Cactus League Nights: Dodgers at Mariners – Pitching Stability

marc w · March 22, 2021 at 5:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Justus Sheffield vs. Trevor Bauer, 6:40pm Root Sports,, Mariners Radio

Yesterday’s game couldn’t have gone any better for M’s fans. A great pitching performance from James Paxton in his spring debut, homers from Kelenic/Rodriguez, solid work out of the bullpen – it was just about perfect. Sure, you’d have liked a bit more offense from players who’ll actually play for the Mariners come April (the M’s got three solo HRs by players who won’t be on the opening day roster), but other than that, it hit all the right notes. Paxton looking just about as good as he did in his Seattle heyday was great to see: here’s the guy that helps solidify the rotation, and he looks healthy and ready for the season.

That’s important, because for all the compliments paid to the pitching staff this spring by their manager and GM, they’ve not been all that effective. Yes, yes, it’s spring, and Arizona remains a great hitting environment, but you’d like to see the M’s above average in some sort of category. They’re 24th in ERA, and 18th in K:BB right now. Paxton hasn’t been playing in the “real” fake games, and Chris Flexen’s been working out the kinks, but the real problem has been the bullpen. This was a known weakness, but it’s one the M’s at least attempted to address in the offseason. They’ve gotten great performances from Aaron Fletcher and Casey Sadler, but some of their late-inning arms like Rafael Montero, Kendall Graveman, and Keynan Middleton have all scuffled. Yes, one bad outing can distort the stats, but it seems like most arms in the ‘pen have been quite hittable – they’ll get strikeouts, but they’re giving up baserunners.

That’ll be something to watch in a game like tonight’s, as the defending champs run out an almost-opening-day-worthy line-up. Justus Sheffield’s had some of the same problems as his bullpen comrades this spring, with 11 hits and 5 walks allowed in his 8 1/3 IP. Sheffield’s alternated good games with poor ones, but this is not the kind of team you want to have less than your best stuff against. A nice game tonight would give Sheff some momentum as the regular season approaches.

On the plus side, the M’s got to Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer the last time they faced him, and have to have a bit of confidence. They’ve been solid this spring, and while there are still some serious holes, it’s impossible not to dream on guys like Kelenic and Rodriguez.

The biggest story in baseball today was the report in the Athletic of the bizarre and dysfunctional Colorado Rockies, who used front office staff as part-time clubhouse attendants during the 2020 season, and seem to have run off most of their baseball operations/research group. Only the Kevin Mather debacle got the Rockies a brief respite from bad press, but that’s over. The Rockies had a homegrown core, but categorically failed to build a winner around them, as Jeff Bridich’s big free agent signings have put up *negative* WAR since 2015. They’ve been almost comically mismanaged, and now find themselves in the division with two of baseball’s best clubs. You could *almost* feel sorry for them, but then you realize that they’ve been to the playoffs twice in recent years, despite it all. Good things happen when you draft/develop Nolan Arenado, Trevor Storey, and Charlie Blackmon.

1: Haniger, RF
2: Trammell, LF
3: Lewis, CF
4: Seager, 3B
5: Torrens, C
6: Moore, 2B
7: White, 1B
8: Marmolejos, DH
9: Crawford, SS
SP: Sheffield

Good to see the Seager brothers start against each other.


5 Responses to “Cactus League Nights: Dodgers at Mariners – Pitching Stability”

  1. Stevemotivateir on March 22nd, 2021 8:42 pm

    The Rockies also let LeMahieu walk without getting jack in return. They paid to ditch the best third baseman in baseball, got nothing for one of the best second basemen, and may very well get nothing out of Story if the new CBA eliminates the QO and they fail to deal him before the deadline.

    That is one hot mess.

    Regarding Seattle’s temporary hole that is LF, I wonder if it’s still Trammell’s job to lose. I could see Moore in LF, Haggerty sniping 2B and perhaps Reinheimer getting the bench gig. Even Fraley has looked better lately.

  2. eponymous coward on March 22nd, 2021 9:46 pm


    Those are Moore’s, Haggerty’s and Reinheimer’s MiLB OPS’s, over more than 6000 MiLB PAs.

