Game 60, Mariners at Astros

marc w · June 5, 2018 at 5:03 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Dallas Keuchel, 5:10pm

Welcome to the difficult part of the schedule. The M’s kick off a short series with the Astros, and after a brief respite in Tampa, face off against a bunch of playoff contenders, from Anaheim to Boston to New York. There are precious few Twins or Rangers this month.

The Astros have a run differential of + 122 coming into today, which looks like it’s in a different league to the M’s +17, but sadly for Houston, they don’t award playoff spots based on run differential. Yes, the M’s look much worse on paper, and the run differential tells that story. But I’d like to talk about 2016, when the Astros were coming off a surprise that-didn’t-take-as-long-as-everyone-thought playoff berth, but slumped to just 84 wins. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers won *95 games* despite a Pythagorean record of 82-80. Their run differential was in single digits, but they won *95 games*. For most of the year, it was actually negative, and people said, “You can’t just score runs *exactly* when you need them all year; it doesn’t work like that,” but the Rangers went right on doing it for the entire year. It made no sense, as I pointed out at the time, and it kept on making no sense right through a 95-win, division winning season. That feels familiar, at least from watching the M’s in May, and so at least there’s a recent precedent for a team continuing to out-weird “better” teams.

The M’s face the team with potentially the best rotation in history, but at least they get the weakest link in that rotation tonight – it’s, uh, former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel’s velo’s unchanged from his brilliant 2015 and his bounce-back 2017, but Keuchel’s K% and GB% are down a bit, and as a sinkerballer throwing 89, he’s always working on the margins. He has to be incredibly precise, and to his credit, he has been. But after a few years when it seemed like he could contact-manage his way to stardom, his HR/FB ratio’s no longer shockingly low, and if you don’t get a ton of strikeouts, there’s some vulnerability there. I mentioned yesterday that the M’s would benefit more than most teams if the ball stopped being quite so HR-friendly; as a ground ball guy, Keuchel doesn’t seem like he would be in that boat, but I keep thinking that if the ball stays drag-resistant, he’s simply not going to be what he was in 2015 anymore. That seems like a just-so story, gussying up regression to the mean with doctored baseballs and league wide trends, but hey, it’s not a USSMariner piece without at least one reference to league-wide HR rates.

James Paxton has dominated a very good Astros line-up over the past 1.4 years or so. The Astros throttled the M’s last year, and they’re doing fine against them in 2018, but they haven’t figured out Paxton quite yet. Long may this continue.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Segura, SS
3: Haniger, RF
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Healy, 1B
7: Heredia, CF
8: Gamel, LF
9: Zunino, C

With the calendar turning to June and lots of players exercising opt-outs, the M’s affiliates have seen a ton of changes this week. It’s not just the M’s, but a wave of players who had been playing in independent leagues just crossed over into affiliated ball, and the M’s have been especially active. The M’s signed former Nat Ross Detwiler, former D-Back Daniel Schlereth, and RHPs Tyler Higgins and Williams Perez to minor league deals. Tacoma SS Zach Vincej hit the DL, but Nick Rumbelow was officially activated for the first time this season. The R’s have been scrambling a bit with injuries and then the promotion of Roenis Elias, so the Indy League windfall will benefit the team that’s had to pull guys from Modesto/Arkansas plenty for spot starts.


7 Responses to “Game 60, Mariners at Astros”

  1. mrakbaseball on June 5th, 2018 6:26 pm

    Mariners so far, working on improving their run differential while putting a dent in the Astros’.

  2. Notfromboise on June 5th, 2018 7:37 pm

    Nice to see Zunino and Seeger having little sparks. Those are the kinda guys we need to get going to pick up the slack and keep the M’s lineup productive.

  3. Sowulo on June 5th, 2018 7:41 pm

    And the M’s extend their division lead! Yay!

  4. Sowulo on June 5th, 2018 8:03 pm

    typically, nothing on ESPN’s website about today’s game between two of the best teams in baseball.

  5. LongDistance on June 5th, 2018 11:02 pm

    My future self two months from now sending a message back in time to me now: “you really deep down didn’t expect that, did you …”

  6. Stevemotivateir on June 6th, 2018 7:09 am

    Marc summed it up perfectly the other day. None of it makes sense on the surface, but man, is this fun!

    This team has an identity. They won’t accept the odds; they persevere. They are a machine right now.

  7. LongDistance on June 6th, 2018 12:44 pm

    Took a peak over at 538. They’ve not only not accepted the odds, but they’ve tweaked them.

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