Game 124, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · August 19, 2013 at 4:38 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Aaron Harang vs. Jarrod Parker, 7:05pm

I’m back, so those of you who yearn for lengthy, turgid, meta-analysis in the guise of a game thread, uh, high five. Unfortunately, my absence coincided with Dave’s, so we didn’t have a great plan for the game threads, and I really want to thank Mike for putting them up.

Our fearless leader was at the Saber Seminar in Boston, having a Fangraphs meet-up and participating in one of the best baseball conferences around. I was not, however, so unfortunately I’ve nothing new to report from the future of sabermetrics and baseball analysis. I’ve been camping with my family, leisurely making my way south to Oakland. Dave’s hobnobbed with some of the smartest baseball minds around. My beard was shaggy and unkempt enough that Bob Melvin mistakenly penciled me in to yesterday’s line-up against the Indians because I just sort of looked the part.* I’ve missed quite a bit of the games, but the M’s have helped me out by going 3-3 on their recent road trip and 5-5 in their last ten games. The team’s decided to just sort of stand still while Dave and I were out of town, and for that I thank them.

The M’s open a three-game set in Oakland with the A’s, a team that continues to confuse fans and analysts alike. Many (including myself, unfortunately) picked them last in the AL West last year, and they looked due for some regression this season after what looked like career years from young pitchers and waiver claims. Instead, they’ve improved (they were ten games over .500 at this point last year). Intuitively, you’d assume that their success is the product of superior scouting – that they saw diamonds in the rough from Yoenis Cespedes to Brandon Moss – and that they simply gave these previously-overlooked guys a chance. But the more you look, so many of their batting heroes in 2012 are looking a lot more like the AAAA-types they were in 2011. Brandon Moss has been pretty good, but not the star he was in 2012. Seth Smith’s power is missing. To top it off, their breakout stars of 2012, Cespedes and Josh Reddick, have been shadows of their former selves. Cespedes has an OBP under .300, and Josh Reddick just got to 10 HRs with a 5-in-2-days barrage against the Blue Jays. Both have been below-average hitters this season.

The A’s were busy this offseason, bringing in Japanese middle infielder Hiroyuki Nakajima, and trading for OF Chris Young from Arizona. Both of these moves fizzled, with Nakajima a so-so player in AAA and Young playing himself into 4-th OF-status with a .279 OBP. To be fair, these weren’t the only moves they made. They picked up an on-base machine of a lefty-hitting catcher, and they got Jed Lowrie for 1B Chris Carter. It’s not that they haven’t made any good moves, it’s that their record is so, well, *mixed*, and here they are again, on the cusp of a second consecutive playoff appearance. Eric Sogard is the starting 2B on a good A’s team, and Jemile Weeks, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Grant Green and Scott Sizemore aren’t. Eric Sogard’s slugging percentage is .001 higher than Josh Reddick’s. Dustin Ackley is an OF. I have no idea why anyone tries to analyze this game.

The A’s starters have taken a step back, just the way we thought they might. It’s not just that Brandon McCarthy’s pitching for Arizona now, it’s that they had so many very young starters who seemed to outpitch their peripherals and scouting reports last year. The most heralded of that group is tonight’s starter, Jarrod Parker. A former #1 prospect of the D-Backs, he had velocity and a true weapon in his change-up. His change got whiffs on about 1/2 of all swings last year, and despite throwing it often, no one hit a HR off the pitch. Despite giving up lots of fly-balls/air-balls, he had a very low HR rate and got the most out of an 18% K-rate. More than the rest of the A’s rotation, Parker seemed the most talented – the “truest” of an odd assortment of players (an over-40 Bartolo Colon who throws 89-90mph fastballs over the plate 100 times per outing, a diminutive lefty throwing 87mph, a 13th round draft pick throwing 88-89mph up in the zone, etc.). Instead, Parker looked like a shell of his former self in early 2013. His ERA was over 7 in April, and while he was slightly better thereafter, by May 22nd he’d already given up as many HRs (11) as he had in the entire 2012 campaign.

