Game 50, Mariners at Rangers – Like Looking In A Mirror

marc w · May 20, 2019 at 5:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Mike Leake vs. Mike Minor, 5:05pm

After struggling against a fairly complete Twins team, the M’s now visit their southern doppelgangers, the Texas Rangers.
The Rangers’ offense puts up runs, scoring 5.77 runs per game, but they’re let down by a shaky pitching staff. The M’s, too, can score, but their pitching staff has yielded even more runs than the Rangers’ group. On the year, the M’s give up 2/3 of a run for every inning they pitch, while the Rangers are at 0.625 runs per inning. Both marks are, scientifically, not-close-to-good-enough, but credit to the Rangers for managing a positive run differential with that kind of headwind.

At a high level, the two clubs’ offenses look quite similar. They both work the count and can take a walk, and both feature tons of power. Both clubs have been led thus far by a large adult son that’s faced some skepticism about his eventual utility to a club, and both are getting some solid seasons out of supposedly declining veterans. That’s helped balance down years from some younger players. Scratch the surface a bit, and there are of course some important differences. Joey Gallo doesn’t really play like Daniel Vogelbach, even if their overall offensive value is similar. No, Gallo’s not a brilliant defender, but he plays out there, while the M’s – even while suffering through their worst defensive season in memory – won’t let Vogelbach touch a mitt. Both clubs have regulars that have absolutely crashed, as the M’s Mallex Smith has counterparts in the Rangers’ Jeff Mathis and Rougned Odor, but it’s still defense that threatens to separate these two clubs.

The M’s have, by some measures, outhit the Rangers. But the Rangers position players remain more valuable thanks to the M’s crippling defensive woes. BP gives the M’s a slight lead in rest-of-season deserved run average, but I’m not sure that will produce the gap in runs-allowed thanks to that defense. Still and all, it’s nice and schadenfreude-y to see the way some really good prospects like Odor and Nomar Mazara have stagnated, or to see Martin Perez break out the second he left. It’s not just us!

That said, the Rangers may have helped Mike Minor. After a solid bounce-back campaign in 2018, Minor’s broken out a bit with a career-high K% (as a starter). He’s throwing fractionally harder, but if he’s done anything, it’s trusted in his change. A lefty, Minor typically faces line-ups stocked with right-handed bats. He’s been OK at dealing with them, thanks to a deep arsenal of a straight four-seam, a slider, and then a curve to go along with a change-up with tons of armside run. In the past, and especially as a reliever in Kansas City, Minor used his slider to righties quite a bit – about twice as often as he went to that change. As a starter, he threw more change-ups, but it was close, and used more breaking balls in total than his offspeed. This worked decently well, to be fair; it was his four-seam that righties hit harder. But it seems that sometimes, a change in pitch mix can have an impact on pitches that weren’t involved in the swap. This year, he’s throwing a lot more change-ups, and righties haven’t hit it at all. Even his fastball’s having better luck. Sure, the breaking balls are now getting hit more, but the overall impact has been a positive one. If the production on sliders is just small-sample nothingness, then Minor can survive even if batters warm to his fastball in mid-summer.

Mike Leake remains Mike Leake. I mentioned that he’s barely hanging on as his velocity dips and batters rip line drives whenever he misses a spot, but he really battled against the A’s and I maintain that it can be compelling watching. He’s not going to be great, and he and Marco Gonzales are going to battle all year to see who gives up the most total base hits in the AL, but he’s about as dependable as declining pitchers get.

1: Gordon, 2B
2: Haniger, RF
3: Encarnacion, DH
4: Santana, LF
5: Healy, 1B
6: Beckham, 3B
7: Crawford, SS
8: Murphy, C
9: Smith, CF
SP: Leake

Mallex Smith was hitting .255/.339/.392 coming into the game against Houston on April 13th. Since that time, he’s hitting .098/.179/.164 in 19 MLB games. I will never understand how a player like Smith – or Shed Long – can be in a tailspin like this, and then hit the seams off the ball in AAA *immediately* upon being demoted. Unfortunately, that time in AAA hasn’t helped in Smith’s return. You feel bad for the guy.

In better news, Logan Gilbert got the #1 ranking in this week’s prospect hot sheet at Baseball America, listing top prospects who are coming off of dominant weeks.

Ryne Inman starts for West Virginia tonight, with Justin Dunn taking the mound in Arkansas. Modesto’s off, and Tacoma probably wishes they’d not played the final game in the Reno series. Spot-starter Anthony Misiewicz came up from AA, and he and a parade of relievers had…a really bad time in Reno’s 25-8 win. Tacoma just couldn’t get off the field on third downs, and Reno’s offensive line proved too much for the front seven. For the second time this year, Tacoma used a teenage reliever who was making his high-minors debut, and this time didn’t go as well. Christian Pedrol, an 18-year old Brazilian, worked 1 1/3 IP and gave up 6 runs on 4 dingers. A rough welcome to the PCL, but hey, Misiewicz had a nearly identical line in 1 2/3, with 6 R on 3 dingers. Christian Bergman and Tyler Danish were equally ineffective. Catcher David Sheaffer finished it up with 2/3 IP of scoreless ball. Shed Long went 3-5, but that damnable Kevin Cron had his second 2-HR game in the series, and Yasmany Tomas managed to hit *4* HRs in the contest. Tomas finished 5-6 with 8 RBIs. The PCL plus the new juiced baseball…it’s quite something.


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