In Fairness (But)

May 28, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

By now you’ve seen what Eric Wedge had to say about Dustin Ackley, and the sabermetricians that live inside his head. Ackley has been demoted on account of his not hitting in the majors. Wedge has elected to blame, at least in part, numbers guys who emphasize the importance of OBP and plate discipline. What Wedge seems to be suggesting is that Ackley hasn’t been aggressive enough, that he’s been caught in between and that’s why he hasn’t looked comfortable.

Dave pointed out that we’ve been calling Ackley pretty passive for a while. From the sabermetric perspective, with Ackley, specifically, it’s been evident that he’s had weak spots within the strike zone. We liked Ackley a lot because he seemed like the sort to hit line drives and draw walks and get on base, but part of that is hitting line drives, and without the line drives, you won’t get the walks, either. We’ve wanted for Ackley to change. We’ve understood his approach wasn’t working.

In fairness to Wedge, he probably wasn’t thinking about the sabermetric discussion of Ackley, specifically. Do you really think Wedge is that up to speed on the current state of sabermetrics? Wedge probably knows about Moneyball, and his idea of sabermetrics is probably all about walks and OBP, like things were a decade ago. What Wedge sees is a guy who hasn’t been practicing controlled discipline. Ackley hasn’t done enough to pitches in the strike zone. Wedge knows numbers guys like walks, and he knows Ackley knows he’s been celebrated in the past for his control of the strike zone. Ackley would’ve known people loved his OBP, so it’s possible he got his priorities crossed.

I’m not explaining this well, so let’s try an example. Let’s say we’re talking about lineup protection. It doesn’t matter who the next hitter actually is; it matters how he’s perceived by the catcher, pitcher, and manager. It doesn’t matter what sabermetrics actually say about Ackley. It matters what Ackley might actually think, and it’s possible Ackley got too focused on walks and deep counts. Which could lead to passiveness, which could lead to pitcher aggressiveness, which could lead to fewer walks, and fewer hits. Maybe Ackley has been in between. Wedge is the guy who’s been with him all this time. Maybe Ackley has over-prioritized walks and under-prioritized hits. I don’t know and can’t know.

It’s evident from this, and from the rest of life, that Wedge doesn’t hold the sabermetric movement in high regard. Which makes sense, since the sabermetric movement, in turn, doesn’t hold Eric Wedge in high regard. That’s on one hand frustrating and on the other hand okay, in that a manager doesn’t have to be a sabermetrician to win. Lots of stat-idiot managers have won in the past, and it’s more important to have the statistically intellectual guys in the front office, making roster decisions. Managers manage what they’re given, and it’s not the end of the world that Eric Wedge doesn’t know what wRC+ means. More troubling is that Wedge and the front office work closely together. This is somewhat indicative of the shift in the Mariners’ philosophies over the past few years.

Here’s the But. Maybe the other But. Let’s say Wedge is right about Ackley, that he’s been caught in between because he hasn’t been aggressive enough. Let’s say Wedge understands what Ackley has been doing wrong. What does it say that Ackley is off to Tacoma to try to get things straightened out? What does that say about the major-league coaching staff? If Ackley had the wrong ideas in his head, isn’t it the big-league coaches’ responsibility to address that? Why is the thinking that the guys in Tacoma are better-equipped to handle this?

So maybe they decided Ackley wouldn’t help the Mariners any time soon, and they didn’t want to continue hurting the major-league team by keeping Ackley around and working on things. Maybe they just think Nick Franklin is better at the moment. But what about all the work to date? In June 2011, Ackley had a .953 OPS. In July 2011, he had an .876 OPS. In August 2011, he had a .751 OPS. Ackley hasn’t surpassed .751 since in any month. Ackley has played ten months in the majors since August 2011. In two of those, he’s posted an OPS over .700. Where has the progress been? Why has Ackley been getting worse under Eric Wedge’s watch, if Wedge has known what the problem was?

For all I know, maybe Ackley just can’t be helped. Maybe the Mariners have worked with him on the right things, and they simply haven’t taken. That would be on Ackley, not the sabermetricians who like it when players find ways to get on base a lot. Maybe the demotion is just getting Ackley out of the way so Franklin can get a shot to take the job and run with it. Seems to me there are three possible parties at fault for the way Ackley has gone:

  • Dustin Ackley
  • the Mariners
  • mysterious sabermetricians

Wedge called out the last one. The first two should share the overwhelming majority of the blame. Ackley hasn’t had the right approach, and the Mariners haven’t been able to work with him to fix it. Wedge, in the past, has been all about taking accountability. Not in this case, though. In this case, it’s the fault of the nerds. The nerds who polluted Ackley’s mind with ideas like “draw walks” and “reach base somehow.”

