Game 153, Mariners at Indians

marc w · September 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Charlie Furbush vs. David Huff, 1:05pm

The M’s final road trip kicks off with a make-up game in Cleveland; the M’s and Indians were rained out a couple times in May, and while they made up one with a double-header, they’re making up the other one today.

Shifting a game from May to September seems like an easy upgrade in watchability; the M’s in May were often difficult to watch. Carlos Peguero and Mike Wilson job-sharing left field. Jack Cust’s DH death-rattle. Chone Figgins. The M’s position players, collectively, put up -0.3 fWAR in May, with a wOBA of .271 and below-average fielding. Their strikeout rate was the worst in the AL, and their walk rate was below average, and they had the worst ISO in baseball.

Flash forward to August/September, and the team looks a lot different. Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells are the rookies now, and the team’s ISO’s up substantially from May. But while this team is better, it’s got a long ways to go to get to something like “decent.” Over the past 30 days, over 1,000 plate appearances, the M’s team wOBA is .292. Their strikeout rate is the worst in baseball, easily worse than every NL team. Their walk rate’s gotten worse, and while their ISO’s better than it was in May, it’s still terrible.

This isn’t to say that they’ve made no progress. Their fielding certainly looks a bit better, but let’s be honest: the move that helped the M’s defense the most was DFA’ing Milton Bradley. It’s also completely true that bad young/developing players are preferable to bad aging players. I’d much rather watch Mike Carp at DH than Jack Cust (or Adam Kennedy). But this is the insidious thing about the M’s of 2010-2011: they’ve been so bad, they make you conflate incremental improvement with radical transformation. This team is much, much better to watch, and they’re better in an absolute sense. They’re also baaaaaad.

The strikeout issue is significant. It was easy to explain away the whiff problems when Carlos Peguero was an everyday player, but all of the non-Ackley newcomers have major contact issues as well. This isn’t news; Dave’s mentioned it, and everyone identified contact as a problem for guys like Trayvon Robinson and Casper Wells before they played an inning for the M’s. But what to make of Mike Carp’s transformation from patient, unexciting gap hitter to a free-swinging slugger? Mike Carp’s contact rate is well below league average; it’s almost as bad as Wily Mo Pena’s. Sure, Carp is much, much better at laying off pitches out of the zone, but he’s also worse at making contact with strikes. What problem’s ‘better?’

In the end, I think the M’s are now much more talented than they were (though I admit that the team’s relative youth might be skewing my perception of their talent), but to become an average baseball team, they need to develop. That is, the player development group now has the responsibility to turn a group of players with horrific approaches at the plate into a true major league offense. Jack Zduriencik did what he could to improve the org’s talent, but it won’t mean anything unless Pedro Grifol’s staff and the M’s coaches can transform the hitters.

That’s fine; that’s what they’re paid to do, but from here, the task looks monumental. Part of the problem is that I don’t have a good sense of what’s reasonable to expect from a player development group. How much of a player’s approach is teachable? When is it too late? What’s an ‘average’ level of improvement? Who are the major success stories? I don’t know. I just know it’s imperative that they have some success, because the M’s don’t have anywhere near enough money to patch their holes through free agency, and counting on Zduriencik to make organization-changing trades yearly seems like asking a lot. Please get better, Trayvon, Casper, Mike, Justin, Kyle, Alex.

Today’s line-up features Chris Gimenez in left field because why the hell not? It doesn’t feature Dustin Ackley, so if you were worried that you couldn’t catch this one, well, don’t.

1: Ichiro
2: Rodriguez
3: Carp
4: Olivo
5: Seager
6: Pena (DH)
7: Liddi
8: Robinson (CF)
9: Gimenez (LF)



25 Responses to “Game 153, Mariners at Indians”

  1. Westside guy on September 19th, 2011 12:06 pm

    Darn, I’m at work and can’t watch.

    And, after looking at the line-up… I think my radio is broken. Yeah, that’s the story and I’m sticking to it.

  2. Steve Nelson on September 19th, 2011 1:15 pm

    Well, they have Eric Wedge preaching philosophy at the MLB level, and wielding the biggest organizational carrot-and-stick in how he doles out playing time.

    Wedge, of course, is preaching about being aggressive, not trying to work the count, not laying off hittable pitches to hope for something, and rewarding players accordingly. Why should we be surprised? At the pinnacle of Wedge’s career, the seven seasons he spent in AAA ball, he struck out in 20% of his plate appearances!!

    I guess he figures that it worked so well for him that he just has to pass the message on to all of those young players entrusted to him.

  3. cjones on September 19th, 2011 1:21 pm

    Ugh, this is even worse than I anticipated.

