M's 3-2
have change, will travel

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PLAYOFFS

WC W-L GB
NYY-BOS loser 31-14
Seattle 27-19 On pace for 95 wins
LAA 26-21 -1.5 to Sea
Orcs 25-22 -2.5
TB 22-23 Doesn't count when you're under .500

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Q.  Is Dr. D worried by the M's Pythagorean splits?  They've scored +209 runs and allowed -204, which suggests a record more like 24-22 than 27-19.

A.  In this case, not so much.  For several reasons.  

(1) They are #4 of 30 teams in OPS+, and that's not just a cherrypicked stat.  They've got a near-elite lineup.  They are #16 of 30 teams in xFIP; their staff overall (including the Stars Paxton, Marco and Diaz as well as the scrubs) is average-mediocre.

In a quick check, I couldn't really find the run leakage (their bases gained and lost should produce a better differential than 209-204).  Their luck stats (BABIP, HR/F and LOB) are normal.  Their defense is middle-of-the-pack so far.  They're around 8th in the league in most pitching categories.  But, still, IMHO the hitting is better than the pitching is bad.  They should be winning comfortably, which they are.

...

(2) Their problems are fixable, and rather easily so.

...

(3) Offense teams are come-from-behind teams, like my beloved Big Red Machine always was.  And believe it or not, they're getting their share of nice bullpen evenings, such as Sunday.

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MITCH HANIGER

This is an example of what we're talking about with Pythag.  Haniger put a rawhide-tough AB on the Tigers' closer, ruined tough pitches, and took advantage when he got a pitch.  This is coming from a fan who has seen 40 years' worth of foul tips straight back when a Mariner got a pitch.

"Heart" is an intangible, but at SSI it's okay to talk about intangibles.  This is a club that will stalk an AB and stalk an SP on a good day, Fullmer or Liriano or whoever.  They'll give you 300 pitches' worth of their most intelligent baseball, and I'm blinkin' likin' it.

Haniger's got 11 jacks and 35 ribbies, putting him on pace for 39 HR and 123 RBI.

....

Did you see Segura as he watched the HR sail over his head?  This is a club likes each other, and that likes to win.

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RYAN COOK

On Sunday, he delivered in actuality what Juan Nicasio was supposed to deliver in theory.  Does everybody remember that Cook used to be an AL All-Star?  On Sunday he was throwing 95-96 and the shape on his 86 slider was biting, the location on it good-to-excellent.

Eyes slideways.

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WADE LEBLANC

Earlier, a gentle Denizen proposed the Jamie Moyer theory. :- )

Welllllll .... on the one hand, you've got James' maxim that given enough time, MOST pitchers would figure out a formula and wind up making nice money.  It's a question of whether they stick around long enough ... LeBlanc has been in the big leagues 10 years.  Who was that Texas guy who just debut'ed 17 years after being drafted?  Good for him.  ... is it impossible that LeBlanc found the ingredients:

  • 86 fastball
  • 83 cut fastball
  • 77 changeup
  • Ten years' worth of moxie and pitchability

And from that learned how to consistently bake a Quality Start pie?

... Dr. D sadly puts his odds at 10:1 against or more, even after four straight sweet starts from the man.  How many 90 ERA+ journeymen have ever come into a team and started off with 4 nice games?

.....

.... sigh, but on the other hand, if he got good, how would you know.

He hasn't been lucky; he's pitched very well.  If he were to execute like this next game, he'd win next game.  Right now he really is throwing that ball lights-out, pitching as well as you can with that arsenal.  He's backing guys up who hang over, he is pulling the string when guys get the bat out in front, he's going up and down and ... would you believe he said tonight that he's pitching "back to front" in the zone?  you ever hear that anywhere 'sides here?  Yeahhhh baby

I'll guaranTEE you the Mariners are thinking game-to-game on Wade LeBlanc, but guess what.  Sunday he just bought himself two more games.  If it turns out he suddenly got good, I'll be the happiest camper here.  :- )

JeDi is squeezing the sponge on him, draining every last drop, and Dr. DL is enjoying it as much as the next guy.  If you want to make your case for LeBlanc's career year, hey, CMS below.

BABVA,

Dr D

Blog: 

Comments

1

After 8 games the team's record sat at 4-4, but the Pythag sat at +25/-36 (-11), so since then, the team is 19-11 with a +184/-168 Pythag.  Maybe they're still outplaying their talent, but the +16 run differential over the last 30 games seems more line who this team is.

Regarding Wade, I mentioned elsewhere, but he's quietly been quite good since he came back from Japan (well, particularly since he went to the Pirates).  It's funny, because he struggled a little in his single season, but I think that may be part of the key to the secret of his success. 

Because of the saber generation of GMs, baseball hha entered an era of increased walks, power, and strike outs, Leblanc's game plays better.  In Japan, they are playing baseball now akin to American baseball before the 90's, with a focus on contact and advancing any runners in the most direct way possible;  this is bad for a guy that has developed his edge game to an impressive extent, as batters avoid the strike out and take lighter swings.  In America, the Casey Jones mentality of so many modern batters is allowing Leblanc to sneak into good counts and let the hitters try to deal with hitting pitches that he has so far placed continuously on the edges of the zone.  Bartolo Colon is proving how well this strategy can work with fewer pitches than Leblanc.

