Game 109, New-Fangled Mariners at Basically-The-Same Orioles

marc w · August 1, 2014 at 3:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Roenis Elias vs. Wei-Yin Chen, 4:05pm

Sooooo, deadlines, huh? Yesterday’s game thread talked about the small move the M’s made on Deadline day, but because of life and obligations, I wasn’t able to update it with the biggest news in M’s land: the M’s acquiring CF Austin Jackson for IF Nick Franklin as part of the three-team trade sending David Price to Detroit. That get s a non-ironic “wow.” If you’ve read this site at all, you know I haven’t been all that excited about GM Jack Zduriencik’s trades, and his decision-making in general. So let’s get this out of the way: I think this was a great move, and one that had to be made.

The Mariners rank dead last in baseball in production from the CF spot. The combination of Almonte/Jones/Chavez is essentially replacement level. The M’s are in the wild card hunt turning the top of their line-up over to replacement level OFs, which is both aggravating and a clear opportunity. Of course, it’s easy for everyone on twitter to just say, “Stop playing awful CFs and play someone not-awful!” as if Tacoma was stocked with decent, MLB-ready CFs. Remember, Jones swapped places with Almonte in May. Until yesterday, if you wanted to pull the plug on Jones-as-starting-CF, you were either giving the spot to Endy Chavez full time, or you were un-doing that swap and re-installing Abe Almonte again. Sure, there’s Xavier Avery, and yes, Chris Denorfia could play CF in a pinch, and when he’s back, you could give the position back to Mike Saunders, but there are waaay too many assumptions in all of that. The point is, through a combination of bad luck, developmental hiccups (I think it’s sort of telling that they haven’t tried Ackley in CF again) and injuries, they had a fairly sizable hole, and yesterday, they plugged it.

One of the laments I heard/uttered when Nick Franklin was sent down after struggling with the M’s early in the season was that they’d taken a player with lots of trade value and slowly whittled it away, leaving a player unsure of his role and potential trade partners unsure of his value. Again, it’s easier to say with hindsight, and I’m wary of blaming the front office for a player not hitting in a call-up, but it seemed like the M’s had missed their chance to move Franklin and get actual utility in return. Well, I guess not. Jackson has slumped his way to being a league-average bat, and while his defensive numbers have struggled a bit, the M’s know none of the previous occupants of that role are in contention for the Gold Glove. It came late, but the M’s did indeed use Franklin to get not just an MLB-ready OF, but a guy just two years off of an elite, all-star-level season in CF.

So where do the M’s stand today? According to BP, the move improved the M’s wild card chances by a percentage point or so. Fangraphs adds in the results of yesterday’s games, so the combination of acquiring Jackson AND the M’s late win significantly improving their playoff odds. To be clear: they’re still not good, but no team helped themselves more yesterday than Seattle. Part of what made the deadline so interesting this year is how teams similarly situated at the margin of the WC race took such divergent actions. Cleveland essentially gave up, trading Justin Masterson a day or so ago, and then shipping Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals and installing a replacement-level bridge player until Francisco Lindor’s ready next year. Everyone’s talking about how Tampa threw in the towel, and while it’s not *quite* so simple, they had to understand that moving David Price now made it harder for them to make the playoffs in 2014. In any event, one of the interesting thing about that Fangraphs piece was showing how the magnitude of some of these trades pales in comparison to adding/losing a game. That is, yesterday’s games – the games played while everyone flew to new teams and looked to break apartment leases – mattered about as much as acquiring a big star. You can quibble with that, or you can relish the fact that, as Nathan Bishop talked about yesterday at LL, the M’s are suddenly playing really, really meaningful games.

So welcome, Austin Jackson. Welcome, Chris Denorfia. Help us keep up the habit of checking the playoff odds every day. Help us forget about mismanagement, a nearly unbroken string of lost seasons and a flawed roster. Let’s have fun again.

I was going to say I just wrote about Wei-Yin Chen, was sort of true, but then I saw just how little I wrote. In that start seven days ago, Chen shut the M’s out for eight innings – his best outing of the year. That said, Chen’s traditionally been better against lefties (though this year he’s had almost no splits), and while the M’s tried to run most of their RH bats against him the other day, their RH bats are a bit better this time around. The M’s are also facing him in a better environment; Safeco’s the perfect place for a fly-ball lefty who doesn’t walk anyone.

