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About Last Night: new Mariners pitchers struggle in their debuts

Panic at the PSC!

Seattle Mariners Photo Day
Marc I think I have identified part of the problem
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Yesterday new acquisitions Yovani Gallardo, Marc Rzepczynski, and Rob Whalen all made their Mariner debuts. None of them went spectacularly, as the group surrendered a total of 13 runs on 13 hits. Nick Vincent also checked in with a dinger, but also posted 2 Ks, so we’re going to leave him out of this particular chat. Rob Whalen pitched two innings in the rain and wasn’t helped out by his defense, so he also gets a Get Out of Jail Free card—for now.

On the surface, Scrabble’s line looks like the worst of the day, worse even than Gallardo’s 35-pitch outing where he walked two and struck out none with an ERA of 36.00. In Rzepczynski’s one inning, however, he surrendered five hits and six runs—including two home runs—for a nasty-looking ERA of 45.00. It was a rough inning, and Zep made some mistakes, but the damage wasn’t nearly as bad as the stat line shows. Let’s examine each of the ten batters he faced.

Batter One - Eric Hosmer

Rzepczynski actually struck out Hosmer, a lefty, but a wild pitch allowed him to reach, which continues to be the stupidest rule in baseball. He even got Hosmer swinging on a nice slider low in the zone. Good process, bad results. Zep had two wild pitches today, but look for that to stabilize as he and Mike Zunino work together more. The two wild pitches he had in this one inning were already 40% of the total he had for all of last season.

Batter Two - Salvador Perez

Salvy is a righty, but doesn’t have any significant platoon splits in facing right vs. left-handed pitching. Zep got him 0-2 before he threw a high, tight fastball at 90 mph that Perez was able to turn on and knock out of the park. Whatever, it’s spring training in Arrakis, these things happen. Take Hosmer off first and this is only a solo shot.

Batters Three and Four - Brandon Moss and Peter O’Brien

Here’s where things get a little hairier. After getting Moss to swing through a slider right in the zone, Rzepczynski returned to the same place, and Moss--who does bat lefty, but again has neutral platoon splits--punched it into left field. That set up righty Peter O’Brien, who has spent the majority of his five years in professional baseball in the minors, to again take an inside fastball and turn on it to deposit it on the berm. Boo.

Batters Six and Seven - Christian Colon and Alcides Escobar

After Cheslor Cuthbert (Batter Five) lined out first-pitch swinging, Colon reached on a Jean Segura error. Bad luck again for Scrabble, who should have been out of this inning but wasn’t, because baseball is a real jerk sometimes. Alcides Escobar, another righty, then tripled to hang the fifth run of the inning on the board.

Batter Eight - Paulo Orlando

Orlando is hitting over .300 against left-handed pitching. Zep managed to get him 0-2 before Orlando punched Zep’s slider--the same slider he’d struck Hosmer out on--to the left side of the infield, where it bounced off Seager before being fielded by Segura with no chance to catch Orlando, the former track star (and countryman of our own Thyago Vieira!). Escobar scored for the sixth run surrendered in this inning.

Batter Nine - Lorenzo Cain

A ticked-off Rzepczynski struck out the righty Cain on three pitches on the inside corner. Sometimes you just have to get things done yourself.

Batter Ten - Eric Hosmer (again)

Again, Scrabble only needed three pitches to induce a groundout from Hosmer.

So, certainly not a performance to write home about, but there is hope here. Rzepczynski’s outing was marked by defensive miscues and a righty-heavy lineup (even if many of those batters have mostly neutral platoon splits). He didn’t fall behind in the count (once the whole inning, and it was when he threw a first pitch ball), he didn’t walk anyone, and he recorded two strikeouts. His fastball velocity was reported by Gameday at 91 mph, which is right in line with or a tick above his career numbers, and he had the Royals hitters badly fooled with his slider, which he got six whiffs on. Gameday also indicated that he stayed in the zone but didn’t live in the heart of the plate. It was a rough debut, but this is what we mean when we say spring training stats don’t matter. Look for Scrabble to rebound the next time he takes the mound. If only I could say I felt the same about Gallardo...