Game 53, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · May 24, 2019 at 5:01 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Wade LeBlanc vs. Daniel Mengden, 7:07pm

After being swept by what most suspected was the division’s weakest team, the M’s head to Oakland. Oakland’s been hot, but then, the M’s have played them tough this year, and everyone’s “hot” when they get to play Baltimore.

Marco Gonzales’ spin rate seemed to be up when looking at the Gamefeed data from Baseball Savant, but it looks normal when you actually search for it the “normal” way… must’ve been measurement error that they correct later. In any event, Marco gave up his 10th unearned run, a fact I gawked at over in Baseball Prospectus’ Notebook series, which you should check out ($). He gave up just one solo HR, so he pitched pretty admirably, but I’m with the Dome and Bedlam crew in that it’s increasingly apparent that he’s not the kind of ace the M’s can build towards 2021 around.

In fact, that 2021 date is already looking shaky. Going back to the risks I talked about before (kind of) the season, for the M’s plan to really take shape, Marco and Mitch Haniger needed to grow into the kinds of players that justified the M’s belief in them. They needed to grow from very good to great, the kind of players that dominate irrespective of the context they’re placed in. Instead, by pitching even more to contact, Marco’s been the player MOST impacted by the team’s clown-music defense. They needed to see him develop a way to miss bats reliably, and instead he’s moved the other way. Mitch Haniger needed to turn a few strikeouts into balls in play (hopefully hard hit ones), and instead, his strikeouts are up. Both players are still good, and they’re obviously key contributors. But as we’ll still need to wait a bit for Jarred Kelenic and company to help out at this level, the M’s needed pretty substantial development from both players. Maybe that’ll come, but it’s harder and harder to see that it’ll come in time or in the required magnitude to change the math for 2021.

That brings us to the 2nd risk, which was that not only was the competition far superior (and Ginny Searle has a great piece up at BP about how far ahead the Astros are), but they’re younger. The M’s are going to need massive contributions from players who are either not on the roster, or who are kind of at the edge of it, and not contributing too much right now (JP Crawford). The problem is that Astros and A’s have those players contributing right now. They need to find new complementary pieces; everyone does. But Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman will be 26 and 27 in 2021. Matt Chapman and Frankie Montas will by 28, and Matt Olson 27. Haniger will be 30, and Marco 29. THIS is the big contention year? How was this chosen?

I’ve said probably too many times that to even make this semi-plausible, the player development group has to essentially work miracles. Kelenic has to shoot through the system and be good immediately, but they’ll need big contributions from guys that weren’t pegged as top-10 overall draft picks. The nice thing is that you can point to a number of breakouts – Vogelbach with the big club, minor league K leader Ljay Newsome or Logan Gilbert in high-A and Justin Dunn in AA. But they’re balanced by regression from Evan White/Kyle Lewis. The M’s can be interesting and not…whatever you call this current club, but that wouldn’t seem to close the gap with an Astros team that could conceivably *still* be younger and light-years ahead. The Twins show that a young team’s variance can occasionally pay off – they contended way earlier than expected two years ago, and look like a force now. They had a number of things go right, but just as they inspire a bit of hope, you realize they’ll be competing for playoff spots directly with the M’s in 2021, too. I’m glad a SS like Polanco can scuffle and then go nuclear like that, but I’m not happy that he’ll still be making the M’s pay (at age 27) in 2021.

The A’s have had little to no pitching, but their injury-plagued rotation’s received some really nice contributions from both Chris Bassitt and today’s starter, Daniel Mengden. Once known more for his moustache and his penchant for giving up dingers, Mengden tossed 115 IP with a decent ERA last year thanks to low walks and a very low BABIP. He’s got a deep repertoire that doesn’t really impress the tools scouts, but he can usually find the zone (not in his 12 IP thus far, but in his career) and limit BABIP thanks both to his defense and also a high FB%. That’s always going to make him susceptible to dingers, but playing at night in Oakland’s a decent way to ameliorate that risk. He throws a rising four-seamer at 93, and also mixes in a sinker. He has a change, slider AND a slow, high-spin curve as well. I wasn’t sure if it was a distinct pitch, but Brooks says he’s got a cutter as well, but it’s pretty slider-y. In any event, the curve is a decent pitch despite it’s looping nature. Joey Votto mentioned after facing Yusei Kikuchi that you don’t see as many real, old-fashioned, slow, 12-6 curves, and it’s been successful, as has Bassitt’s, another pitch that’s almost comically slow. The key’s getting to his fastball, and that’s something both righties and lefties have been able to do.

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


3 Responses to “Game 53, Mariners at Athletics”

  1. mrakbaseball on May 24th, 2019 9:58 pm

    Mallex Smith seems like a lost cause. It looks a little more complicated than just laying a synthetic field on whatever the Mariners are calling their home ballpark these days and hoping for the best.

  2. WTF_Ms on May 24th, 2019 10:26 pm

    I’m too lazy to do the research. How many runs have they given up after the 5th inning this year. It has to be huge.

  3. bookbook on May 24th, 2019 11:13 pm

    It’s looking more and more likely that the M’s 2022 won’t be Jerry’s problem.

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