1: Jackson, CF
2: Ackley, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Morales, 1B
5: Seager, 3B
6: Denorfia, RF
7: Hart, DH
8: Zunino, C
9: Taylor, SS
SP: Elias

That’s six RHBs. It’s not that the M’s haven’t been able to use six RHBs in years and years, it’s just that they’ve had to rely on switch-hitters who either couldn’t hit much at all, or struggled mightily against lefties – guys like Justin Smoak and Nick Franklin. This…this is better, even despite Morales’ continued struggles.

Stefen Romero and James Jones head to Tacoma to make way for Denorfia and Jackson.

Tacoma had its second national TV game yesterday. CBS Sports Network has been televising one upper-minors (essentially PCL and IL) game per week, and I suppose we’ll soon see what they want to do with this model next year. Step it up, and have two or three? Bag it? Or market it along with the draft and the burgeoning interest in MiLB prospects. I had some thoughts about this back in June, before the Rainiers first TV game of the year, and, for unknown reasons, it never posted. So I’ll plagiarize myself and put some thoughts about it below the jump.

If you’re like me, you were only vaguely aware that CBS Sports Network was a thing – a channel, as opposed to what CBS calls itself when it’s showing the Masters or March Madness. It’s actually a stand-alone channel, even if it doesn’t have the profile (yet) of an NBC Sports Network, which has the rights to televise NHL, MLS and some NCAA football games. CBS Sports Network carries Major League Lacrosse games, and they’ve got Arena Football and some bowling events, so, uh…that may be why you hadn’t heard of it. Early this year, though, they decided to try something new – a weekly telecast of a minor league baseball game. So far, the games have featured AAA teams – both the International League and the Pacific Coast League, though they’ve apparently have In early June, they broadcasted a Tacoma vs. Albuquerque game from Cheney Stadium, and yesterday, they televised the Rainiers game at Salt Lake City. CBS has its own broadcast crew, and they move from city to city each week. Thus, friend-of-blog Mike Curto didn’t get any airtime, but he still did the radio and thus provided the audio for MiLB.tv’s broadcast.

CBS is basically trying to gauge and/or build the audience for minor league baseball. It’s an interesting move, and one that I’m a bit surprised hasn’t been tried yet. Sure, if you’re really into watching the minors, you probably already have a MiLB.tv subscription, which of course costs a lot less for the year than a month’s cable bill. But I’d assume most people who HAVE MiLB.tv also have cable, and frankly, some of the MiLB.tv broadcasts are pretty spartan; not sure if New Orleans still has a single fixed camera high atop some forgotten corner of the roof, but it made following the game nearly impossible. In all, I think this is laudable, and I hope it works out for both parties. That said, it also highlights the different approaches you could take to a project like this. CBS seems to be going with AAA teams – those with larger, more modern stadiums, and leagues that feature players that many have heard of – June’s starter Matt Palmer played in the majors for parts of five seasons, going 11-2 with the Angels back in 2009. Last night’s Bees starter was Chris Volstad, who won 12 games for the Marlins years ago. Another approach would be to focus on the top prospects in the country; Kris Bryant versus Andrew Heaney, maybe, or Mookie Betts vs. Aaron Sanchez. The former seems more workable, while the latter might make a bigger impact in an extremely small pool of prospect-crazed dynasty-league fantasy players. And frankly, CBS can always adjust on the fly; if their games involving a big AAA prospect get more ratings, I’d assume they’d take note.

I’ve often wondered why the regional sports networks haven’t picked up at least a few games of the local affiliated team. To be fair, some do- many of you may remember that ROOT Sports televised 5-10 Portland Beavers games several years ago. But it hasn’t been a big part of their schedule, which leads me to think that there hasn’t been much of a market for minor league games, especially given how many would conflict with big league games on those same networks. But have you seen some of the stuff they show instead? You’re telling me a game featuring two Midwest League teams couldn’t out-draw taped fishing shows? Moreover, there’s some evidence that the public’s appetite for baseball at the sub-MLB level is changing, and we’ve just seen a perfect example with the draft. Less than 10 years ago, the MLB draft wasn’t televised, it was essentially just a really long conference call. Most M’s fans, even die-hards, couldn’t name an affiliate outside of Tacoma. Almost no one knew of or cared about the top 10 prospects in another org, and while top 100 prospect lists were around, they were very much a niche product.

