Game 98, Mariners at Athletics – East Bay Voodoo

marc w · July 16, 2019 at 5:22 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Marco Gonzales vs. Daniel Mengden, 7:05 pm

The M’s are in Oakland, wrapping up a brief road trip with a quick 2-game set against the A’s. Oakland’s up to 12 games over .500 after a somewhat slow start, and yet again, they’re doing it despite throwing out a patchwork rotation that, on paper, looks terrible. Last year, the A’s had one of the lowest K rates in baseball at 7.6/9 IP, or 20.3%. They got by thanks to a very low BABIP and low-ish HRs-allowed. A good defense helped with the former, and the subdued baseball plus a spacious home park helped with the latter. The A’s staff wasn’t exactly great, as injuries forced them to turn to cheap vets like Trever Cahill and Brett Anderson, and when their top prospects went down, they filled in with lower-tier org hands like Chris Bassitt and today’s starter, Daniel Mengden.

This year, injuries and attrition have again played havoc with the A’s: none of the pitchers who finished in the top 5 in innings pitched for the A’s are in the top 5 this year. Sean Manaea’s down, Jesus Luzardo is still stuck in the minors dealing with nagging injuries, and Trevor Cahill and Edwin Jackson – somehow two critical starters down the stretch in 2018 – are fighting for their big league careers. The A’s K/9 is 7.75/9, the lowest figure in the game. By K%, it’s 20.4%, merely 27th in MLB. Like the M’s, they are trying to get by with a staff that doesn’t miss bats. Like the M’s, they’re dealing with some injuries. Like the M’s, they play in a run-suppressing home park. The M’s have yielded 578 runs this year, while the A’s have given up just 405. The M’s give up 6 per game, while the A’s give up 4.26. Everything looks similar until you look at the high-level results, and suddenly they couldn’t be more different.

The A’s gave up fewer runs last year as well, despite the M’s higher K numbers, superior FIP, etc. The key has been BABIP, as Oakland’s foul ground and increasingly fly-ball oriented staff have played to their team’s strengths. This year, Oakland’s GB% is one of the lowest in the game, and they are #1 in infield fly balls (thanks again to their park dimensions, one would suspect). But more than that, the A’s have actually *cut* their home run rate this year despite the baseball’s changes. The M’s have been sunk by HRs, or the combination between a mediocre BABIP and HRs leading to a lot of runs scoring quickly. The A’s have been able to pitch around walks and a lack of bat-missing stuff to post a team ERA under 4. Defense is a big part of that, but I sense tricky Athletics devil magic here. I get that the left side of their IF is perhaps the best in the game defensively, but I need to understand why the A’s can avoid HRs in the year of the HR. They were better than average last year, but nothing special. Since the start of 2018, the M’s have struck out more batters, but the A’s have given up 68 fewer HRs and over *200* fewer runs, and this despite a pitching staff that projected to be noticeably worse than Seattle’s in both years. I don’t know if you find this frustrating, but I find this frustrating. If you think it’s dumb luck, then it’s merely annoying, but if you think there’s something the A’s are actively DOING to cause this, then it’s worse. I’m trying to be more positive these days, but friends, I fear they’re actually doing something.

Daniel Mengden is org depth who has found himself logging serious innings for a contending A’s team these past few years. He’s got a couple of fastballs at 92 and a big looping curve in the low 70s, but he doesn’t miss a ton of bats but is fairly reliable and a decent fifth starter. He gets around his lack of scout-tantalizing stuff by mixing his pitches: he throws six separate pitches at least 10% of the time: a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a cutter, a slider, a change-up, and that big curve. He’s struggled against lefties this year, but his splits are normal over his brief career. He’s not must-see TV or a breakout candidate, but there’s an awful lot of value – as the A’s are seeing – in a guy like this who can be pressed into duty and keep his team in the game.

Marco Gonzales had something of a breakout last year, but is fundamentally more Mengden-like than we’d like to admit. There’s not too much bat-missing going on, but Marco limits walks a bit better. In his career, Marco’s given up 4.79 runs per 9, while Mengden’s at 4.95, propped up by a brutal first call-up. Marco’s the better pitcher, but one of these guys is a classic #5 who started the year in the minors and one is the centerpiece of his team’s pitching staff, and a guy the team was absurdly high on. Of course, Marco’s coming off a great run of starts since the calendar turned to June, so he could put some further distance between himself and Mengden, the poor man’s Marco, by utilizing Oakland’s run-suppressing park to his own needs tonight. Watching JP Crawford develop is still the best reason to tune in to these M’s games, but a close second may be watching Marco Gonzales re-adjust to a league that looked to have booked him a bit earlier this year. His velo’s trending up, though it’s still lower than I’d like it and lower than last year, but he’s demonstrating some HR-avoidance of his own.

1: Smtih, CF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Santana, RF
4: Vogelbach, DH
5: Narvaez, C
6: Seager, 3B
7: Nola, 1B
8: Negron, LF
9: Gordon, 2B
SP: Gonzales

The M’s have made a number of moves in recent days. The big news for followers of the minor leagues is that the high-performing trio of SP Ljay Newsome, C Cal Raleigh, and SP Logan Gilbert have all earned promotions out of high-A and up to AA Arkansas. Arkansas is now loaded for bear, with Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Raleigh, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Logan Gilbert and Newsome all on the roster with the club’s best bullpen arms as well.

The M’s have DFA’d LF Mac Williamson and brought back UTIL Kris Negron, who’s been a consistent performer for Tacoma. The M’s outrighted Andrew Moore back to Tacoma as well, so they may be preparing for further moves; they still have an open spot on their 40-man roster. Also returning is RP Sam Tuivailala, who the team acquired last year, but who quickly went down with a torn achilles.

With Parker Markel and David McKay optioned back to Tacoma, the M’s had one more spot on their active roster, and they’ve brought back SP Erik Swanson. Swanson had some injury issues in Tacoma and wasn’t terribly consisent, so I’m not sure if they’ll use him as a long man out of the bullpen, pair him with either Tommy Milone, who was inexplicably used for a bit in the Angels’ 13-0 no-hit win the other day, or Yusei Kikuchi, who’s innings are being managed by the org. As I wrote recently, the M’s pitching woes have extended to their near-majors prospects in Sheffield and Swanson, and while Sheffield’s working things out in AA, Swanson may need to do so in the bigs.

Austin Shenton homered in his first Sally League game as West Virginia shut out Columbia 5-0. Clay Chandler twirled 7 great IP. Spokane beat Everett 5-4, just as Las Vegas beat Tacoma 5-4 and even the AZL White Sox beat the AZL M’s 5-4. Inland Empire beat Modesto 10-6 in 15 innings, which doesn’t feel any better. Penn Murfee’s having a great under the radar season, popping up in multi-inning relief stints in Tacoma and Arkansas and settling in as a swing man and starter for Modesto. He tossed 6 IP in last night’s game, with just 2 unearned runs against. His ERA’s under 2 for the Nuts, and overall, he’s struck out 100 in 79 2/3 IP. Not bad for the 33rd rounder out of Santa Clara. \

Arkansas is back in action tonight facing the A’s top pitching prospect, AJ Puk, who’s back from TJ surgery. He’ll probably only pitch 2 IP. Tacoma blanked Las Vegas today 2-0.


2 Responses to “Game 98, Mariners at Athletics – East Bay Voodoo”

  1. heyoka on July 17th, 2019 5:21 am

    Is Marco going to join Seager and Felix as untradable?

  2. 11records on July 17th, 2019 9:15 am

    Marco has 4 more years of team control and is making under $1M this year.

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