Extra Rest Gives Mariners the Edge Against Slumping Phillies

James Paxton

Rainman M.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 7:32 PM GMT

Tuesday, Jun. 27, 2017 7:32 PM GMT

Both the Mariners, losers of two in a row, and the Phillies, losers of three in a row, will try to rediscover their winning ways when they square off tonight in Seattle.

The Phillies, winners of only four of their last twenty, have problems with offensive productivity, consistency in their starting pitching and reliability in their bullpen. The Mariners, on the other hand, ran into some elite Astros pitching in their past couple games, but have shown excellent form lately. Before dealing with the Astros’ elite bullpen on Sunday and the Astros' stud McCullers on Saturday, they had scored five or more runs in five consecutive home games. Part of what hurt the Mariners on Sunday was not having outfielder Ben Gamel in the lineup, who sat out with a minor groin issue. Gamel went 0-for-4 against the McCullers-led Astros on Saturday, but before then had gotten at least one hit in 15 consecutive games to bring his BA up to .346. Gamel has never faced Nola, but his health could have a meaningful impact on the game, as lefties are batting .286 so far against Nola.  The Mariners’ manager did say that he expects Gamel (and third baseman Danny Valencia, who has also been day-to-day with a minor injury) to return to the lineup on Tuesday, but check to make sure that especially Gamel is in the lineup tonight. But he alone did not produce an average of over seven runs per game as the Mariners had done at home from Monday, June 19, to Friday, June 23rd. Guillermo Heredia, whose BA is a very respectable .284, would be Gamel’s replacement, While their offense is slumping, the Phillies will look for Nola to replicate his 7.1 inning one-run performance against the Cardinals and for Pat Neshek (0.59 ERA), who was rested last night and threw only nine pitches on Sunday, to continue his dominance from the bullpen.
 

Probable Pitchers

Aaron Nola (4-5 4.32 ERA) will start for the Phillies. Since his return from the DL on May 21st, he has had three excellent performances: 7 innings one run against the Pirates, 8 innings one run against the Braves, and 7.1 innings one run against the Cardinals. The common factor in each of those gems is that he was pitching with five days’ rest. In his four other post-DL starts, his ERA was over 5 each time. He was pitching with only four days’ rest in each of those outings. With five days’ rest, Nola is 7-4 with a 3.04 ERA in his career. But with four days' rest, Nola is 8-10 with a 6.31 career ERA. Nola is normally less effective with less rest because his stuff becomes less effective. Nola relies on deception in that the vertical and horizontal release points of his different pitches are so similar that opposing batters have trouble distinguishing which pitch is coming at them. When he is less rested, the release points of his pitches tend to diverge, so that they become easier to read and easier to hit.

James Paxton (5-2 3.39 ERA) counters for the Mariners. The Mariners’ ace has struggled lately: in his last four outings his ERA has been above 5 every time. After he got shelled in Texas, his pitching coach commented that Paxton was struggling with some mechanical difficulties, due to which his pitches were more hittable because they had less velocity, were easier to read by opposing batters, and were poorly located. So, Paxton is healthy, and besides making progress with his mechanics, he also enjoyed the cooler weather at home when he faced Detroit in his next and most recent outing. His 3.70 FIP (this is like ERA but factors out luck) and 8:2 K:BB ratio indicate marked improvement. He will also get to pitch with five days’ rest. With four days’ rest, Paxton is just 7-10 with a career 3.82 ERA. But, with five days’ rest he is 9-2 in his career with a 3.32 ERA. Paxton is normally more difficult to hit with extra rest. He also gets the benefit of having an extra day to evaluate his mechanics by looking over film with his pitching coach and so build off of his last improved performance by timing his delivery more sharply in order to generate more effective pitches.

 

The Verdict

Paxton enjoys the advantage of an extra day of rest.  Paxton, a power pitcher who induces a mixture of fly balls and ground balls, also enjoys a more fortuitous match-up than Nola.  Against power pitchers, the Phillies’ OPS (on-base plus slugging; average is .730) is .670. Against fly ball/ground ball pitchers, the Phillies’ OPS is only .663. The Phillies are at their worst against the kind of pitcher that Paxton is, and Paxton is one of baseball’s best examples of such a pitcher.

Nola’s three outings this season with four days’ rest have been disastrous. I think today will be his fourth disaster with as little rest. Nola, a finesse ground ball pitcher, matches up well against the Mariners as a ground ball pitcher but poorly as a right-hander finesse pitcher. Two of Nola’s disasters came against the Marlins and the Reds, both of whom, like Seattle, do excellently against finesse but struggle against ground ball pitching. The Mariners also have a history of success this season against right-handed finesse ground ball pitching.  For example, early in the season, when Andrew Triggs was in phenomenal form, his first poor outing came against the Mariners, who tagged him for six runs in only 4.2 innings. So, with little rest, Nola tends to do poorly against teams whose strengths are similar to those of the Mariners, while the Mariners have enjoyed success against pitchers similar to Nola.

Also note that the Phillies’ OPS is just .667 at night, compared to .749 during the day, and that Paxton has a career ERA of 3.29 at night compared to 3.91 during the day. The game will start after 10 p.m. ET on our MLB Picks. Phillies’ hitters will also have to adjust from playing in hitter-friendly venues like their own in Philadelphia and Chase Field in Arizona to Seattle’s spacious pitcher-friendly venue.

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