Game 162, Athletics at Mariners

marc w · October 2, 2016 at 11:37 am · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Sean Manaea, 12:10pm

It’s both a blessing and a curse that things change quickly in baseball. 2 years ago, the M’s headed into their final game knowing they wouldn’t be going to the playoffs, but thinking they could in 2015; I wrote back then that they’d narrowed the gap between themselves and the Angels (lol). 2 years ago, Felix pitched a brilliant game, a fitting coda in his brilliant season, one that came very close to earning him a 2nd Cy Young. It’s 2016, the M’s came up just short, but Felix is both despondent and vulnerable now. We’re all just waiting to see what happens next. It’s always been a possibility, but the odds that the M’s won’t make the playoffs in Felix’s M’s career are getting larger. That hurts.

To put my cards on the table, last night’s agonizing loss isn’t close to the most painful I’ve experienced. It stung, no doubt, because it always felt winnable, right up to Seager’s fly out (“they’re pitching to him? Ha!”). But coming so close in an irrationally fun, against-all-odds late season push trumps blowing a solid lead late (2014 sucked) any day. It beats David Justice, it beats Alfonso Soriano, Paul $&@!ing Assenmacher. I can’t, in a very literal sense, hurt as bad as I did back then. But there’s something about seeing Felix so heartbroken last night that makes me forget that I’d written off this season plenty of times before last night. I thought this was all fun, playing on house money, and then I see Felix and I’m reminded that the players aren’t going to say, “Well we certainly beat the odds for several weeks!”

Do you want a silver lining? Here you go: I always wondered how to weight the various components of a GM’s job: the amateur draft, trades, free agent pick-ups, and player development. I thought the M’s failures in player development played an outsized role in their struggles, and this year would seem to support that. The M’s minor league success wasn’t just great for the affiliates, it gave the M’s Edwin Diaz, without whom the M’s wouldn’t be in a position to curse Edwin Diaz for last night’s loss. Remember that Paxton and Zunino started this year in AAA. The strides they made in PD covered so many flaws elsewhere and give me a lot of hope going forward. I still don’t know how to rank PD in a team’s skill set, but it absolutely has to be near the top.

Why am I so confident about that? Because *so* much of the other stuff went against the M’s, and decisively so. The M’s traded the MLB leader in home runs for a back-up catcher who made a name for himself for all the wrong reasons. The M’s traded Brad Miller for a pitcher they demoted, then 60-day DL’d, while Miller hit 30+ bombs. Joaquin Benoit was so-so, then traded on, while the big free agent moves were a mixed bag as well. None of them really sucked, but Scribner was hurt, Lee lost confidence, and Cishek struggled in high-leverage situations.

Let’s be clear: this is all results-based, and the M’s had their reasons, some of them good, for making each move. The point isn’t to assess Dipoto’s trade acumen, but to say that in 2016, a whole lot of breaks went against the M’s and *still* they played a meaningful game 161. It also gives me some confidence when I say that a great player development group covers over a multitude of trade and/or free agent sins.

Thanks so much to all of you who’ve read this stuff. It’s a strange compulsion, and compulsion’s the only word for something so irrational, impecunious, and pointless as talking about not-quite-every Mariner game. But many of you stop by, and it makes all of this worth while. I’ve never met the vast majority of you, so I can’t even chalk it up to my winning personality. Seasons like 2015 make me want to quit, or at least, the only motivation to stay is to write some cutting remark on the front office’s tombstone. This feels different, and less schadenfreude-riffic.

It also feels familiar, and ‘familiar’ is always bad when you’re an M’s fan. I, like many others, felt encouraged by 2014 and where the AL West teams stood after it. 2015 was a long, drawn-out torture for prideful, hopeful M’s fans, and highlighted just how quickly Houston moved from laughing-stock to long-term contender. The point is: the M’s must build on this season, or the repercussions will be long-lasting. Nelson Cruz is aging, and has 2 years left on his contract. Hisashi Iwakuma has one guaranteed year. They don’t really have a 1B. There are holes, and a combination of free agents and the fruits of their player development tree will need to fill them. Given my experience, I find my own optimism/confidence distasteful, but there it is: 2016 can turn the most pessimistic among us back into fanboys/fangirls, and I’ll always be grateful to 2016 for that.

