Cool. I put $20 on the M's to win the World Series. Caesars gave me 25-1 odds (websites were promising 55-1, so your mileage may vary).
FILTHY McNASTY AWARD
The Astros enjoyed the first pitch of the game; the Mariners enjoyed the other 251 pitches. It took Elias and Zunino that one pitch to figure out a thing that you'd think was rather important: that the young, gifted Astros are GREEDY. They lust for First Pitch Fastball Home Runs. This epiphany had not occurred during any of the previous Mariner-Astro contests, but when a First Pitch Fastball Home Run had been the entirety of the game, reality dawned on the Mariners.
Elias twirled his curve back door for strikes. He spun it into the righties' back feet for garbage swings. He flipped his changeup anywhere he wanted with impunity. And, "pitching backwards," he then threw a 103-MPH fastball past the Astros' re-calibrated eyes for easy K's.
The tale of the tape: 5 garbage swings against the hook, 6 garbage swings over the top of the changeup, and 6 more swing-throughs on the 93 fastball. But why take Dr. D's word? Here's a 2-minute whiteout blizzard of strikeouts on video, courtesy of MLB.com. Enjoy.
Sometimes in the NFL, there is a game that turns around a season. There was one time the Seahawks were like 5-1 or something, and they got crushed by Tampa Bay or somebody, and then everybody in the NFL knew how to beat the Seahawks, and they finished 7-9. The details aren't important. You know what uh mean.
1. "Pitching Backwards" may be the panacea to Houston.
2. Even if it isn't: never doubt a quality NPB starting pitcher again. Their egos don't get in the way of good pitching.
3. Roenis Elias gave a flash of just what he is capable of. There aren't a lot of lefties with three strikeout pitches and three rations of guts.
All this came, right after the Astros just now blistered Elias yesterday. It's supposed to be easier to see a guy's pitches the second time. A real gem from our talented young Cuban.
SAY IT AIN'T SO AWARD
The MLB.com leadin said something like, "The Mariners had their highest run total at home since May 17." By "highest run total" they meant "five runs." By "since May 17" they meant "more than a month." And by Dr. D's count, the Balco Bombers pulled exactly 0 balls in the air. Thataway to bust out, amigos.
It was, however, a good day for BABIP rebalancing. About six balls bounced through the infield, or fell in between outfielders, or blomped their way into hits, or whatever. The M's, for once, had about 9 more baserunners than they absolutely forced. Tolja the turnaround was imminent...
LPGA / SLOW BAT AWARD
Robinson Cano got two offspeed pitches, drug his bat through the zone with deceleration, and covered the pitches so perfectly you could hear the "click" through your home TV set. The LPGA ladies hit the ball very, very squarely. And I flat enjoy watching Robby's "click" shots down the RF line on curve balls.
Tough to believe, though, McClendon's pregame moaning that "we need our stars to hit." That sounds like a guy making excuses that the season went south because Robinson Cano did. I mean, just for instance, in 2014 Albert Pujols hit 40 OPS+ points below his career norm but the Angels won 98 games. You could find scads of teams where one star had an off season, but the offense overall clicked. And anyway, the M's had pre-replaced Cano with Nelson Cruz.
Still, Robby's showin' signs.
Did you know that Will Harris came into the game allowing a seasonlong .099 batting average? Did you know that Lance McCullers has not yet given up a single base hit on his 92-MPH changeup ... and it's his third-best pitch? Did you know that nobody got Nelson Cruz out on Friday? It's twue. Twue hits, twue walks.
Nelson Cruz' on base average is ... wait for it ... .379. We're comin' up on halfway through the season. We are playing in Safeco Field. The man's OPS+ is at 170 and now it's going to be an upset if he finishes below 140. Salary earned to date, after 68 games: $15M. That's in Fangraphs dollars, so what is it in real dollars?
Those who thought it was stoopid to bring a player from Texas/Balmer into Safeco, raise your hand? Anybody? :: crickets ::
Honestly, you can't take a guy's road stats and plomp them down onto his new digs. It just don't work that way. Nelson Cruz hits the ball hard, and he's a good hitter. His career had some camouflaging to it, but he's the real deal. Get used to it.
Logan Morrison hit a 3-iron way deep into LEFT center field. Again! Caught on the warning track. Again!
Still ... since May 24 he's got a weird slash line of .301/.356/.398. Now you know why he's leading off. Guy runs pretty well, too. :: shrug :: Hokay.
WALLY PIPP AWARD
Carson Smith may have the most short-arm motion that I have seen from a right hand pitcher. Meaning, his elbow never unbends at any time. Short-arm adds deception, especially when distinguishing between the fastball and slider. The problem is supposed to be, the short-arm sub-stracts speed. Funny thing is, Carson Smith still throws hard.
They just cannot see that max-effort slider out of his hand, and he is gleefully throwing it to the tune of 40% of all attempts. Psyched-out hitters then swing 9 feet behind his fastball; it's like Trevor Hoffman, add three feet. Carson is at 36 career innings now, 10+ strikeouts, 1+ walks, 1+ ERA, which Ron Shandler used to call Vintage Eck Territory.
Can you see any reason not to write off the last $4M of Rodney's deal? He ain't makin' much, and it's getting late early.
We kid. A little bit. But how do you take Smith out of the 9th inning if he insists on this 10/1 control shtick?
WORST PITCH IN BASEBALL AWARD
Statistically it has been proven that a slider performs worse than any other pitch type, as a general rule.
