Logan Gilbert vs. Justin Verlander, 1:10pm
Last night’s loss, and the fizzling out of the M’s 8th-inning rally was dispiriting, sure, but despite the way things looked for 7 IP, they had chances. As with anything in baseball, a single game doesn’t matter all that much; it’s now imperative that the M’s get *something* from this series and maintain their momentum. Beating Justin Verlander, who’s in the middle of a remarkable season, would do just that.
Verlander’s a fascinating case. He’s having one of his better years from a runs-allowed standpoint, but his K rate is lower than it’s been since 2017. It hasn’t much mattered. Part of this has been the fact that he’s been able to maintain his excellent control, one of the factors that helped him reach another level when he arrived in Houston. Part of that has been his remarkable ability to generate swings. Batters know Verlander isn’t going to walk them. He’s going to throw strikes, and thus any time they see a fastball, it might be a good idea to swing (results on in-zone fastballs are the best, from the batter’s point of view). If he gets ahead, they have to protect – with 2 strikes this year, batters are swinging at over 70% of his fastballs, and 2/3 of his sliders (his primary breakers). But wait – why are his K’s down?
Because batters are making incrementally more contact. His whiff rate on his fastball has been cut pretty much in half compared to 2019. His slider’s whiff rate is down a bit, but not as dramatically. I think this gives us a hint at why league-wide K rates are down. Even as pitchers throw fewer fastballs, batters – primed to hunt for and swing at fastballs – are better at making contact. This is an interesting cycle: pitchers can throw in-zone fastballs when the ball limits HRs, which also restricts walks. Throwing more in-zone fastballs limits Ks, as batters are more likely to end an at-bat early – by putting it in play. Thus, you’ve got Justin Verlander having a brilliant year, but fewer strikeouts. Or you could do the opposite. Batters are swinging *less* at Marco Gonzales’ four-seam, but swinging at just about every change, and more than half of his cutters. *Even though* his whiff rate is slightly higher on those pitches, it’s not high enough to get strikeouts – their in-play rates are sky high. Thus, he too is seeing his K rate drop markedly, and since the turn of July, he’s basically re-creating a 2003-2005 Ryan Franklin season, something I would’ve bet money we’d never see again.
1: Crawford, SS
2: France, 1B
3: Winker, LF
4: Santana, DH
5: Suarez, 3B
6: Frazier, 2B
7: Raleigh, C
8: Moore, CF
9: Haggerty, RF
Julio Rodriguez was a late scratch last night; he’s dealing with some wrist soreness that the M’s say he incurred on a stolen base attempt vs. Texas.
Emerson Hancock fired 5 scoreless last night in an Arkansas loss. Tacoma blanked Salt Lake 6-0 on kind of a bullpen day. Austin Warner went the first 3 with 4 Ks. San Jose slipped past Modesto 6-5 and Eugene outslugged Everett 16-9. That said, Noelvi Marte continued his white-hot streak, going 4-5 with a HR and 3 2B. In July, Marte is hitting .417/.507/.850. Yeah.