For every warning sign, there was also an encouraging one. His velocity was down, but only slightly. His walk rate remains exactly the same. His K-rate is down, but his whiff-rate and contact-rate improved. His HR-rate was obviously much worse, but he was getting ahead of more batters and pitching from behind less than he did in 2012. It all adds up to a somewhat odd picture: his “traditional” stats look fairly similar to last year’s, while his FIP and advanced stats look much worse. It’s clear that his HR-barrage in April/early May can skew his FIP, but it’s also not clear that Parker has any sort of true talent at limiting HR/FBs. He’s still a solid pitcher, and he’s been excellent for a few months now, but he’s still not an ace. In true Athletics fashion, that title falls to Bartolo Colon, a portly 40 year old who MAKES ZERO LOGICAL SENSE.**

1: Brad Miller, SS
2: Nick Franklin, 2B
3: Kyle Seager, 3B
4: Kendrys Morales, DH
5: Raul Ibanez, LF
6: Justin Smoak, 1B
7: Michael Saunders, RF
8: Dustin Ackley, CF
9: Humberto Quintero, C
SP: Aaron Harang’s still here? Huh. How about that.

Through 123 games last season, the M’s were 59-64. This year, they’re 57-66. But hey, no Chone Figgins, amirite?

Eddie Campbell headlines the M’s affiliates’ starting pitchers today, with Hector Noesi, Jimmy Gilheeney, Rigoberto Garcia and Tommy Burns also toeing the rubber today.

* “I seriously thought John Jaso, John Jaha and Josh Reddick’s beard had some weird hybrid test-tube kid. I don’t think any manager in my position would’ve done anything differently. Billy Beane’s been very aggressive on the free agent wire, and…I mean, just look at him.”

** I would love a Moneyball follow-up book. There is *no pattern* to this team. None. That’s not the same as saying it’s all luck; it’s not that at all. It’s just that there’s no obvious thing to point to when describing HOW the A’s became a very good team. They just are.


39 Responses to “Game 124, Mariners at Athletics”

  1. scraps on August 19th, 2013 5:05 pm

    I especially like turgid!

  2. John Morgan on August 19th, 2013 5:53 pm

    Welcome back. I sorta wondered, you know?

  3. californiamariner on August 19th, 2013 6:23 pm

    I love the last point about how there is no pattern to how the A’s build a successful team. I wish more teams (Mariners) would be like this.

  4. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 6:30 pm

    Well, CM, the Mariners are halfway there.

    There’s no pattern to how they build a team, anyway.

  5. JG on August 19th, 2013 6:31 pm

    Hilarious write up. Welcome back.

  6. Sports on a Shtick on August 19th, 2013 7:04 pm

    Julio Morban slid into second base and suffered a right leg injury today for Jackson. No further updates but it appears to have been serious.

  7. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 7:09 pm

    Good start there!

    Not so much there.

  8. juneau_fan on August 19th, 2013 8:20 pm

    Why is when Sims rambles pointlessly, I want to hunt him down and pull his hat so far down that it covers his mouth, but when John Miller does it, it’s infinitely amusing?

    The Smith Brothers cough drops? Really?

  9. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:28 pm

    They can’t seem to string two hits together.

  10. msfanmike on August 19th, 2013 8:31 pm

    Sounds like it could be bad news regarding Morban. That guy is almost always nursing an injury of some sort and he is only 21/22 years old. He never seemed to be able to get on a sustained roll this season, but he was holding his own while battling the contact issues and various nagging injuries.

    I hope he is alright.

  11. juneau_fan on August 19th, 2013 8:41 pm

    “That’s winning baseball right there!”

    A ground out to move the runner to third with the chance to tie a 0-1 game.

    I can smell October…

  12. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:43 pm

    Yeah, Kendrys!!

  13. juneau_fan on August 19th, 2013 8:44 pm

    Morales…Such a bad baserunner…

  14. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:45 pm

    Kendrys, that was not so bright.

    Could’ve had guys at first and third with Saunders coming up.

  15. msfanmike on August 19th, 2013 8:46 pm

    Ohhhhhhhh boy did that ever suck.

  16. WTF_Ms on August 19th, 2013 8:47 pm

    Where was the the third bass coach on that play?

  17. SonOfZavaras on August 19th, 2013 8:47 pm

    Kendrys, Kendrys…sigh.

    In general, I thought the prospects list of the Red Sox from a few years ago was overrated.

