People have been fired for far less and deserved it. This isn’t even funny anymore.
You’re dying, baseball. Clean yourself up or at least pretend like you’re interested in trying.
Joe Saunders vs. Justin Grimm, 7:10pm
Another day, another roster move for the M’s, though it certainly sounds like that wasn’t the plan this morning. In any event, the M’s DFA’d Andino and brought up Carlos Triunfel. The latter isn’t in the line-up tonight, but C Jesus Sucre is. From what I’ve seen of him in Tacoma, he’s a good receiver, has a cannon of an arm, but I think the M’s really love the way he calls a game. This again is one of the aspects of catching that’s somewhat difficult to measure (though Max Marchi’s WOWY study gets at it), and it’ll be interesting to see how they talk about him, particularly if he doesn’t hit (he’s not likely to hit).
Justin Grimm’s facing Seattle for the third time. He’s still primarily a fastball-curve pitcher, but he throws a change-up to lefties on occasion. He’s got reverse platoon-splits in his brief MLB time this year, and he actually had similar splits in the minors as well. That’s still not much of a sample, but this is not a guy that you absolutely need to stack lefties against. The M’s have chosen to stack their lefties against him, however. After the Ibanez experience in New York, I’m not going to mock them, but I’ll say that Ackley hitting 2nd is questionable no matter who the opposing starter is. Joe Saunders, of course, has massive splits, and the Rangers are fairly well-positioned to exploit that, though of course Saunders dominated them in Safeco in early April. Moreland moves up to 2nd in the Rangers order, the result of a blistering May.
Texas uberprospect Jurickson Profar is up with the Rangers, taking the spot of the injured Ian Kinsler. Profar’s a natural SS, but will play 2B today. While insanely talented, he’s just 20 and is, in the very short run, unlikely to fully replace Kinsler’s 110+ rest-of-season wRC+, but he is another example of the Rangers depth and player development prowess. Damn it. Neither the M’s nor the Rangers have fared terribly well with injuries this year; Rangers prospect Mike Olt is just now resuming training in extended spring training following a vision problem, Cody Buckel was shut down after walking 28 in 9+ innings, and the M’s lost Danny Hultzen and Erasmo Ramirez to arm trouble. But the Rangers have been able to patch together serviceable (or better) stints from pitchers like Grimm, Nick Tepesch and Michael Kirkman while the M’s have watched Saunders, Beavan, Harang and Maurer all post negative WAR.
On paper, this is a mismatch. The Rangers are really, really good and the M’s are reeling. But just as the M’s looked better than they actually were after knocking off the Yankees, they are clearly not as inept as they appeared in Anaheim or as cursed as they appeared in Cleveland. They’re still not good, but the M’s can lower everyone’s blood pressure with a good showing against a very good team in this series.
1: Saunders, CF
2: Ackley, 2B
3: Seager, 3B
4: Morales, DH
5: Morse, RF
6: Ibanez, LF
7: Smoak, 1B
8: Sucre, C
9: Ryan, SS
The M’s have turned over the in-stadium music to M’s beat-writer Ryan Divish of the News Tribune. His knowledge of early-90s hip-hop is the equal of Keith Law’s, so I’d expect we’d hear some Tribe and Wu-Tang Clan tonight.
James Paxton starts tonight in the pitching hell of Reno, NV. With Jeremy Bonderman crashing and burning last night (he’s got one more start, in Colorado Springs, before his opt-out date on 6/1) and Harang and Maurer scuffling, this would be a good time for Paxton to show he can work deep into games. Dylan Unsworth takes the hill for Clinton.
Quick post here, but as first mentioned (at least that I saw) by Dave, the M’s waived IF Robert Andino today. They needed to make a 40-man roster move to bring Jesus Sucre up, so now the 40-man has the correct number of men enumerated. The move also left the M’s an infielder short, so there was some speculation that the M’s may bring up Nick Franklin or, less likely, Tacoma utility man Nate Tenbrink. Either of those two would require yet another 40-man move, and the M’s evidently decided they’d had enough for the day. Carlos Triunfel was already on the 40-man, and can play SS, unlike Tenbrink and kinda-sorta unlike Franklin.