Also interesting about LeBlanc is the crazy value he's getting out of his cutter, it's doing the heavy lifting on his strikeouts and batters have managed only 4 singles in 29 PAs against it, the movement has tended armward on it for a couple seasons and this year is a new high, with the pitch.  That pitch (and the curve that hitters have gone 0-17 against with a 100% GB rate that he's added since starting again) are his only pitches with any armward movement.

2

Players can and do refine their games in exactly the way you describe.

Thing is, an 86 fastball over the plate is a BP pitch; he can't miss for 1-0 and then throw a get-me-over pitch; it will consistently be smashed in that situation.  So would the middle ground be that --- > we both agree that he's got to be hair-fine, as Moyer consistently was?

Or are you surmising that he can use his cut fastball, to provide some margin for error, in hitters' counts.

.....

Personally I'd be a lot more comfortable if he threw that change curve more often than 5% of the time.  But, :: shrug :: whatever.  Like you say, his +4.14 run value on the cut fastball may obviate the need for any other bread-and-butter pitch.  Yesterday he had tremendous gloveside movement on it, actually throwing it to break glove side of center.

Interestingly, though, he threw only 10 cutters (against 7 curves) and leaned heavily on his changeup (30 pitches).  It could indeed be that he read the Tigers' aggressiveness and adapted his pitch mix to what he was seeing at the plate.  Wouldn't that be nice, to see a pitcher exploit weaknesses on a game-to-game basis, rather than wrestling with his own game.

3

Leblanc NEEDS to get strike one as often as possible

Leblanc NEEDS to keep ALL his fastballs away from the center of the plate and he needs to have studied every hitter before hand

I think, like Leake, that cutter needs to be a relatively low percentage of his pitches so that the movement comes as a surprise to batters.  I mentioned earlier, but he added back his curve when he started starting again, the rate has been around 9% rather than 5%.

I would say that he seems smart enough not to chase strikes for the sake of strikes just because he started 2-0 (Leake could learn a lesson).  But generally, it's just fun to root for the slowest fastball in baseball!

4
tjm's picture

I was just reading the Fangraphs' piece on Jordan Hicks low whiff rate. It occurs to me that we're making too much of velocity. 86 or 106, MLB hitters will catch up to it when they're looking for it and they are always looking for it. It's so much more important to have movement and control. M's just got their butts handed to them by Liriano and Colon, two guys lacking elite velocity, and in Colon's case, lacking anything like a useful off-speed pitch. Greg Maddux, among others, did just fine with an 86-mph two seamer and an even slower cutter utterly without a breaking ball to compliment them.

We've fallen victim to the scouting plus speed paradigm. Back in the day, coporate managers would tell you over and over you can't go wrong buying IBM. Well, you could go wrong buying IBM, but you weren't going to get fired for buying IBM. Same with the preference for speed. Would I rather have it all else being equal? Of course. But all else isn't usually equal. Do the words Brandon League ring a bell?

I believe what my eyes tell me. Silly, I know, in the post-factual world we live in, but LeBlanc knows where the ball is going. He pitches both sides. I see no reason he can't be a decent Number 5.

5

I wonder what percentage of 7th/8th/9th inning guys in the majors do NOT throw 95+.

'Movement' has to be the next frontier, doesn't it?  Or is it control?

Probably both.

(BTW, your IBM analogy is perfect.)

6

The M's have a very consistent lineup 1-9, but do not have a lineup full of mashers, so don't get many 16-2 games.  I wonder if that plays in.

If so, it's actually a positive, because you'd rather score 5-4-6-4-7-6 in a week, than to score 1-10-0-7-0-14-1-7.

....

In any case, the bullpen plays in, as it did last night, and as it did the night before that with Felix.  It's demonstrated that sharp bullpens allow you to beat Pythag.  Seems to me that there have been a number of games in which the M's used 6 pitchers to hold an early deficit steady after 1-2 innings.

I dunno where the bullpen ranks overall, because of a couple of mashings, but there have been quite a few games where it factored in, during a tough win.

7

Alas, my wife has only a passing interest in baseball.  She likes the games with fireworks following.

But Segura's smile had captured her fancy.  I read her the quote in the paper about him finding joy again in baseball, and she asked me why he lost it...so I told her the back story about his son.  Then when she got home yesterday I replayed the highlights of him hopping from second to third on Haniger's homer...and then screaming joy to the sky after the winning hit.

All I can say is, young love is grand.  :)

8

I'm a cynical old guy, tired of watching athletes show up and put their game time in before they run out into the night for the post-game festivities.  This team is restoring my spirit, like Magic and Kareem or something....

9

Magic and Kareem. Good analogy. In addition to being a great player, Magic was a blast of rejuvenating air for a tired Lakers franchise. It became worth it again to bust your derrier.

10

Tyler O’Neill:  Homer #3, back to back to back games.  This one an oppo field 3-run moon shot.

Sigh.

11

Our 2B are dropping like flies:  Gordon on the 10-Day with a fractured toe.  Originally injured it on the 9th, reinjured yesterday.  may be out longer than 10 days.  So you now have need for BOTH Beckham and Romine.

Vogelbach gets the call, which may indicate that Cruz needs some time off.  I would have thought the better call was Andreoli or Miller (to cover 3 OF positions) right now as Healy isn't going to miss many games.  So I'm guessing that Cruz is gimped a bit more than we've let on.  He's 4-29/.480 over the last 14 days, with no XB's.  

 

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