Game 44, Mariners at Rangers

marc w · May 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Colby Lewis, 5:05pm

The M’s and Rangers are separated by a half-game in the standings, and while things like games-behind don’t mean everything at this point, the M’s really do need to stick around Texas in the next month or two. Like the M’s, the Rangers rotation was plagued with injuries, as Derek Holland’s still out, Martin Perez joined the TJ club, and it’s not at all clear that Matt Harrison will pitch again, ever. Like the M’s, they committed a lot of money to a proven offensive weapon, and have watched said weapon disappoint. The Rangers were probably a better team, on paper, on opening day, but it was very close. The Rangers have had essentially everything go wrong, and they’re still essentially at or near .500. The M’s have had a lot go wrong, and they too are essentially a .500 team.

What you do with this set of selective similarities probably says a lot about your relationship with the M’s. The pessimists would say that the M’s can’t separate themselves from the Rangers even when half the team comes down with Bubonic plague, and they’re turning to Colby Lewis and Nick Martinez in their rotation. Optimists would say that the M’s version of Nick Martinez is names Roenis Elias, and Elias is likely better. That Robinson Cano’s a very good player, and that many fans saw Prince Fielder as a declining, limited player whose reputation (and salary) outstripped his actual production. Both views are justifiable, of course. The Rangers turned to Josh Wilson for a good chunk of April. Their opening day starter was a converted 7th inning reliever. But think back to what we all said on opening day – with Iwakuma and Walker out, the M’s just needed to stay close to .500 and make a run in the second half. With the news that James Paxton’s close to making a rehab start in the minors, hasn’t this condition been met?

It has, but there’s a problem; there’s ALWAYS a problem, it’d seem. The offense has struggled, and instead of getting key contributions from the likes of Stefen Romero, the M’s OF still ranks 25th offensively in baseball (though 19th overall! Silver linings!). Worse, the M’s found a *new* hole, as their shortstops rank dead last offensively. The fact that they’re hanging with the Rangers is encouraging as far as it goes, but the A’s have already left them in the dust, and the Angels look solid (except when facing the M’s, oddly). The M’s playoff chances (er, wild card chances) are still large enough to care about, but that’s in part due to the parity in the AL East and the ineptitude of the AL Central. All of this means that the M’s position vis a vis the Rangers, and to a lesser extent the Royals/Orioles/Rays/Jays could get important. This is the situation the Wild Card was supposed to create – that even a team in 3rd had some sort of hope. Well, the M’s have some. Now they’ve got to keep it alive.

Colby Lewis has quietly put up his best K rate since 2010, and has a brilliant K-BB%. But as a flyballer in Arlington, his actual runs allowed don’t look like it. A BABIP over .400 will do that, of course, but some of that may be the result of a shaky defense as Jurickson Profar, Adrian Beltre and others spent time on the DL. Lewis traditionally had problems with lefties, and he still does, though this year it’s righties that have hurt him. He’s a fastball/slider guy to righties, and he’s a fastball/sinker/change/slider/etc. guy to lefties.

As Jeff noted, Nick Franklin’s been recalled, and he’ll start today at DH. In the minors, he’s moved to the OF in the past week, playing a game in RF and one in LF. We’ll see if he gets some time in RF, or if he’ll bounce around the diamond.

1: Jones, CF
2: Saunders, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Smoak, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Franklin, DH
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
SP: Iwakuma

EIGHT lefties. Pretty good line-up against Lewis.

Still can’t believe the M’s lost Corey Hart on a stolen base.

Jimmy Gilheeney starts for Tacoma as they open up a homestand against Reno. Lars Huijer gets the ball for Clinton in Peoria.


78 Responses to “Game 44, Mariners at Rangers”

  1. msfanmike on May 21st, 2014 12:27 pm

    Commenting on Game 45 within the Game 43 (should have been 44) Game Thread.

    Stat based Site.


    I love it.

  2. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 12:28 pm

    Wow, how often do you see Adrian Beltre make a bad throw?

    Mike, I remember years ago seeing a sign for an shop named “Precision Auto Repair” – except their sign said

    Percision Auto Repair

  3. msfanmike on May 21st, 2014 12:44 pm

    I remember that place … they also sold drums.

    Special Percision Percussion instruments.

  4. msfanmike on May 21st, 2014 12:47 pm

    A friend of mine was visiting family in North Carolina years ago. A sign on the Highway read:

    “We gots chicken”

    Take exit 44

  5. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 12:57 pm


  6. jak924 on May 21st, 2014 1:01 pm

    Does Smoak have a hole in his bat?

  7. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 1:11 pm

    Why not let Bloomquist hit there, given he’s the only one who can play SS without losing the DH? It’s not like Romero is better than Willie (damning with faint praise).

  8. kfrei2 on May 21st, 2014 1:12 pm

    Damn it! That’s the one thing Romero could not do!

  9. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 1:14 pm

    Actually, this year Bloomquist IS as bad as Romero… maybe worse.

    I retract my criticism.

    Willie’s OPS is .396 (wRC+ is 4)!

  10. GP20 on May 21st, 2014 1:26 pm

    Surprised that Justin Leone has the lowest ERA out of our bullpen. Does he look like he has the make-up to be a closer in the near future? (can’t wait for Fernando Mesa to go away)

  11. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 1:29 pm

    I think it was stupid to have one of the team’s better hitters bunt in that situation.

  12. bookbook on May 21st, 2014 1:30 pm

    I think it was stupid to bunt there. Yes.

