Game 139, Athletics at Mariners

marc w · September 7, 2012 at 4:45 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. AJ Griffin, 7:10pm

The A’s arrive at a crucial time in their season, as their out-of-nowhere playoff chances ha been weakened recently by a three-game sweep by the Angels and the loss (due to a horrific injury) of their best starting pitcher*. According to Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds report, their playoff chances have dropped over 15% in the past week, and have dropped below 50%. Things aren’t quite as dire at CoolStandings, but the combination of the Rangers righting their ship and Orioles doing whatever it is that the Orioles are doing means first that the A’s don’t have much of a shot at the division and second that the Wild Card race is going to be tough. They’ve got a tough schedule to play the rest of the way, and their wild-card rivals have advantages like “playing in the AL Central” or “money” or both. But the A’s remain, somehow, in a good position. How’d they get to this point?

In a recent interview, A’s Assistant GM David Forst talked about his club’s 2012 season as being a “perfect storm.” This makes those of us who saw them as a near-certain last-place team feel better, but it’s quite remarkable the degree to which the A’s have had a signature success to point to from basically every segment of the enterprise. The trades of Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill signalled a rebuild, but their pro scouting department was able to find good value in players like Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker. A trade that received a bit less attention – closer Andrew Bailey and 4th OF Ryan Sweeney for Josh Reddick and prospects – may have been the most important. An offense that looked to require a career year from Coco Crisp to avoid 2010 Mariners-level impotence now has a guy who’s put up 4.2 WAR and is closing in on 30 HRs. To back that up, the amateur scouting department came out of nowhere to give Cuban Yoenis Cespedes an unthinkable-for-the-A’s amount of money, and have watched as the OF has put up a .280/.348/.491 line in a tough place to hit. The A’s offense is by no means good, but without these two guys – both of whom weren’t on the payroll in early 2012 – the A’s really may have been as bad as recent M’s offenses. Finally, a player development system (that has watched Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Landon Powell, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Cardenas, Michael Choice, Grant Green and more stall out) helped bring two unknown, late-round draft picks to the major leagues: Dan Straily and tonight’s starter, AJ Griffin.

Griffin was drafted in the 13th round of the 2010 draft, out of the University of San Diego. He signed quickly enough to get several appearances that year in the low-minors as a reliever. Moved to the rotation in 2011, he laid waste to multiple levels before tiring in AA. This year, the Texas League proved to be no challenge, and after ten good starts in AAA, he was up with the A’s, where he now stands with a 4-0 record and a gaudy RA. If it wasn’t for Dan Straily’s story – a 24th rounder who led the minors in strikeouts before moving up to Oakland – Griffin may be the best “who is that?” prospect story of the year.

So did he gain velocity in pro ball? Does he throw 95 with movement? Well, no. Like Tigers prospect Drew Smyly, Griffin gets the most out of a slightly overhand delivery that gives his 89-91mph fastball a lot of vertical movement. His FB simply doesn’t drop the way others do, and hitters seem to have had problems with that, and so like a lot of similar pitchers, from Smyly this year to Josh Collmenter last year, Griffin’s transition to the majors has been pretty smooth. He also has a slider/cutter/slutter pitch that he throws to righties, a change-up that he reserves almost exclusively for lefties, and a big, slow curve-ball that he uses as a put-away pitch when he’s ahead. He gets a good number of grounders with his breaking/offspeed stuff, but his fastball’s a fly-ball pitch. On the other hand, it also generates an above-average number of pop-ups. Watching him face Brendan Ryan might be a bit frustrating.

The combination of his fastball and what I can only guess is a very good change-up is his interesting platoon splits. So far in the majors, lefties have only a .209 wOBA against him, compared to righties .237 (his BABIP so far has been absurdly low). The sample’s small, of course, but it essentially matches what he did in AAA – he dominated lefties and battled righties to a draw. In fairness, his splits were more traditional in 2011, but his career numbers are still slightly better against lefties. If there was one pitcher where you wouldn’t use a strict platoon approach when facing, that would be Scott Feldman. But if you had a SECOND choice, it might be Griffin. Don’t be afraid to use Casper Wells, M’s!

Felix may have extra motivation after his last, frustrating inning against the Angels. He’s familiar with the A’s, and he’s in his home park, so here’s hoping for a return to royal form. The line-up behind him includes Luis Jimenez, who’s making his first MLB start after 13 years in everything from the affiliated minors, to Japan, to a semi-pro league near his home town. Congratulations, Luis.