Triunfel had just flown with the Rainiers to Reno, and, upon landing, was instructed to get on the next plane back to Seattle. Odd morning, but I doubt he minds too much. The 23-year old was having a fine campaign in the PCL, though of course he started well last year before going on a several-month slump in the middle of the season. He’s hitting .300/.351/.476, showing more power than he has in his MiLB career. He’s hitting righties better than he has in years, and hasn’t made quite as many unforced errors in the field. His greatest tool is still his 70-75 grade arm, which hasn’t always been paired with 50-grade accuracy. Still, he opened some eyes this spring with solid play at 2B/SS, and obviously got his feet wet with the M’s last September. It’s a nice low-risk, medium-reward sort of a move.
We’ll see if he’s in the line-up tonight or if he’s eligible to come off the bench, the way Jesus Montero did for Tacoma last night. Robert Andino has positional flexibility and a great back-story, so here’s hoping he lands with another team, but I don’t think any M’s fan is sad to see the Andino Era come to a close.
|MARINERS (20-27)||ΔMs||RANGERS (30-17)||EDGE|
|HITTING (wOBA*)||-8.9 (20th)||-3.3||8.5 (10th)||Rangers|
|FIELDING (RBBIP)||-5.9 (19th)||-8.2||13.0 (5th)||Rangers|
|ROTATION (xRA)||8.8 (9th)||-3.2||21.5 (4th)||Rangers|
|BULLPEN (xRA)||4.6 (9th)||-1.0||-0.2 (16th)||Mariners|
|OVERALL (RAA)||-1.4 (16th)||-14.7||42.8 (3rd)||RANGERS|
That was a two game series! A two game series and look what it wrought above. That was the Mariners team I feared coming into this season. It was some mediocre pitching but that’s not unexpected given it was the back end of the rotation. It was some mediocre hitting but that’s not unexpected given that I thought our offense was mediocre.
It was horrendous, absolutely horrendous defense and that was my, and a lot of other people’s, big worry. The Mariners definitely traded away some defensive prowess this winter, ostensibly for enough offense to make it a net benefit. Many of us thought it wasn’t enough. It’s looking like it wasn’t enough.
The 2013 Mariners aren’t making the playoffs. I’m pretty confident in that assumption. I never held out hope for that. I did hold out some hope for fake contention, the sort where the team hangs around .500 all summer to at least keep some interest alive as I bide my time waiting for the Seahawks to resume domination of their league. This series against the Rangers seems poised to KO the chances of that quasi-contention as it’s easy to see the Mariners down to 8 or 10 games below the .500 mark by the end. Luckily though, after these three games comes 10 contests versus other losing teams (Padres, Twins, White Sox), so the Mariners might be able to prop themselves back up again.
Absolutely, Jesus Montero has been disappointing. He’s had his flashes, but he hasn’t developed, and he isn’t making visible progress. He hasn’t been much to speak of — at least fondly — behind the plate, and it makes sense that Montero’s defensive efforts might’ve been hampering the offense. I’m on board with sending Montero to Tacoma, to work on things against inferior competition. I’m on board with knocking Montero away from catching, to free up additional concentration and practice time. I would’ve preferred that things never get here, but Montero wouldn’t be the first guy to start hitting after abandoning the backstop position. He’s 23, and 14 months ago he was one of the most highly thought of young hitters on the planet.
Minor league infield instructor Chris Woodward was going to leave Tacoma today, but was asked to stay with the team and teach Montero 1B.
— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) May 24, 2013
Montero has never played first base in the majors or in the minors. Not in a game, anyway, so it’s basically entirely unfamiliar. Montero has some concept of what first base is — he’s reached it sometimes — but, defensively, it’ll be a new thing. And though first base is the easiest defensive position on the field, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. That means it’s being compared to shortstop and center and catcher. Everything’s relative, and learning first base takes work if you want to not suck at it.
