Game 38, Rangers at Mariners – Back to the Grind

marc w · September 4, 2020 at 5:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Kyle Cody, 6:10pm

The M’s series with the A’s was postponed due to a player contracting Covid-19, but will be made up with a series of double-headers soon. This is a common site now across baseball, as today’s action features what, 5 7-inning twin bills?

The M’s salvaging a split in that series in Anaheim was well-timed. Not only did they not fall behind the Angels in the standings, but it gave the pitching staff some confidence coming into this series against the lackluster Rangers. He’s someone I’ve criticized on the blog before, or at least questioned his ceiling, but Marco Gonzales has suddenly become quite good. He stopped the slide in his K%, BB% (and, uh, K/BB ratio) and has a microscopic walk rate along with the best K% he’s ever posted. He’s inducing weaker contact and thanks to that great control, the balls in play he’s allowing have predominantly come after he’s ahead in the count. This isn’t flukey BABIP luck, it’s the product of an aggressive approach, and it’s paying off.

Yusei Kikuchi remains an enigma, however. He’s allowed batters a sub-.700 OPS on the year, and thanks to a single HR-allowed, has a sparkling FIP, but his ERA remains stubbornly above 6. I’ve mentioned it a lot, but he’s really struggled with men on base, which is pretty much the only way you could turn his overall batting-against numbers into a high ERA. It’s weird – he’s corrected nearly all of the things that plagued him last year, most especially his HR problems. He’s striking out more thanks to an uptick in velocity and his new hard cutter. Walks are higher, but trading walks for dingers seems like a deal worth making. The trouble-from-the-stretch thing wasn’t really a problem last year, so I don’t *think* it’s just a case of him losing velo or effectiveness without the windup, and in any event that windup and his mechanics are pretty different from last year.

Kikuchi’s been much, much better at home this year, with a better K:BB ratio, no HRs-allowed, and all the rest. He is, of course 0-2 at home. And while he’s been knocked around on the road, he’s 1-0. Object lesson in the irrelevance of pitcher wins #4,502,341.

So, today’s opponent is Kyle Cody, a rookie righty out of the University of Kentucky (where he was a teammate of Evan White). Cody was drafted in 2016, and made it to high-A the next year before going down with TJ surgery. He missed nearly all of 2018 and missed all-all of 2019, before popping back this year at the Alternate Training Site, and now making a couple of appearances for Texas. It’s happened a lot this year, but Cody’s another player who never appeared at AA or AAA, and has now made the majors. He’s still getting stretched out and has only made 1-1+IP stints, so this is probably an “opener” situation; he’s not going to work too deep tonight.

Cody throws a mid-high-90s fastball (averaging 96), and a blizzard of sliders. He’s got a sinker and change, but essentially, he’s in there to be the 2020 version of the way the M’s used Matt Wisler last year (Wisler’s having a phenomenal year for Minnesota, by the way). That slider is a fascinating pitch, with *tons* more drop than the average slider; it functions much like a curve, with much more vertical drop than sweeping action (like Wisler’s). Batters haven’t really figured it out, though of course, he really hasn’t pitched to many thus far.

After getting beat badly by the M’s two Kyles, you can’t really blame the Rangers for calling up one of their own. We’ll see how effective this pretender is when facing the M’s Kyles tonight.

1: Crawford, SS
2: Moore, 2B
3: Lewis, CF
4: Seager, 3B
5: France, DH
6: Marmolejos, LF
7: White, 1B
8: Torrens, C
9: Haggerty, RF
SP: Kikuchi

The M’s have been busy on the transaction wire. Their big trade with the Padres supplied tonight’s DH and C, and then the M’s traded nominal closer Taylor Williams for a PTBNL (supposedly Matt Brash, a pitcher). Because a few of the prospects the M’s got from San Diego aren’t on the roster, they’ve claimed P Walker Lockett off of waivers from the Mets, and OF Phillip Ervin off of waivers from the Reds. Ervin was a former 1st round pick who moved slowly up the Reds system thanks to excellent walk rates, but struggled with a low average and mediocre power (not a great combo in an OF). He was pretty solid in 2019 in his longest big league stint (260 PAs), but looked utterly lost this year, going 3-42 with no extra-base hits.

Lockett is another ex-Padres prospect (like Wisler!) who had a cup of coffee with San Diego before moving to the Mets. He’s been a frustratingly mediocre pitcher, without a real out-pitch, and who’s given up 11 HRs in his 45+ big league innings. Lockett’s four-seam (?) fastball is a weird one, with super low rise. It looks like a sinker, and seemed to function like one in the minors, where he’d put up above-average GB rates. That hasn’t happened in the big leagues (I refer you again to the HRs-allowed) where he’s been, if anything, a real fly ball guy. That’s not working, and I wonder if the M’s will try to get him on the Justus Sheffield program of turning a freakishly sinking four-seamer into a delightfully sinking sinker. MLB thinks it IS one, while Brooks still calls it a four-seamer. We’ll see if we can figure out what to call it once he appears with the M’s.

Ervin and possibly Lockett are out of options, and thus are with the big club. Tim Lopes, Joe Hudson and Braden Bishop have been optioned back to Tacoma, while Zac Grotz was outrighted there. With Dylan Moore back from the IL and Ty France in the fold, Shed Long will apparently struggle for playing time. The M’s may move him around the OF and he may get DH opportunities here and there. Sounds like he won’t really have much of a chance to hit his way out of his 2020 slump.


One Response to “Game 38, Rangers at Mariners – Back to the Grind”

  1. marinerbullpen on September 4th, 2020 9:55 pm

    Nice to see France contribute in his first AB.

    I LOVE this trade. On Record.

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