The Arizona Fall League season began on Tuesday, and the Mariners were well represented, playing 5 players (4 pitchers) in the opening game. General Manager Jack Zduriencik, Manager Eric Wedge, and Scouting Director Tom McNamara were all at the game watching. Nick Franklin played 2nd base (and went 1 for 4 with a strikeout, 2 ground-outs, and a line drive). The big news (at least for me) is that certain ballparks in the AFL have Pitch F/X, which gives us a better look at the pitchers.
There did seem to be some pitch classification errors, as James Paxton threw a 84 MPH “fastball”. However, you take data when you can get it.
James Paxton struck out 5 guys and walked 1 in 3 innings. Here is the spray chart that opponents had off Paxton on Monday.
Paxton averaged 92.97 MPH on his fastball, getting up to 96.2 MPH. This was not his best velocity day, as he has hit 97 MPH this year and consistently thrown harder in some outings. He also threw a slider at 80.36 MPH, a curve at 80.62 MPH, and a (just one) cutter at 86.5 MPH. That is a pretty soft slider velocity wise, and it is very rare to see a curve harder than a slider. He was consistent with his delivery (or at least his release point):
He pounded the strikezone, unafraid of the good prospects in the opposing lineup:
His breaking pitches have quite a bit of spin on them as well:
Carson Smith is known as a back of the bullpen guy with a big fastball, but he went over 94 MPH just once:
However, he mixed his pitches, and showed some different breaks:
The big thing that stands out is that he got just one whiff in 2 innings of work, and that was on his changeup. However, he was getting plenty of spin on his pitches according to this chart:
Bobby LaFromboise worked the 6th inning and got 2 strikeouts, a walk, and a ground-out.
Pitch F/X calls his 76-77 MPH off-speed pitch a cutter. I have always just called it a breaking ball or a slider. You usually don’t see such a dramatic difference in velocity between a fastball and a cutter. So it is probably smart to just call it a slider as the only pitcher that threw a cutter softer than that this year in the Majors was Jamie Moyer. The slider/cutter was his most used pitch on Tuesday, as he used it 7 times. If you combine his fastballs, he threw that 7 times as well, along with 5 changeups. All of his whiffs came off his slider/cutter, and his fastball reached 88.9 MPH. Considering his changeup was around 87 MPH, that is not good speed differential. It also moved similarly to the fastball and didn’t really have a different spin, so it really isn’t much of a changeup. He did a good job of keeping those pitches low:
As you might expect with his with his delivery, he did struggle with his release point:
Except for the bigger dot on the upper left-hand corner, this is the spray chart the opposing hitters had off the first three Mariner pitchers.
Of course, Logan Bawcom also pitched the 8th inning. He doesn’t have great speed differential, as everything he threw was in the 86-94 MPH range. He mixed in couple cutters, sliders, and changeups along with his fastball. That is a pretty good mix of pitches for a reliever. Bawcom already has some Pitch F/X data because of two outings in Pitch F/X parks in spring training.
Bawcom threw 22 pitches, 13 of them for strikes on Tuesday. He got a strikeout swinging on a fastball on a low 94 MPH fastball in on Hanser Alberto (just a 8.4 K% over the last two years!), but walked Mike O’Neill (who has a sensational strikeout to walk rate in the minors, striking out just 6.7% of the time and walking 15.4% of the time). He then got Kolten Wong (.134 ISO over the last two years) to hit the ball weakly, only to have the catcher throw it away. A low fastball was driven for a fly-out (a sacrifice fly) before a long 7 pitch at-bat to Chris McGuiness ended with a ground-out on another low fastball in the strikezone.
Bawcom gets different breaks on all his pitches, and they end up in different parts of the plate (which I assume is a good thing, other than perhaps a hitter may be able to pick up a pitch sooner):
His release points are sloppy at best, delivering the ball differently on his different breaking pitches:
And while he doesn’t get the spin on his pitches that Smith does, he throws harder: