Game 83, Royals at Mariners

marc w · June 29, 2018 at 5:20 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Ian Kennedy, 7:10pm

The M’s return home for series against the absolutely reeling Royals, the Angels, and then the Rockies. That takes us into July, so this is the homestand the M’s officially roll out their Ballpark Pass concept, in which fans can buy a guarantee of a seat for all July home games – you may not get to sit in the same seat, but you’ll get a ticket *somewhere* in the stadium. I have to say: that’s a great idea, and if I lived in Seattle, I’d be all over it. But the appeal of something like this has only grown since they unveiled it a month or two ago. With the team consolidating its grip on a wild card berth, interest in the M’s is higher than I’ve seen in many years.

One of the things that the M’s have done well this season is destroy some of the worst teams in the league. They’re still struggling with Houston, New York, and Boston, but that’s completely understandable and also not terribly relevant to their playoff chances. What’s *different* is how they’re handling the likes of Kansas City, Minnesota, Baltimore, and Tampa. That encompasses a wide range of teams, but they’re all below .500 and teams the M’s need to fatten up on in order to hold off Anaheim and Oakland.

Baltimore actually played the M’s fairly tough in the M’s four-game sweep, but they’re no longer the clear, obvious worst team in the league. They’ve got the worst record, but they don’t have the league’s worst pitching staff by any stretch. It’s not GOOD or anything, but they’re more run-of-the-mill terrible. For the first month or two of the season, if you wanted outre, avant-garde awfulness, you had to go to Cincinnati, where pitchers combined terrible control AND historic home-run allowance to create a searing indictment of contemporary baseball and its increasing reliance on the three true outcomes. But a strange thing’s happened since May or so – the Reds are merely bad; their experimental eccentricities sanded down for a more middle-of-the-road, radio-friendly version of a bad pitching staff. In fact, over the past 30 days, the Reds HR rate is in the middle of the pack. Their place as the standard-bearers for outsider art in the world of pitching has been taken up by the Kansas City Royals.

The Royals come into today with the worst staff in the game. They’ve been essentially replacement-level over the season’s first half, as they’re sporting the league’s worst K/9, one of the worst HR/9, and a a bad BB/9. They’ve got the worst FIP and the only team ERA over 5, so as bad as they’ve been in fielding-independent terms, they’ve actually underperformed THAT low bar in terms of actual runs-allowed. That’s rough, but in part, we’ve all seen it coming. Their World Series roster’s been split up, and everyone knew that this year was going to be a year of…uh…transition and, perhaps, struggle. Still, with a HR-suppressing ballpark and some stability in the rotation with Ian Kennedy and Danny Duffy sticking around, I don’t know that anyone anticipated this.

Perhaps worse for the club has been the utter collapse of their offense. Over the past 30 days – a period that’s seen them challenge the all-time record for most games without scoring 5 runs – the club’s slash line is a hard-to-fathom .200/.261/.323. As a TEAM. For a MONTH. The Orioles have been lousy all year, and especially bad these past 30 days, but the Royals make everyone look like a good offense in comparison. Again, it’s not like anyone thought they’d be the ’27 Yankees, not after losing Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, and others. But the degree of their ineptitude was perhaps unforeseeable, and it makes it hard to assess where they go from here, particularly as Mike Moustakas signed a one year deal and they already traded free agent shoulder-shrug Jon Jay.

Today’s game features Ian Kennedy, a free agent misfire who’s had a long-standing, problematic, relationship with the home run ball. Kennedy throws a four-seam fastball, a cutter, a change, and a good, hard-breaking curve, but for many years, he’s really pitched off of that fastball. It gets solid rise from a low-ish arm slot, so I think it gets above the barrel on a lot of hitters who are expecting more horizontal break/sink than they get. He’s thrown FBs about 65-66% of the time up until this year, when he’s followed the league-wide drop in FB usage. Still, he’s pretty close to 60%, which is high in this day and age. And you can see why – particularly for a fastball, the pitch has produced a low-ish BABIP and so-so OBP-against figures. The problem is that when batters get a hold of it, it goes a long, long way, and not even Kauffman Stadium can keep those hits in play. Since arriving in KC in 2016, he’s allowed *57* HRs just on his fastball.

Kennedy’s 33 now, and as with a lot of pitchers, certain skills are beginning to atrophy. The whiff rate on his fastball has dropped each year he’s toiled for the Royals, and his SLG%-against keeps rising. But despite the great movement on his curve, Kennedy believes his FB is his best pitch…and he may be right. It’s just that it’s increasingly clear that it’s barely a major league pitch, and that keeping the ball in the park isn’t just bad luck, something that’ll just regress away. At this point, it’s increasingly looking like a HR/9 mark of 1.50 or more is the mean to which his performance will regress towards. The league mean isn’t that high, but that’s no longer relevant.

One aspect of his FB-centric approach is that he doesn’t have much in the way of platoon splits, and indeed never has. The problem is that his performance against lefties and righties alike slowly erodes year after year. This isn’t a time that the M’s need to play match-ups; they just need to roll out their usual line-up and wait for them to do that magical thing where they stick around and suddenly beat teams in the late innings. Or, hey, they could just knock Kennedy around early and give the bullpen a day off of high leverage innings. Just a thought.

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

Reno opens up a series in Tacoma tonight; serial free agent pick-up Bryan Evans gets the start at Cheney.


10 Responses to “Game 83, Royals at Mariners”

  1. Sowulo on June 29th, 2018 9:44 pm

    The M’s have picked up two games on Houston this week. Back to within 2.5 games of Houston and only 3 games behind both Boston and NY.

  2. LongDistance on June 29th, 2018 11:52 pm

    Although not absolutely applicable to the ghosts of teams past, the breakdown of the Royals woes is a greatly evocative (and great) post. In itself, a sort of The Art Of The Meh. Only one who has lived such a thing — as a baseball fan — could have produced it. And it underscores the current, held breath, magic.

  3. Grayfox3d on June 30th, 2018 5:52 pm

    Happy Felix Day!!! Houston lost lets do this boys!!!!

  4. Jake on June 30th, 2018 7:19 pm

    3-0 Royals 3 hitters in. Off this went. Felix is hitting way too much of the plate.

  5. WTF_Ms on June 30th, 2018 7:21 pm

    Yeah, this turned into a shit show early.

  6. WTF_Ms on June 30th, 2018 8:50 pm

    Thankfully the offense came through. We’re going to need Felix to go more than 5 a game, and give up fewer than 3 earned though.

  7. Grayfox3d on June 30th, 2018 9:30 pm

    Can Colome NOT blow this game.

  8. Grayfox3d on June 30th, 2018 9:54 pm

    Nice win! I feel like it should of been alot bigger win that 6 runs, seems like we were just 1 hit several times from blowing that game open, especially with Seager having 5 LOB and Zunino with 4 LOB.

  9. Grayfox3d on July 1st, 2018 12:13 pm

    Happy Big Maple Day everyone! hope you guys are enjoying your Sunday!

  10. Grayfox3d on July 1st, 2018 12:57 pm

    Houston lost! we need to SEA-ze this opportunity.

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