Game 144, Padres at Mariners

marc w · September 11, 2018 at 7:20 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Bryan Mitchell, 7:10pm

I’m sorry for the lack of activity. It isn’t full-on M’s ennui; if you’d like some, check out David Skiba’s great post here. It’s been mostly fun stuff, and then some work stuff thrown in the mix, but let’s face it: the M’s aren’t making any of us completely overhaul our schedule to catch these games. This is a *formerly* strange feeling that’s now become almost routine: a very good season, a winning season, blessed with contention late in the year, that suddenly curdles and spoils. They were too fun for too much of the year to get too upset about it all. But then, with half the league trying to be bad, and with 5 playoff bids up for grabs, it won’t exactly do to give them a high five for trying and saying that it’ll all work out eventually.

As the season began, I said this:

The season is, for all intents and purposes, over. So does that mean I “win” and the M’s look silly? No, not really, not with a solid season and months and months of wins under their belt. What I was thinking when I wrote that was this: I don’t really see how this roster is good enough to win a playoff spot, but if they DO win that second wild card, it’ll be because something big has happened – something that we couldn’t see back in the dark ages of March, but that becomes captivating and obvious over the course of the season. I came into the season thinking that for all of his practice, Jerry Dipoto isn’t really, uh, good at making trades. There’s some wins in there, and the Segura/Haniger trade stands out as a potential franchise-altering move, but it’s just weighed down by a really long list of unforced errors. Second, the M’s didn’t seem to be developing talent all that well, despite that being the focus of the front office. If the M’s won a playoff spot, I thought it would highlight something the team was good at – much better than the average MLB outfit. They came in with less true-talent in 2018 than some of their rivals and much less talent for the years ahead. If they won, it’d either because their current roster suddenly got much better, or maybe because something shocking happened on the farm and they got contributions from, I don’t know, the latest crop of MiLB free agents they picked up.

None of that happened. For a long time, it didn’t matter. I was wrong about so, so much, from who the M’s would be chasing, to the specific problems the M’s would face. I thought the pitching staff might continue to hemorrhage dingers, which would dig the offense too much of a hole to get out. Everyone was worried about the pitching, and I thought they’d really struggle to keep total runs-allowed around 700, a figure low enough that an above-average offense could slug their way to a really positive run differential. I have no idea how, really, but here’s the thing: the starting rotation that Jerry Dipoto and essentially ONLY Jerry Dipoto thought was good enough has more or less done their job. They’re giving up 4.4 runs per game, which is high-ish for a team that plays in Safeco, but a dramatic improvement on 2017. He said they’d be better, and good enough, and there it is. A bunch of 88 MPH fastballs and Edwin Diaz, and they may hold runs allowed to 700. The problem is that the offense still hasn’t crested 600. I’m not exactly sure why everyone thought the offense was one of the team’s best, but I think many thought the M’s might score quite a few runs this year, and they’re under 4.1 per game, and then they’ve doubled down by being bad at defense. The M’s position players have struggled mightily, which pretty much takes away all the credit I’d give Dipoto for his pitching staff’s success.

They’ve done it in very predictable ways: they don’t draw walks, which, oddly, seems to have been the plan. They picked up two of the most walk-averse batters in the league, and somehow got them to walk *less.* Pair that with Kyle Seager’s face-plant and a ball and weather-driven return to pitcher-friendly form from Safeco Field, and here we are. As many are already saying, the future looks a bit more bleak, which is one reason I’m trying to focus on the positive of *all of those wins* they had early on. The M’s have more committed dollars in 2019 than all but a couple of teams, like Boston and New York. More than the Angels and their back-loaded Pujols deals, more than San Francisco. The M’s have committed about 2X as much to Felix next year as the A’s have guaranteed to their entire roster, which, sure, says more about the A’s than anything, but is also pretty troubling for an M’s franchise that unexpectedly finds themselves *chasing* the A’s. The A’s are younger and have tons of flexibility (and no willingness to use it), and…it gets tough to figure out how to get out of this.

