One-offs
saved from the Orc Horde, just in time

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MIKE LEAKE

Malcontent's view of the situation is as follows:

(1) Leake's cutter is best used sparingly, as a strikeout pitch.

(2) Probably Leake was so impressed with his 2017 cutter results that he scrapped his 2-seam sinking fastball (which he didn't like anyway) in favor of it.

(3) Didn't work.  Hitters see the cutter fine, when Leake piles "responsibility" onto the pitch.  Like Rawls averaging 4.5 per run with 5 carries, but being unable to average it for 22 carries.

(4) He should go back to throwing dimes with his his regular fastball.

(5) All of which is rendered somewhat moot if he's wild and can't execute normally.

....

As always, an intelligent paradigm that Andrew sets up for us.  What happened Tuesday?  Leake used his FB-cutter-Change-Slow Curve in about a 40-10-15-20 ratio, with the cutter getting destroyed and the slow stuff working well.

Leake had an 0:2 CTL and I felt his line of 5.1 IP, 9 H, 5 ER had a bit of bad luck involved.  But there's no doubt he's got some work to do to get back to the 100'ish starter he's been for ten years.

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JAMES PAZOS

Hasn't allowed a run since April 7.  Exhibit YG-Z for Ron Shandler's observation that if you're going to hit .425 for a month, it's much better to do it in April than September.  (Pazos got hit badly in his first two appearances of the 2018 season and has since fired 13 straight lockdown appearances.)

Tuesday, his fastball was 96 MPH -- that's 96 MPH lefty -- and his slider was 81 MPH.  That's -15 MPH separation.  He's sitting on a 16:1 CTL over sixteen innings with a 1.13 ERA.

It's time to give him higher leverage.

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JUAN NICASIO

Getting too much of the plate, end of story.

Well, hopefully end of the beginning.  His CTL ratio is 21:2 but he's given up 4 homers, which is a season's worth for a short man like him.  The fact is that he's just pitching in some terrible luck; the line drive rate off him is quite favorable and the hard-hit balls rate is somewhat favorable.

What do you DO when your CLOSER blows five or six games, often by home run but largely by bad luck?  What you do, is you move him to low-leverage situations for a little while.  Then, he twirls a few good games, gets his confidence up, you put him back in there, and things are fixed.

That's Nicasio, if you ax me.

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RYON HEALY 

Since April 29, was hitting .364/.397/.782 with 13 RBI and 15 R in fourteen games.  Then in Tuesday's slugfest, took his rightful place in Dr. D's Big Red Machine memories by socking an authoritative home run, and adding a walk and another base hit to his tally.

In spring training, we were kicking around BaseballHQ's proposal that Ryon Healy should join the few, the proud, and the 35-homerish MOTO batters of the American League.  Even without splitting his stats out, he's batting .284 with 7 homers and a .584 SLG in about half of the season so far.

Dr. D is also taken with Healy's fist-pumping attitude, with the way the dial is set to "perfect" on his ambition in the box, and with his salary.  There was a funny quip on TV, who wouldn't be pumping their fists about moving from the clubhouse in Oakland to Caesar's Palace here in Seattle.  Saved you just in time, keeed...

Who knew that middle relievers could bring you back so much.

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JAMES PAXTON

Had a quote, after his last start, saying that

"I don't think the focus was really an issue," he said. "Your body is probably a little tired from what I went through. For me, I just have to learn how to deal with it when I feel like that. We made the adjustment in the second half of the game. I just need to be aware and make that adjustment earlier."

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He was referring to the idea that with the busy off-field week, his fastball was less than he wanted and he wasn't "pitching" enough (which he did NOT do in the 16-K game, pitch).  This is the kind of thing we talk about when seeing Pax as a 'youngish' pitcher, the slowness to recognize his own body on a game-in, game-out basis.

Still he had a 6 IP, 3 ER quality start and, as with most games, it was a couple plays away from an impressive line and a W for the M's.

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WADE LEBLANC

Is nothing more than a stoploss.  Has a career 90 ERA+ and is one of those journeymen who float around on the fringes of AAA and MLB, who always finds a job because big league pitchers are always hurt.  He'll be out soon, but he's filling in ever so neatly.  He uses smoke and mirrors, a very slow curve and an 86 paintball and an 83 cutter to keep people off his sinker and change curve.  He's been hot, executing pitch after pitch.  If he pitches two more good games, he'll get a third.

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PLAYOFFS AT THE 1/4 POLE

WC RECORD GB
BoSox 28-14
LAA 25-17
Sea 24-17 On pace for 95 wins
Orcs .500 -4.0

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The Orc Horde trots for three days with nothing to eat but maggot'y bread, and ties Toronto for the chase position behind the real ballclubs.  (Ah, how sweet it is to gloat about having a 'real ballclub'.)

95 wins is not going to miss the postseason with two wild cards  It's like Durant and Carl Lewis said:  usually the problem is how to maintain your effort while the other guy falls off a little.  Asking a lot for this team to shoot at 95 W's, though; like Tuesday, this club goes as far as its offense carries it.

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BABVA,

Dr D

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Comments

1

AL clubs also spotted, it didn't help that Leake has had shaky command, or that he tried springing the trick on every other batter as opposed to only 7 or 8 per night didn't help.  I think he's working back toward the pitcher he used to be, and without the weird string of luck hits in the second inning, I think most nights this would have been a 6IP/3ER performance from him, so while I'm worried, I'm not that worried.  Yet.

And Healy; wow.  I compared him a couple times during the offseason to a poor man's Jose Abreu, but right now he's outhitting Abreu hands down.  He's going to cool down, but right now, he feels like a perfect partner to Nelson Cruz, where any at bat can mean a home run.

As for Wade LeBlanc; how can you not be a fan?  His career to date looks awfully similar to Moyer, right down to the mediocre career ERA+ to this point.  If you look at LeBlanc's career after he came back from Japan in 2016, he has an ERA+ of 107 (very similar to how Moyer improved to a 113 ERA+ in 3 seasons with Baltimore after spending 1992 in exile at AAA).  Over that span, LeBlanc has allowed fewer hits than innings pitched with a strikeout rate that Moyer could only dream of and a walk rate that would be among Moyer's best seasons.  The homers were a problem in '16 and '17, but I wonder if the springy balls being gone (HR/FB is down 1 point league wide this year) will mean that the 7.0% HR/FB Rate he's run so far this season will stick (he ran a ~9% rate from '09-'14, and similarly had a low Hard Contact % that has returned this season).  I'm looking forward to him forcing the Mariners to keep pitching him.

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