  4. groundzero55 on September 19th, 2011 1:21 pm

    When was the last time you heard Wedge tell anyone not to work the count and go up there wildly hacking?

    Let’s get real.

  5. spokanecougar on September 19th, 2011 1:32 pm

    Does anyone really care at this point of another lost season?

  6. groundzero55 on September 19th, 2011 1:42 pm

    I’m not going to only care during a season with “meaning.”

    Call me foolish if you want but I’m not going to stop supporting my team in a bad season.

  7. kenshabby on September 19th, 2011 2:11 pm

    Liddibomb! wheeeeeee…

  8. groundzero55 on September 19th, 2011 2:15 pm

    This game changed rather quickly.

  9. Paul B on September 19th, 2011 2:15 pm

    Wily Mo with 2 walks.

  10. Paul B on September 19th, 2011 2:17 pm

    OK. This is Cleveland. So now that the Mariners have a huge lead, I fully expect a rainout.

  11. msfanmike on September 19th, 2011 2:18 pm

    There goes Carp – showing off some more of that “adequate” power again.

    It was accompanied by perhaps the worst ever radio call by Ken Levine … but we like Ken and we loved Cheers.

  12. groundzero55 on September 19th, 2011 2:20 pm

    Wow. Just wow. When was the last time we scored this many runs in one inning?

  13. marc w on September 19th, 2011 2:21 pm

    Carp grand slam. This is awesome.
    I love the fact that this line-up has produced 11 runs and counting. THIS line-up has 4 walks and 1 K.

    Cleveland starters not named Masterson: you are TERRIBLE.

  14. marc w on September 19th, 2011 2:22 pm

    But Olivo’s terrible too.

  15. Paul B on September 19th, 2011 2:25 pm

    Or snow. Maybe we’ll have a blizzard.

    Or an earthquake.

  16. Paul B on September 19th, 2011 2:30 pm

    When was the last time we scored this many runs in one inning?

    I don’t know, but the last time the Mariners scored in double figures was 12 runs on Aug 23. In Cleveland.

    The only other time this year they scored that many was 13 runs against Detroit on Apr 19.

    So, today, through 3 innings, the Mariners have scored their 3rd highest number of runs in a game.

  17. Sports on a Schtick on September 19th, 2011 2:31 pm

    Can’t believe this lineup is doing what it’s doing.

  18. TherzAlwaysHope on September 19th, 2011 2:32 pm

    Rain out? You wish. People have been disappearing left and right. Cars crashing. Dogs and cats living together. It’s the RAPTURE!

  19. joser on September 19th, 2011 2:32 pm

    Ok, I didn’t realize the game started this early and tuned in just in time for the big inning (missed the Liddi bomb, alas). Fangraphs says Cleveland is down to a 3% WE. At this point I’d suggest subbing the kids in for the regulars, except
    (1) This starting lineup already is the kids, and
    (2) It’s fricking Cleveland, and there’s no such thing as running up the score: even if you’re up 40 to nothing, you should keep trying to pile it on because Cleveland needs to have its head cut off, a stake through its heart, and a holy wafer under its tongue lest it come back from the dead yet again.

    It was accompanied by perhaps the worst ever radio call by Ken Levine … but we like Ken and we loved Cheers.

    Agreed. I like his voice and he does a good job of doing PbP while adding information without sounding like an idiot (he’s like Curto in this respect) but man, does anything ever excite this guy? That grandslam call sounded like he was reading the fine print on his insurance policy.

  20. Paul B on September 19th, 2011 2:37 pm

    That grandslam call sounded like he was reading the fine print on his insurance policy

    Or maybe he was doing an impersonation of what it would sound like if Mike Blowers did a home run call.

    I really do like Levine, but it seemed to me like that homer sort of caught him by surprise, and he was like, oh, yeah, that was a grand slam, I better say something.

    Maybe he was trying to make sense out of his scorebook.

  21. PinedaExpress on September 19th, 2011 2:38 pm

    I think there should be a rule that any pitching staff that walks Wily Mo Pena three times in a game is automatically completely sent to the minors. I didn’t even think it was possble.

  22. Jack Howland on September 19th, 2011 2:39 pm

    Wily Mo had a 3 walk game on 5/17/2007. He’s never had a 4 walk game.

  23. joser on September 19th, 2011 2:56 pm

    Walking into history?

  24. UnderTheClouds on September 19th, 2011 3:57 pm

    Jeez Cleveland, control your weather better or get a friggin’ roof already. Two years in a row the M’s have had to schedule makeup games there, and now the third makeup game is getting delayed? Lame. There’s nothing Progressive about your field, my friends.

  25. Paul B on September 20th, 2011 7:36 am

    The two players with the highest season OBP in the lineup the M’s put out there yesterday?

    Mike Carp and Wily Mo Pena.

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