1: Ackley
2: Gutierrez
3: Seager
4: Jaso (C)
5: Saunders
6: Smoak
7: Thames
8: Jimenez (DH)
9: Ryan
SP: King Felix

That’s a pretty lefty-heavy line-up right there, though it’s good to see Gutierrez back in the line-up for however long he’s able to go.

*: Get well soon, Brandon McCarthy – the funniest athlete on twitter, and one of the most engaging, thoughtful and insightful pitchers in baseball.


90 Responses to “Game 139, Athletics at Mariners”

  1. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 2:12 pm

    Okay, Wells has a shot with guys on base – come on dude!

  2. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 2:18 pm

    Okay, Wells Carp has a shot with guys on base – come on dude!

  3. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 2:21 pm

    Carp. I mean Crap.

  4. The_Waco_Kid on September 9th, 2012 2:30 pm

    This time of year should be awesome, with football and baseball, but it’s annoying that so many people stop caring about baseball at the most exciting part of the season.

  5. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 2:43 pm

    I had to step away for a few minutes… Saunders hit a triple?? Pardon me while I rewind the DVR…

  6. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 2:49 pm

    I have a garage bay turned into mancave heaven – with 3 TV’s going – so I have found a way to care about them all. Baseball has center stage. Seahawks and a tennis match on the old school small SDTV’s. A neighbor came by to shake his head in jealous amazement/bemusement so i have been too busy to catch a Packers score, yet. I am not sure why we bought a house. I only need the garage. I missed how the A’s got their runs.

    Time to FOCUS!

  7. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 2:55 pm

    It’s go-time, Casper!

    Let’s go!!

  8. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 2:58 pm

    Mike, I am officially jealous of your man-cave.

  9. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 2:59 pm

    … And we will probably see a pinch hitter for Wells, later in the game, now. And the beat goes on, for him. Gotta get it done when given the chance.

    Come on Carp! Tie it up.

  10. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 3:01 pm

    … And now it’s come on Liddi!

  11. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 3:04 pm

    Way back I realize but – Saunders triple was a real triple, not the usual “mistake triple” we often see.

    And by “we”, I mean “fans of teams other than the Mariners”. We Mariners fans don’t see that many of those. 😉

  12. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 3:06 pm

    … And yelling expletives with the garage door open, will not do anybody any good, so iPhone expletives it is:

    Forfuckingcrapoutloudwellscarpandliddi – getajobdoneyoudumbasses!!!

  13. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 3:08 pm

    hehehe Mike.

    It sure seems like on any given day only two Mariners are going to produce at all. It varies somewhat which two it is, though.

  14. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 3:22 pm

    Guti’s made some good contact today – he’s just been unlucky to hit them right at guys.

  15. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 3:40 pm

    I suppose the team will be much better off when Ackley shows he can hit Big League pitching, consistently. He has had a crappy year, all things considered. Nowhere near the crappiest on the team – but nowhere near good. Just barely passable IMO. C- territory.

    Probably a B- if grading on a curve.

  16. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 3:47 pm

    Yeah, his bat has been seriously disappointing this year. He has, on the other hand, been far better defensively than most of us thought he would be.

    But on this team, I think the disappointing bat has been a bigger deal, since we have enough plus defenders around him that covering for an defensively average second baseman wouldn’t have meant a huge dropoff.

    Of course if his bat DOES come around, we may be looking at another Bret Boone. With Ackley, I think I’m still hopeful – don’t know whether I can logically support it though. 😀

  17. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 3:56 pm

    Mike, you called it. Jaso pinch-hitting for Wells…

    Against a rightie, though, it makes sense.

  18. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 3:57 pm

    Jaso with a double!

    Come on Carp!!

  19. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 3:59 pm

    CRAP on a crap cracker, Carp!

  20. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 4:00 pm

    Swing the bat, Carp!


    Crank it up Thames. Good thing we need two runs to tie, now.

  21. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 4:02 pm

    Okay, it’s Power Sphere’s turn to try.

  22. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 4:02 pm

    Good call on the PH, here. Can’t send Mune up there down by two.

  23. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 4:05 pm

    Crap. That was disappointing. I thought if Jimenez was able to get on, we had a decent shot with Guti and Saunders coming up next.

  24. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 4:06 pm

    Mariners swept at home. Packers getting worked at home. Time for me to leave home and go fishing.

    Go Seahawks. Go Serena.

