Game 9, Mariners at Royals

marc w · April 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Eric Skoglund, 5:15pm

Happy Felix Day? We’ve been in a period of remarkable volatility from our once constant, implacable, king. It’s still great to look up the probables in what’s looking more like a big game (yes, yes, I know they haven’t even played 10 games yet) and see that royal name. But, like every other M’s fan, I no longer think of the game as a likely win. I’ll be honest: I have no idea what to expect from Felix today. He’s coming off a terrible start, and to his credit, he’s been very good at making little adjustments when he hits turbulence. But those forgettable starts are getting more and more frequent, and thus there’s only so much that KC’s punchless offense can do to ameliorate my worry here. Seeing them demolish Marco Gonzales and company last night isn’t helping.

John Trupin at LL diagnosed an overreliance on sinkers as Felix’s problem in his last start against San Francisco. Indeed, Brooks shows his sinker usage soaring compared to his opening day start. I’m sympathetic; I wrote about Felix needing to get away from low sinkers before last season began. However, Felix’s four-seamer got destroyed last year every bit as systematically as his sinker. As batters got better at destroying high fastballs, the impact of Felix changing things up by mixing in elevated four-seamers didn’t help matters, and may have actively made things worse. His sinker was very clearly inferior to his four-seamer in 2016, but I’m not sure it is any more – and that’s not a complement to his sinker.

Felix has a cutter, too, which he’s used sparingly, and which could give him another fastball option. Only one’s been put into play this year, but it soon went back out of play by flying over the wall in SF. This is where a good game-managing catcher might help; it feels like it’s going to be more and more important to gauge Felix’s command and the movement on each of his pitches on a game by game basis and tailor his pitch mix accordingly.

Today, the M’s face tall lefty Eric Skoglund, a pitch-to-contact/pitchability lefty who ranks in the Royals top 10 prospects. His ceiling tops out at back-of-the-rotation starter, but he scuffled in a brief call-up last year. He reminds me a little bit of Andrew Moore, in that the overall package was somewhat better than the grade on any of his pitches. Of course, Moore, a righty, seems to have gained a bit of stuff in his rise through the minors and now throws harder than Skoglund. Skoglund’s command didn’t catch the bus from Omaha, and his walk rate and strand rate went to hell in his 5 starts in 2017. That wasn’t Moore’s issue, of course, but again, they strike me as pitchers that tools-obsessed prospect hounds might overlook. That said, given the way the game’s changing, the margin of error for this type grows ever smaller: batters stalk HRs, and while there are more pitches thrown really hard, batters aren’t getting a lot better at turning them into dingers. They ARE getting a lot better at turning 90-93 MPH fastballs into dingers, which is why teams are throwing fewer fastballs overall.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Haniger, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Heredia, LF
7: Vogelbach, DH
8: Marjama, C
9: Motter, 1B
SP: FELIX. please.

A day after a 44-year-old Ichiro served as the DH for this banged-up M’s club, Seattle starts Taylor Motter, last seen inexplicably pitching in yesterday’s rout, at first base. The M’s are going with a 9-man bullpen, which is what made Motter’s appearance so bizarre. Here’s an example of where it hurts: they don’t have an able bodied bat-first player beyond Vogelbach. It’s tough to make a roster move to bring up a bench bat, or a random bat-first 1B, as that might require a DFA right before this short term problem goes away; Nelson Cruz should return when the club gets back to Seattle. Maybe the issue isn’t the short-term roster management at all and it’s just another symptom of a farm system that’s full of minor league free agents. There’s nothing *wrong* with MiLB free agents, necessarily, but the M’s essentially don’t have anything resembling a “prospect” or “bat” who’s healthy and on the 40-man. All of the guys on the 40-man but not the active roster are relief pitchers, so I guess it’s not a shock that whenever the M’s need a body quickly they call on Chasen Bradford or whoever. When Cruz/Gamel/Healy are back, I’ll be curious to see how the M’s re-balance that 40-man roster.

The Rainiers send Christian Bergman to the mound today as they kick off their first road series tonight in Fresno. He’ll face Mike Hauschild, an Astros draftee who was picked up by Texas on waivers, then sent back to Houston after 8 ignominious innings in Arlington last year. The R’s got swept in a double-header last night by the Sacramento RiverCats, losing game 1 3-2 and the nightcap 6-5. Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Gordon Beckham each hit their 1st dinger of the year for Tacoma. Max Povse was solid, going 5 IP with 3 R allowed and 7 Ks to just 2 BBs, while Ryan Cook was excellent in his single inning of work. Alas, Chris Heston and the Sacto bullpen made 3 runs hold up. In the nightcap, Lindsay Caughel couldn’t get out of trouble in the 2nd inning, and he and reliever Pat Light ended up giving up all 6 of the RiverCats runs in that frame. John Andreoli and Zach Vincej each went 2-4.