Some people blame the Mariners entirely for the failure of some young players to develop. Seems to me the players can’t be absolved, and Ackley needs to figure his crap out. But the Mariners haven’t helped. Ackley hasn’t been good since August 2011, and the Mariners haven’t helped. The latest attempt involves taking Ackley out of Eric Wedge’s hands. Interesting, that.

Eric Wedge Thinks Dustin Ackley is Our Fault

May 28, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 67 Comments 

The man just keeps getting better and better. Here’s a quote from Wedge on Dustin Ackley‘s struggles, as published on

Wedge was talking about Ackley’s demotion to Triple-A and his mental approach, and he intimated that Ackley might have been too concerned with pitch selectivity and high on-base percentage, leading to a one-liner that hit on one of baseball’s most intriguing ongoing philosophical battles.

“It’s the new generation. It’s all this sabermetrics stuff, for lack of a better term, you know what I mean?” Wedge said. “People who haven’t played since they were 9 years old think they have it figured out. It gets in these kids’ heads.”

Hear that, everyone? We’ve gotten in Dustin Ackley’s head. His struggles over the last year and a half? Sabermetrics is to blame, what with all of our promoting “on base percentage” and “swinging at strikes”. Dustin Ackley’s failure is because all these new age ideas have gotten in his head.

Which, of course, perfectly explains why Ackley is posting the lowest walk rate of his career this season. His focus on drawing walks and getting on base has caused him to not draw walks nor get on base. We’re ruining everything!

Except, you know, here’s a thing Mathew Carruth wrote about Dustin Ackley on FanGraphs last summer.

On the other hand, when it comes to called strikeouts, Ackley has had a tougher go. His patience at the plate, some might deem it passiveness, has seen him post higher than average called strikeout rates at every level, ballooning somewhat in his years in the Majors. Dustin is no Drew Stubbs (10% of Stubbs’ PAs have ended in a called strikeout), but Ackley’s rate was 7.5% last year and is 6.4% this year whereas the average is about 4.5%.

Having visually watched Dustin Ackley for a little over a year now, that is not surprising either. The most vexing problem has been watching him take, and get called, on the so-called lefty strike repeatedly. Ackley has seemed a bit obstinate in accepting that, though technically not a strike by the book, the rule book isn’t the meaningful arbiter, the home plate umpire is.

As pitchers got to know Ackley, it appears that he may have developed a reputation that he had a weak spot there and he began to see more and more pitches in that location. It dipped back at the beginning of this season, but quickly climbed back up and has stayed above average for the rest of the season. Pitchers were, intentionally or not, exploiting Ackley’s weakness.

Using “sabermetrics”, Carruth (among many others) noted that Ackley takes a ton of called strikes on the outer half of the plate, and wrote that to be successful, Ackley would have to start swinging at these pitches more often. Yes, a sabermetric nerd suggested that Dustin Ackley was too passive at the plate. Huh. What do you know?

The idea that “all these people who haven’t played since they were 9 years old” have gotten in Dustin Ackley’s head by telling him to not swing at strikes is hilarious. We’ve been writing about Ackley’s weaknesses on the outer half of the plate for quite a while. I’m pretty sure that you won’t find any sabermetric thinkers who believe that taking called strikes in the same location over and over is a good offensive philosophy.

If you want to sum up the philosophy of “sabermetric thinking”, it’s basically take pitches out of the strike zone and swing at pitches in the strike zone. A lot of hitters swing too often, chasing pitches they have no chance of hitting with any authority. We would tell them all to try and be more selective. Some hitters don’t swing often enough, taking pitches down the middle in hitters counts when they should be trying to hit the crap out of meatballs. We would tell them all to try and be less selective.

You can probably make a pretty good case that Ackley has been too passive, though perhaps that’s the symptom and not the cause. Ackley’s swing has progressively become very pull-oriented, and he no longer covers the outer half of the plate very well. Perhaps Ackley isn’t swinging at pitches on the outer half because he knows he can’t hit them particularly well with his current swing. In that case, swinging more often wouldn’t be the solution; that would require an adjustment to his swing to get better coverage of the outer half of the plate.

But, what do I know, I haven’t played the game competitively since I was nine years old 18-years-old. Everyone knows that the only people capable of offering any kind of intelligent analysis of baseball players are those who have Major League experience. You know, like Eric Wedge. That’s what’s made him such a successful Major League manager, with his career record of 725 wins and 784 losses. And, you know, clearly Wedge knows how to develop young talent, since he helped all those young players turn into superstars in Cleveland.

