Game 29, Athletics at Mariners

marc w · May 8, 2015 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Taijuan Walker vs. Sonny Gray, 7:10pm

Well. The M’s begin a homestand against a key divisional rival, and tonight’s pitching match-up pits the A’s ace against a promising youngster, and if the M’s take *this* one, then that just opens up the rest of the series, and…. I would love to be excited about this series. This really is a big one, considering that either the M’s or A’s could see their playoff odds absolutely smashed at the end of it. But as everyone knows, we’ve had way too many “huge” or “critical” series in May, when the M’s have one last chance to stay relevant. We’ve had precious few September series that really, really mattered, where you were scanning the pitching probables days ahead and planning exactly how to watch the first few innings of that 4:05 east coast start. Somehow, last year, we had both. We had the 8 game losing streak and irrelevance in late April, and then, miraculously, a run at the wild card that wasn’t over until the last day.

Two consequences of that set of facts: one, I think some M’s fans greatly overestimate the odds of it happening again, and two, another group of fans are reacting to the mismatch between expectations and early results and just giving up. The M’s were bad last April, and were under .500 in May, but the 2014 M’s were never this far down, and, crucially, they never had this many teams to leapfrog. At some point, and reasonable people can argue that we haven’t hit that point yet, it’s more about the number of teams in the way than it’s about the gap to the front of the pack. Could the Astros go 0 for June? I’ve seen recent Astros teams, and I think some of them actually did that – so yes, yes, they could. But that’s not all that needs to happen. The other side of the coin, though, is that it’s too early to say the season has nothing to show us. The odds on the M’s winning the division aren’t great, and they’re dropping by the day, but I’m interested in some/any sign of what the next really good M’s team will look like. We thought we’d assembled it, and a mixture of normal variance and even-more-normal over-rating some players illustrate that we’re not quite there yet. OK, so exactly what needs to change? Does the team look radically different with Brad MIller in CF, or does it look like a team running a streaky-hitting SS in center because they bet the house on an Austin Jackson rebound? It sounds pathetic to hope for a different, fake kind of relevance, but we’re all used to it and it’s still true that the team is better than they’ve played thus far. It may be too late for that to matter, but I’d love them to prove me wrong.

The A’s have had every bit as disappointing a year as the M’s. Even after trading in Josh Donaldson, they seemed like a dangerous team poised at the fringe of the playoff race, and they could easily push their chips in if they found themselves in a good spot in July. Instead, they’re 12-18, percentage points above the M’s. I’m fascinated, because so many of the things that looked like serious weaknesses or risks haven’t actually bitten them. It’s not that Ike Davis and Marcus Semien haven’t hit – they have, and hell, Ike Davis has even *pitched* well. Sonny Gray hasn’t regressed, he’s just as good as ever. Instead, they’ve been undone by sequencing and depth. The back of their rotation was in worse shape than we thought, and thus Kendall Graveman now toils in the PCL. Their overall wRC+ and ERA are perfectly fine, but their pythagorean winning percentage is still bad. They look good every now and again, but they have been utterly annihilated by the Minnesota freaking Twins. Tough team to understand.

Sonny Gray’s their ace, a small right-hander with a 94mph cutter-ish four-seam fastball with essentially no horizontal movement and plenty of rise. He pairs it with a sinker, a curve, a rare change-up and a slider that he’s reworked for 2015. Last year, his slider came in at 87 and had more sink than horizontal break – it moved horizontally about 3.5″ more than his arrow-straight fastball. This year, it’s breaking over 6″ more than his fastball, and it’s dropping more too. It’s still at 87, so it’s not like he’s taking something off – its spin that doing this, not gravity. It was a tough pitch before, but it’s lethal now, especially to righties. Gray’s always had platoon splits, and he’s always been tough on righties, but this situation is tailor-made for the platoon-capable M’s. This really should be an off-day for Austin Jackson, and that’s in fact what we see:

1: Smith, LF
2: Miller, DH
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Zunino, C
8: Ackley, CF
9: Taylor, SS
SP: Walker

I get that you can’t just assume an ideal line-up all the time and that Miller isn’t ready to be a big league CF yet. But here’s Miller’s first start since the big announcement that he’s the new Ben Zobrist – your erstwhile shortstop DHs so you can shift your LF, the guy you didn’t like in CF last time, over to center, all of which necessitates your righty-hitting SS starts against Sonny Gray. I’d complain more if I was sure that Jackson’s a better hitter against RHPs than Chris Taylor right now, but I’m not. That’s the larger problem, of course, and one that Miller’s move may eventually assuage. But the M’s HAVE a lefty SS *on their team* *in their line-up* and have him DH, with Ackley playing CF. It’s… it’s very Mariners.