Now, this stuff is everywhere. The MLB Network televises the first round of the MLB draft, like a down-market version of the NFL’s. Look elsewhere, you’ll see and hear tons of commentary on the draft, as Keith Law, Jon Mayo, Allan Simpson and others appear to break down the top HS/College players. Not only do networks know there’s a market for this, they understand that many viewers will know who those top players are and have opinions about them. Everything is a risk and a niche market until it suddenly isn’t. The NCAA Basketball tournament wasn’t nationally televised until recently, and the early rounds were on cable up to the early 1990s. The NFL Draft wasn’t anything until ESPN and the growth of fantasy football turned it into the colossus it is today. I’m not suggesting that anything like that is going to happen to minor league baseball, but I am suggesting that the potential audience for this is no longer functionally equivalent to zero.

Comments

50 Responses to “Game 109, New-Fangled Mariners at Basically-The-Same Orioles”

  1. Dennisss on August 1st, 2014 3:37 pm

    I started the year thinking it would almost certainly be Zduriencik’s last, but you do have to give him credit where credit is due. Besides the deadline trades, they picked up Chris Young and identified Elias early as one of their starters, plus they put together a really good bullpen. Also, the Sucre-for-Buck swap may not have been impactful, but it makes me wonder if the front office is changing its ways — these are the same guys who liked Miguel Olivo, Rob Johnson, Jesus Montero the catcher?

    The team is better this year, and you have to acknowledge that maybe it’s because the GM has done a better job.

  2. Eastside Crank on August 1st, 2014 3:46 pm

    The signings yesterday help make the Mariner outfield less bad and maybe will add a win to the total by season’s end. Possibly, center field will be better cared for next season. Neither look like long term solutions so I would not expect either player to be on the team the next time the Mariner’s make the playoffs. Right now the Mariners are circling the drain and these new players may allow them to play .500 ball and save the indignity of another losing season.

    I am happy for Franklin to be going to a team known for being able to develop their young players. This could be a real opportunity to regain the promise he showed last season. My question is: who makes the playoffs first, the Mariners or Franklin?

  3. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 4:07 pm

    Gotta like this lineup as opposed to what we have trotted out their the past few months. Can’t wait to get Condor back and see what happens. Go M’s!!

  4. Kazinski on August 1st, 2014 4:38 pm

    Now that they’ve upgraded their outfield the need to do something about the 1b/DH situation. Its pretty bad, here are the Rest of the season projections from Zips and Oliver for the availble candidates. Its kind of amazing that according ZIPS the only one projected to have an OPS > .700 over the rest of the season is Smoak. Oliver is much kinder than ZIPS to all of them and seems to be an define upper limit, not their likely production.

    Montero BA/OBP/SLG
    .243/.295/.388
    .266/.318/.445

    Morison
    .230/.310/.382
    .249/.327/.415

    Morales
    .250/.301/.394
    .266/.319/.439

    Hart
    .236/.300/.396
    .254/.317/.432

    Smoak
    .228/.310/.391
    .232/.315/.394

    None of them are great shakes offensively, Morrison and Smoak are the two best defensive options. I think probably the best course would be to DFA Hart, because he doesn’t have a position he can play including DH, and bring up Montero. Then play Morrison at 1st against RH, Kendry at 1st against LH and DH against RH, and Montero DH against LH.

    And keep your eye out on the waiver wire. If someone like Josh Willingham or Alex Rios or Marlan Byrd becomes available, you could think outside the box and move Ackley to 1st base and put Rios or Willingham in LF and improve the team both in the field and at the plate.

  5. Will on August 1st, 2014 5:00 pm

    Robbie showing some speed there!

  6. Section329 on August 1st, 2014 5:03 pm

    About time, Kendrys. He is the one move I object to. Interesting perspective, Kazinski. Caveat would be Morales defense and his ability to stay healthy even in limited time at 1st.

  7. Westside guy on August 1st, 2014 5:11 pm

    Kendrys got a hit! He’s fixed!

  8. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 5:17 pm

    Thank god for double plays (at least when were not hitting into them)

  9. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 5:21 pm

    Please Come back soon Saunders…. I can’t take any more Hart!

  10. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 5:28 pm

    Amen Grayfox. Amen!!

  11. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 5:32 pm

    Gotta hand it to this kid, Roenis. He’s got a lot of moxie. Perhaps he goes down when/if Paxton returns, but boy has he been a big godsend for us. He hasn’t performed much like a “where in the hell did he come from” rookie. Good stuff!

  12. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 5:34 pm

    He had a few hickups Eastside, but his poise really came in and it did not seem like it set him back, he just came out next time and did his thing. If he can continue to improve like this he can be a solid pitcher for us for a good long time.