So. If the reason behind sending Montero to Tacoma is to work on his bat while stripping away the defensive stuff, what’s the sense in introducing new defensive stuff? If the belief is that Montero has struggled to develop offensively because he’s been putting a lot of effort into his defense, why have him learn new defense? Why right away?
Maybe Montero won’t actually work that much on defense. Maybe it’ll be an occasional thing, and we’ll have to let this part play out. There’s no need to overreact before we know the facts, and maybe the team just wants for Montero to not completely forget what it’s like to play the field. After all, it’d be good if Montero became a decent first baseman down the line. But it seems to me the priority should be getting the bat going, if that’s still possible. Get the bat going, and then, after the instruction takes, ease Montero gently back into defense. Montero’s supposed to be a bat-first player. The bat has gone missing. Focus on the bat.
I don’t want to criticize the Mariners for something they might not do, and presumably they’ve thought this through and they have a plan. I’m sure they want for Montero’s bat to develop even more than I do, because I don’t have anything personally invested in this. I won’t lose my job if the Mariners suck. It’s just going to be interesting to see how this plays out. I should hope that Montero doesn’t spend too much time learning a new defensive position right away. I should hope that stuff doesn’t impair his ability to get better at the plate. Nobody ever looked at Jesus Montero and pictured a future Gold Glover. They pictured a middle-of-the-order slugger, and if it’s the team’s belief he hasn’t made progress in part because of defensive concerns, I don’t really get introducing new defensive concerns. Let him hit first. At least let him try.
Jeremy Bonderman vs. Zack Kroenke, 7:40pm
The Rainiers have been worth watching all year, with Hultzen and Paxton in the rotation, Mike Zunino catching and the inevitable Franklin Gutierrez rehab appearances. Now, they’ll get extra scrutiny as we all see if Jesus Montero can revive his career and possibly learn a new position while remembering how to hit.
Now, full disclosure here, Montero hasn’t reported yet/isn’t in the line-up tonight. Mike Curto reports that M’s minor league IF coordinator Chris Woodward will stick around in Tacoma to help Montero learn 1B, but presumably that’ll start tomorrow. For tonight, the M’s front office’s collective eyes will be on Jeremy Bonderman as he tries to make the case that he’s a better bet going forward than Aaron Harang. He’ll have to make that case in wet, cold, dreary conditions. It’s presumably for said dreariness that Franklin Gutierrez will DH tonight with Abe Almonte in CF.
The M’s are off, but Zunino and Franklin are playing. If you count Guti, Stefen Romero and possibly Bonderman, a good portion of this team could be suiting up for Seattle in September, if not before. Bonderman’s opt-out is in about a week, so this is a critical game for him. If they don’t call him up soon, they’d presumably lose him to free agency.
The R’s brought up Brandon Bantz, another D-first catcher who played a bit for the R’s in 2012, to replace Jesus Sucre. They also sent 1B Rich Poythress back to Jackson to make room for 1B Jesus Montero.
1: Gutierrez, DH
2: Franklin, 2B
3: Liddi, 3B
4: Peguero, RF
5: Romero, LF
6: Zunino, C
7: Tenbrink, 1B
8: Triunfel, SS
9: Almonte, CF
I dislike putting questions in the headline. So I put the question and the answer. But this is a post that will aim at slightly filling myself in on what Jesus Sucre is likely to bring to the Mariners while he occupies a very unimportant role, as far as roles go on a 25-man Major League roster.
For at least a little bit of time, it’s felt somewhat inevitable that the Mariners would demote Jesus Montero and call up Jesus Sucre in his place. Which is of particular note, being that you don’t have a clue who Jesus Sucre is. But today’s an off day, and according to Ryan Divish, it’s being done — Montero is leaving, and Sucre is coming. There’s no word yet that I’ve seen on who’s going to lose a spot on the 40-man roster to make room for Sucre, but the player will be not good, so that part should be inconsequential. For us. Very consequential for him.
