Game 84, Mariners at Astros

marc w · July 5, 2016 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Taijuan Walker vs. Dallas Keuchel, 5:10pm

Sorry for missing the July 4th game, the first game of this important series. Let’s just say combining big July 3rd parties with non-Pacific time zone day games is a recipe for a missed thread and leave it at that.

So the M’s face the team directly above them in the AL West standings, and already find themselves down a game. The Astros playoff odds are now above 55% for the year, a bit more than double the M’s odds. On its face, there’s nothing terribly surprising about that – the Astros were supposed to win about 87 games in preseason projections, and they’re not projected to win…87 games. The M’s were projected for 84, and they’re on pace for 84. Not bad, projections. Almost makes up for totally missing on the Rangers, who continue to try and run away with the division. More interestingly, the are on pace to match their projection despite essentially every player coming in at their 90th percentile performance or their 10th – every individual player projection is just hosed, but they cancel each other out.

Jose Altuve is having an absolutely bonkers year in the leadoff spot, hitting .353/.424/.567 with 14 HRs. His ISO over the past few years has gone .080, .112, .146, .215. The diminutive 2B’s off-the-charts contact skills were a nice balance to some of their all-or-nothing hitters like Chris Carter (in previous years) or George Springer, guys who might strike out, but do tremendous damage when they make contact. Altuve now offers both – an 8% K rate and an ISO that’s essentially tied with Springer’s somehow.

Meanwhile, the reining Cy Young winner and tonight’s starter Dallas Keuchel is having all sorts of flashbacks to 2013, the last year he was a forgettable, not-very-effective innings eater for the Astros. His sinker’s velocity is down a touch, but that shouldn’t be enough for his ERA to more than double since last year. His FIP isn’t as bad, just as wasn’t in 2013, but Keuchel’s been undone by BABIP – way too many balls in play are falling in for hits. Astros fans are hoping this is just bad luck, and that he’ll be back to his 2015 form, but it does kind of call into question how much skill was involved in his hit suppression last year (and 2014 too). With the new batted ball data, Keuchel stood out as a guy who could consistently generate weaker, most often ground ball, contact, which implied that he’d “earned” his low BABIP. This year makes you wonder if that poor contact wasn’t itself just dumb luck. Beyond just his velocity, the movement on his pitches is a bit different this year, and that may have something to do with batters now hitting Keuchel a bit harder, or it could be that the league’s becoming familiar with his arsenal and approach, and that they’ve learned to adjust their swing path to his sinker a bit – his GB rate’s fallen for the 2nd straight year.

But it’s not just Keuchel. CF Carlos Gomez’s ISO trend is the exact opposite of Altuve’s, and he’s now hitting at a putrid .221/.291/.333 clip. And it’s not just Gomez: Evan Gattis continues to struggle; only his ISO keeps his wRC+ in the 80s. His low BABIP can’t just be luck, as he’s continually produced some remarkably low BABIPs over his career. If it’s not going over the fence, Gattis is going to struggle, and pitchers are more and more attuned to his weaknesses. I mentioned that they may struggle at 1B this year, or at least until AJ Reed was ready. Indeed, Tyler White fell off dramatically after a hot start, and ended up being worth -0.3 WAR this year, so the Astros naturally turned to Reed, their top hitting prospect. But Reed hasn’t staunched the bleeding; he’s hitting 2 for 22 with 11 strikeouts.

For years, the M’s struggled by base runs, meaning that given the sheer number of hits and doubles and HRs and walks, etc., that M’s batters accumulated, they should have scored more runs. One explanation I always liked was that the M’s line-up was ridiculously top-heavy, with some good hitters and then a series of black hole positions near the back end (think of M’s catchers last year). Maybe the M’s could get a runner on 2nd, but then they’d fail to score when Rob Johnson, Ronny Cedeno and Jack Wilson were the guys tasked with bringing the runner in. The Royals were often held up as the opposite, a team who made a lot of contact and ran well and thus squeezed more runs out of each single or other event. Well, the Astros are dead-on their pythagorean winning percentage, and they’re a bit ahead of what base runs would predict. Like a number of teams, they’re simply able to work around their black holes, while other teams seem to be consumed by them.

1: Martin, CF
2: Gutierrez, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Lee, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Robertson, LF
9: Marte, SS
SP: Walker

Welcome Daniel Robertson, the LF the M’s signed off waivers from the Angels back in the fall. After DFA’ing him to make room for Hisashi Iwakuma, he stuck around on a minor league deal. The M’s needed some OF help with Aoki working on his swing in Tacoma, so they’ve optioned David Rollins back and brought Robertson up. To make room on the 40 man, they shifted Adrian Sampson from the 15-day to the 60-day DL. Robertson wasn’t all that notable for the Rainiers this year, but he’s a known quantity to Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais – he came up in the Rangers org when Servais was there, and then played for Dipoto’s Angels in 2015.

The M’s big splash in the big July 2 signing period was signing a Dominican OF named Luis Veloz for $1.2m. Veloz ranked 25th in’s top available players this year, and 29th in Baseball America’s top 30. He’s apparently got a big arm that could play well in RF. Look for him in the Dominican League next year.