  13. Will on August 1st, 2014 5:36 pm

    Perhaps he goes down when/if Paxton returns

    Paxton is starting tomorrow.

  14. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 5:37 pm

    That’s what I meant by “Moxie”. This kid is tough. Perhaps because of life experiences and struggles none of us will/have ever been through. His “makeup”, which can’t turn into a statistical score seems very positive going forward. A great find for the Mariner’s future staff.

  15. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 5:39 pm

    I knew that about Paxton. But, isn’t Elias approaching his innings limit?

  16. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 5:45 pm

    He’s at 128 inning’s Eastside.

  17. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 5:47 pm

    He’s okay then. 170 is what I had heard early on.

  18. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 5:48 pm

    Let’s see how we get out of this little jamboree.

  19. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 5:48 pm

    That play just has to be made by Taylor.

    Damn, that’s gonna cost them.

  20. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 5:55 pm

    Gah! so damn close Cano!

  21. Will on August 1st, 2014 5:58 pm

    Random fact: Billy Hamilton has a higher ISO than Robinson Cano. Never would have expected that.

  22. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 6:01 pm

    Wow.

    Nobody would have ever guessed that was going to happen.

    Cano had 1 home run in July. That was surprising.

  23. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 6:09 pm

    Once again for the M’s, we have pitched well enough to win tonight. Broken record.

  24. Eastside Suds on August 1st, 2014 6:13 pm

    Reminds me a bit of the 1960′s era Dodgers. Koufax, Osteen, Drysdale, Podres, Sutton, Perranoski…..but no hitting. Frustrating!

  25. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 6:17 pm

    I hope the ball accidentally finds Ackley’s bat. Tough matchup for Ackley against Miller.

  26. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 6:19 pm

    My “hope” should have been more specific.

  27. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 6:22 pm

    Need it, Kendrys … Need it now.

  28. Will on August 1st, 2014 6:22 pm

    Andrew Miller looks like he’s seven-feet tall out there…

  29. Will on August 1st, 2014 6:24 pm

    Sigh. Our slugging 47 wRC+ first baseman and cleanup hitter failed to come up in the clutch.

  30. Will on August 1st, 2014 6:27 pm

    Morales is the one of most un-athletic players in baseball…

  31. Woodcutta on August 1st, 2014 6:30 pm

    Wow, from a possible disaster to a double play. Good job Ackley.

  32. Mariner.lovechild on August 1st, 2014 6:31 pm

    If Morales can’t hit in the clutch, we might as well field a left handed 1B.

  33. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 6:32 pm

    What was that!? That wasn’t a noodle arm throw.
    It wasn’t a cannon either, but it was aight.

  34. Westside guy on August 1st, 2014 6:36 pm

    Larry Stone pointed out today that yesterday’s moves don’t magically fix the team – but they do at least make them a bit less awful offensively. However they’re certainly not a lock for the playoffs.

  35. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 6:37 pm

    Alright another lackluster offensive game that was easily a winnable game for any other competant offense.

  36. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 6:37 pm

    Most batters might see 3-4 pitches per at bat, Corey Hart sees 3-4 pitches a game.

  37. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 6:40 pm

    Maybe Paxton will replace Hart tomorrow and break up one of the 50 WRC+ roster clogging log-jammers. There just isn’t any power left in his bat when he does manage to put the ball in play.

  38. Dennisss on August 1st, 2014 6:48 pm

    Hart 0 for 4 with a weak flyout to end the game. That would make a very fitting end to his forgettable (regrettable) stint as a Mariner.

  39. sawsatch on August 1st, 2014 7:20 pm

    If Toronto wins tonight and plays 500 ball the rest of the way, the Mariners have to go 30-20 to tie for wild card Don’t think it will happen.

  40. Westside guy on August 1st, 2014 7:52 pm

    Jackson is arbitration eligible but still under team control next year, right?

  41. msfanmike on August 1st, 2014 8:12 pm

    Correct

  42. MrZDevotee on August 1st, 2014 9:19 pm

    The fun thing about Toronto being in the race is that we end the regular season with 4 of our last 7 games against the Blue Jays…

    We only need to be within 4 games in the last week to have meaningful baseball… And if the Angels mysteriously fall somehow, we end with a 3 game series against them.

    September could be fun if we can go on a little winning streak.

