Game 51, Mariners at Rangers

marc w · May 21, 2019 at 5:09 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Tommy Milone vs. Lance Lynn, 5:05pm

Are you ready for the Tommy Milone era of Mariners baseball? The M’s made a flurry of transactions today, including sending Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy to the IL, optioning Parker Markel to AAA and selecting the contract of Tommy Milone. Milone signed a minor league deal this year, and has pitched pretty well in the inflated offense of the PCL thus far. And with 130 big league starts under his belt, the M’s probably feel he’s a known commodity after the rude introductions suffered by Erik Swanson and Justus Sheffield (to say nothing of Markel).

He also fits right in. Milone’s a righty with a fastball that averaged 87 last year, and he’s worked in that range his entire career. Early on, he was fairly effective for the A’s, pitching to about a league-average rate thanks to low walks. The low offensive environment helped, as Milone’s, uh, leisurely fastball has tons of rise, making it very easy for batters to elevate. His career GB% is 38%, so his game is about producing outs in the air and sneaking strikeouts when he can. Milone in 2012-Oakland is just about the best environment for that skillset. I have no idea where that skillset will work in juiced-ball 2019.

Earlier on in the year, the M’s had a somewhat deceptive ERA – a decent enough ERA and then a lousy FIP/DRA. Now, though, every single indicator is bad. Their ERA is 5.21, and that doesn’t count their league-leading unearned runs. They’ve given up 21 more runs than *Baltimore*, and have given up over 50 more base hits than second-worst Texas. I have no idea what to do with the bullpen, which has been an utter disaster (they lead the league in walks, and have allowed 3X more HRs than Houston’s pen).

The team is on the verge of becoming unwatchable, and for some of you, they may already have fallen below that threshold. What’s frustrating is…well, everything, but just how comprehensively players collapse upon promotion. Markel’s a great example. He throws a really weird ball at 96, and has a slider that has completely puzzled minor league hitters. I completely understand that the level of competition he’s facing in the majors is much better, and that “it’s a game of adjustments” and all, but Markel is *doing something* or being told to do something that’s absolutely killing his effectiveness. I simply don’t believe that you can take someone *that* dominant in AA/AAA and have them pitch as poorly as Markel did in his… 3 2/3 IP. Sure, it’s a tiny sample. They all are. But looking at a per-PA or even per-pitch measure, he looked unrecognizable. Markel throws a four-seam fastball with a higher-than-average release point but over two standard deviations less vertical rise. That’s an oddity, and it *should* be effective at that kind of velocity. Maybe his command was atrocious, but I’m still baffled as to how this can happen, even in a sample of less than 50 batters.

Lance Lynn is a throwback. He throws a fastball (usually four-seam, but also some sinkers) nearly 70% of the time, in a league that’s down to ~58% or so. He’s also got a hard cutter, so you can argue that it’s more like 80-85% fastballs. The M’s are a good fastball-hitting team, but as they know, they have to be just to keep their club in it.

1: Haniger, CF
2: Santana, LF
3: Vogelbach, DH
4: Encarnacion, 1B
5: Narvaez, C
6: Bruce, RF
7: Beckham, 3B
8: Crawford, SS
9: Long, 2B
SP: Milone

As you can see, Long’s back, too, taking Gordon’s spot at 2B as Gordon eventually DID hit the IL with that wrist contusion.

Erik Swanson makes his first start in AAA since his demotion tonight, as Tacoma faces Fresno away from the charnel house that was Reno. Ray Kerr takes the hill for Modesto, and Ricardo Sanchez starts for Arkansas.


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