Arkansas beat Corpus Christi 8-3, as Nathan Bannister and one of the myriad recently-acquired-from-Royals-org relievers held the Hooks in check. It helps when you draw 10 walks, too. They played an early game today, and the aforementioned Andrew Moore was stellar, tossing 6 scoreless innings of 2-hit ball while striking out *10* Hooks with just a lone walk allowed. The bullpen was a bit shaky after that, and the Travs went into the 9th down 3-0. Two walks and a Joey Curletta dinger later, they were tied, and they went on to win it on a Beau Amaral walk-off single a few batters (and a pitching change) later.

Modesto starter Darren McCaughan was great in his first taste of the Cal League, giving up 1 run in 4 2/3 IP with 4 Ks, but Angels prospect Joe Gatto made it hold up in Inland Empire’s 1-0 win. Wyatt Mills K’d 2 in 2 scoreless IP. Former Mariner farm hand Luis Rengifo, sent to Tampa in the Mike Marjama deal, leads off for Inland Empire. 10th round pick last year Randy Bell makes his own Cal League debut tonight as the 66ers/Nuts go at it again. Bell got hit pretty hard at Everett last year, but posted a 29:5 K:BB ratio.

Clinton’s mystery starter Raymond Kerr got knocked around a bit by Wisconsin in a 10-4 loss. He was followed by a few more 2017 college draft picks, and they got hit in turn. DH Ariel Sandoval, acquired a few weeks ago from the Dodgers org, hit his 3rd HR on the year. They too played an early game, so I can report that Sandoval has homered yet again, this time in Clinton’s 5-1 win. Sandoval is slugging 1.118 on the young season. Still, the star of the game for M’s prospect watchers was SP Ryne Inman. Inman, a projectable righty the M’s drafted out of a Georgia HS in 2015, tossed 5 2/3 IP, giving up 1 run, striking out 7 and walking just 1. After an up and down 2017, and after spending 2015 and 2016 in the complex league, this is a good sign. Inman’s still just 21, making him much younger than most of his teammates; only SP Tommy Romero is younger. (Clinton’s got the oldest group of position players, and 3rd oldest group of pitchers in the 16-team Midwest League).


11 Responses to “Game 9, Mariners at Royals”

  1. Westside guy on April 10th, 2018 5:46 pm

    “They don’t have an able bodied bat-first player beyond Vogelbach.”

    And one could argue that Vogelbach’s definition as a “bat first” player is more about his inability to field rather than a statement that his bat is worth much. A bat-only player who only manages a 117 wRC+ while running a BABIP of .455 may not even be a major-league-caliber hitter – time will tell.

  2. Westside guy on April 10th, 2018 7:21 pm

    Good outing by Felix! Not quite the King of old, but he certainly kept the Royals in check.

  3. Westside guy on April 10th, 2018 7:32 pm

    It’s too bad he couldn’t add a sixth solid inning to the outing, though. And Altavilla seemed shaky – glad he finally got the last out of the sixth.

  4. stevemotivateir on April 10th, 2018 7:54 pm

    It will be fun to see the lineup with Cruz, Gamel, Zunino, and Vogelbach (at 1B).

    The Mariners not only lack bat-first players on the 40, but on the bench as well. Unless you consider Heredia and Romine offensive threats. Heredia has potential, but it would be good to see him more consistent against RHP.

    An outfielder with options would make sense to address offensive depth. I can think of a few.

  5. Westside guy on April 10th, 2018 8:13 pm

    Hey, it’s Abraham Almonte!

  6. Westside guy on April 10th, 2018 8:15 pm

    Woo hoo! Mariners win!

  7. Westside guy on April 11th, 2018 11:28 am

    Game 10 – Big Maple pitching!

    Still in the first, one out, bases loaded, Seager up. It’d be nice for Seager to break out of this season-starting slump.

    … okay, he made good contact and got a sac fly. He’s lucky the catcher dropped his earlier foul popup though.

  8. Westside guy on April 11th, 2018 11:48 am

    Well Paxton didn’t look as dominant as I’d like in the first inning, but he escaped without giving up any runs. Hopefully he’ll settle down now.

    2-0 Mariners.

  9. Westside guy on April 11th, 2018 12:39 pm

    Through 4 – it’s now 2-2. Paxton has 6 Ks. I think he’s looked reasonably good for most of it, but KC was able so string some hits together and picked up two runs.

  10. Westside guy on April 11th, 2018 2:40 pm

    Woo hoo! Final score, 4-2! Paxton K’ed 10 and only walked 1 – although he threw a lot of non-strikes.

  11. heyoka on April 12th, 2018 8:10 am

    Hope I don’t jinx it, but I like the video game numbers Ed’s putting up so far.

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