  25. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 4:15 pm

    I think the Athletics showed the Mariners the difference between a young, not-awful team and a good team. You need more than two or three guys who don’t suck either defensively or offensively.

    I think the Mariners can be that team, but they’re obviously not there yet. Some guys need to step up. Ackley, obviously. One of either Carp or Smoak… although I am not convinced either one of them is really the solution. And right field needs to get sorted out, one way or the other (BTW Wedge – give Wells an extended look! Don’t sit him for a week just because he went 0-3 in one game).

    Seager can hold down third. Ryan can be our shortstop for a couple more years. We’ve got Zunino coming up soon, I’d guess. And I don’t think it makes sense to spend a bunch on pitching, given what we’ve got on the farm.

  26. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 4:49 pm

    Does anyone know if Smoak has any remaining options? With Carp’s injury so soon after Smoak got sent down this season, the team basically was forced to waste one on the dud(e) this year.

  27. stevemotivateir on September 9th, 2012 6:47 pm

    Westy, if Smoak spent less than 20 (or 25?) games in Tacoma, I don’t think it burns an option. I may be mistaken about that, but I think that’s the rule. So I would guess he does have an option left. I don’t think he was in Tacoma that long. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  28. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 7:30 pm

    Steve, according to he was in Tacoma for exactly 20 games this year. 😀 So I suspect that indeed used up an option.

    I think he may have a fourth option available since he spent all of 2008 in A ball. But I find all these option rules confusing, so I could very easily be misinterpreting that part of the option rules.

  29. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 7:47 pm

    I hope there are no Options remaining and as a result, the team gets rid of him because it no longer wants him. He is stunting the growth of the entire roster and the entire fan base.

    Was that over-stating things a bit?

    And take Oliggins with you! And don’t let the door hit you in the ass!!

    Now that is definitely not over-stating it.

  30. Westside guy on September 9th, 2012 8:02 pm

    Did you not catch any fish Mike? 😉

  31. msfanmike on September 9th, 2012 8:14 pm

    Good guess (LOL) but I decided not to go out today, after all. Too windy. I went Thur, Fri and Sat and caught some bass. Catch and release. Mostly small ones, but dumb enough to bite anything that wiggles. When the wind dies down on tue or wed, I will go catch some more – after work.

  32. stevemotivateir on September 10th, 2012 9:58 am

    So, Smoak should be out of options. I don’t think the fourth option applies, as this would be year number five regardless, right?

    Either way, it’s really hard to imagine the team planning to move forward with him.

  33. Westside guy on September 10th, 2012 10:45 am

    No, his first major league appearance was in 2010 – so next year would be #4. That’s why I was wondering if he had a fourth option or not.

  34. stevemotivateir on September 10th, 2012 11:59 am

    I had understood that the clock started when a player is on the 40-man, regardless of being on the active roster or not. I was mistaken about 2008, but was he on the roster in 2009?

  35. stevemotivateir on September 10th, 2012 12:10 pm

    OK Westy, I think I know the answer… (drum roll)

    He wasn’t on the 40 man in 2009, so it would appear that he does qualify for another option.

    Really feels like he’s been around too long!

  36. Westside guy on September 10th, 2012 12:44 pm


    (that was supposed to be a drum roll)

    Hehe, and the reason we’re both spending so much time investigating this is because no one wants to see Smoak on the 2013 opening day roster. 😀

  37. stevemotivateir on September 10th, 2012 1:05 pm

    Was that roll in 16ths?

    Really wonder how serious they are about Monty learning the position.

  38. eponymous coward on September 10th, 2012 7:06 pm

    So, I guess that A’s series was as thrilling for USSM as it was for us…

  39. Westside guy on September 10th, 2012 10:19 pm

    Hey Jeff Sullivan wrote about Smoak today – and he talked about his minor league options:

    “But unless I’m just completely wrong, Smoak’s got another option year left. He was optioned in 2010 and he was optioned in 2012, but his only time in the minors in 2011 was during a brief rehab assignment. These things are always partially guesswork but it seems to me that Smoak could spend a lot of next year with Tacoma.”

  40. stevemotivateir on September 11th, 2012 6:24 am

    Too funny Westy. Never even looked at 2011, I just assumed an option had been burned.

    If Smoak isn’t dealt in some kind of package, or swapped for another bust in the making, I hope he starts the season in Tacoma and stays there for the better part of the season, if not all of it, even if he has a good spring and hits well in Tacoma. I’d like to see them give him all the time they can to solidify his swing -if it’s even possible.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if he went away.

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