Game 128, Mariners at Rays

marc w · August 21, 2019 at 10:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Cory Gearrin/Wade LeBlanc vs. Charlie Morton, 10:10am

If the season’s worn you down and you checked out in May, OR if you’ve been scrutinizing every box score throughout the system for signs of a coming juggernaut, today’s a game you’ll probably want to see. The suddenly surging M’s start CF Jake Fraley, the ex-Rays farmhand who’ll make his MLB debut. There’s no doubt that the progress of Kelenic/Rodriguez has been exciting, but to make a competitive club, the M’s need contributors besides the ones everyone saw coming. They need a bunch of Mitch Hanigers, essentially, and Fraley seems pretty similar to our injured RF. Like Haniger, Fraley was bobbing along in another club’s system, not hitting the ball with enough authority. After a swing change, his stats looked completely different and right then, just as those changes started to become apparent, he was traded to Seattle.

Fraley was a bit younger and obviously hadn’t made his MLB debut, but the parallels are there. He’s sustained those gains first with Arkansas, where he outshone the heralded group of Kyle Lewis and Dom Thompson-Williams, and then in Tacoma. Of course, even with his .553 SLG% in Tacoma, it’s been hard to know what to make of AAA stats after the introduction of the MLB juiced baseball. Fraley’s line is good for a wRC+ of only 103, though I believe wRC+ doesn’t account for a player’s home park (in the minors; it does for MLB). The entire league is slashing .278/.355/.481, after all. But you can’t hold him back because the PCL’s hit too much, especially if the player blocking him is Keon Broxton. Fraley’s pushed his way here, and it’ll be fun to see how he adjusts.

Charlie Morton’s curveball is one of baseball’s most effective pitches, and while this is almost sacrilegious, it reminds me a lot of Randy Johnson’s slider. He’s used it to post a career season at age 35, and he’s one of the big reasons the Rays are in the wild card chase. Speaking of which, the M’s wins the past two days have knocked the Rays OUT of the WC lead, with Oakland slipping past them. It’s a very tight three-way race for two spots between Cleveland, Oakland, and Tampa. On paper, this game is a mismatch, with Morton a dominant, high-K starter and Wade LeBlanc a…not as dominant command/control/change-of-speeds lefty. But who knows? The M’s got to Morton in Seattle, even if the Rays pulled ahead late. The M’s bullpen’s been better of late, and if they can score some runs early, maybe they don’t need Wade to go too long.

The M’s initial uses of the opener strategy backfired, as the openers had an ERA near 20 for a while. But they’ve gotten much better recently, with Matt Wisler one of the key contributors. Gearrin hasn’t been nearly as effective, but hopefully they’re learning from their initial failures and tailoring their opener to the specific line-up they’re facing, kind of the way the Rays did when they originated this strategy a year or so ago.

1: Smith, RF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Nola, 1B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Narvaez, C
6: Vogelbach, DH
7: Lopes, LF
8: Fraley, CF
9: Gordon, 2B
SP: Gearrin/LeBlanc


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