Game 97, Athletics at Mariners – A Critical Homestand

marc w · July 22, 2021 at 4:14 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Chris Flexen vs. Sean Manaea, 7:10pm

The M’s wildcard odds took a hit with yesterday’s loss; they’re now just below 3%. That sounds bad, but look at the standings, and the M’s are only behind Oakland for the second wild card. The M’s odds are so low because projection systems keep waiting for the Angels to wake up and play well, and frankly, I’ve just seen the Angels, and that – predicting the Angels will suddenly have pitching – is not something I’d put money on. This doesn’t mean that the M’s have it made. The A’s are better and ahead of them. But it means games leading up to the deadline *against the team they’re chasing* take on additional importance. Games like, oh, tonight’s.

The Mariners need pitching and they need upgrades to a couple of positions that are holding them back. Jerry Dipoto remains focused on the longer term needs of the team, and doesn’t want to spend prospect capital on a rental – meaning, they don’t want a player who’ll become a free agent at the end of the season. That’s fine, but given the number of teams that are completely out of it, supply of players under contract for at least 2022 won’t be all that hard to find. Typically, what we need is for someone to go first and sort of set the market.

Someone just did. The Rays, the team currently sitting in the *first* wild card position just acquired Nelson Cruz from Minnesota. That’s a really good fit, and it strengthens their chances not only of making it into a playoff game, but pushing Boston for the AL East title. It also amps up the pressure on teams like Seattle to do something – anything – to try and keep up.

Thus, the M’s are in kind of a chicken/egg situation in this homestand. If they play poorly, they may throw in the towel on acquiring another starter, say. If they close the gap, the pressure to make a deal grows. But, of course, making a deal sooner would actually help them close the gap. Whatever the M’s decide to do, this series is a big one, as Jake Mailhot lays out in this preview at LL.

We can’t talk about weird playoff chases despite poor underlying metrics without mentioning that the M’s were in a very similar position back in 2006, when they leveraged a good farm system to upgrade their anemic line-up. It…it did not go well. They did something similar after 2007, and that may have actually gone worse somehow. But this year’s team has advantages those earlier ones don’t. For one, the farm system is actually deeper than it was in the Choo/Jones/Cabrera years. I don’t mean “this crop is guaranteed to put up better MLB numbers,” as that is both a high bar and completely unknowable. But I mean that the M’s have highly regarded prospects within the industry, and they have desirable prospects beyond the big ones like Kelenic/Rodriguez that everyone’s been talking about for years. The Athletic/Keith Law’s midseason top 50 list just came out, and includes Noelvi Marte, for example.

Sean Manaea’s having one of his better seasons this year at the age of 29. He’s had ups and downs in terms of his raw stuff and his results, but he’s been remarkably similar in terms of approach. He throws a four-seamer around 60% of the time, and uses his change to righties and slider to lefties. He’s had low-K seasons like 2018 and 2020, but his K rate is up noticeably this year. One of the drivers is that he’s around the plate, and is generating more swings off of his fastball.

1: Crawford, SS
2: Haniger, RF
3: France, 1B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Torrens, DH
6: Murphy, C
7: Kelenic, CF
8: Moore, 2B
9: Long, LF
SP: Flexen


One Response to “Game 97, Athletics at Mariners – A Critical Homestand”

  1. Sportszilla on July 22nd, 2021 5:02 pm

    It does seem to me like one other difference between 2006/2007 is that the overall baseball landscape is a lot different, and acquiring real talent on the free agent market is a lot more doable now than it was in 2006-07, when more teams would just throw money around.

    That isn’t to say that I either expect the Mariners to spend like, well, drunken sailors in the offseason nor that they should, exactly, but the reality is that there will be good players available at fair prices in the offseason, and while the Mariners do seem to have a set of promising young players I’m going to need to see a couple of those position player prospects succeed at the MLB level before I feel like we’ve really got the framework of a contender, and thus are justified in cashing in some of those prospects for older MLB-level players.

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