Game 72, Tigers at Mariners

marc w · June 19, 2017 at 5:30 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Sam Gaviglio vs. Anibal Sanchez, 7:10pm

One of the big issues that baseball’s been cogitating about has been the decline in balls in play. So many of the common complaints about baseball in the year 2017 stem from those missing plays; as strikeouts and dingers increase, games get longer, and they *feel* longer still. It often seems like a series of all-or-nothing confrontations – something like a home run derby, maybe, or a kind of exhibition. Here’s a statistical example: Ozzie Smith had 8 seasons with at least 500 assists, including one with 600. Andrelton Simmons has never had a season with 500 assists. There used to be 3-4 SS per year with at least 500, now we get 3-4 such seasons per decade.

This trend’s a long one; HRs dipped after 2010, but K’s have been going up for a generation. When you see something like that, a common question is, “Where does it end?” This kind of eschatological thinking – or maybe it’s just slippery-slopeism – often leads to poor conclusions, but it can be interesting to try to envision a version of baseball that looks nothing like ours, but is played with the same rules. I look back on my earliest years as a baseball fan – so, the early/mid-80s – and it seems pretty much the same, but it’s *already* completely different. It just happened slowly enough that I could never quite see it. No one struck out back then, except for Gorman Thomas. HRs were low compared to other eras (not that I had any first-hand knowledge of other eras), and so speed/defense played more of role in each game. At a 30,000 foot level, the game seemed very different, though I don’t know that we’d notice it too much if we just watched a game from 1984.

But, no, seriously: what would baseball look like if you extrapolated the current K and HR trends out for another 10, 20, 30 years? My guess is it would look something like Anibal Sanchez’s 2017. Sam Gaviglio’s pitched about as decently as anyone could considering he’s given up 9 HRs in just 34 1/3 innings pitched. Anibal will see your puny 2.36 HR/9 mark, Sam, and, with a smirk, go all-in. Sanchez has also allowed 9 HRs thus far, but in just 21 innings, good for a 3.86 HR/9 mark. Yes, yes, fun with small sample sizes – I know. But Sanchez has kept his K% above 20%, and his K/9 is even higher – it’s 9.43/9 IP. Sanchez is simply not allowing too many balls in play. Close to 40% of the PAs against him this year have ended in one of the three true outcomes. Yes, Randy Johnson used to do that sort of a thing, but it looked a bit different. Randy Johnson is transcendent, and thus kind of difficult to use to envision what average players might do in the future; Randy and “Average” are mutually exclusive. Sanchez, though… this could work. You could envision an arms race where batters are selected primarily for power, and with balls in play down, no one would care if you could field. Future Mike Morse could move back to shortstop, and pitchers wouldn’t really be concerned with HRs so long as they K’d enough hulking sluggers. Does this version of baseball sound appealing? No, not to me either, but I want to thank Anibal Sanchez for granting us a sneak peak and giving us a chance to change our ways if we’d like.

Gaviglio’s HRs are too high, but that’s the combination of small sample and marginal ability. I love the way he competes, but it’s going to be tough for him to carve out a lasting role with the M’s. Prove me wrong, Sam!

1: Gamel, RF
2: Heredia, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Valencia, 1B
7: Dyson, CF
8: Zunino, C
9: Motter, SS
SP: Gaviglio

Two big stories in the M’s system. First, Hisashi Iwakuma makes a rehab start in Tacoma tonight against Salt Lake. If you’re in the South Sound, you should check it out. Second, in a rare move (the first for Clinton since the 1960s), the M’s have fired minor league manager Pat Shines, who’d been leading the Clinton Lumberkings. Shines was in his first season in the org, having come over from Miami. Not sure what this was all about. (Hat tip Mike Curto).

The M’s have signed 26 of their 40 draft choices already, including 11 of the first 12. The only one they haven’t inked is 2nd rounder Sam Carlson, but there’s no worry there – he’s just pitching in the highschool playoffs and can sign a pro contract just yet. First-rounder Evan White signed for a few hundred thousand below slot, so the M’s would seem to have plenty of room to sign Carlson within their pool amount. Nice job, M’s, and scouting director Scott Hunter.


6 Responses to “Game 72, Tigers at Mariners”

  1. mrakbaseball on June 19th, 2017 7:39 pm

    Curto tweeted this about Iwakuma’s start tonight:
    Iwakuma is done after two IP, 49 pitches. Had a 32-pitch 2nd, which is probably why he is out early. Allowed 4 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks, 3 K.

  2. msfanmike on June 19th, 2017 9:12 pm

    Sounds like it will be best to keep Gaviglio around for a while. There can’t be any legitimate reason to rush Kuma back and have him pitch in Seattle his weekend – not after tonight’s initial rehab start. I also will not be surprised if the Mariners go with/keep 6 starters when Kuma is eventually “ready” to go

  3. mrakbaseball on June 19th, 2017 9:35 pm

    Mike Zunino, WOW!!! who thought this was possible three weeks ago?

  4. WTF_Ms on June 19th, 2017 9:36 pm

    Zunino! Whatever they have him doing, it’s working. Keep it up!

  5. Sowulo on June 19th, 2017 10:19 pm

    Yeah! Zunino! It’s like, deja vue all over again.

  6. Sowulo on June 20th, 2017 5:35 am

    deja vu! DOH!

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