Game 135, Athletics at Mariners – Is This It?

marc w · September 1, 2017 at 7:45 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Sean Manaea, 7:10pm
Sorry for the delay!!

M’s fans get their first look at new Mariner Mike Leake, and it comes in an intradivisional game on a gorgeous night at Safeco. I mentioned Leake’s struggles in the second half of the season in the post on the trade, but Manaea’s having similar difficulties. On August 12th, he gave up 6 runs in just 1/3 of an inning, his 3rd straight start giving up 6 runs. His FIP in the second half is 5.51, and it’s coincided with a big drop in his strikeouts. Leake hasn’t been himself recently, but Manaea’s struggled at least as much. That tilts the odds in the M’s favor, which can help them re-start their on-again, off-again pursuit of the 2nd wildcard.

As some of you noted in comments on that Leake trade post, it really does seem like wildcard contention’s what this club’s built for. It’s an excellent point, and as much as Jerry Dipoto’s hands were tied with contracts, the minor league system, etc., it’s pretty clear that the M’s are not really attempting to become a juggernaut like the Astros, Cubs, Red Sox, Indians or whoever. Again, the M’s couldn’t really pull a White Sox or Braves-style rebuild because they didn’t really have much to sell. They couldn’t get 2-3 straight top-of-the-first-round draft picks either. They couldn’t play their top prospects, because they really didn’t have that many, and then decided to trade them all for some pitching help instead. This team, the 40-man roster, has been largely accumulated through mid- to low-level trades, and through long-term extensions and free agent deals. For a variety of reasons, there simply isn’t a Kris Bryant, a Rafael Devers/Mookie Betts, a Francisco Lindor, a Carlos Correa to build the NEXT great team around, and in that context, maybe it’s OK that they’re trying to muddle along and back their way into the playoffs for a couple of years. The question is when and how you pivot from that strategy and set about actually trying to compete with the Astros. The draft would be a good start, and evaluators have liked their work the past few years, and we could assess more of the player development staff’s work if Dipoto stopped trading everyone, but the point is it would take a pretty big change in how the club’s operated over the past couple of years. They’ve been willing to spend money, so maybe they build around a big free agent. But the timing of that’s really tough to pull off, and you’d like to have a homegrown group to complement whichever star you acquire. This season’s been kind of fun, and I think they can do something similar next year, maybe even more if Haniger stays healthy and Jean Segura recovers his first-half form, but a big change in approach and mindset is coming. It has to.

The A’s have been quietly building a pretty impressive farm system over the past year or two, and with 2017 already a lost cause, they’ve been able to play a lot of their youngsters in the second half. While top prospect Franklin Barreto face-planted and is now back in the PCL, Chad Pinder, Ryon Healy, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson have stabilized the A’s offense. In a neat inversion of Moneyball, they’re swinging for the fences and not appearing to care at all about plate discipline. Pinder and Healy have wRC+ figures of 100, meaning they’ve been league-average bats, and neither one has an OBP over .300. Chapman’s OBP is .308 and he’s been better than league average. Olson’s put up the best slash line, but his K rate is safely above 30%. These are not the Scott Hatteberg A’s – they’re Khris Davis’ team now. Sure, Boog Powell’s down there now, and he actually has a great walk rate. The A’s have a top-10 walk rate on the year, but much of that’s due to the work of veteran hitters, many of whom are gone: Yonder Alonso for one. Their team stats are pretty much the equal of the M’s – both clubs are right at league average overall. The fact that the A’s are hanging around that mark on the cheap, and with so many under 26-year-old bats, should give M’s fans pause. Yes, their pitching has been a shambles, and grades out worse than the M’s. But I would like to know why the A’s have gotten far more out of M’s cast-off Paul Blackburn than the M’s have from Yovani Gallardo, Marco Gonzales, and Adam Moore. Luck? Coaching? A more HR-suppressing ballpark?

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

Welcome to Seattle, Mike! The future of the team aside, all of the warning signs aside, I hope you pitch out of your mind in the last month and keep the M’s in this race.

The M’s are sending 8 prospects to the Arizona Fall League that begins play in October. They are RPs Matt Festa, Art Warren and Darin Gillies; SP Max Povse; C/1B Joe DeCarlo; OFs Eric Filia, Braden Bishop and Kyle Lewis. Lewis is the top prospect of the group, while Povse could use a good re-set to his 2017 that started so brightly. DeCarlo can presumably work on his catching a bit more, though the M’s aren’t keeping him there full time with Modesto. The prospect with the best shot at opening some eyes and perhaps changing the industry consensus about him is Bishop, the speedy CF and ex-UW Husky. A slight uptick in his power production helped him in High A, but he’s been even better at AA, dropping his K rate and keeping his walk rate above 10%. Turning into a contact+defense poor-man’s-Jarrod-Dyson (Bishop’s defense is his calling card) would be huge for the M’s, and I hope he pulls it off. Fangraphs’ prospect guy Eric Longenhagen has some comments on the M’s and every other team’s prospects in this AFL round-up post.


2 Responses to “Game 135, Athletics at Mariners – Is This It?”

  1. mrakbaseball on September 1st, 2017 9:26 pm

    After that shaky top of the 1st, Leake actually gave them 7 decent innings total.

  2. mksh21 on September 2nd, 2017 3:54 pm

    Dang I’m half paying attention but was hoping Leake spelled the end of Gallardo… not so much.

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