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A brief history of strikeouts Wade LeBlanc had no business recording

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None of these are even framed, I swear.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Seattle Mariners
Look at where the pitch is going, Wade. Hitters clearly aren’t.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Last night Wade LeBlanc got his second win of the season. Early on that seemed unlikely to be a possibility, with the laid-back Louisianan giving up two obliterated home runs to Mike Trout (naturally) and Albert Pujols (c’mon). Wade settled in though, making sure to strand every baserunner he allowed as he snuck through 5 IP. I see a dozen red flags with LeBlanc’s performance, but as long as he keeps generating his folksy magicks the Mariners are well-served to run him out there.

It’s a particular instance of those magicks that caught my eye last night. The next time LeBlanc faced Trout was in the 3rd inning, mercifully once again without any runners on. LeBlanc started Trout off with an 87 mph four-seam fastball, low and away. The pitch was directly in Trout’s wheelhouse, which admittedly engulfs the majority of the contiguous United States, but it was taken. Next was a cutter that Trout redirected into his own shin. After a minute or two of delay, Trout returned to the box for the 0-2 offering.

MLB

Another 87 mph four-seamer, with a location so central it could have a losing record but be challenging Cleveland for the division lead. Trout could be forgiven for inexperience with this sort of offering - it’s just the 11th 87> mph four-seam he’s seen all season - but it’s, well, Wade LeBlanc. When you throw six different types of pitches as LeBlanc does, every once in a while you’ll stumble upon a strikeout as baffling as this. While all of LeBlanc’s strikeouts are slightly astonishing, a few have set themselves apart like the one above. I decided to rate a few of them, with the afore-mentioned low-leverage, high-difficulty backwards-K meriting a near-perfect 9.5/10 WADE-K Rating.

Back in May, Wade faced off against the Twins in a makeup game for their snowed-out April series. He threw 6.0 shutout innings and earned a no-decision in a game the Mariners would win 1-0 on a Logan Morrison throwing error on a bunt, which is not to be confused with last week’s win over Tampa Bay on a Brad Miller fielding error on a bunt. Prior to all of that, Wade had a surprise. In the 6th, Wade could’ve been forgiven for dragging a bit.

MLB

Instead, he matched his pitch count with his velocity and laid low Minnesota’s best hitter, shuttering a threat with his newly improved cutter. WADE-K rating: 7/10.

42 punchouts in 54.0 IP is not embarrassing, but in 2018 Wade stacks up as solidly below-average in the strikeout department K-Mart. They’re not so rare that I’d like to catalog every one, like, say, Ryon Healy BBs, but a few others stand out. Last week LeBlanc laid low Astros star SS Carlos Correa on what can only be described as a horribly located fastball, exemplifying the experience of watching these Mariners so far this year.

3-2 count to one of the best hitters in the game? Sounds like time for good ‘ol number 1, right down the pipe. WADE-K Rating: 9/10.

The taming of Trout (other than, of course, the two homers he hit) was overshadowed last night by a higher-leverage at-bat. Following an intentional BB to Trout with two outs, the bases were loaded for Justin Upton. LeBlanc battled to a 3-2 count on a mixture of cutters and changeups, breathed deeply, reared back, and brought a little something...less?

MLB

83.2 mph directly down the middle in what was ultimately the highest leverage moment of the game. A swinging strike, a quashed rally, and a bit of fire from Wade the White. That’s the nonsense the people have come to expect. WADE-K Rating: 10/10.

James Paxton is the ace of this team, but between Marco Gonzales, Mike Leake, and the ideal form of current Félix Hernández, the Mariners’ rotation is mostly guys with decent stuff who need to locate perfectly. LeBlanc’s entire career is dependent on his location being more pinpoint than anyone, yet his most hilarious achievements are when he misses and the hitter misses worse. I doubt Wade’s witchcraft lasts all season, but you’d best believes I’ll have tickets to every single show.