Game 77, Mariners at White Sox

marc w · June 25, 2021 at 5:15 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Carlos Rodon, 5:10pm

The resurgent M’s face another tough test as they face the AL Central-leading White Sox in Chicago. After sweeping the Rays at home, can they sustain this momentum in a very different run environment?

Perhaps more pertinent for any discussion of baseball these days…can they sustain quality pitching performances now that umpires are searching pitchers for sticky stuff? Certainly, Yusei Kikuchi’s spin rate was down dramatically in his last start, though that start was extremely successful. Will it continue that he’s in a park that isn’t so helpful to pitchers? Eno Sarris and Britt Ghiroli have a good article at the Athletic trying to measure the impact on runs that the current collective spin rate collapse may have, and they find evidence of a big impact. And Rob Arthur’s work at BP shows just how big of a drop it really is – this is essentially unprecedented.

But I’m still not sure it’s that simple, or that the results are going to be so uniform. Kikuchi’s four-seam fastball’s spin rate plunged over 200 RPMs from his seasonal average in his last start, but all it did to the pitch’s movement is reduced its rise by 1″, while it gained 1″ in horizontal run. That’s…fine. None of this is happening in a vacuum; teams can help pitchers adjust by adding or reducing spin efficiency and understanding how to use a pitch that might move slightly differently. A big drop in four-seam RPM would be a serious problem for an over-the-top high-fastball and low-curve combination pitcher. Or at least, that’s who might need to make the biggest adjustments, and as much of baseball twitter has pointed out, it’s going to be fascinating to see how Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole look the rest of the way. Sinkerballers like Kendall Graveman figure to be nearly unaffected, as they *already* generate their crazy movement without high spin.

Kikuchi, despite his solid fastball and better-than-average fastball, he’s never had a high spin-to-velocity ratio, and he’s always had a remarkably varied spin rate between and even within games. I’m inclined to think this won’t do all that much to him, or at least, any effect will be buried beneath park and weather effects. Rob Arthur’s done some work to disentangle all of that, but I’m not capable of it, so we’ll just have to catch up on this after another handful of Kikuchi starts.

He’ll face Carlos Rodon, one of the AL’s best starters this season, and a potential Cy Young candidate with a no-hitter under his belt and one of the highest fWAR in the junior circuit, despite missing some time. He was revelatory when the M’s saw him in the season’s first week, but has maintained that pace since. His K% is 3rd in baseball, and tops in the AL – at 36.6%, he’s above Gerrit Cole, Shohei Ohtani, Freddy Peralta, and Tyler Glasnow. He’d shown flashes of this kind of bat-missing ability, but frankly, the last time he was pitching like this was his sophomore season at NC State, the kind of year that made him the odds-on favorite to go first overall in the following year’s draft. But as we’ve seen in his pro career, he’s been subject to fluctuations in velo and effectiveness, and the White Sox got him with the third pick. After he started well in MLB, he lost velocity, confidence, and effectiveness, and struggled to stay on the field.

Rodon’s resurgence has been unbelievable. His velocity is back to 96, and he pairs that with his best pitch, his slider, at 86. Batters are slugging .069 off that pitch this year, with just 5 hits against 58 strikeouts. He used to throw a sinker, but it was never all that effective, and he seems to have abandoned it a few years ago. Now, his third pitch is a change that will miss the occasional bat, but isn’t near the quality of his other two offerings.

The M’s continue to make plenty of moves. Over the past week, they’ve brought in corner IF Wyatt Mathisen from the Rays and corner OF Jake Hager from the Brewers (and, earlier in the year, the Mets). Both have shown a high propensity to swing and miss, but Mathisen was great in the PCL for Reno in 2019, and may do well for the Rainiers. Hager struggled for years as a Rays farmhand before breaking out in 2018. Unfortunately, he broke back in again, and was ineffective in 2019. The Mets signed him to a minor league free agent deal, then sent him back to Milwaukee, who’ve sent him to Seattle just to feel the feelings they had passing around Jacob Nottingham again. I guess. To make room, the M’s DFA’d Danny Zamora, and also transferred Evan White to the 60-day IL. Hmmm.

Keynan Middleton is back in Seattle, which is good, as I don’t think he ever should’ve left. What’s done is done, and the M’s are committed to this bizarrely active roster management scheme. He’s been up and down in Seattle, and his raw stats aren’t great, but he was getting very high leverage innings; I wonder what Servais thought of his demotion? In any event, he kind of overwhelmed the AAA-West, and I’m curious to see if he retains that confidence and swing-and-miss stuff he found down in Tacoma.

1: Crawford, SS
2: Haniger, RF
3: France, 1B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Murphy, C
6: Bauers, LF
7: Torrens, DH
8: Moore, 2B
9: Fraley, Cf
SP: Kikuchi

The Cubs threw a combined no-hitter against the Dodgers last night, giving us 7 no-nos thus far in 2021, tying the record for most in a season. It was, I suppose, the first no-hitter after the league’s stickiness crack down.

We’ve all noted super-streaky hitter JP Crawford’s torrid hitting, and how it’s transformed a line that was initially “gross” to “meh” to “that’s legitimately not bad.” Unfortunately, the M’s have another super-streaky hitter hitting right after him. Mitch Haniger is hitting .218/.254/.363 since May 18 – that’s in 130 PAs. He had an .894 OPS going into May 18th, and it’s at .772 now. Worse, his OBP has collapsed from .324 to .294. He’ll bounce back – this is part of the deal with streaky hitters. But despite the super high-highs we’ve seen from him, he’s now hitting .234/.304/.471 (.775 OPS) since the beginning of 2019, and this may kind of be what he is. To be clear: that level of production is quite good; he’s no drag on the offense. A 112 OPS+ is helpful, and it’s a reminder that low averages look worse than they often are. But as we approach the trade deadline and the M’s consider what to do with him, the lack of 130 OPS+/wRC+ figures in recent years may depress his value. I’ve often thought the M’s should try and keep him, but if they’re blown away by an offer, they should take it. I’m less confident they’ll get an offer that forces their hand.

Jarred Kelenic homered twice and Ian McKinney got his first AAA win last night in Albuquerque. McKinney gave up 1 R in 6 IP with 8 H, 1 BB, 5 Ks. The R’s won 7-1. Cal Raleigh continued hitting with 2 hits on the night, leading to this great Mike Curto blog post. He’s demolishing lefties, but the big split takeaway is perhaps not a big surprise: he’s feasting away from spacious Cheney Stadium, with a 1.310 OPS compared to a still-good .842 at home. Darren McCaughan gets the start today.

Arkansas lost to NW Arkansas despite new Traveler Brandon Williamson tossing an immaculate inning – in the first inning of his AA career. He’d previously thrown one this year for Everett. Things went a little rougher after that, as Williamson yielded 7 H and 4 R (1HR) in 5 IP and took the loss. Brian O’Keefe had an RBI double for the Travs. Recent AA-Central pitcher of the week Penn Murfee takes the mound tonight.

Everett blanked Tri-City 4-0 behind Levi Stoudt’s 5 2/3 scoreless with 7 Ks. Dayeison Arias followed him up with 2 1/3 dominant IP with no hits and 6 Ks. Wow. Patrick Frick homered for Everett. Emerson Hancock starts for Everett tonight.

Lake Elsinore and starter Jason Reynolds were too much for Modesto, and won 6-1. Victor Labrada had three hits for the Nuts,


11 Responses to “Game 77, Mariners at White Sox”

  1. Longgeorge1 on June 25th, 2021 6:35 pm

    Despite the difference of opinion with some here. Which I toatally respect. I am 100% for the introduction of the robot ball/strike umpire. Some of the calls have been horrendous.

  2. Longgeorge1 on June 25th, 2021 6:47 pm

    I repeat myself. Getting worse.

  3. Stevemotivateir on June 25th, 2021 7:11 pm

    Haniger is now 1 for his last 21 and currently in an 0-16 stretch.

    Murphy might be the victim of the game, Kikuchi’s been squeezed, and yet Seattle leads 5-1.

    I’m not interested in robots, but if they could figure out a way for the umpires to see the actual zone, I’d be all for it.

  4. Stevemotivateir on June 25th, 2021 7:26 pm

    Pretty solid outing for Kikuchi despite the walks (the legitimate walks).

    I might be alone in this, but I hate Chicago’s uniforms. Not as much as I hate the All Star jerseys, but I still hate them.

  5. Stevemotivateir on June 26th, 2021 1:15 pm

    Nice start for Gilbert today. Hopefully we’ll see more of him soon.

  6. Longgeorge1 on June 26th, 2021 2:31 pm

    Even if the game restarts I doubt we will see Gilbert again

  7. Stevemotivateir on June 27th, 2021 5:39 pm

    What a bizarre day. They fought, they got the series win, but that incident with Santiago could result in a suspension and loss of a roster spot for 10 days if NY determines he was using more than rosin.

    And with that looming, Long got himself yanked for a lack of hustle, Trammell stepped it up on the field and at the plate…and then game two happened.

    Even with the game looking out of reach, Seattle clawed back to make it interesting, and Haniger gave Seattle more reason to not trade him.

  8. heyoka on June 28th, 2021 6:41 am

    ….or more to trade him for.

  9. Stevemotivateir on June 29th, 2021 7:06 am

    I think teams already know what Haniger is. His trade value probably hasn’t changed much, if at all.

    But Seattle hasn’t seen much consistency from their young hitters. That’s part of the process, of course, but there’s a plenty of work to do as things are. Moving their one, solid veteran bat would make their offseason shopping more complicated.

    If there was any doubt, maybe Jerry has a clear(er) picture now?

  10. Sowulo on June 30th, 2021 5:42 pm

    Someone tell those Youtube guys to shut the f**k up already!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. heyoka on July 3rd, 2021 5:08 am

    Can’t discount the Fraley Factor

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