1: Heredia, CF
2: O’Malley, SS
3: Cano, DH
4: Gutierrez, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Lee, 1B
7: Gamel, LF
8: Iannetta, C
9: Freeman, 2B
SP: King Felix Hernandez


20 Responses to “Game 162, Athletics at Mariners”

  1. Grayfox3d on October 2nd, 2016 12:44 pm

    I guess the season ended completely last night… they look totally defeated and ready to pack it up.

  2. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2016 1:06 pm

    I just turned the game on, with Venditte pitching in the fourth inning and the Mariners behind 3-0. Did Felix get pulled “just because”, was he pitching bad… is he hurt (physically – I know he’s hurt psychologically)?

  3. mrakbaseball on October 2nd, 2016 1:17 pm

    He was pulled probably because the game means nothing in the standings and Servais wants to get some guys in.

  4. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2016 1:19 pm

    I am concerned about Felix. I said it before, but I hope his lackluster performances of late mean that he’s been pitching with nagging injuries – not that he’s just starting to get old.

    I want Felix to pitch in the playoffs… and I want it to be as The King, not as a once-great pitcher running on fumes. I want to see him mowing people down!

  5. Notfromboise on October 2nd, 2016 1:35 pm

    Felix is 30 years old. We’ll have a much better understanding next April (unless he has some random off season surgery).

    On the other hand, if he had some nagging injury, there is a 0% chance Servais has him pitch game 162. It wouldn’t make any sense.

    Actually, if we want to talk about the true miracle of 2016, its that we playing 161 games of meaningful baseball with no reliable starting pitching (our usual strength) outside of the old guy the Dodgers bailed on.

  6. Dennisss on October 2nd, 2016 2:01 pm


    Thanks as always for the great write-ups, for pretty much single-handedly keeping the site going, and for getting me to look up what “impecunious” means, even though I will probably forget it soon. It had the usual unsatisfying ending, but this year was a pretty good show.

  7. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2016 2:03 pm

    There have been numerous occasions where, after the season is over, we’ve found out a player has been sucking because they’ve been playing through a nagging injury. They don’t always tell the manager about it.

    It’s likely I will be happy with the general direction the team has taken… eventually. Right now I’m just sad they didn’t make the playoffs.

  8. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2016 2:33 pm

    I want to second Dennisssssssssss’sss thanks to Marc for all the time he’s put into the site – plus all the interesting writing and analysis.

  9. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2016 2:43 pm

    Well that was a darn good catch – damn you, Olson.

  10. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2016 2:45 pm

    Ah, well, guys – thanks for sharing this season with me, hanging out in the comments section of USS Mariner.

  11. Westside guy on October 2nd, 2016 7:51 pm

    Interesting note: Despite his less-than-stellar performance earlier in the year, once again Nori Aoki managed to put up a triple slash line freakishly close to his career averages – .283/.349/.388, good for a wRC+ of 106.

  12. davepaisley on October 2nd, 2016 8:01 pm

    I guess there’s always the tendency to figure next year will be better. Never happened in the Z era because I don’t think he understood what had worked and what hadn’t. Much more faith in DiPoto on that front. The pitching has been unreliable all year – can’t think of anyone you could call dependable. Problem is, you probably just have to roll the dice with mostly the same guys next year (plus some random churn). Just hope Felix had a nagging injury this year that clears up with 6 month rest.

    And we need a real 1B and SS and probably one major OF upgrade.

  13. MrZDevotee on October 2nd, 2016 9:15 pm

    Sadness on coming so close to playoff baseball again… And MORE sadness in knowing King Felix is probably beating himself up over the last 4 starts he had… We end up 2 games out of the playoffs, and Felix ended the season with 3 losses and 1 no decision.

    He’s human afterall, and wasn’t quite right the 2nd half of the 2nd half… So nobody faults him. But you just KNOW with his personality Felix thinks he is single-handedly responsible for Seattle missing the playoffs. Especially when Cano and Cruz were playing lights out the past week.

    Felix deserves an October to remember. The baseball Gods are cold-hearted.