  43. MrZDevotee on August 1st, 2014 9:26 pm

    Also,
    I think BOTH the Mariners and A’s have no chance of making the playoffs now… We lost 2-1 after our new hitters joined the team. The A’s lost 8-1 to the Astros after their big day of trading…

    (Granted– nobody saw the game. Literally, NOBODY. The Astros-A’s game drew a 0.00 TV rating, because it wasn’t being televised for Oakland, and it was only available on a tiny local pay-for station in Houston (’cause they have a cable dispute going).

    Literally, nobody watched the game. That’s crazy. The camera guys should have taken the day off.

  44. Grayfox3d on August 1st, 2014 9:45 pm

    It’s crazy seeing the Mariners game’s down in Oakland, the stadium always seems half empty. For the best team currently in baseball, to have such a low fan draw is mind boggling. If that was Seattle, you know the bandwagon’s would be over flowing.

  45. MrZDevotee on August 1st, 2014 10:51 pm

    Can’t really blame ‘em… I’ve been to a few games in Oakland and that is an AWFUL stadium for baseball… Especially for fans. It’s like the Kingdome with the roof missing. All concrete and horrible lines.

  46. smb on August 1st, 2014 10:53 pm

    I had occasion to get to know Denorfia’s game fairly well a few years back. I have a soft spot for him, and though the holes in his game are well documented, I’m happy he’s here and am hopeful he’ll contribute in the expected ways.

  47. Eastside Crank on August 2nd, 2014 7:52 am

    Please, no more blasphemy about the early 1960′s Dodgers. Even with the new additions, the Mariners do not have a single position player who would have cracked their lineup. Felix would have been the #3 starter if he could pitch every 4 days. Tommy Davis, Maury Wills, Willie Davis, Frank Howard, Jim Gilliam, Johnny Roseboro, and Ron Fairly all were better hitters than the new acquisitions and Wills stole 104 bases one year. The Dodger farm system was very productive and did not need to make excuses each year about not having good players ready to go.

  48. Bremerton guy on August 2nd, 2014 12:14 pm

    Eastside,

    With all due respect, but come on. Just at random, I picked the 1961 Dodgers. That year they finished 89-65, in 2nd place to the Reds, four games back. At 2nd Base they played a rotation of Jim Gilliam (66 starts) and Charlie Neal (88 starts). At 3rd Base, Tommy Davis started 57 games, Daryl Spencer started 55 games, and Jim Gilliam started 35 games. 1961 full-year WAR for each of them, per Baseball Reference, were Gilliam (2.4), Davis (.7), Spencer (.6), and Neal (-1.0). Baseball Reference has Seager’s WAR for 2014 at 4.7 and Cano’s at 4.1. Granted, 2 out of 8 isn’t many, but I’m pretty sure Seager and Cano would have been welcome additions to the ’61 Dodgers starting nine.

  49. Eastside Crank on August 2nd, 2014 12:53 pm

    Let’s take 1963. The World Champion Dodgers had Jim Gilliam play 119 games at 2nd and 55 game at 3rd. His combined WAR was 5.2 and he finished 6th in MVP voting. I would take him over Cano at 2nd and agree that Seager is better than the rest of the 3rd basemen the Dodgers tried. My point is that Dodger fans were hardly suffering in the early 60′s. The team won WS in 1959, 1963, and 1965. And it is still pretty sad that after 6 years of Z, the Mariners do not have a very good farm system.

  50. eponymous coward on August 2nd, 2014 11:09 pm

    Junior Gilliam was a really good player…

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/gilliji01.shtml

    But Robinson Cano is demonstrably better as a 2B.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/canoro01.shtml

    (The thing is Junior bounced around the diamond a lot- OF, 3B, 2B. That tends to happen when you play with Jackie Robinson for a good chunk of your career.)

    Oh, and I would argue that it’s likely that if Felix stays at his current level of production for a few years and has a decent career curve (in other words, doesn’t blow his arm out soon), he’ll be a better pitcher than Drysdale, who is overrated as a pitcher IMO; he pitched in an era where it was pretty easy to get good pitching stats, the second dead-ball era of the 1960′s. A sub-3 ERA is much more impressive now than it was in the mid-late 19960′s at Dodger Stadium, where the mound was ridiculous, etc. Bill James goes into this argument at length in his book on the HOF. I find it convincing.

    Felix’s career is probably never going to be as peak-level as Koufax’s was, but Koufax was only a top-flight pitcher for 5 years. Which is more valuable, an A+ pitcher for 5 years, or an A pitcher for 10-15 years?

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