    But let it be said that Josh Reddick CAN THROW A BASEBALL.

    You have to know who’s out there in the outfield, especially when your game ISN’T based on speed.

  18. juneau_fan on August 19th, 2013 8:48 pm

    It drives me crazy how the runner will be running looking for the throw.

    1. Isn’t that what the third base coach for?
    2. Isn’t it less aerodynamic to run with your head sideways?

  19. jordan on August 19th, 2013 8:50 pm

    I think the third base coach is to blame here… if he was right there on the bag telling Kendrys “DOWN DOWN DOWN!”, then I doubt Kendrys would have been jogging in and looking back at the throw.

    A good 3B coach is right there on his hand and knees screaming at the runner… but from every view I saw, it looked like he was closer to home than he was 3rd.

  20. SonOfZavaras on August 19th, 2013 8:51 pm

    And WTF_Ms brings up a good point.

  21. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:53 pm

    People always talk about the Mariners inability to find good left fielders (Raul notwithstanding); but they seem to have had issues finding a good third base coach over the last half dozen years…

  22. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:54 pm

    I’m glad that Thompson’s dumb lineup decisions hasn’t seemed to have cooled Michael Saunders down.

  23. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:54 pm


  24. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:56 pm

    Bob Melvin is tall.

  25. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:57 pm

    I wouldn’t complain about a bunt here.

  26. juneau_fan on August 19th, 2013 8:57 pm

    We might do better with a bass as the third base coach.

  27. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 8:58 pm

    ^ Hehehe

    Third bass coach.

  28. Breadbaker on August 19th, 2013 9:00 pm

    Two on, so what?

  29. juneau_fan on August 19th, 2013 9:01 pm

    I love when the on-air suggests all these complex in-game managing moves. As if this team ever steals home or does double steals, or ANYTHING.

  30. WTF_Ms on August 19th, 2013 9:01 pm

    Bass, base, it depends on your favorite instrument.

  31. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 9:02 pm


  32. Westside guy on August 19th, 2013 9:30 pm

    And there it is.

  33. phineasphreak on August 19th, 2013 9:31 pm

    Why was Furbush pulled? I’m getting tired of Capps. I’m listening to the game on the radio…did he leave one up high?

  34. phineasphreak on August 19th, 2013 9:33 pm

    Ugh. 1st and 3rd with no outs…no excuse for not generating a run there. And what the heck happened with Kendrys at 3rd?! Rizzs made it seem like Donaldson “fooled” Kendrys.

  35. californiamariner on August 19th, 2013 9:36 pm

    Yeah Capps with the game on the line against a lefty…. Probably not the best idea.

  36. Don Money on August 19th, 2013 10:08 pm

    Phinea, it’s called a deke when the fielder stands there with his arms at his side, like no throw is coming. Then, at the last second, he makes the catch and puts the tag on the unsuspecting runner. Shouldn’t be able to fool a vet like Morales, though, but it happens.

  37. MKT on August 20th, 2013 2:53 pm

    I think I saw a very similar play at a minor league game earlier this summer (in Indianapolis). The runner could’ve been easily safe at 3rd, but seemed to lollygag, and the third baseman caught the ball and tagged him out.

    It looked bizarre, even the laziest player would hustle, right? But the guy sitting next to me suggested that the third baseman had fooled the runner into thinking that the ball was going elsewhere.

    I wasn’t watching the third baseman so I don’t know if he was acting nonchalant or not. But it does raise the question that others have asked, namely isn’t it the job of the third base coach to warn the runner? But I wasn’t looking closely at the third base coach’s actions either.

  38. mrakbaseball on August 20th, 2013 4:25 pm

    Thoughts on Zduriencik’s apparent 1 year contract extension?

  39. Westside guy on August 20th, 2013 5:06 pm

    I’m not crazy about it, mrakbaseall.

    It probably means another crap offseason with a bunch of crap veteran pickups (or, sigh, the same veterans re-signed), and a disappointing opening day lineup for 2014. So contention is going to be pushed back another year.

    One could hope that Zduriencik has learned from the obvious mistakes he made this past off-season, but what little he’s said about it leads me to believe he hasn’t. The biggest hint will be if the team announces Morse’s extension before the end of September – if it happens, he’s verified he has no clue.

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