Game 153, Mariners at Pirates

marc w · September 19, 2019 at 9:30 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Joe Musgrove, 9:35am

Last night, Gerrit Cole struck out 11, extending his run of double-digit strikeout games, solidifying his hold on the best single-season K/9 rate in history, and oh yeah, topping 300 strikeouts. It’s been a remarkable ascent after last year’s….remarkable ascent, and he’s a big reason why the Astros are going to win 100 games for a third straight season. The Pirates got a couple of starters from Houston in return for Cole, like today’s starter, Joe Musgrove. But even so, there’s essentially no way to view this trade as equal or great for all sides.

What’s worse, the still-contending Pirates doubled down, shipping talented but frustrating prospects Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow to Tampa in exchange for SP Chris Archer. I don’t want to overstate this, but it’s hard to see the effect of those two moves together as anything less than franchise-altering. OK, that still sounds hyperbolic. They’ve collected some perfectly fine, average-ish to a touch below starting players – they’ve received good, solid, middle-of-the-road baseball players – and in return they’ve sent All Stars to two of the better teams in the AL. The Pirates front office has two potentially valid defenses. First, they can say that the moves were required by circumstance – their need to get better right now to stick around with the Cubs/Cards. Second, they can say that Meadows/Cole/Glasnow were never going to do what they’ve done elsewhere in Pittsburgh. The latter excuse just shifts the blame from the FO to the player development staff, but I tend to think it’s absolutely true. The former is a weird one; it’s not clear if ownership – the Pirates have been annoyingly frugal – wanted Cole gone before he got expensive, for example. Sure, they took on more money to bring in Archer, but they seemed hesitant to increase payroll to go along with the urgency of a playoff chase.

Whatever your view of the situation, and whomever your preferred scapegoat might be, the fact is that the Pirates have shipped out players who are among 2019’s biggest stars. If Glasnow and Meadows stay healthy, they can have the kind of impact Cole had in the next few years, which is not a great thought for an M’s team that’s targeting the wild card. Gerrit Cole wasn’t a dominant force in Pittsburgh, and wouldn’t have had the kind of season he’s had if he’d remained. Musgrove and Archer haven’t had the support they’ve needed to grow into or get back to being good, solid top of the rotation arms. The M’s have shipped out a solid team’s worth of young talent during Jerry Dipoto’s tenure, and I tend to remind people of that. A rotation made up of M’s cast offs would almost certainly be better than the actual 2019 M’s rotation, which is kind of depressing. But even I wouldn’t argue that Dipoto’s death by a thousand cuts approach has been as damaging, as deleterious, as the Pirates moves. The Pirates, as we’ve seen, are bad. And they’re not really going to get a lot better, as they big prospect haul they got for Cole/Meadows/Glasnow are here, starting for this go-nowhere team. They don’t have outfield teens. They’ve got Joe Musgrove, who throws 92-93 with a slightly odd sinking movement and a good slider.

1: Long, 2B
2: Smith, CF
3: Narvaez, C
4: Nola, 3B
5: Vogelbach, 1B
6: Lopes, RF
7: Walton, SS
8: Bishop, LF
9/SP: Kikuchi

Musgrove’s on his second consecutive year of posting an ERA way, way above his FIP. He doesn’t get hit quite as hard as Marco/Yusei, and isn’t sporting a crazy BABIP. It seems more that Musgrove really struggles with runners on base, and thus his sequencing is killing his runs-allowed numbers. In his career, batters have a .303 wOBA agaisnt him with no one on, but a .336 with men on. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s pretty striking: batters K less against him with men on, but he doesn’t get any benefit from pitching around people: the HR rate’s the same, and their batting average is higher.

This M’s line-up without Kyles Lewis or Seager is among the weakest we’ve seen this year, but Shed Long’s been hot and the Pirates have not, so let’s go get it.


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