The general idea here is simple. Jesus Montero has been a bad hitter and he has been a bad catcher. Now he will begin the process of forgetting everything he’s learned about catching, so as to better focus on the hitting part. In Tacoma, it’s expected that Montero will DH and play first base, and so while I’m sure this is a shot to his pride, having been a backstop for so long and all, demotions are humbling and all of Montero’s big-league plate appearances are humbling, too. He’s been a top prospect on account of his bat. One could consider this a move on the Mariners’ part to shine a spotlight on that, only. People have seen this coming for years. Maybe not the bit where Montero gets demoted, but definitely the bit where he doesn’t catch anymore.
- Negative message: “We want you to stop catching. Please stop catching. Do not catch anymore.”
- Positive message: “We like your bat. We just want you to focus on that because that’s your strength. We have stripped away most of the rest of your distracting responsibilities.”
There’s some evidence to show that, historically, catchers have developed at a slower pace. Intuitively, it makes sense that being a catcher might have been retarding Montero’s offensive development. Montero was never a particularly skilled catcher, so he always had to work hard at it. Being a catcher comes with a lot of things you have to remember to be able to do. All that time spent catching is time Montero hasn’t spent hitting, and development is basically right idea + reps. Without as many reps, without as much dedicated focus, development could be hindered.
But one definitely shouldn’t take it for granted that Montero will figure things out, now. This isn’t automatic, and Montero’s still the guy with Jesus Montero’s approach. It’s not that Montero’s strikeout rate is obscene, but he just doesn’t have quality at-bats, because his timing is off because his eye is off. Montero, a few times, has put on display his considerable raw power. That’s the power that long got scouts all excited. There’s a 40-homer hitter in there, smushed between Montero’s bones and organs. But it doesn’t matter if you can’t tap into that talent on a consistent basis. Carlos Peguero has hit some incredible home runs. Every so often Dan Cortes would throw a perfectly-located blazing fastball. Everyone in the upper levels has the ability to look great. The good players are the ones who look great more often.
And remember that Montero’s basically a DH now. It won’t be of any use if he turns out to be a decent hitter. To become an average player, he needs to be a good hitter. To become a good player, he needs to be a great hitter. Over 732 plate appearances, he’s got a .699 OPS and a 94 wRC+. Billy Butler has a career 121 wRC+. He’s posted nine WAR over just about 900 games. Montero, right now, doesn’t have a good eye and he doesn’t make good contact and he sure as hell doesn’t help himself running the bases, so he’s got a ways to go. Absolutely, you shouldn’t write Jesus Montero off. The Mariners aren’t. He’s been an elite-level prospect too recently. Just understand that the odds are against him, and extremely against the likelihood of his becoming a real impact force. Good players have gone through this, but the number of disappointing players who’ve gone through this is higher.
Sucre’s replacing Montero because there’s nobody else to do it. This is a very exciting day for him, and hopefully he doesn’t think too much about the fact that he isn’t being promoted so much because of him, but rather because of everyone else. Montero sucks and Mike Zunino isn’t ready, so Sucre’s the guy. As you can imagine, Sucre is a catch-and-throw sort who is capable of holding a baseball bat upright and swinging it forward. His minor-league OPS is .630. Let’s just not talk about Sucre’s skillset and simply enjoy his enjoyment. Maybe the most surprising thing I’ve heard about him is that, in spring training, other teams were asking about his services, as if he was a player of moderate interest. But the Mariners held firm! Sucre, it should be noted, didn’t attend yesterday’s players-only team meeting, because he wasn’t on the team yet, so expect him to be less temporarily driven than everyone else. Montero, meanwhile, did attend the meeting, for no point. Maybe he’ll take the advice with him to Cheney, where he’ll do whatever they said.
Jesus Montero isn’t a catcher anymore. Jesus Montero isn’t a Mariner anymore, in a technical sense. Jesus Montero has been one of the Mariners’ very worst players. His career isn’t over, and though the Mariners would’ve preferred to not have to do this, this isn’t extreme. This is a minor-league demotion for a talented player with stuff to work on. But Jesus Montero has a lot of stuff to work on. Just a little less of it than before, because all defensive responsibilities have been removed. We’ll see how Montero responds to his freedom.