  14. Notfromboise on October 3rd, 2016 12:12 am

    Felix quoted by Jayson Stark as saying his calf injury (that kept him out 2 months) bothered him this season, not age. FWIW.

    Couple Takeaways:

    Lee/Lind is far and away the best we’ve gotten out of 1B in a while. Dipoto *patched* first base just like he planned to. He spent almost nothing and made no long term commitments. If the Mariners want real production beyond what they got, Dipoto will have to convince those holding the purse to loosen the strings.

    Same in the outfield. Aoki did get up to 2 WAR quietly. Martin put up 1.5 WAR and a pretty good Mike Cameron impression. Guti put up 1.4 WAR on offense, but his D was so bad his overall WAR was 0.5.

    The real takeaway is something all us Mariners fans learned through watching the games this year. I’ve had more confidence in outfielders hitting cut off men, taking legit paths to balls in flight, and anything else regarding OF defense, in my son’s little league team. Hereia’s cup of coffee resonated mainly because he looked like an honest-to-goodness outFIELDER at times. Little doubt the Mariners will take some runs at some outfield help.

    Marte/O’Malley are supposed to hit 9th and keep the errors to a minimum. O’Malley did this much better than Marte, but unless they stumble into a shortstop while looking thru the market for right handed power, I imagine they will focus their dollars on 1b/OF, where the market is more dilluted and can be had cheaper.

    In fact, last year the Mariners really attempted to solve 1B/C/OF/SS all by spending pennies on the dollar. It worked ok at SS, ok in the OF (The defense really offset the success they had with the bat), and magically reinvented both Zunino *and* Sucre behind the plate.

    Where did they spend their money and assets? Miley and Karns and Benoit… To bolster pitching.

    That did not work, obviously. But my point is this: They will try and buy an outfielder or first baseman.. They will try *like hell* to bring in some arms as insurance for King/Paxton/Walker. Miranda and Iwakuma are not long term solutions. Real pitching always costs real money.

    So expect them to swing harder at the pitchers out there, and likely end up by the bargain bins searching for their position players.

  15. Notfromboise on October 3rd, 2016 1:16 am

    Dipoto had proven he can think a bit outside the box while restocking the team on the fly. We will see.

    And to echo the other sentiments:

    Thank you Marc (and Jay!) for the game threads, the analysis, the posts on both random musings and major moves. This is such a great office read, one of the upper echelon bookmarks for when I’m avoiding being productive on the clock.

    Looking forward to some farm system breakdowns. This season saw some good potential in O Malley, Heredia, Miranda, Diaz, Vincent, etc…. Hoping for more of the same next year, both on the field and here at USSM!

  16. mrakbaseball on October 3rd, 2016 1:22 pm

    Felix said he plans to pitch in winter ball & the WBC.

  17. bat guano on October 3rd, 2016 5:06 pm

    I agree that the player development improvements are crucial and give M’s fans some hope for the future that we haven’t had in the recent past. Thanks for all of your work on this site, especially the regular minor league updates. Have a great off season and I’ll look forward to reading your stuff over the winter and next season.

  18. LongDistance on October 4th, 2016 12:59 am

    Thanks Marc for the clear analysis, solace and occasional dark humor for getting through the bad times, and the balanced appraisals and fan-happy fun in the good times. This year, a difficult chore threading through a pretty good season with a team that was sometimes oddly brilliant or downright sucked at times it should have done neither. Where they go from here will be interesting. If this had been a Z-ball year, we’d figure management would analyze the need for dingers! more dingers! (and a rent-a-starter). Dipoto’s small-ball managerial approach intrigues. Truth is, this isn’t yet what we could call a Jerry Dipoto team, and we don’t yet know really what that will be. Next season, it will still be succotash, but it’s interesting to watch the makeover process, which already resulted in a much more generally watchable and less heartbreaking team, to boot.

  19. Notfromboise on October 4th, 2016 7:30 am

    Team scored 112 more runs that 2015, and raised its OPS from .722 to .756.

    That is super encouraging.

  20. 11records on October 5th, 2016 11:13 am

    Echoing the previous comments – thanks for all of the great work this year! It’s always appreciated.

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