Game 161, Athletics at Mariners
Blake Beavan vs. Trevor Cahill, 7:10pm
It’s not rational or anything, but my view of the M’s in 2011 and 2012 is highly impacted by how long it’s been since Justin Smoak has homered. In May, I thought this team wasn’t ready for prime time, but that the young core was intriguing. In August, I thought this team was bereft of hope; that if peak Ichiro and Felix weren’t enough to get the M’s over the top, then two or three Dustin Ackley’s wouldn’t matter either. Some of this is reactionary and emotional, sure, but this was a team that started a struggling Adam Kennedy at 1st and occasionally hit him 3rd in the line-up.
Thanks to Smoak’s homer last night, I’m feeling a bit better now. This team needed a productive Smoak to be relevant (some might say “watchable”) in 2011, and they’ll probably need a productive Smoak to be relevant in 2012. For so much of this year, he’s looked like a Southern Mike Saunders. It’s not just that his struggles hurt the team’s chance to win – they hurt our ability to hope.
Hope got another boost today as Taijuan Walker was named the Midwest League’s top prospect today by Baseball America. I’ve been perhaps too excited by Walker since he debuted for Clinton this year, so it’s great to see BA honor him like this. It’s not just me! He shouldn’t be able to do what he’s doing! He could get better!
I suppose we should discuss tonight’s game. Trevor Cahill had a sub-3.00 ERA last year that was driven partially by a very low BABIP. This year, despite the exact same FIP (4.19), his ERA’s jumped by over a full point. He’s still a guy who can get ground balls and get enough swinging strikes, but his command hasn’t been there this season, and that’s contributed to his slide. He’s had a particular struggles against lefties this year, and while that’s probably not indicative of his true talent, it’s enough that managers are trying to get more lefties in the line-up against him.
Blake Beavan continues his run as one of the most whiff-phobic pitchers in the league. His walk rate’s similar to Brandon McCarthy’s, but his K rate’s more similar to a pitcher from the 1980s. I would love to see Beavan explore developing a sinker/cutter like McCarthy did – here’s an object lesson in how to go from AAAA guy to an extremely valuable #3 starter. Of course, Beavan hasn’t struggled like McCarthy has, and pitchers who’ve had success might not see the need to overhaul their approach. But then again, it was only a year ago that Beavan was getting battered by PCL hitters, and he’s already made some adjustment. I’d think Beavan more than many guys understands just how fine the line is between being dead meat in AAA to semi-respectability in MLB, so he might want to start exploring ways to better himself before the next wave of pitching talent reaches the majors.
Ackley gets a night at DH, which allows him a bit of a rest and allows Seager to demonstrate his ability to play all over the IF. Good move.
2: Rodriguez (SS)
3: Ackley (DH)
4: Carp (LF)
5: Smoak (1B)
7: Seager (2B)
9: Saunders (CF)