26 Responses to “Game 84, Mariners at Astros”

  1. SeattleDan on July 5th, 2016 5:48 pm

    I swear, Valbuena started taking PED’s a couple of years ago. He never had that kind of power with the Mariners.

  2. Grayfox3d on July 5th, 2016 6:08 pm

    C’mon with giving up all the effing home runs lately! this crap is stupid! I swear the Astros live and die by the HR, and the pitching staff is just letting them have it.

  3. WTF_Ms on July 5th, 2016 6:13 pm

    How much of that is “game calling”, and how much is on the pitcher for being inconsistent?

  4. Grayfox3d on July 5th, 2016 6:15 pm

    and that’s the game, after the 4th inning. Awesome!

  5. JMB on July 5th, 2016 6:32 pm

    Walker continues to be plagued by the long ball. That’s 18 in just 86 innings this season.

  6. WTF_Ms on July 5th, 2016 6:44 pm

    I may have said this before, but I do NOT like Guti…he’s never been that big of a contributor. Sure, once in a while, but not consistent enough to keep.

  7. Grayfox3d on July 5th, 2016 6:58 pm

    Defensively he’s not what he was a few years ago, and offensively once in a while we get a flash of what he “could” be but never transpired into. This org. just loves him though.

  8. Notfromboise on July 5th, 2016 7:18 pm

    If it is ‘game calling’, lets give Zunino more chances behind the plate.

    And yeah, Walker has given up an amazing amount of longballs for someone who pitches half his innings in Safeco.

  9. Westside guy on July 5th, 2016 7:30 pm

    It’s hard to justify the idea that Guti “is not much of a contributor” when one looks at the numbers. Would you say the same thing about Seth Smith? Guti’s been roughly as productive in 2016, and is still a better defender (although still below average – man that’s a sad statement). His wRC+ currently sits at 121.

    And it was only last year that he slugged .620 – #1 or #2 in the American League, if I recall correctly.

  10. Grayfox3d on July 5th, 2016 7:59 pm

    I just kind of wish we had that star outfielder that we didnt have to worry about because they rocked at the plate and in the field.

  11. WTF_Ms on July 5th, 2016 8:15 pm

    I wish we had that “star” outfielder too…There’s just something I don’t like about Guti…maybe I just plain old don’t like him…who knows…I like Seth Smith though.

  12. Westside guy on July 5th, 2016 10:08 pm

    I remember that one year when Guti WAS that star outfielder… that seems like forever ago.

    I agree with your guys’ sentiment, though. It would be nice to have someone great at both aspects of the game. Martin is pretty darn good defensively, but after roaring out of the box he’s settled down to an okay-ish bat, nothing more. Cruz is great at the dish, but he really should be DHing more than he has been…

    I still think Dipoto did pretty well, given what he was handed – but this team is a bit lacking in several areas.

  13. Grayfox3d on July 6th, 2016 1:17 pm

    I know there will never be another Griffey in the organization, but a star that people look forward to watching play would be nice. Remember how fun it was to watch Felix in his prime? I mean its neat to watch him now but a few years ago he was just a monster. I’m hoping Alex Jackson can be good, and DJ Peterson as well.

  14. Grayfox3d on July 6th, 2016 5:44 pm

    Well this game is fun.

  15. mrakbaseball on July 6th, 2016 5:56 pm

    If you want “stars”, you might be following the wrong sport.

  16. stevemotivateir on July 6th, 2016 7:49 pm

    I can live with Smith and Guti in a corner given what their bats bring. It’s not like either one are another Ibanez in the field.

    With that said, it would be great to see a solid left fielder brought in so we don’t get stuck with crap defense in both corners at the same time.

  17. Westside guy on July 6th, 2016 8:09 pm

    The way WTF_Ms feels about Guti seems to mirror how I feel about Adam Lind.

  18. Westside guy on July 6th, 2016 8:19 pm

    What is it about these tiny little Astros (Altuve and Valbuena) and hitting for massive power… At least against the Ms?

  19. stevemotivateir on July 6th, 2016 8:33 pm

    Lind’s far more likely to go away than Guti on a non-health related move.

  20. Westside guy on July 6th, 2016 8:38 pm

    Come on, guys, let’s make this walks hurt them!

  21. Westside guy on July 6th, 2016 8:39 pm

    Yeah! That’s one!

  22. stevemotivateir on July 6th, 2016 8:39 pm


    They have to pull this off.

  23. Westside guy on July 6th, 2016 8:45 pm

    Why the heck is Lee swinging at those sliders in the other batter’s box?

  24. stevemotivateir on July 6th, 2016 8:59 pm

    Because he’s trying too hard to be a hero? Discipline out the window, along with the win.

  25. Notfromboise on July 6th, 2016 10:04 pm

    I can’t really blame Lee for this, his sins were far from the deciding factor. Harder to hit in late innings anyways, far greater % of the time the batter is facing the lowest tier of his success pyramid for pitching opponents. Example: like-handed pitcher who throws good breaking stuff away… etc

    There is some fight in these Ms. I need more Zunino tho!! Its a bad gamble, but a fun one =/

  26. groundzero55 on July 7th, 2016 12:53 am

    Is it just me, or is it Luis frickin Valbuena who has been the thorn in our side this whole series?

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