith are down below 80 MPH, and look like they’d rather be anywhere than in the line-up.


7 Responses to “Game 13, Angels at Mariners”

  1. Stevemotivateir on August 5th, 2020 7:38 pm

    Crawford has been impressing.

  2. Stevemotivateir on August 5th, 2020 7:39 pm

    Seager has been impressing.

  3. Stevemotivateir on August 5th, 2020 7:39 pm


  4. Westside guy on August 5th, 2020 9:20 pm

    Wow, I come in with the Mariners up 7-3.

    … but Trout is at the plate with two baserunners…

  5. Westside guy on August 5th, 2020 9:22 pm

    Whelp, thanks Mr. Umpire for giving Trout a free extra swing.

    Still 7-6 Mariners.

  6. Westside guy on August 5th, 2020 9:50 pm

    These fake crowd noises with the unmoving people is kind of creepy.

    I may have said that before.

    Anyway… MARINERS WIN!!!

  7. Stevemotivateir on August 6th, 2020 7:03 am

    Good to see White snap his unpleasant streak last night, but man does he miss some good hitable pitches.

    I doubt they send him to the pool anytime soon, but they probably should.

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