  13. kfrei2 on May 21st, 2014 1:31 pm

    I hate bunting! I hate it! There are only a handful of situations where it makes sense. That was not one of them. Stop giving away outs. Especially with one of our hottest hitters.

  14. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 1:32 pm

    Wow, this ump’s zone is pretty wide.

  15. Dennisss on May 21st, 2014 1:33 pm

    The umpire took over this half of the inning,

  16. JasonJ on May 21st, 2014 1:33 pm

    Tired of this lefty strike nonsense.

  17. msfanmike on May 21st, 2014 1:49 pm

    Umpires have to work the “inside” gap between the catcher and the batter, so they are always going to be getting a slightly angled view of the ball crossing the outside corner. They can’t stand directly above the middle of the plate – or too many low pitches would be missed. Although, that would be the best place to be positioned for seeing both corners of the plate during any given at bat.

    I can’t understand why so many outside and/or outside corner pitches are missed to LHB’s as opposed to RHB’s, but it seems to be an epidemic.

    It also makes me wonder how many I used to miss when I umpired. It was tougher to “work inside” with a left-handed batter because they were more the exception than the rule in high school/college, but that isn’t the case in the Major Leagues. Whatever it is that is going on with the “lefty strike” in the Major Leagues is vexxing and bewildering.

  18. JasonJ on May 21st, 2014 1:57 pm

    I think Dave or Jeff wrote about it but it does have to do with the angles you are speaking of. The problem is that the umpires at the Major League level should be better at not calling them strikes because they are better trained to see it and are aware of the illusion, for lack of a better word, that is created by the lefty-lefty match-up.

  19. msfanmike on May 21st, 2014 1:59 pm

    too many low pitches would be missed because the catchers head/helmet would be in the way … in case anybody is wondering about this particular Game 43/44/45 and hopefully not 46 Gamethread comment.

  20. msfanmike on May 21st, 2014 2:02 pm

    I agree with you Jason. It’s hard to understand.

    Sometimes a lefty pitcher working from the extreme 1B side of the rubber can “fool you” on a pitch that appears to “sweep” the outside corner to a LH hitter … but that is why an umpire is supposed to bear down and get a clear view and not anticipate the call.

    It looked like the umpire did not call a couple outside pitches to Ackley during that last AB – that he had called strikes earlier in the game.

    There’s a lot more going on back behind that catcher than you might think, and it is easy to lose focus once in a while or to be fooled once in a while, but there have been so many silly “lefty strikes” called this year that it is disgusting.

    Just disgusting.

    This is the big leagues … the pitchers don’t need any “help.”

  21. Dennisss on May 21st, 2014 2:07 pm

    This team looks better now with Jones instead of Almonte, and Iwakuma back, but to make the playoffs, they are going to have to count on Walker and Paxton coming back and being awesome, and that’s a lot to hope for. They can’t hit their way to 90 wins.

  22. Dennisss on May 21st, 2014 2:12 pm

    Msfan, just to clarify a little bit, the pitch to Cano was a little outside but arguably low as well, and the pitch to Seager was just a mistake, outside at least 6 inches beyond the usual lefty strike.

    You can only complain about umpires so much, but the Cano at-bat was critical.

  23. msfanmike on May 21st, 2014 2:25 pm

    Copy, Dennisss

    My comments about the “epidemic” were in regard to the last couple seasons in aggregate. Since I used to umpire, I try not to complain about the umpiring as a matter of routine.

    But yes, the Cano AB was a critical part of today’s game and it was a bad time for the umpire to miss pitches. It entirely changed the complexion of the inning. The Rangers were pitching around Cano during that AB and were rewarded with two gift ball/strike calls. And the strike call on Seager was just comical.

  24. JasonJ on May 21st, 2014 3:10 pm

    The lefty-strike gets called for both teams so it’s not a disadvantage in the sense that one team should benefit more than another over the course of a season, but in a one-game sample it can certainly give one team an advantage over another if it’s a high-leverage at bat.

    My frustration with the lefty strike is simply that it appears like it’s accepted, due to human error, that lefty on lefty match-ups automatically grant upwards of an additional 6 inches to the strike zone.

    It’s nothing personal against umpires but the lefty strike seems like a broken part of the game and that bothers me.

  25. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 3:25 pm

    Jason Churchill tweeted a picture of today’s strike zone. It included the generally-called “lefty strike”. A bunch of today’s calls were well outside even that expanded zone.

  26. Westside guy on May 21st, 2014 4:20 pm

    Here was Churchill’s tweet:

    Here is the strikezone plot v LHB for M's-Rangers today:— Jason A. Churchill (@ProspectInsider) May 21, 2014

    Although I’m now on a larger screen and notice that only ONE of the strikes was “well outside the lefty zone”. Not that a lefty zone should exist…

  27. Woodcutta on May 21st, 2014 5:15 pm

    The problem with the “lefty zone” and when an umpire starts calling pitches way outside the strike zone strikes is that the hitter has to adjust which means they start swinging at complete garbage to avoid the umpire calling them out on strikes. This actually may be one of the reasons there are more strikeouts in general than in previous generations.

  28. JasonJ on May 21st, 2014 5:23 pm

    For sure. After the ump called the strike on Cano that was a “lefty strike” he swung at a pitch 10 inches off the plate for strike 3 because he was on the defensive. It was smart pitching by Cotts but it’s basically just exploiting a loophole that shouldn’t exist. It’s ridiculous.

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