In this specific case, the Mariners have their best relievers going absolutely bananas with the slider, throwing it this muchly:
- 40% = Carson Smith
- 45% = Mark Lowe (apparently taking over "setup righty" behind Smith)
- 42% = Charlie Furbush (you would think that Furbush sets the outer bounds for slider love)
- 53% = Vidal Nuno
So now you know why Zduriencik grabbed Nuno. And now you know how much you can presume about Nuno leaving any time soon.
Still only four games back,
I suppose the hard-hit balls stat is behind your confident prediction that a turnaround is imminent? I wish I shared that confidence. This team mostly scores when other teams give them runs. I don't really understand why they are as ineffective as they are, they just are...ineffective, that is.
I just saw a Zduriencik quote where he said according to team metrics Cano's batted ball velocity is better this year than last, the implication clearly being that bad luck is major culprit behind Cano's ineffectiveness this year. http://mynorthwest.com/374/2775851/Mariners-notebook-Jack-Zduriencik-say...
I don't know what to make of 64 games worth of bad luck for Cano, and for the team. And I can't buy that 2 home runs is bad luck, as if there is an unseen inversion layer that inhabits MLB parks when Cano comes to the plate, keeping his many hard-hit fly balls from elevating over the fence.
Or is it that the M's are more adversely affected by shifts than any other team, so more hard-hit balls go at defenders than any other team? Whatever. All I know is they don't hand out season awards and playoff berths on the basis of hard-hit balls. Enough already with the hard-hit balls. Let's see 20-30 games of .550 - .600 baseball. Then I'll believe.
My confidence in the M's turnaround resides chiefly in a Willie F. (Fabled) Bloomquist coup.
When even you, of all people, loses sight of the 80% TIC nature of SSI, matters stand badly. I think the M's have you wound just a little too tight my friend ;- )
Madeline Kahn......The Bavarian Bombshell, The Teutonic Titwillow....Lili, Lili, Lili!!
Ahhhhhh......that made my morning, Doc.
It's also twue that Elias is getting better before our eyes: His BB rate is down .5 from last year and he just wiped out a bumch of MLB slugger-type RHB's with his curve.
You're right about his curve really speeding up his heater, as he throws a twue Moyer-style "yakker" (Moyer, of course, threw 93 only in his dreams). Yesterday I had just returned from a steelhead day-trip and watched all of the first inning then bits and pieces thereafter, as I was dinking around the house. In that bits and pieces process I didn't really catch just how dominant the curve was to RHB's. As highlight reels always are, the one linked above was a blast to watch: it underscores what Elias can do....and is doing more and more of all the time. Take away his terrible-no good start of a week ago and he's running a 2.61 ERA. He's had excellent starts in 5 of his last 7 efforts. I want to think of him as "a kid," but at 26 years old he really isn't.
Minus Felix, I'm not sure he isn't my favorite M's pitcher to watch. Because of his style he will never be the "hottest" thing on the staff, but he's going to throw us a ton of quality innings, keep us in games (even when he doesn't have his best stuff), work up an down, in and out, and he's going to learn a bit from Felix. I think he already is.....
Luis Tiant is, of course, the prototypical Cuban pitcher from back in our day, Doc. But I don't really remember Tiant that well until he was with Boston throwing 14 different pitches, each from 14 different angles.
But I do remember a Cuban lefty, a fast ball, curve ball, change up lefty, who was pretty dang good. He won a Cy and strung together a bunch of quality years, a couple of which were dominant. That's Mike Cuellar, of course. Even when Cuellar won his Cy ('69), he was often seen the third horse in the stable. That continued, despite the fact that he had a 6-year run ('69-'75) where he AVERAGED better than 20 wins a season.
Generally, Cuellar got better with age. There's going to be a lot of that factor in Elias. He pitches with an unperturbed urgency, if such a marriage is possible.
Plus he's got agallas y tripas in spades.
He's ours and I love it!
I haven't smoked a see-gar in years, but I may have to light one up for our own Cuban (not quite a) kid! A see-gar, a rum and coke and a bit of Desi Arnaz to celebrate our own El Babalu!
And the FK% (first pitch strikes) are solidly up from 60% to 62%. Along with most or all of his plate discipline stats. This despite (or perhaps because of?!) the fact that he is finishing his curve and changeup with more 'elan than last year.
Good catch amigo.
Definitely appreciate your 'responsible' characterization of Elias' upside .... his curve ball is beginning to CONTROL righties and DECIMATE lefties. (It's to lefties that he Cuban-slots the arm angles all over the place and the hook can be in, out, or middle and draw a garbage swing.)
Looking at the kid right now, can you see any reason he couldn't some day have some years as the C.J. Wilson of 2010-11? :- )
Wilson at one time had a near-Bedard level curve, a 91 MPH fastball, a BB rate falling from 4 to 3, and a nice sense for moving the ball around the zone. Wouldn't bet you anything I was afraid to lose that Elias didn't cop a $75M deal one day.
But yeah. Health and IP prevail.
Love that you brought him up. If there is a single athlete that I associate with Weaver's greatness, it might be Cuellar.
Earl took an age-32, injured, shaky, 100 pitcher out of Houston and turned him into a 290-IP 20-game winner through age 37. A Jamie Moyer story, if Moyer threw 250-290 IP with never a moment's sore arm.
James was baffled about Cuellar: "I've read everything Weaver ever wrote. Nothing in there explains how he was able to keep those pitchers healthy like that."
Actually, maybe the fact that he always made his RP decision based on whether his SP was laboring?