Game 154, Mariners at Orioles

marc w · September 20, 2019 at 3:11 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

King Felix vs. Richard Bleier/Aaron Brooks, 4:05pm

Happy Felix Day to you, and a very pleasant Felix Weekend as well. It’s the second-to-last start for Felix in an M’s uniform, and I’m still moving through the stages of grief. I think I’m in denial right now, though it’s definitely tinged with grief. I think intellectually we’ve all understood that Felix is no longer in the M’s plans, and thus everything from their goal of contending in 2021, to the weird season-in-limbo that will be 2020, to Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn’s development and a host of things related to the future… none of that has anything to do with the M’s favorite son. You may have read Larry Stone’s column in the Seattle Times about Jerry Dipoto’s performance at the M’s town hall, laying out his rosy view of the future to M’s season ticket holders – if not, it’s here. I didn’t feel this the first time, but upon the second read it hit me: if everything goes right, Felix will be somewhere else, attempting to thwart this rebuild.

Yesterday, the great Patrick Dubuque noted that the M’s had to win 8 of their final 9 games to finish the year just as they began it: with a 13-2 run. After yesterday’s weird comeback win, they’re down to 7 of their last 8, and they begin a series with the 49-104 Baltimore Orioles today. This…this could happen. Please let this happen.

Today, the M’s face opener Richard Bleier, a lefty reliever who throws about 89. Like a classic LOOGY, Bleier struggles mightily against right-handed bats, but is tough against lefties. Unlike a classic LOOGY, the Orioles don’t really have a need for situational relievers, as essentially everything baseball-related is, for them, a tough spot. Thus, Bleier’s faced over 100 righties, and they’ve done plenty of damage against him. After Bleier serves his time, the Orioles will hand the ball to righty Aaron Brooks. Brooks is one of those pitchers that, for whatever reason, I think used to pitch for the M’s. To be clear: he hasn’t. But he just *seems* like a guy who would’ve come over in an early DipotoDeal or maybe that lost 2015 season, where Zduriencik and company cast about for help and came up with Rob Rasmussen and company. Anyway, Brooks throws 91-93, and has a four-seamer with average movement, a sinker that functions as his primary heater, a good sinking change-up at 85, and a hard, gyro-spinning slider at 86. He began the year with Oakland, and tossed 50 innings for them, but HR troubles and the A’s remake of their staff in July got him banished to Baltimore.

Brooks isn’t bad – there’s the bones of a useful 5th starter here, especially with that change/slider combo. But the problem, like many other pitchers have found this year, is that he simply can’t get to those pitches. He throws a fastball, and batters obliterate it, so he’s not able to show them something trickier. As a marginal MLB arm, I’m sure a part of him was thankful that the O’s traded for him and immediately put him in their rotation, or whatever the hell you call this primary pitcher gig now. It’s an opportunity! But people make fun of the Orioles and their work with pitchers not because they’re mean-spirited or because they’re fixated on one or two edge cases like Jake Arrieta. The O’s really, really do have serious, lasting, pervasive problems developing pitching. It should get better with their front office shake-up, and their minor league teams were, if anything, MORE successful than the M’s, with one of their affiliates notching a league strikeout record, just as the M’s did. But it doesn’t help the Bleiers and Brookses of the world right now, in 2019. Brooks has now thrown just over 50 IP, nearly exactly as many outs as he recorded with Oakland. And that 5+ ERA in Oakland is now a 7.11 ERA. His HR problem hasn’t really gone away, but it’s gotten slightly better. The problem is that improvement’s come at a cost of…everything else. Strikeouts down, walks up, BABIP awful, a strand rate of “nope,” etc.

With Oakland, he used his sinker most, followed by his slider and four-seam, in essentially a dead heat for 2nd-most-used-pitch. With Baltimore, he’s going with almost an equal mix of his four pitches, with the four-seamer now slightly more used than the sinker, and the change-up used more than the slider. It’s an interesting change, and just based on movement, it’s one I understand/support. But it’s not working, and the O’s need to figure out why. The slider still seems like his best pitch, and the change-up isn’t half as bad as its results would indicate – he’s getting BABIP’d to death on it. But he still doesn’t have a lot to offer lefties except for that change. The M’s need to take full advantage of his fastballs, especially the sinker, a pitch he still favors against lefties.

1: Long, LF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Seager, 3B
4: Lewis, RF
5: Narvaez, C
6: Nola, 1B
7: Vogelbach, DH
8: Moore, CF
9: Gordon, 2B
SP: El Cartelua

Peoria beat Glendale 10-3 last night in the AFL. Julio Rodriguez went 0-4 with a walk and RBI, Ray Kerr pitched 2 2/3 IP, striking out 3, walking 2, and giving up a run.
In the first game, Penn Murfee snuck a win despite giving up 5 runs in his 2 IP, though only 1 was earned. He K’d 2 in his start. Sam Delaplane pitched the final 2 IP, getting 2 Ks of his own, and allowing just 1 hit in a scoreless appearance. Julio Rodriguez was 0-3 with a walk, and Jose Caballero (playing 3B) went 2-4.


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