Oh, wait, Cleveland’s young players didn’t develop as well as they were expected, and Wedge has had two winning seasons in 10 years as a big league manager. Hmm. Maybe experience isn’t the only thing that matters after all?

Eric Wedge is going to be fired in the not too distant future. That move, in and of itself, won’t turn around the Mariners franchise. But it won’t hurt.

And no, before you ask, I don’t think I could do a better job of managing a baseball team than Eric Wedge. His job is hard, and I’m not qualified to do it. But there are a lot of other people in baseball who are, and who know more about the game than Eric Wedge. The Mariners would be better off with someone who has actually learned something about the sport in the last 30 years rather than someone who thinks that all this new age numbers crap is getting into the heads of his hitters.


May 27, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 46 Comments 

The worst thing I ever did to myself was compare Dustin Ackley to Jeremy Reed. I don’t remember when I did it first, and at the time it was an accident, but since then I haven’t felt very good. About Ackley, I mean; I’m otherwise healthy. I can’t shake the Reed comp no matter what I do, and it’s not like Ackley has been doing much to separate himself. Of course, if you get into enough detail dissimilarities emerge, which is how all comparisons are, but now my burden is making you feel the way that I feel. If I have to live my existence thinking about Ackley and Reed at the same time, well, dammit, bummer for you. Now this is happening.

Ackley is 25. He just got optioned to Tacoma, and Nick Franklin was brought back. Reed turned 25 in June 2006. A couple weeks later, he got injured in one of the more frustrating Mariners games in somewhat recent history. He missed the rest of the year, and he opened 2007 in Triple-A. Those 2007 Mariners, you’ll remember, tried Ichiro in center field. They also played Raul Ibanez 131 times in left field. That was a problem, then, in 2007. That was a long time ago! But we’re getting off track. A simple comparison between Ackley and Reed through their age-25 seasons, acknowledging that Ackley might still come back up later on:

Ackley: 1215 plate appearances
Reed: 839

Ackley: 1.9 WAR/600 PA
Reed: 2.0

Ackley: 84 wRC+
Reed: 84

Ackley: .285 BABIP
Reed: .286

Ackley: .107 isolated slugging
Reed: .113

Ackley: 86% contact
Reed: 86%

There are differences in their walk and strikeout rates, but that’s because Reed swung more often. Again, the closer you get, the more differences you can see. Look at two trees from a hundred yards away. If they’re similar trees, they’ll look like it. Look at the same two trees from one yard away. There are different patterns in the bark! This one has a squirrel. That one has two squirrels and a bird. They are still very similar trees, and one shouldn’t overstate the differences between them. Granted, different trees are more closely related than different people, in that you can predict what one tree will do based on another, but with Dustin Ackley and Jeremy Reed, it’s getting spooky. Statistically, they’re brothers, or at least really tight cousins that hang out all the time.

The Mariners have expressed confidence in Ackley, even after demoting him. Jack Zduriencik has attempted to reassure everyone that this is pretty normal for a young player. It’s hard to track down quotes from after Reed’s injury and demotion, but there were assurances that he was still in the team’s plans. Unfortunately for Reed, there were these other guys named Adam Jones and Wladimir Balentien. Ackley’s version would be Franklin. Franklin’s a second baseman, and suddenly he has the leg up.

I think there’s still a lot of faith in Ackley, even among fans. I’ll grant that I don’t know what fans think, outside of the Internet. But a popular sentiment seems to be that he’s just taking longer than expected, and he’ll be able to find his way. His track record is too good, his history is too promising. For sure, Ackley’s track record matters, and so it matters that he was once a can’t-miss prospect. But it also matters that he’s got well more than a thousand underwhelming big-league plate appearances, and to fall back on the track-record idea is to under-weight what Ackley has actually done at the highest level. It’s to make the same mistake we made before: to think of Ackley like he couldn’t fail. He could. He has! so far, to an extent.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Jeremy Reed wasn’t supposed to happen that way. Once it became clear that Reed was a bust, it started to make sense. That’s the way it would be for Ackley, if things don’t improve. I certainly hope that they do, and I like him more than I like Jesus Montero, but a few short months ago Ackley was the second baseman and I thought of Nick Franklin as a goner in some future trade. Now it’s Franklin who’s in the majors, and if he does well, it’ll be hard for Ackley to fit. Understand that this is what the development process can look like. Understand also that this is what busting can look like.

