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8/10/19: Open Game Thread (And Mariners Pitching Dev Thoughts)

Come for the Edgar Plaque, stay for the, uh, the baseball game? I guess?

San Diego Padres v Seattle Mariners
This is Matt Wisler. This is what he looks like, in case you didn’t know.
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Edgar Decade continues to roll on with another celebratory event. Does Edgar get tired of being celebrated? Is he used to it by now? I would have to think he’s starting to wear down. He’s a fairly reserved man and they up and made 40,000 small plaques of his face. You gotta think, as a human being, the reaction would be: really? You want this? Everyone wants my face in their house? For playing baseball over ten years ago?

I don’t know, maybe not. Maybe this is normal for him. You can get used to pretty much anything and although I think some of this is silly there is probably no one in Seattle Sports more deserving.

Anyway, the love continues to rain down upon the man and if you’d like to watch some other Seattle greats talk about him, the Mariners Blog has you covered with a guide.

Edgar Martinez Hall of Fame Celebration

Replica Hall of Fame Plaque | First 40,000 fans

Pre-Game Ceremony | 6:30 pm

First Pitch | 7:10 pm

I feel obligated to point out Apolo Ohno is going to be in attendance and he single-handedly made speed skating cool in the early 00’s and deserves our love and respect for that. Maybe we should make him a plaque.

On to some pertinent news!

Ryan Court, who hit his first major league home run last night, was rewarded with a demotion. Thanks for all the work, Ryan Court!

Or, as I have decided to say: Court Dismissed. Which kind of makes sense.

Dee Gordon was activated (which pushed Ryan off the 25 man roster) and is back and hitting 7th, which says more about the rest of the lineup than it does about Dee. Still, it would be great to have his energy and positivity on the field and if you are actually at the game—he’s fun to watch. Hopefully he can recoup some value before the offseason, but so long as he’s not blocking any major prospects it’s nice to have him around.

Matt Wisler is going to be the Opener tonight, which is a sentence I could not have imagined typing at the beginning of this year. Tommy Milone will follow him and this is another sentence that feels strangely normal.

No one has requested this but Matt Wisler should join the conversation of bullpen arms that the Mariners player development staff have helped take their game to the next level—along with Austin Adams and Connor Sadzeck.

Here is a chart of Matt Wisler’s pitch usages from the start of his career to now.

If these were stocks I’d invest in Yellow

Matt Wisler has started throwing his high-spin slider 70% of the time, compared to a previous high of 48% last season. That is the most sliders of any pitcher in all of baseball. It’s not close.

Two current and two former Mariners on the slider leaderboard. Not an accident.

That’s 8% more sliders than the next closest player in all of baseball, with the minimum pitch count set very low! The changeup is gone, the curveballs are nearly extinct as is the sinker. Matt Wisler has stopped throwing pitches that were not valuable and now almost exclusively throws one that is.

Here are the results.

Matt Wisler? Oh, you mean my friend, Matt Wiffler

Despite throwing the pitch 70% of the time to both righties and lefties alike, he gets a 43.3% wiff rate and opponents are slugging just .263. As a Mariner, his FIP is now down to 2.14. Which is incredible considering almost everyone knows it’s coming.

The Mariners were not the ones who suddenly transformed him—he was already throwing ~65% sliders with the Padres this year. But now Matt Wisler’s slider is getting the highest Chase% of his career, he’s throwing it more, and has all but dropped the sinker. He also throws it harder than at any other point in his career. That velocity came after he signed with the Mariners.

Mariners want that Velo

The Mariners saw that he could get away with throwing the slider 70% of the time and could throw it differently than he was, gave him the data, he agreed, and voila—a 26 year old pitcher experiencing the best results of his career.

Maybe that’s not exactly what happened, but it’s interesting that the narrative around the Astros pitching development is so loud that even a slight change in pitch usage by a new Astro player is praised as Astro-ball in Action. As I said in a previous game thread, it’s not that the Mariners aren’t doing this, it’s just that they aren’t doing this with high-profile guys. For one, they don’t have many high-profile guys, and two, high-profile guys have a lot more to lose than 20-something relievers who are hanging on to their careers by a thread and will try anything if it means sticking on a roster.

Matt Wisler made a change with the Mariners and now throws more sliders than anyone in baseball. That’s bold. That’s not conventional. That’s the kind of move that a team like the Mariners needs to try this season and they need those attempts to pay off. The Mariners, from what I can tell, suffer from a reputation problem. That they don’t line up analytically with the powerhouses. This perception could hamper their ability to get guys to make necessary changes, and make potential free agents instead choose a team with a known track record of pitcher development.

Guys like Matt Wisler might help change that reputation. Maybe not, maybe fringe bullpen arms finding success won’t move the needle, but at least it’s something worth paying attention to.