Cactus League Sunday: Brewers at Mariners

marc w · March 14, 2021 at 12:14 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Adrian Houser, 1:10pm

As most of the country sprang forward last night, Arizona remains unmoved. Thus, the game times now shift an hour, so the games will start just after 1 now, not just after 12.

Like a lot of us, Yusei Kikuchi and Adrian Houser had rough years in 2020. Houser was coming off a breakout year in 2019 in which he joined the Brewers’ rotation and pitched over 110 innings with an ERA and FIP under 4. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he missed enough bats to be an effective middle of the rotation guy. In 2020, he had remarkably similar results in terms of how hard batters hit the ball off of him, but the results were night and day different. He tossed 56 replacemnt-level innings with an ERA well above 5, as his K% and BB% both regressed, and his hit rate skyrocketed.

Kikuchi rebounded after a dismal 2019 by ramping up his fastball velocity, debuting a completely new (and revelatory) cutter, and cutting his awful HR/9 mark from 2.0 to *0.57*. Surely, those numbers presaged a brilliant, if short, season? Well, no, 2020 gonna 2020. Despite all the great peripherals, Kikuchi still struggled. He was pretty much unable to strand any runners, and thus, despite a gorgeous FIP, he 27 runs in 47 innings. Both of today’s starters have something to prove this year, and both are looking to avoid another year of horrific luck.

For both hurlers, there are a set of statistics that go beyond surface-level results that give you a very different view of their season. And both sets were developed largely because they correlate with future results much better than those actual/noisy results. But at the player level, those correlations don’t mean much. Luck only evens out across the league, where someone’s bad luck pretty much has to mean someone else got a dollop of good luck. Players may be glad to hear they didn’t “deserve” their results, but it’s got to be frustrating when results go the opposite way of your own perceptions of how you performed.

Despite the dawn of some truly awesome statcast-based stats, it’s not clear that we’re any closer to “solving” this problem. Sure, statcast allows us to focus on pitching at a ridiculously granular level, but it’s not clear that this granularity comes with vastly improved predictive power.

1: Haniger, DH
2: Moore, SS
3: France, 2B
4: Lewis, CF
5: Murphy, C
6: Trammell, LF
7: White, 1B
8: Haggerty, RF
9: Reinheimer, 3B
SP: Kikuchi

Interesting to see Dylan Moore get a game at SS. Taylor Trammell’s hold on the LF job seems even more secure now that Jake Fraley’s being held out due to a minor injury from last night’s game. The news on Roenis Elias sounds ominous, but at least Jarred Kelenic is taking BP on a back field and sounding like he’s nearing his return to game action.


2 Responses to “Cactus League Sunday: Brewers at Mariners”

  1. eponymous coward on March 16th, 2021 8:32 am

    I’ll be pretty happy if by year’s end we’re looking at an OF/DH rotation of Haniger/Lewis/Trammell/Kelenic with Julioooooo coming on strong (though you’d think that Trader Jerry would probably try and flip Haniger for something if the M’s were dead in the water and he was performing OK).

  2. eponymous coward on March 16th, 2021 8:58 am

    All told, though, the team seems to be about where I thought it would… questionable offense and bullpen, OK-ish starting pitching and solid defense.

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