Mariners and Padres Begin Split Series

May 27, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 3 Comments 
MARINERS (21-29) ΔMs PADRES (22-27) EDGE
HITTING (wOBA*) -9.6 (19th) -0.7 8.4 (13th) Padres
FIELDING (RBBIP) -10.5 (22nd) -4.6 9.1 (12th) Padres
ROTATION (xRA) 13.2 (8th) 4.4 -23.7 (25th) Mariners
BULLPEN (xRA) 6.4 (6th) 1.8 -3.0 (18th) Mariners
OVERALL (RAA) -0.5 (16th) 0.9 -9.3 (18th) MARINERS

The Mariners broke the streak and managed to avoid falling to a 65-win pace. They’re currently on a 68-win pace instead! There’s no time like the near present to continue improving that projection though, the Padres are no juggernaut.

It’s Memorial Day and I have lots of other stuff to do, so my apologies but this will be a brief (actually brief and not a fake brief that turns into thousands of words like Sullivan does) post. Today’s game thread is directly below.

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Game 51, Padres at Mariners

May 27, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 65 Comments 

Aaron Harang (for now) vs. Clayton Richard, 1:10pm

The new, hopefully improved, Mariners take on their natural rivals in a 1:10 Memorial Day start. As I mentioned in the previous post, the Franklin-for-Ackley swap wasn’t the only move; the M’s also optioned Lucas Luetge to AAA to make room for Hector Noesi. This makes a ton of sense, as the M’s played 13 innings yesterday and the bullpen had to deal with abbreviated starts a few times in the past week, so getting a long-man in the bullpen (especially with Harang on the mound) sounds like a good plan.

The M’s face the Padres, who started slowly and currently sit in 4th in the tight NL West. Like the M’s, the Pads moved in the fences in their pitcher-friendly park, and like the M’s, the results have been mixed. The Padres have the 18th best wOBA in baseball (the M’s are at #21), and they’ve moved up from the bottom five in home HRs to about 20th (the Pads are #19, the M’s #21). Both teams were solidly below 4 runs per game at home in 2012, and as both have boosted their average R/G at home, both have winning records at home thus far. But both teams are absolutely lost on the road, as their home parks may still obscure just how bad the backs of their rotations are. It’s early yet, and it’ll be fun to check back in on the teams at the end of the year. While it initially seemed like the M’s wouldn’t actually score more despite the changes, at this point both teams seem to have boosted their raw offensive totals, and that may help them attract more free agents down the road. Neither park is suddenly hitter-friendly, but both seem more fair. The M’s get to visit the new Petco in a few days.

Clayton Richard is a lefty groundballer who’s had every bit as bad of a season as Aaron Harang. Richard’s always been a pitch-to-contact guy, but he’s been giving up home runs at a Harang-in-Texas pace, which has led to a FIP around 7 and a half, and an ERA a run worse than that. Richard’s fastball velocity is down over a full MPH from where it was last year, and batters have feasted on fastballs this season – especially the occasional four-seamer. He’s primarily a sinker/slider guy, but he also throws the aforementioned four-seamer and a change-up that he reserves for righties. Neither the change nor his cutter is particurlarly good at generating whiffs, so he’s had large platoon splits and bad numbers against righties his whole career. This season, of course, his numbers are terrible against everyone, but this is a good game to get Bay, Shoppach and the other lefty-mashers in the line-up.

1: Bay, LF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morales, 1B
4: Morse, RF
5: Ibanez, DH
6: Shoppach, C
7: Chavez, CF
8: Triunfel, 2B
9: Ryan, SS
SP: Harang

Oookay, that’s not exactly a lefty-killer line-up with Ibanez DHing and Endy Chavez in CF, but all of the roster moves and injuries mean the M’s aren’t really able to mix and match like they could.

The M’s still need to make a 40-man roster move to get Nick Franklin on to the active roster; Francisco Martinez is a good guess, though he’s in Jackson’s line-up today (as is Vinnie Catricala). They could also move someone (Hultzen or Erasmo Ramirez) to the 60-day DL retroactively.

All of the changes mean Tacoma’s going with a bullpen day against Reno – Johnathan Arias gets the start, but I’d bet on several innings from Brian Sweeney. Franklin Gutierrez’s rehab work continues; he’s eligible to come off any time, but the M’s are going to take it slow. He hit his first XBH for the Rainiers two days ago, but in 10 games, he’s put up a line of .167/.222/.238.

Welcome to the Show, Nick Franklin

May 27, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

The rumors began last night, but it wasn’t until this morning when the players arrived at the stadium that the beat writers could confirm them. Dustin Ackley’s been sent down, and in his place is Nick Franklin. There are other moves as well, including the recall of Hector Noesi, but the story of the day is the promotion of the 22-year old middle infielder, who was hitting .324/.440/.472 in AAA. Ackley’s season line had dipped to .204/.266/.250, and his career line is now down to .237/.307/.344. People may point to his solid fielding stats and positive WAR numbers to show that he was still adding value, but the downward trajectory of his offensive stats and the questionable reliability of his fielding numbers make this move a good one.

