Game 87, Athletics at Mariners

marc w · July 6, 2017 at 7:49 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Sam Gaviglio vs. Paul Blackburn, 7:10pm

Recently, ex-LL and new M’s blog writer Nathan Bishop posted this optimistic piece regarding the M’s new-look outfield. We kind of take it for granted now, but let’s remember – the current alignment of Heredia/Gamel in LF, Dyson/Heredia in CF, and Haniger/Gamel in RF is a new one. This season started with Leonys Martin in CF, Dyson in LF, Haniger in RF, and Ben Gamel in Tacoma. Nathan talks about their impressive fWAR, especially given that all save Dyson are young players, and can reasonably be expected to get even better. One of the key reasons for this – their high fWAR and all of that – is that the group, as a whole, is incredibly good defensively. I’ve made a few throwaway references to that fact as the year’s gone on, and contrasted it with where we were in April, when for all of their defensive chops, the M’s outfield had a hell of a time turning fly balls into outs. What’s happened since then is pretty jaw-dropping, as the M’s defensive efficiency has increased at an incredible rate and here we are in July with the M’s in a dead heat for first place in team DER. They’re not the best OF by DER, but they’re up there, and that’s impressive given how much more ground they have to cover than, say, the Yankees’ OFs. The infield, too, has made shocking progress since being an anchor on the team’s DER, so this may be a story about positioning changing as the club’s coaches got more information. It could also have something to do with the gap between Jarrod Dyson and Leonys Martin. It could be a lot of things, but the FO set out to improve their OF defense, and it looks like they have.

If there’s such a thing as the anti-Mariners OF, it plays for Oakland. With corner OFs like Khris Davis, Mark Canha, Jaff Decker, and Matt Joyce, the A’s have a combination of waiver-wire guys and platoon guys along with some high-power, low- uh, movement guys. Davis has been the biggest offender, which makes sense as he’s played the most and given the fact that he has the OF armstrength of your average 2nd grader. All told, they’ve given away 36 runs compared to the average OF, and 45 worse than the M’s. We’ve all been focused on Marcus Semien and the A’s poor IF defense, and we missed the, according to these stats, more important story.

Paul Blackburn was the back-of-the-rotation prospect the M’s got along with Dan Vogelbach in the Mike Montgomery trade. The M’s flipped him to Oakland when it became clear that the A’s had no interest in keeping him around. At the time, I thought it was more of a salary dump than a trade, but to their credit, the A’s have Blackburn in the big leagues now. With the M’s, he was a command and control righty whose primary skill was keeping the ball on the ground. He made up for a lack of Ks with a lack of HRs, and while he was never a dominant pitcher, he kept his team in the game. His ERA/FIP were consistently between 3 and 4. That’s nice and gives you some degree of hope that he wouldn’t embarrass a big league team, but there was clearly no standout skill there. I think Andrew Moore, another righty without a big fastball who relied on command, had to overcome the belief that he was *just* a command pitcher who’d be overmatched in the bigs, and he’s struck out a ton more batters, including in the high minors, than Blackburn.

Especially in this day and age, the key’s going to be avoiding HRs. A GB% rate near 50% helps, sure, but there’s some evidence that the fly balls hit off of ground ball pitchers are more damaging; they give up fewer flies, but worse flies, as each one is more likely to be a mistake. He was great at limiting HRs in the minors, and he didn’t give one up in his MLB debut, but it’s something to watch for with him. Sam Gaviglio’s projected HR rate is a bit higher than Blackburn’s, but the two are fairly similar. Both are righties without a ton of velo, who rely on control and sinking stuff to keep hitters off balance. Both were not prospects and seen as 5th-starters by the very few who saw them as MLB-material in the first place. Gaviglio’s kept his team in it, but he’s been seriously battered by homers. We’ll see if Blackburn shares that problem. I’m sure he’d kill for Gaviglio’s results through his first 50 big league innings.

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


One Response to “Game 87, Athletics at Mariners”

  1. Grayfox3d on July 6th, 2017 11:11 pm

    Deja Vu all over again, falling apart right before the All Star break to basically end the hopes of our playoff aspirations. Hopefully Dipoto realizes they have very slim chances and just stays put or builds for the future.

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