The Mariners have lost six straight and have been absolutely pounded the last two nights. The back end of the rotation has performed even worse than usual, putting a significant strain on the bullpen. The offense is struggling again, scoring just 16 runs in those six games, half of those in one contest. After a couple of weeks of more encouraging signs, the glaring weaknesses of the roster are being exposed again.
With Thursday as an off-day, expect the front office to take advantage of the respite and decide whether it is time to make some changes. I think there are some changes to be made, but before I make any suggestions, I think it’s important to again lay the foundation of what should drive decisions to make roster moves.
As I wrote a week ago, you can’t replace past performance. There’s a school of thought that suggests that people’s job status should be evaluated on a pass/fail basis, and they be replaced when their performance crosses some arbitrary line of unacceptability. You’ve heard this with Brendan Ryan — “they can’t keep running out a guy hitting .150″ — and now you’re going to hear it with Aaron Harang, who has an 8.58 ERA and is probably the most likely player to not make the trip to Safeco Field on Friday night.
I find this entire mindset unproductive. It’s a relic of grade school education, substituting test scores for actual evaluations of ability. The job of the front office and coaching staff is not to pass judgment on what players have already done, but to forecast what they are capable of in the future. The primary determinant of a player’s role on a team should be his expected future production. The idea of playing time being available to be earned like a treat for doing ones chores simply serves to relieve the decision makers of the burden of having to make decisions. It’s much easier to simply act as performance judge rather than skilled forecaster, but good teams are built by people who have the ability to see what lies ahead, not those who rely on grading what has just happened.
Aaron Harang’s 2013 performance to date has been unacceptable, but you can’t replace Aaron Harang’s past performance; you can only replace Aaron Harang’s future performance. And you should only replace Aaron Harang’s future performance if you actually think that there’s an alternative that presents the probability of improvement. Saying that Harang’s replacement “can’t be any worse” is not only an untrue simplification, it’s an absolutely terrible way to make decisions.
The Mariners shouldn’t ship players out because they’re unhappy with how they’ve performed. They should ship players out because they believe that the person replacing them is better suited for the job that the incumbent is currently holding. But now there’s a complicating factor, because at 20-27, the 2013 Mariners season is no longer worth saving.
The Mariners have 115 games left to play. If we thought they were the best team in baseball, we might project them to win 60% of their remaining games. A team that wins 60% of their games all year goes 98-64. That’s kind of the ceiling for rational projections. Teams aren’t built to play better than .600 baseball, not in this age of parity.
If the Mariners played .600 baseball the rest of the way, they’d finish with 89 wins. Last year, the two wild card teams each won 93. Even with the addition of the second wild card, the bar to reach the playoffs is 90+ wins, because the second wild card incentivizes more teams to keep their rosters together and try to steal a playoff spot. There’s one more playoff team now than there used to be, but the barrier to entry to play in October hasn’t been lowered that much. 89 wins is not going to get the Mariners to the playoffs.
And, remember, that’s if we decided that, starting Friday, the Mariners were going to instantly transform into the best team in baseball. That’s kind of an absurd notion, because this team isn’t very good. It’d be an accomplishment if this team played .500 baseball the rest of the way. Expecting the Mariners to win 60% of their next 115 games is not quite lunacy but something close, and it still wouldn’t be good enough.
So, no, moves should not be made to try and “right the ship” or “save the season”. The season is lost. The Mariners are 10 games behind the Rangers in the AL West, and there are six teams currently ahead of them in the wild card race, each of whom should be expected to outplay the Mariners over the remainder of the season. Toss in the Angels and Blue Jays, both on their heels in the standings and both with better teams with better expected records over the rest of the season, and the Mariners are something like ninth in the AL Wild card pecking order. The Astros and Twins are the only two teams in the league that you can make any kind of compelling case for having worse playoff odds than the Mariners.
Even in the age of parity, the 13th best team in a 15 team league shouldn’t have any delusions of grandeur. The Mariners should make roster decisions based on what is best in the organization’s long term interests, not trading long term development for short term bandages. The Mariners already tried to rush Brandon Maurer to the big leagues because of a need, and you’re seeing how well that’s worked out. They shouldn’t be in the market for any more of those kinds of promotions.