Nick Franklin
Franklin’s had a remarkable year. I saw him several times last season, and while he’d flash some good tools, it was clear he wasn’t ready for the next step due to below-average contact skills. In his first month in AAA, he struck out in over 30% of his plate appearances. While he cut back on his Ks substantially during the season, contact had always been Franklin’s weakest tool. His best is probably his work ethic though, and putting in extra hours in the cage seems to have paid off. In 2013, he’s walked more than he’s K’d, and his K% is below 12%.

He’s likely to struggle a bit against left-handed pitching initially, but the timing works here. He can stick at 2B and not worry about improving his range at SS on the big stage. He appeared to be something of a slow starter at AAA, so it’s unlikely he’ll make an immediate splash, but I think his new-and-improved eye might help him add some value initially. Good luck.

Game 50, Rangers at Mariners

May 26, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 62 Comments 

Iwakuma vs. Tepesch, 1:10pm

The M’s have lost 8 in a row, including two sub-par starts from their ace. A long losing streak is, by its nature, deflating, but there’s a compounding effect when it’s paired with a struggling Felix. We don’t ask for much. I’d venture to say that at this point, we don’t need watchable games every time out; we know the risks of sitting down to watch an Aaron Harang start. But games like yesterday’s upset the bargain that I’ve briefly described/just made up, and it makes feeling confident about today’s game, or about Michael Saunders, or about 2014, or feeling anything, that much harder.

Hisashi Iwakuma will try to bounce back from his worst start of the year, and Nick Tepesch tries to put a finger injury behind him and continue his subtly effective rookie season.

Tepesch gets a lot of grounders despite throwing a fair number of straight four-seam FBs because he gets so many grounders off of his primary breaking ball, the cutter. He mixes in a sinker, a curve and the occasional change, but he’s been effective this year in large part because of that cutter. Just as many GBs as his sinker, but a ton more whiffs. It’s helped him bump his K% up over 16%, so he’s not a Derek Lowe clone. He’s had some HR troubles, particularly against lefties, but he doesn’t seem like someone who’ll run high platoon splits consistently.

1: Chavez, RF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Ibanez, LF
4: Morales, 1B
5: Morse, RF
6: Saunders, CF
7: Ackley, 2B
8: Sucre, C
9: Ryan, SS
SP: Iwakuma

Taijuan Walker starts today for AA Jackson, and Hector Noesi starts for Tacoma.

Smoak’s oblique injury keeps him out of the line-up today, but it’s apparently not as serious as they thought last night.

Game 49, Rangers at Mariners

May 25, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 30 Comments 

King Felix vs. Derek Holland, 7:10pm

Maybe the M’s will fare better against a lefty; they’re 12-21 against righty starters on the year, as Michael Morse has struggled and Shoppach’s early season success waned.

Maybe Felix can stop the skid with a dominating performance on his bobblehead day. He nuked the Rangers last year at the USSM/LL night, and today’s the Baseball Prospectus event at Safeco (maybe he likes statheads?).

Maybe Brendan Ryan’s hot streak balances the line up and helps them wring more runs from a given number of base runners.

Maybe watching Felix can help make watching the M’s fun again, as we revel in the Royal Changeup and drink up, as life is short and pitching rotations are shorter. In a few days, we’ll deal with Harang and Saunders, so it’s best to consciously take what joy the team allots us.

Maybe the M’s beat up on Holland and score 21 like they did last year. Sure, that was in Arlington, and to date Holland’s been much better in 2013 than he was in 2012, but hey, they scored 21 in a game started by Holland once. He’s probably thinking about that right now.

Maybe Michael Saunders stops guessing/pressing/trying to do too much/still feeling the effects of his injuries/whatever explanation you prefer and starts hitting again.

Maybe the M’s get to the Rangers bullpen and exploit Joe Ortiz and Tanner Scheppers, two pitchers I’ve selected randomly.

Maybe we all remember why we say ‘Happy Felix Day.’

1: Bay, LF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Morse, RF
4: Morales, DH
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Saunders, CF
7: Shoppach, C
8: Triunfel, 2B
9: Ryan, SS
SP: El Cartelua

Maybe Dustin Ackley can remember he’s so much more than a platoon player and…awww crap.

An Absolute Joke

May 24, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 45 Comments 


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.

Game 48, Rangers at Mariners

May 24, 2013 · Filed Under Mariners · 45 Comments 

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
SP: Saunders

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.

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