The R’s have good ol’ TBD on the mound tonight against Fresno. Andrew Heaney was no great shakes against Tacoma last night in Salt Lake, but the Bees still killed the R’s 11-4. Ketel Marte and Jesus Montero each hit three singles.

Scott DeCecco starts for Jackson against the Chattanooga Lookouts. Misael Siverio suffered his first really bad outing as the Lookouts beat the Generals 10-4 last night. DJ Peterson did have 2 hits, and Dario Pizzano had 2 as well, pushing his season line to .416/.444/.519 on the young season.

Tyler Pike will look to extend his modest streak of games without serious control lapses tonight against Visalia. Modesto blanked the Blaze 5-0 last night.

Pat Peterson starts for Clinton against Kane County. Gianfranco Wawoe’s hitting streak ended last night unfortunately.


14 Responses to “Game 29, Athletics at Mariners”

  1. Longgeorge1 on May 8th, 2015 6:41 pm

    It is hard to predict what a player or team will do in situations they have never been before. This is the first time these players as a team have been favored to win and so far they have disappointed.
    Last year in September this team faltered during crunch time as they “tired”.
    It is time for these guys both individually and collectively as a team to get it done.

  2. Longgeorge1 on May 8th, 2015 7:25 pm

    Tony Rendazzo behind the plate, not good news

  3. JasonJ on May 8th, 2015 8:52 pm

    Another belt-high fastball right down the middle….these guys are killing me.

  4. Westside guy on May 8th, 2015 9:03 pm

    I’ve said this before…

    I think Lloyd McLendon is very good at handling pitchers. I think, in pretty much every other regard, he is a terrible manager.

    But, in the end, any failures fall at the feet of Jack Z. It’s his roster and his philosophy that have put this team (and the past several years’ teams) together.

  5. msfanmike on May 8th, 2015 9:08 pm

    Holy suck.

    No Mas!

  6. Longgeorge1 on May 8th, 2015 9:15 pm

    Many “experts” picked the M’s to be a strong contender. What was considered a strong rotation has been inconsistent. The bullpen has done more than regress to the mean. The offense has continued to fail with RISP.
    This roster is underperforming and I don’t see how this can be laid at the feet of McLendon. Most or many gave Z good grades for the off-season moves.
    They are playing like crap and I put it on the players and no one else.

  7. Longgeorge1 on May 8th, 2015 9:32 pm

    My Oh My!

  8. Longgeorge1 on May 8th, 2015 9:34 pm

    A battle of the bullpens! A race to the bottom?

  9. okinawadave on May 8th, 2015 9:36 pm

    At least we can’t get walk-offed tonight!

  10. Longgeorge1 on May 8th, 2015 9:37 pm

    Rendazzo strikes! He and Mac have a history

  11. Jake on May 8th, 2015 9:59 pm

    Ackley’s avenging McLendon!

  12. ck on May 8th, 2015 11:56 pm

    M’s with clutch bullpen and walk-off win. Just when you think you are out, they pull you back in. Hope springs eternal for Tomorrow.

  13. LongDistance on May 9th, 2015 12:40 am

    Evidently, not everyone’s pulled back in. 12 posts on a game-day-with-a-win thread. My excuse: I was pulling dandelions. If they can manage a W/L record that resembles a flatline wobble over the next couple of weeks (at this point, that would resemble a streak), I might actually start watching games again.

  14. mksh21 on May 9th, 2015 6:28 am

    Well to be fair, I like the site for the analysis. But if you don’t subscribe to the exact correct group think for the comments section, you get crushed pretty quick by other members.

    Kills off a lot of people who are not 100% up to date on analytics or the method of the day.

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