Game 157: Athletics at Mariners

marc w · September 25, 2018 at 5:09 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Brett Anderson, 7:10pm

Blake Snell was a great HS prospect, and added something on his way through the Rays’ minor league system. He was a solid MLB starting pitcher at a young age, and then, midway through last year and again midway through *this* year, he’s taken his game to another level. Matt Chapman was a solid prospect out of Fullerton State, with a brilliant defensive reputation that was partially marred by swing-and-miss concerns, enough that some teams wanted to take a look at him as a pitcher. He hit well enough in the high-minors, though those K rate concerns looked pretty apt. In his first taste of the big leagues, Chapman showed that yeah, okay, he had some holes in his swing, but with great defense and a developing eye, he wasn’t quite in the Joey Gallo category – he wasn’t THAT kind of all-or-nothing player. This year, he’s cut his K% significantly while maintaining the impressive power he showed last year. Those Ks have turned into singles, so his batting average looks nothing like Gallo’s, and of course he’s a gold glove 3B.

Mike Leake is exactly who the M’s acquired. Presumably targeted because of his remarkable consistency, Leake has given the M’s what they wanted: 30+ starts with a FIP and ERA right near 4, posting a solidly (but not dramatically) above average season. Teams *need* these kinds of performances, and in a baseball world defined by attrition, churn, and inconsistency, Leake’s acquisition stands out as a smart pick-up for a team that desperately needed someone to count on after trying and failing with Wade Miley, Yovani Gallardo, and Ariel Miranda. I don’t think you needed advanced stats to see Leake as a solid buy, not when the regular old stats looked remarkably consistent. Giving up essentially no talent to GET him was another solid win, as the M’s were willing to eat salary from a team that had Jack Flaherty, Carlos Martinez, Alex Reyes (whoopsadoodle), and Dakota Hudson on the way up.

It was a good process and a good result, but there’s a problem: it’s just not enough anymore. Teams ahead of the M’s are taking interesting players, especially those with a lot more variance in their potential outcomes, and developing them into stars. I have no idea what Ramon Laureano’s career will look like from here on out, but he was a laser-armed OF with serious questions about his bat, and had already washed out of an org that’s been brilliant at developing guys like this. With the A’s…well, you know what happened. Maybe it’s all a fluke, akin to Jeremy Reed’s debut with the M’s. But it’s happening so much now, and the M’s haven’t quite followed suit.

Mitch Haniger’s development, about which I spilled too many words yesterday, stands out as a local example, but his overall slash line looks freakishly like last year’s. He’s cut his own K% issues down, but fundamentally, the change that turned him from busted prospect to MITCH HANIGER happened in Arizona. We’ve seen some encouraging signs from Evan White, but the overall seasonal record isn’t greatly encouraging. We’ve seen solid improvement from Braden Bishop, and at least Kyle Lewis is healthy now. But this can’t *just* happen at the minor league level. This team needs the ability to watch major league players cut whiffs and increase power, the way the Astros have done with Alex Bregman this year, and the way they did with George Springer the year before.

So much of what’s gone wrong has been due to the unexplained collapses of Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon, whose BABIP luck took a serious turn for the worse. It’s great that Edwin Diaz blew his projections out of the water, and became what he looked like in 2016: completely untouchable. But it needs to happen on offense, and it’s not happening enough. The trade for Ryon Healy only made sense if the M’s could turn him into a fundamentally different hitter; to succeed where the A’s had failed. It didn’t happen. I don’t think the M’s get enough credit for Nelson Cruz’s remarkable, age-defying, late-career renaissance, but while they got what they paid for there, they need Cruz-level performance from someone who wasn’t already a league HR champ. Who’s it going to be? Is this team ready to do that? If not, the M’s will just fall further behind, a point that Twins’ GM Thad Levine made in this BP Q and A. There is no standing pat, there is no treading water. You’re either actively improving, or you’re falling further behind. It’s a dead horse I like to whack at, but the M’s need to figure out what they’re good at and do more of it. It’s not enough to be an OK, perfectly average, reliably Mike Leakean General Manager. The American League circa 2018-19 demands much, much more.

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


7 Responses to “Game 157: Athletics at Mariners”

  1. WTF_Ms on September 25th, 2018 7:42 pm

    How soon until Healy is gone? We gotta do something there. Cano maybe? I dunno. The starting rotation isn’t helping.

  2. mrakbaseball on September 25th, 2018 7:43 pm

    Mike Leake, sprung another leak, as the USS Mariner sinks below Elliott Bay, way below average tonight. Well, at least he gives you 30+ starts a season.

  3. WTF_Ms on September 25th, 2018 9:25 pm

    We’d still be in the running in the NL-W, and AL-E. I would have figured 85 games would be OK, but somehow this seems like crap…

  4. themojoworkin on September 26th, 2018 12:04 pm

    While I agree with all that was said above, it is the tone of your post that hits home the most with me- when you build a team in this fashion, sacrificing future assets to “win now”, you better win now. Even when the season started, and even back when we were playing well, I never really felt like we were ever going to be truly competitive with Boston, NY, or Houston. Realizing that any team that makes the playoffs would most likely have to beat 2 of those three teams in a series puts a damper on any hope that the team had early in the season.

    For that reason, I feel like the process is flawed. Because here we are, out of the playoffs, with an increasingly aging roster, and little in the way of promising prospects, at least relative to other teams.

    Most disturbing is that despite Jerry once in a while “winning” a trade, the talent drain has been significant over his tenure, and it feels like we have a GM in the bottom tier of the GM IQ board. I grew up in Seattle and Milwaukee and almost every move made by David Stearns “feels” like a smart decision, even the minor ones, whereas nearly every move that Jerry makes “feels” like our GM should be going to special education classes at the GM school.

    Hard not to get depressed when the GM situation, which is really the only way out of this quagmire of being good, but not nearly as good as Boston, NY or Houston, feels relatively hopeless.

  5. themojoworkin on September 26th, 2018 12:14 pm

    And Marc, in case I forget to tell you later, thank you for such thoughtful and insightful posts, I truly believe you are a treasure for us M’s fans and I am grateful for your blog and the time/effort needed to produce such thoughtful work.

  6. nwade on October 1st, 2018 9:17 am

    Marc – Thank you for another season of interesting posts, insights, and analysis. I rarely make comments, but I check USSM every day or two – because I know that when you write about a topic there will be a great idea or a unique perspective at the core of the article. And that makes all the difference! So thanks again, for the thought and the effort you put in!

  7. bfgboy on October 1st, 2018 2:02 pm

    It is about time for Theo Epstein to get sick of winning, and try to break another curse.

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