Game 68, Mariners at Athletics
Joe Saunders vs. Tommy Milone, 7:05pm
With Erasmo Ramirez’s brilliant start last night capping a brilliant run on his rehab stint, the bottom three members of the M’s rotation have each got to be looking over their shoulders a bit. A guy like Jeremy Bonderman has no room for error, but he’s been solid in his last two starts. Aaron Harang has two CG shutouts recently, so he may be a bit safer. Joe Saunders may be safest, but that also means he could conceivably fetch something in trade – just not anything like a real prospect. He’s cheap and a name-brand starter (playoff experience!), and also not as good as Erasmo Ramirez. We’ll see.
The A’s feature several players that have made me look completely, unforgivably foolish in recent years. Last year, I mocked the fact that the A’s were going into opening day with a fly-ball starting pitcher throwing 87mph. More than that, they were so short on depth at 3B they took a so-so minor league catcher, gave him a new mitt and a ‘Go get ’em’ and thought that counted as infield depth. The former was worth nearly 3 WAR last year as a perfectly serviceable starter who got more K’s than you might expect thanks to his plus change-up. The latter….well, the latter has a .378 wOBA and a .310/.377/.500 line while playing good defense at 3B. There’s a lesson in here for me, and it’s not just “stop making predictions and judgments about baseball players,” though the magnitude of my miss on Josh Donaldson makes me think about that from time to time. The lesson is: not every team is like the Seattle Mariners.
If you’re an M’s prospect with some flaws, those flaws will be exposed in the big leagues. That’s fine, that’s to be expected – MLB is really, really hard, and if the best players know an opponent’s weaknesses, they can exploit them. So, Carlos Peguero didn’t come up and become a selective hitter. Dustin Ackley didn’t start driving the ‘lefty strike’ to left field. Michael Saunders is still Michael Saunders. If the prospect had no real weaknesses (think Felix Hernandez, but A-Rod would work), then they’d succeed, but how many of those are there? I looked at the A’s line-up through the M’s prism. Huh, a lefty without much stuff but a good change? How many of those have the M’s had through the years, and how many of them have worked out (that’d be one). When the M’s have moved players around the diamond, or taken OK but not great MiLB hitters and tried to extract production from them, the results have been awful. But that’s not true everywhere. The Rangers get something from limited players, and the A’s are either able to utilize flawed players in an intelligent way (Brandon Moss, maybe John Jaso) or develop them into less-flawed players like Josh Donaldson. This is exactly what the M’s have needed to do to close the gap with the teams in the top half of this division, but instead the gap’s just as big. Josh Donaldson was a roughly average PCL catcher and now he’s better than Kyle Seager. Go M’s!
5: Morse (1b)
8: M. Saunders
SP: Joe Saunders
The M’s made a roster move today, because it’d been a few hours since the last one. Today, they DFA’d veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach to bring in even veteranier Henry Blanco. Blanco is 41, and will turn 42 this year, so Raul Ibanez is no longer the oldest Mariner. I…I don’t know what to say about this. Shoppach had been cold, but he’s essentially produced a typical Shoppach season. Lots of Ks, some walks, veteran grit behind the plate. It seems very, very odd to decide that the guy you brought in to do those things wasn’t the guy you wanted long term, but hey, if Blanco can be a better mentor to Mike Zunino, who is now unquestionably the starter, uh, OK. But it definitely underscores how rushed Zunino was. The veteran backstop they’d acquired in the spring would’ve been an OK mentor to Jesus Montero, but not to Zunino. I have no idea. Moving on.
Tom Wilhelmsen’s officially off the closer spot, reports Ryan Divish. Wedge will mix and match with Carter Capps and Oliver Perez. Sigh.
The short-season Northwest League kicks off tonight at 6:30, as the Everett Aquasox head to Spokane to take on the Indians (a Rangers club). Rigoberto Garcia starts for Everett, who also has SS Martin Peguero, OF Alfredo Morales and Phillips Castillo, and Kyle Seager’s younger brother Justin on the roster. CF James Zamarripa may be something of a sleeper. Gonzaga alum Tyler Olsen may start another game in the series. Everett’s Pat Dillon’s got the call at KRKO 1380. If you’re in Eastern Washington, it’ll be on KGA Spokane 1510.
Taijuan Walker’s starting right now for AA Jackson and Brandon Maurer’s throwing for Tacoma in Sacramento. Good night of minor league baseball.