The nice thing, in the VERY short term, is that the Padres, who did the very trendy thing and sold off every high-priced player and really leaned in to a rebuild, are in town and are abysmal. They can’t hit, and starting tonight is Bryan Mitchell, who has given up more walks than strikeouts this year and in his call-ups in 2016 and 2017. He’s got the 2nd-worst FIP of any player who’s thrown at least 50 innings. These are the decisions you’re forced to make when you have essentially nothing that’s fully cooked at the big league level. Many of us in the M’s blogosphere/twitter have lamented the M’s seeming desire to remain just shy of good, to bob along on the very fringes of contention. Watching the Padres (or thinking back to 2010) make me remember that things could always be worse. Of course, most think the Padres will be competitive sooner than the M’s, so there’s that, but it’s instructive to see what tearing it all down actually looks like.

1: Haniger, CF
2: Span, LF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Healy, 1B
6: Seager, 3B
7: Gamel, RF
8: Zunino, C
9: Gordon, SS
SP: Marco Gonzales, welcome back, buddy.

The Rainiers/M’s have parted ways with Pat Listach, their manager for the past four years. I assume we’ll see plenty more moves in the months to come.


4 Responses to “Game 144, Padres at Mariners”

  1. Stevemotivateir on September 11th, 2018 8:07 pm

    It is ironic that this team ended up with decent starting pitching and a dismal offense when nobody seemed worried about the lineup and questioned the rotation relentlessly. But what was Jerry thinking leaning on Healy for offense and trading away the one starting pitching prospect left that was relatively close and worth a rat’s ass?

    I hated the majority of the trades we saw over the off season and throughout this year. Feels like salt in the wound, though I would have still hated them even if Seattle made the post season.

    Not looking forward to the off season.

  2. WTF_Ms on September 11th, 2018 8:32 pm

    And we’ve managed to make every “abysmal” pitcher look Cy Young worthy. This line-up is horrible, or extremely unlucky ALL the time. I’ll choose the former.

  3. WTF_Ms on September 11th, 2018 9:52 pm

    Ugh. They’re done.

  4. don52656 on September 11th, 2018 11:44 pm

    I sure wish SOMEONE would ask Servais about some of his decisions. In the 7th tonight, with a LHP on the mound, he pinch hits Maybin for Gamel. It worked out just fine, because Maybin doubled (and then was stranded). However, why pinch hit? For his career, Gamel is hitting .266 against LHP; Maybin is hitting .248. Gamel has a .314 OBP, Maybin has a .310 OBP. An inning later, I sure would have liked to see Gamel up there with the bases loaded and two outs against a RHP instead of Maybin. By the way, Gamel was the only Mariner hitter to work Mitchell for a walk, which is amazing since Mitchell walks over 6 per 9 innings, but Scott doesn’t seem to like or trust Gamel.

    So after Edwin gives up the run in the 9th, we have Mike Zunino leading off in the bottom of the 9th. Mike comes into tonight’s game with a .191 average and a .247 OBP this year. Against RHPs, Mike has a lifetime AVG of .200 with an OBP of .270. On the bench is Daniel Vogelbach. He has a lifetime AVG against RHPs of only .226, but a .337 OBP. To compound the situation, Kirby Yates is on the mound and he gives up a .643 OPS to right-handed batters compared to a .789 OPS to lefties. Doesn’t this situation scream for a pinch hitter?

    I think Scott Servais is the worst in-game manager the M’s have had for quite awhile, and that is saying something.

    Heaven help us this off-season, it’s hard to see this team getting any better with the personnel they have. They will be another year older and there is absolutely nothing in the minors that’s close to helping, since it seems obvious that they have no confidence whatsoever in Vogelbach. I fear that they will sign Nelson Cruz to an extension because they like him (and to be fair, he’s good) even though he will be 39 next year. They are on the hook to pay Felix, Cano, Seager, Segura, Leake, and Gordon $115.5 million next year….these 6 have contributed 7.7 WAR combined this season and only Segura, who will be 29, is under 30.

    My biggest fear is that this management team will make the same mistake that was made after the 2007 season, when the team finished 88-74 despite giving up 19 more runs than they scored (that sounds familiar). They figured they were one player short of being a contender and made the trade for Bedard that off season.

    This team had a great few months, thanks to way better than expected starting pitching and an historic season from their closer. If anyone thinks that this team is a contender though…..well, they are watching a different team than I have been.

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