Game 20: Mariners at Athletics – Sweep-Avoidance Sunday

marc w · April 23, 2017 at 12:28 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Yovani Gallardo vs. Andrew Triggs, 1:05pm

Last year, the M’s hosted the A’s in their first homestand after opening the season in Texas. The A’s swept the M’s, kicking off an abysmal start at home that left fans wondering why the M’s were so much better on the road. This year, it’s just the reverse, with the M’s struggling mightily on the road, and the A’s again looking better than we thought.

Just like last year, there’s no real meaning to the M’s lopsided home/road splits, and just like last year, a solid start doesn’t necessarily mean that the A’s are going to be darkhorse contenders. Both teams’ records at this point have a lot of noise and a bit of signal buried in it. The M’s don’t have some weird psychological break about playing on the road, just like they didn’t have psychological issues that prevented them from winning in Seattle in April of 2016. That doesn’t mean that everything’s fine, and the M’s slow start is irrelevant, and it ALSO doesn’t mean that the A’s really are terrible – it means that we need to look for factors outside of the team’s record in their first 19 games.

I mentioned it before the series started, but the A’s have a chance at building a remarkably solid rotation on the cheap. Getting Sonny Gray back and healthy is going to be important to reaching that goal, but the A’s group of unheralded young starters may be better going forward than former first-rounder Gray. The perfect example of this is today’s starter, Andrew Triggs. As Jeff Sullivan detailed last year at Fangraphs, Triggs was a career reliever, with prototypical reliever-only mechanics. His release point looks a bit like Steve Cishek’s or Carson Smith’s, but it’s pushed even more towards the third base line. The best match in terms of release point may be yet another ex-Mariner, Carter Capps’, but without the weird crow-hop delivery and definitely without the 99 MPH velocity. So he seemed destined to fill a Sean Green role of a righty-specialist, or maybe a ground ball guy, but he showed very good K:BB ratios in the minors.

You’d think that a team would see that and fast-track him to the majors, but Triggs has faced skepticism at every turn. Despite putting up some good numbers, the Royals sold him to Baltimore, not even getting a PTBNL in return. He made the Orioles 40-man roster, but didn’t make it out of AA – a AA season in which he laid waste to the eastern league, with an ERA of just about 1 and 10 K’s per 9. Again, though, he was released when the Orioles needed a spot on their 40-man, and the A’s picked him up. The A’s gave him a shot in their bullpen, and while he didn’t exactly set the world on fire, he’s been unbelievable since a short-handed A’s team decided to move him to the rotation.

Given his release point and his Carson Smith-style slider, you’d expect he’d run huge platoon splits like Justin Masterson. So far, that hasn’t happened, and even in the minors, his splits looked pretty even. There are two main reasons why. First, he’s developed a good change-up that breaks away from lefties. Second, that insane release point’s created by stepping across his body with his right leg. This produces some deception to hitters, but lefties in particular seem to struggle picking up the ball as it’s hidden behind Triggs’ (hefty) frame. He’s posted exactly even splits thus far in his career, and while you might expect that lefties have an advantage that’ll grow as he pitches longer, he doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy you want to pack as many lefties as possible into the line-up.

This year, he hasn’t been striking people out, but it hasn’t mattered. He’s kept his sinking fastball away from both lefties and righties, and racked up ground balls. No, he probably won’t continue to post a sub-.200 BABIP to say nothing of a 0.00 ERA, but he’ll continue pitching like an underpowered Zach Britton until batters learn to elevate the ball against him. The M’s have really struggled against guys like this; Triggs throws 71% of his pitches to the bottom of the zone or below, which is pretty near 2017-Dallas Keuchel, and we saw how that worked out for the M’s. They’ve struggled against GB pitchers, which I don’t think Dipoto and company foresaw. With plenty of fly ball hitters, this was supposed to be a team strength. Why it hasn’t worked out that way is a mystery, at least to me, but I’m hoping Edgar Martinez is working with them on it.

1: Dyson, CF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Vogelbach, 1B
6: Motter, SS
7: Heredia, LF
8: Freeman, 3B
9: Zunino, C
SP: Gallardo

Yep, that’s Dan Vogelbach in the line-up at 1B, replacing Danny Valencia. The corresponding move was somewhat unexpected/dramatic: the M’s have DFA‘d erstwhile starting CF Leonys Martin. The M’s also swapped out de facto long-relievers, calling up Chris Heston and sending Chase de Jong back to Tacoma. There’s something admirable about decisive moves like this, and not letting a black hole in the line-up tank the overall offense. Leonys Martin has looked lost for a while now, and the M’s now have plenty of CF depth. The move at 1B also reflects the M’s 1B depth, but it essentially reverses the equally bold, decisive, win-in-2017 move that they made about one month ago – the move that sent Vogelbach to AAA and gave Valencia the 1B job on his own, instead of in the expected platoon. Either Tacoma’s coaches very, very quickly sorted something out with Vogelbach, or the M’s are essentially admitting that their last move backfired.

Tacoma won again, taking the first game in Albuquerque 5-3. The R’s scored 4 in the first and coasted to the win behind another good start from Christian Bergman. Sam Gaviglio starts today opposite Zach Jemiola.