So, no, Mike Zunino should not come up from Tacoma. He’s not ready. Nick Franklin should not be shoved into the shortstop job; he’s not likely to succeed there. The goal shouldn’t be to just find the best alternatives because an alternative is needed, but to look for alternatives that actually make more sense than the players currently on the roster.
In my view, there are a few such alternatives. So, with that long setup, here’s what I would suggest in terms of roster changes.
Option Brandon Maurer, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero to Tacoma.
Recall Hector Noesi from Tacoma. (Can’t actually do this for a few more days, due to 10 day option rule.)
Purchase the contract of Nick Franklin and Jesus Sucre.
Designate Francisco Martinez and Vinnie Catricala for assignment.
Noesi replaces Maurer in the rotation.
Nick Franklin takes over as the everyday second baseman.
Jesus Sucre becomes the new backup catcher.
Martinez/Catricala are removed from the 40 man roster to make room for Sucre/Franklin (and also because Martinez is terrible and isn’t a good use of a 40 man roster spot).
Maurer just needs more work in the minors before he’s a big league pitcher. His non-slider secondary stuff isn’t there yet. That’s okay. He wasn’t supposed to be ready. He’s not ready. It’s not a crime. He just needs to work on some stuff.
I’m not giving up on Dustin Ackley, but he’s a mess right now. A break from constant failure could do him some good, and give him a chance to work on getting his swing back to what it was when he was able to drive the ball to all fields. He needs to stop pulling everything, and he needs to cover the outer half of the plate better. This is fixable. It’s probably easier to fix it in Tacoma.
Jesus Montero just isn’t a Major League player. The catching experiment should end, and he should go down to Tacoma and just try and start hitting again. Let him DH everyday and try to remember that he used to have a lot of promise as a guy with power to all fields. Release him of the burden of being the worst defensive catcher on earth and let him focus on getting back to being an interesting offensive prospect. Let him take some reps at first base while he’s down there and see if he can be not horrific at the easiest defensive position on the field. More than anything, though, tell him to just remember how to hit, and he can come back to the majors when the bat is ready to carry the rest of his skills.
Noesi probably isn’t going to be any better than Maurer would be, but he’s also not as important a piece to the team’s future as Maurer, so letting him be the one to take some lumps in a role he’s not cut out for is better for the organization. And, you know, maybe his command takes enough of a step forward to be mediocre enough to not kill them every five days.
Sucre is a nothing player, but he can catch the ball and play once a week while Kelly Shoppach takes over the regular catching duties. Shoppach isn’t good enough to play everyday on a team trying to win, but he’s by far the best catcher the organization has right now, so he’s the best choice. It wouldn’t hurt to look outside the organization for a better fill-in to share time, but Sucre will have to do until or unless one is identified.
As for Franklin, Ackley’s struggles present the opportunity for the team to see if he’s part of the long term infield solution. I’m not convinced he’ll be a dramatic upgrade, but this would be a promotion to evaluate his progress against better competition, not a move made to try and turn the season around. If Ackley’s going to get a few months to try and figure things out in Tacoma, that’s the best possible time to give Franklin a half season of big league time and see what he can do. They can even stick him at shortstop occasionally if they want to see how he is on that side of the bag, but by having him replace Ackley at second, he won’t have to be good enough at SS to play regularly.
In each case, the moves are made not to satisfy the need to do something, but to try and give the players their best chance to succeed in Seattle long term. Maurer, Ackley and Montero shouldn’t be given up on, but they don’t need to be in the majors right now. Franklin is worth looking at in an extended trial. Noesi and Sucre aren’t super important pieces, so if they are overmatched, it’s not the end of the world.
Yes, this means that Harang and his 8.58 ERA stay. 28 innings of a high BABIP and HR/FB ratio are not enough to decide that a guy who succeeded almost entirely through BABIP and HR/FB suppression last year is cooked as a big league pitcher. He’s not great, certainly, and the team needs more than he’s given them so far, but logic suggests that he’s still capable of giving them better than he’s given so far, and there’s no one else in the minors who is any better.
