Game 1: Mariners at Athletics (Tokyo)

marc w · March 19, 2019 at 9:25 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Mike Fiers, gaaahh 2:35am (ESPN)

The M’s and A’s kick off the season with a brief two-game set in the TokyoDome. The last time the M’s and A’s kicked off a season in Japan was 2012. Like this year, the M’s had essentially no expectations, coming after the disasters of 2010-11, but the A’s ended up unlikely division winners. The A’s won’t sneak up on anyone this year, not after 97 wins last season, but the M’s team has that 2012-ish “team in transition” feel. Ultimately, a season without expectations is freeing, and I vaguely remember 2012 being sort of fun, as it marked Kyle Seager’s first full year, and Brad Miller was tearing up the minors. But as hard as I’ve been on this front office, and as much as I agree with the strategy of the step-back this year, I worry that they haven’t done enough to put this team in the position to contend all that early. The team needs an overhauled development system to fix some holes in the line-up, and then really re-make a pitching staff that fell flat last season. They’ll need to do it with a lot less help from the bullpen than last season, and with some remaining questions on defense, as well.

That’s not to say that this is hopeless. The M’s line-up is spotty, but they’ll score some runs thanks to Mitch Haniger, new LF Domingo Santana, and (hopefully) new C Omar Narvaez. There are still problems, and having Ryon Healy playing 3B for up to 2 months is up there, but they shouldn’t be completely hopeless. There’s also the possibility that the team looks completely different in August, with Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, Mike Leake and others potentially swapped out for younger players. And for the first time in quite a while, the M’s will have replacements in the high minors beyond minor league free agents and standard MiLB org depth guys.

They’ll kick things off tonight in Tokyo behind last year’s break-out pitcher Marco Gonzales. The A’s can throw out a lot of good righties, so it’s imperative that Marco use his curve and change-up well and that he avoid the HR troubles that sunk his 2017 season. He lost just about all of the velocity that he’d seemingly gained last year, so it’ll be good to monitor that in March/April. He was able to pound the strike zone last season without giving up too many dingers because he mixed his pitches quite well, relying on really three different fastballs to go with his breaking ball and change. But he’s no longer coming out of nowhere; teams will know to look for his cutter, and they’ll have gotten more repetitions against him. His degree of difficulty is ramping up, but last year’s a hell of a base to grow from.

He’ll start opposite Mike Fiers, the veteran righty who throws even slower than Gonzales. It’s kind of amazing to look at the A’s who are coming off 97 wins and ready to fight again for a postseason berth and their rotation is currently Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas and Daniel Mengden/Chris Bassitt. Yes, yes, their defense can make some of these guys look better, and the fly-ballers like Fiers/Estrada get a boost from their home park, but…yikes. That’s not a rotation that screams playoff team. Their bullpen is excellent, though, and it’ll be interesting to see if breakout star Blake Treinen can come close to the remarkable season he put up last year.

Of course, the M’s aren’t playing in the A’s home stadium, so Fiers’ ability to pitch around HRs is going to be sorely tested. Fiers gives up HRs even in spacious parks, but he’s worked around it thanks to shockingly good K rates and low walks. His best-known pitch is a straight fastball at 90MPH with well above-average spin and rise. He also throws a sinker, a change with solid vertical drop (especially compared to his rise-ball four-seamer), a curve with well-above average depth (spin and gravity combine well here), and a cutter. Marco Gonzales gets the most out of his pure stuff, but Fiers’ has sneakily more stuff than you’d imagine a righty throwing 89 has any right to possess. Give Marco Fiers’ curve OR that change-up break and you’d have a star. Of course, despite that stuff, the margin for error is still super fine. Hence Fiers’ consistently high HRs-allowed. Putting Fiers in a park where the M’s have been pinging dingers around in their pre-season friendlies could be a recipe for a solid win. But get to him early; not looking forward to trying to come back against Treinen.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Haniger, CF
3: Bruce, 1B
4: Encarnacion, DH
5: Santana, LF
6: Narváez, C
7: Healy, 3B
8: Beckham, SS
9: Ichirooooo, RF
SP: Gonzales

M’s win 77 and finish in 4th. The Angels improve and are neck and neck with the A’s. The Padres, Reds and Tigers are better than people think, while the Nats will struggle.

Baseball again sets all-time K rate records, but walks drop and HRs stabilize, even trending downward, continuing last year’s about-face.
With Severino hurting, the Cy Young race comes down to Chris Sale and :shudders: James Paxton. In the NL, it’s Noah Syndergaard’s year. MVP goes to…let’s keep things interesting and say Mike Trout in the AL, and Manny Machado in the NL.



6 Responses to “Game 1: Mariners at Athletics (Tokyo)”

  1. mrakbaseball on March 19th, 2019 10:45 pm

    If this game was played at 1:00 p.m Tokyo time it would have been 9:00 p.m Pacific, (8 Alaska). Much more palatable for 2 West Coast fanbases. Whatever.

  2. Bwilliam on March 20th, 2019 3:25 am

    Grand salami!!!

  3. HighBrie on March 20th, 2019 6:29 am

    Nice win, Mariners! (One thought on the A’s starting staff: it isn’t great, but Luzardo and Puk will help a lot if they look like they’re ready mid-season.)

  4. Stevemotivateir on March 20th, 2019 9:01 am

    Domingo Santana didn’t even get all of that pitch. He was late. The power that guy possesses is impressive.

  5. Nate on March 20th, 2019 12:48 pm

    Best Record in Baseball!!
    Go M’s!

  6. Sowulo on March 20th, 2019 10:20 pm

    I’m just happy to watch an M’s victory during primetime! ;-P 5pm starts are awesome! ;-D

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