Arkansas’ had a strange game, but it ended well. They took a 4-0 lead, then allowed Springfield to tie it up, and then scored 2 late runs for a 6-4 win. Thyago Vieira got the win in relief with one of his best performances of the year. Jean Segura singled in 3 at bats. It’s a prospect showdown today, as Andrew Moore and Arkansas face off with Cards prospect Jack Flaherty.

Modesto scored 4 runs in three separate innings in their 12-4 domination of Visalia. Nick Neidert was, by his standards, only so so, but the Nuts’ bullpen was solid, with Kody Kerski striking out 5 in 2 shutout innings, and Joe Pistorese K’ing 3 in 2 perfect IP of his own. Today, it’ll be a battle of starters who would love to just hit reset on the year. Pablo Lopez takes the ball for Modesto, with Justin Donatella pitching for Visalia. Both starters’ ERA are over 10.

Clinton beat Quad Citied 6-1 behind another solid start from Ljay Newsome. He struck out 4 in 6 IP, and walked his FIRST batter of the year. His K:BB ratio is now definable, and is 22:1 in 21 IP. His ERA is still kind of ugly thanks to his first start of the year, but yesterday was his third straight solid outing. Danny Garcia and Jorge Alcala face off today in Quad Cities.


19 Responses to “Game 20: Mariners at Athletics – Sweep-Avoidance Sunday”

  1. msfanmike on April 23rd, 2017 12:51 pm

    Marc: I think your speculation regarding the Vogelbach move is as good as any. I think he’s probably still not “ready” but likely ready enough to outperform Valencia … as we continue to observe the 20 game “extended spring training” efforts at the Major League level.

    Heston makes perfect sense today … he might have to pitch 4/5 innings.

    Keep an open seat next to you on the DFA train, Leonys … Valencia might be joining you soon.

    I wonder what Ben Gamel is thinking right about now. He and/or O’Malley can’t be all that far away from working themselves into the mix … after Valencia gets sent packing.

  2. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 1:22 pm

    Wow, the DFA of Martin certainly surprised me.

    Dipoto is certainly the diametrical opposite of Zduriencik in a lot of ways… while moves like this can backfire, overall it seems like potentially cutting guys too early is better than waiting until it’s too late and they’ve dragged the team down for 6-24 months (Chone Figgins, I still remember you).

  3. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 1:58 pm

    Good time for a salami, Nelson.

    … okay, a walk’ll do!

  4. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 1:59 pm

    Come on, Vogelbach!

    … not a particularly good at bat, Danny boy.

  5. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 2:02 pm


  6. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 2:24 pm

    Vogelbach looks rather unwieldy there at first base… hopefully he’s adequate, but he’s not gonna earn many style points.

  7. Grayfox3d on April 23rd, 2017 2:48 pm

    Lets finish this game strong boys! get things back on track.

  8. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 3:14 pm

    Nice to have a nice, stress-free blowout for once.

  9. stevemotivateir on April 23rd, 2017 3:20 pm

    Don’t jinx them, Westy! Remember what happened in LA?!!

  10. marc w on April 23rd, 2017 3:50 pm

    Prettttty glad this one didn’t go according to the game post. Oakland: where scoreless innings streaks go to die.

    I think with Motter’s grand slam, there’ve now been 11 HRs hit to center in Oakland. There were 21 all of last year, in the year of the HR.

  11. Grayfox3d on April 23rd, 2017 3:54 pm

    That Haniger kid… during spring training I took my 3 year old boy to a game, when they said Hanigers name over the PA my son was so intrigued and he talked about Mitch haniger all day haha that seems to be his favorite player and I’m OK with that right now.

  12. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 3:58 pm

    I am liking this Haniger guy.

  13. Westside guy on April 23rd, 2017 4:02 pm

    Hey, Vogelbach breaks the ice!

  14. Grayfox3d on April 23rd, 2017 4:04 pm

    Motter’s avg. is not super impressive but it seems like all his hits are big hits.

  15. marc w on April 23rd, 2017 4:08 pm

    Another XBH for El Motterdor.

    I think that’s 13 hits for him on the year. 6 doubles, 5 HRs… and 2 singles.

  16. stevemotivateir on April 23rd, 2017 4:09 pm

    Mike, I agree that Gamel should be in the fold soon. I’m not sold on Vogelbach and see this move as kind of a desperation/temporary move. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he goes back down when Segura returns, with Motter sliding over to 1B and Gamel in a LF platoon with Heredia.

    If it were my call and had to stick with internal moves, that’s probably what I would do. DFAing Valencia wouldn’t be far behind, though I susppose he could stay in a utility role.

  17. bookbook on April 23rd, 2017 4:21 pm

    Vogelbach should be fine, if given a full chance. I don’t know what’s going on with Valencia, but he ought to be okay too, at least in the platoon role.

  18. pdome01 on April 23rd, 2017 4:46 pm

    Can we bank some of those runs?

  19. ck on April 23rd, 2017 6:40 pm

    Mariners Win ! Martin DFA makes sense considering his struggles and M’s depth; but, a new regime is definitely here, and one that is serious about winning. Gone (hopefully for good) are Howard Lincoln’s hot-seat and Jack Z’s scholarships. “Where’s Goldilocks playing today,” Mommy ? — will be the question going forward when M’s Line-ups are announced daily.

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