I know there’s some call for Jeremy Bonderman, just because he’s a familiar name and in Tacoma, but he hasn’t been very good for Tacoma, and hasn’t been a good big league starter in a very long time. If Noesi bombs in his next big league start, maybe you go with Bonderman just to try it out, but I don’t think there should be a strong priority on giving him a look. If he opts out of his Tacoma contract because the team didn’t give him a look, so be it. He’s not a piece I care much about.
So, that’s what I’d do. It wouldn’t fix the team, certainly, but this team isn’t fixable in-season. It’s a roster that makes some necessary adjustments, and then can get back to hoping that Felix and Iwakuma can pitch like inner circle hall of famers often enough to keep the rest of the roster afloat.
Brandon Maurer vs. CJ Wilson, 4:05pm
The M’s of the Zduriencik era will be remembered for many things, most of them bad, but I don’t feel like their volatility gets enough attention. It’s remarkable, in hindsight, that the team was .500 in JULY of 2011 before they went on a losing bender for three weeks. Last year’s team excised any trace of drama well before the all-star break, but then had long spells of solid play in the second half. A week ago, this team was on the upswing, taking 2nd from the free-falling Oakland A’s and beginning to scan AL Central box scores in the hope of moving up in the wild card standings. Now, they look lost again, with a tired, shell-shocked bullpen, a frustrated offense and a defense that’s dealing with some spectacularly poorly timed miscues. They weren’t as bad as they looked when they were 8-15 (easy to say, because they looked baaaaaad), and they weren’t as good as they looked in the Yankees series.
That’s part of the problem, really. Five years into the rebuild, we know intellectually that a bad week or two doesn’t mean the team is Astros/Marlins bad, but we’ve heard so much about guys like Smoak and Ackley that we look for hope in the periodic upswings. Ackley just needed to ditch the pre-swing alterations! Smoak is walking! Jason Bay, you guys, Jason Bay! At some point, the team has to get better, so every time they win a few games, it’s easy to slip on that narrative – contention is nigh, we just needed to be patient. So it’s always that Mariner-y combination of dispiriting and expected when that excitement is buried by a stretch of awful games like last night’s. You don’t need to content this year, M’s, but don’t make games like last night’s a habit.
So, Brandon Maurer. He’s used his curve more in his last two starts, especially the Oakland game, either because he knows it can be an effective pitch to opposite-handed hitters or perhaps because it’s something he can go to if he doesn’t feel he has great command of the slider on a particular day. In his last outing, he eased back on the curve, and threw a ton of sliders at Cleveland’s lefties. He mixed in the change and curve, but definitely relied on his slider more than he had against the A’s. So we’re still seeing Maurer’s approach evolve – he and Shoppach seem to tailor his pitch mix to specific teams or to specific conditions. And I think it’s worth noting that this’ll be Shoppach third consecutive start for Maurer. I know Montero’s clearly in more of a back-up role now, and it seems like they’re going to want to pair the veteran backstop with the young right-hander.
1: Bay, LF (!)
2: Saunders, CF
3: Morse, RF
4: Morales, 1B
6: Shoppach, C
7: Ackley, 2B
8: Andino, 3B
9: Ryan, SS
That’s…that’s a new line-up. Seager gets a rare day-off, necessitating the always-painful bottom of the line-up pairing of Andino and Ryan (can we add Ackley to that?).
The Angels have five lefties in their line-up, including J.B. Shuck, who they promoted when they realized that it’d been a while since they had Reggie Willits, and wasn’t that Reggie Willits something? Shuck can take a walk, slap grounders, and he never, ever Ks. Just throw strikes, Brandon.
Tacoma won its fourth straight yesterday on a Stefen Romero walk-off hit. They’re now 28-18. Andrew Carraway starts tonight against Nashville.
The M’s continue to scout Brazil fairly heavily, as they signed 17yo Daniel Missaki, who pitched (at age 16!) in the WBC first-round pool for team Brazil this year.