Game 51, Padres at Mariners (at Padres) – The Home Stretch

marc w · September 18, 2020 at 4:41 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Chris Paddack, 6:40pm

There are ten games left. The M’s are *effectively* four games out. The on-again, off-again playoff chase seems pretty well locked in the “off” position, but these games are not without their appeal. Today’s pitching match-up is an intriguing one between two pitchers who’ve disappointed for different reasons.

Yusei Kikuchi is, by FIP, a remarkable success story; a guy who made a massive leap from a flop of a debut season, and one of the team leaders in fWAR. By ERA, it’s another frustrating campaign despite a big uptick in velocity and strikeouts. Paddack was a much-heralded rookie last year and rode a funky change-up and pinpoint control to a solid season. He missed bats, didn’t walk anyone, and was able to pitch around some dinger issues by limiting hits on balls in play. Was that *him* limiting hits, though, or just some BABIP fluctuation?

By MLB’s xBA and xWOBACON, stats based on how hard and at what angle batters put Paddack’s pitches in play, he was great -a lowish exit velocity led to a low “expected” batting average. If batters were able to figure him out, they could do damage, as seen from the high HR rate, but lots of Ks and pop-ups or weak contact is a great combination. This year, though, that’s all changed. His xBA is now approaching .300, thanks to nearly half of the contact coming off the bat at over 95 MPH. His HR rate has gone up even higher, which is countering a drop in his already-negligible walk rate.

The culprit here is the fastball, as batters hit .205 with a sub-.400 SLG% on his heater last year. This year? Uh, they’re slugging over *.700.* It’s not any slower. It *is* different, though. It’s getting less vertical movement, the result of a decent-size drop in spin, and a small decline in spin efficiency. He’s also getting fewer first-pitch strikes, which may lead to more fastball counts. Either way, it’s something of a perfect storm. Paddack will need to make some changes, but he can also hope that the pendulum swings back the other way, and that some of his awful fastball results are the inverse of the good luck he had in 2019. I think we can all say 2020 has been an unlucky year.

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

The M’s had to move White down in the line-up. Not that batting order is a huge deal, especially in the bottom half, but he’s hitting .167/.273/.188 slide in his last 55 PAs, and is 1 for his last 23 with 11Ks in his last 7 games. It’s rough out there.

The M’s have reiterated that they were never going to call up Jarred Kelenic or Logan Gilbert this year, opting to stick with their plan to wait until they’re able to see them in game action, meaning some time after some time in the minors next year. I get it, and wouldn’t expect anything else, and I’m thankful to Shannon Drayer for summarizing and embedding the interview (linked above). I just think that it’s completely transparent *why* they never considered bringing them up, and all of the faux reasoning that we insist GMs offer us is a weird ritual. You know, I know, Kelenic and Dipoto know why they’re not bringing them up. I can also understand that chasing this weird 8th playoff spot may not seem like a sufficient reward to mess up their sweet, sweet team control status. But it’s just kind of odd that we have to go through this theater about game action or staying the course or what have you. You know where’s the *only* place that has actual game action right now? Seattle/MLB.


2 Responses to “Game 51, Padres at Mariners (at Padres) – The Home Stretch”

  1. eponymous coward on September 18th, 2020 10:47 pm

    It’s not a shock that once they start playing games against decent teams instead of LOLRangers and LMFAOAngels they don’t exactly look like world-beaters. Just good enough to lose the Kumar Rocker Sweepstakes, not good enough to win against good teams or make the playoffs. Sigh.

    Also, 6 walks, 3 wild pitches for Kikuchi? Ouch.

  2. Stevemotivateir on September 21st, 2020 8:50 am

    Well, the top 2 position prospects that I can think of with comparable AA experience to Kelenic’s are Jo Adell and Joe Bart. They haven’t exactly impressed. Kelenic probably has a better hit tool than both, but there’s an argument that he really should have more minor league experience and the player pool probably shouldn’t count as an equal.

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