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Game Thread #89: Athletics at Astros

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With one game left before the All-Star Break, and Texas and the Nation reeling from the atrocities in Dallas, the struggling rookie Sean Manaea takes on Dallas Keuchel in today's rubber match in Houston.

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

With one game left before the All-Star Break, and Texas and the Nation reeling from the atrocities in Dallas, the struggling rookie Sean Manaea takes on Dallas Keuchel in today's rubber match in Houston.  Manaea comes off a difficult loss against the Twins.  If you recall, he pitched following that almost-three-hour rain delay in Minnesota.  My guess is that rain delays are difficult for veterans, and I assume it was difficult for Manaea who gave up six runs on seven hits—a stark contrast to his two runs given up in his previous ten innings.  With a 2-5 record and an overall ERA of 5.85, Manaea comes in with fond memories of pitching against Houston.  In his season debut on April 29th, Manaea was the winning pitcher in the 7-4 victory over the ‘Stros.

Manaea has interesting pitching charts that leave one wondering how hittable he is from a batter's perspective, especially given what occurs when he keeps the ball down.  A new article that caught my eye is Eli Ben-Porat's "Quantifying Pitcher Command" (Hardball Times, 7/5/16) where he discusses a number of statistical elements that are beyond my mathematical skill-set.  What he did find, and I did understand, is that fastballs thrown above 28 inches are much more effective than below—curveballs just the opposite.  Take a look at Manaea's MLB pitch breakdown and batting average charts.

Sean Pitching Chart 7/10/16

While it doesn't tell us WHAT pitch he threw, you can see the batting averages in various zones.  Success, we know, is based on pitch type and location based on the study of a batter's weaknesses, but today I will be watching for the 28" rule of Ben-Porat's to see if batter hits mirror this pattern. Whether it's fastball, changeup or slider—Manaea's main pitches--I'll be watching to see if Ben-Porat's statistical analysis is evident.

Meanwhile, Dallas Keuchel (whose name we can all pronounce correctly this season) has won three straight games. Facing the Athletics for the first time this season; Keuchel is 6-9 with a 5.02 ERA.  The A's will do well to avoid being too confident against his two-seamer that averages 88mph this season, a pitch that has helped him to strikeout 99 victims already this season, on pace to top 200 K's.  For fun, I've included his MLB pitch location charts as well.

keuchel chart 7/10/16

Meanwhile, in today's starting lineup rookie Matt McBride will be catching for Sean Manaea.  The infield is what is expected, but Billy Butler will serve in the DH role today.  While they say Vogt and Reddick have been awful against southpaws this season, given Vogt's hitting spree (which included yesterday's 3-4 day with a double, homerun and 2 RBI's) it is a curiosity that Melvin would trust a rookie or Butler more than Vogt's hot bat.  Besides, Vogt had back-to-back multi-hit games.  So, yeah, Vogt, no doubt, is resting and readying for his All-Star festivities. Makes one wonder if there's a change in management priorities for the rest of the season.  And then I think of Dallas and those poor officers, citizens and family's--and it puts it all in perspective.  Give it your best shot, boys.  Go A's.

Today's Lineups

OAKLAND A'S HOUSTON ASTROS
Coco Crisp - CF George Springer - RF
Marcus Semien - SS Marwin Gonzalez - 1B
Jed Lowrie - 2B Jose Altuve - DH
Danny Valencia - 3B Carlos Correa - SS
Khris Davis - LF Carlos Gomez - CF
Billy Butler - DH Luis Valbuena - 3B
Jake Smolinski - RF Evan Gattis - C
Yonder Alonso - 1B Danny Worth - 2B
Matt McBride - C Jake Marisnick - LF
Sean Manaea - LHP Dallas Keuchel - LHP