Sizzlers - Top Half 5.19.18
Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid dept.

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JAMES PAXTON

IceX threw out the question, 

Zeus’ amazing games are when he can punch out batters at will. Was today his standard game?

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"Amazing games."  Honestly, if Paxton is working briskly, executing both his fastball (ANYwhere in the zone) and one of his offspeed pitches (LOW in the zone)?  Then what you are seeing is a game-within-the-game as to whether he can get to 2 strikes.

With 2 strikes and Paxton executing, the batters will talk about fear ---> not of being retired, but of being humiliated.

So the battle is to get ahead 0-1, 0-2 or 1-2 or even 2-2.  He fires the 96-98 fastball anywhere, or the 92-94 fastball in a decent spot, and you see all these fouls back over the dugout or outright whiffs, and bang, the garbage strikeout looms quickly.

....

Going into the game, Paxton was #8 in the league for WAR at 1.4 and #3 in the league for strikeout ratio at 11.91 batters per game.  Dr. DL was a little surprised at Servais/Dipoto's decision to let him go out for the 9th to throw 117 pitches simply because it's May and a long season looms ahead.  But, of course, he was cruising, pitching his best baseball of the whole night, and we'll see how sharp he is next game out.

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MARCO GONZALEZ

#8 in the American League for xFIP (the expected ERA if you removed luck and defense, including flyball/home run "luck").  We had an earlier friendly squabble over Gonzales on Slack Chat, but Dr. DL continues to love the way he's throwing the baseball.

Malcontent noted on Slack tonight that the M's (incredibly) are running the #4 pitching staff in baseball over the last 30 days.  In Dr. DL's mind that is because Gonzales has provided a #2 Top of the Rotation (TOR) starter behind Paxton.

He's got an 8.4/1.7 CTL ratio on the season with a zero-plus homer ratio.  It's been based on "clamshell" control of his fastball and a surprising weapon in the curve, when it was supposed to have been his changeup as the go-to pitch.  So you add in the cut fastball to keep hitters honest, you have a Mike Marshall type 33-33-33 pitch mix, and in Dr. DL's mind there is really nothing surprising about his component stats.

Remember the Brad Radke (Doug Fister) rule?  When you've got a soft-tosser with a 1+ ERA and the strikeouts are over 5.6, grab him quick in your roto league.  Well, 5.6 was in Radke's day.  Probably now the demarcation line would be what, 6.6 whuffs?  But it certainly ain't 8.4.

Prediction here is that the Quality Starts and the ERA will follow shortly, and the Think Tank's consensus will merge on this fine young pitcher.

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WADE LEBLANC

James Paxton was asked in the postgame, what's going on here.  He said, "Wade is crafty.  He's got 4 pitches, he can do a lot of things."  That'll do for us too.

He's throwing lights-out by his own standards (pitchers get hot and cold just like Steph Curry gets hot and cold).  That adds up to 3 straight excellent "crafty lefthander" short starts with an 86 MPH fastball.  That buys Dipoto some time to decide between Whalen or Moore or whoever, but don't kid yerself.  When LeBlanc gets shelled twice, or even once, it's Next Man Up.

That doesn't take away from a journeyman coming in and basking in the bright lights for a month.  When that occurs, it's part of baseball charm.  And give JeDi credit too for the chess-like stoploss.

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Who's up next?  In my mind Casey Lawrence is the Next Man Up in terms of stoploss; he's got a 16:1 CTL at Tacoma and I like the way he fills the zone aggressively with good separation between two pitches.

Erasmo Ramirez of course is nominally the 5th starter, once he's ready to go.

Enjoy,

Dr DL

Comments

2

Mal didn't specify which metric, but I trust him.  On the other hand I also trust your instincts, which is that if the M's staff is merely average (#15-16) that would be a pleasant surprise - to me, anyway.

Looking at Fangraphs team metrics over the last 30 days ... yep, there it is right on top of the deck, we are +4.1 WAR over the last month, #4 of 30 teams.

Oddly, our team ERA+ is 96 on the full season, and even over the last month:  #13 in ERA (good), #21 in xFIP (poor).

They've got some talent, and some room to sort it out and improve, but I think Mal's overall point was that our pitching has contributed a lot more than people think, especially recently.

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Matt, Mal, can you provide a quick primer as to how the team WAR could run so differently from ERA and xFIP?

3

The fangraphs WAR works entirely off FIP, which cuts out all batted balls not home runs.  The Mariners slowball staff is getting Ks, limiting walks, and cutting back homers, but are still allowing much harder than average contact velocities that help explain a high BABiP and low strand rate, plus some bad luck.  Sort the leaderboard to 14 days and the FIP/ERA line up more closely.

4

Remember the Brad Radke (Doug Fister) rule?  When you've got a soft-tosser with a 1+ ERA and the strikeouts are over 5.6, grab him quick in your roto league.  Well, 5.6 was in Radke's day.  Probably now the demarcation line would be what, 6.6 whuffs?  But it certainly ain't 8.4.

Leblanc since 2014 has a K/9 over 7, a BB/9 under 2, and an ERA under 4, and he's done it riding the bus back and forth from AAA while playing uunde the "One bad appearance pprove everything we always knew" rule unlike the kids that throw 95 and the guys under multi-year contracts who are allowed 2-3 meltdowns per season.

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