    I’m a bit skeptical that giving these guys a ton of plate appearances in April isn’t anything other than adding a bunch of lead weights to the M’s offense. In any universe other than the one where current M’s management is being cheap bastards, Moore’s the utility guy and there’s different options at 2B and LF we picked up as free agents at reasonable cost, while we wait for Kelenic to get screwed out of a year of free agency.

  3. bookbook on March 22nd, 2021 10:19 pm

    Even if you disregard the growth, a solid 2b with a .768 milb plays. And recent adventures at catcher, among other areas, should at least suggest that you shouldn’t completely dismiss the possibility of late improvement for old minor leaguers. I’ve seen the negative fallout of spending too big too early.

    Let’s let this one play out.

  4. Stevemotivateir on March 23rd, 2021 3:18 am

    Kyle Lewis has a .751 MiLB career OPS as an outfielder. Should he be a role player?

    Kidding. Seriously, we’re talking about a stopgap until Kelenic arrives because they went cheap. It doesn’t really matter who it is. José Marmolejos has a career. 802 OPS and he’s in the conversation as well. He’s on the 40 even though he couldn’t hit a breaking ball last year, and he’s out of options.

    I brought these names up because Trammell has been whiffing a lot. I think I’d rather see him start the season in the minors and deal with all the service time complaints that would surely follow.

    That said, the biggest mistake this offseason might have been not bringing back Walker. Neither Flexen nor Dunn are locks to remain starters, and prospects like Kirby, Hancock, Then, and Williamson are probably still 2 years out. They have 3 legitimate starters for 2022. But, whatever. It’s a year away.

    I’d rather see Moore in a utility role as well myself and maybe we will again in 2022. I’m more concerned with White and Crawford offering enough offensively, but there’s a whole season in front of us and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they don’t cut it as regulars.

  5. eponymous coward on March 23rd, 2021 9:14 am

    “I’ve seen the negative fallout of spending too big too early.”

    The M’s 2021 payroll is under 70 million. They’re not spending big- they’re actually spending less then the perennially cheap Oakland A’s, and only a little bit more than the Rays (who are just north of 60 million after some salary dumping). They’re being cheap.

    There’s almost no negative fallout between 70 million in payroll and, say, 15-20 million more (which would still be below league average), aside from the 15-20 million in profit ownership is going to pocket this year while blathering about “the process” and how they want to bring a good baseball team to Seattle SOME year, just not THIS year.

    We’re not talking signing 170 million in annual value in contracts like the Dodgers here. Basically add two or three more MLB players to the roster and the roster isn’t dependent on having everyone hit their 99% upside projection for the team to be actually good.

    And when Kelenic or Juliooooo or Gilbert forces a roster decision because the roster has too many players… well, I hear Jerry likes to make trades.

    “Kyle Lewis has a .751 MiLB career OPS as an outfielder. Should he be a role player?”

    Huh, I can’t imagine why a 25 year old is different from a group of minor leaguers who are already 27-28 as a group and have something like 8000 collective minor league PAs.

    I mean, seriously? There’s a reason why players get thousands of MiLB plate appearances without doing much in the majors. MiLB performance is broadly predictive of major league performance. Especially once players hit an age where they peak (27-28).

    I remain skeptical that the team’s going to hit inside straights on a bunch of AAA ballplayers, and that we’re being sold a bill of goods on that. It is broadly frustrating that this team’s response to very obvious roster holes (OF, IF, DH), at a time when useful MLB ballplayers aren’t that expensive for a year or two rental, is some fan dance about their commitment to winning and AAA veteran retreads.

    “It doesn’t really matter who it is.”

    My argument is that if some of the stopgaps were actual MLB ballplayers than AAA ones, this team would actually be OK, at fairly minimal cost (except to some profit margins).

    “That said, the biggest mistake this offseason might have been not bringing back Walker. Neither Flexen nor Dunn are locks to remain starters”

    Wouldn’t have objected to that, but again, this was the team being cheap.

    “I’m more concerned with White and Crawford offering enough offensively”

    Having additional MLB-caliber talent around helps with that as well, but this isn’t anything we actually disagree about based on past conversations. I am broadly skeptical about White being good this year, like Marc is. I don’t really have an issue with Crawford in isolation (he’s good enough to be a MLB regular based on his glove and his adequate but not very good offense), but if the M’s lineup in April really does look like the lineup last night, I don’t think they’ll score a lot. That bottom third of the lineup could be a lot of easy innings.

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