Game 143, Red Sox at Mariners

marc w · September 13, 2021 at 5:20 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Logan Gilbert vs. Eduardo Rodriguez, 7:10pm

Sorry for the outage; I’ve been camping and out of cell phone range, so it was something of a rude surprise to find that the M’s had dropped their series against Arizona. While the M’s weren’t shut out or anything, they again struggled to score and struggled to put a weaker team away as a result. If the M’s come up short this year, their inability to hit at home will be a big reason why.

We know who the M’s are at this point, for better or worse. They don’t score many runs (they average 4.25 per game, 23rd in MLB) and they’re merely middle-of-the-pack at preventing runs (4.65 per game, 16th in MLB). Digging deeper, the M’s offense gets so few hits, you’d *expect* them to score even fewer runs – BaseRuns puts the figure at 4.16 per game. Thus, combining their expected runs and runs allowed, the M’s are an astonishing 13 games ahead of the pace BaseRuns would expect. Some of that is their incredible bullpen, but a big chunk is their success in clutch situations, a factor we’ve mentioned essentially since the season’s first week. That luck still hasn’t run out.

But the run environment of T-Mobile can give and it can take. By suppressing scoring overall, it helps the M’s overcome a lack of talent on the pitching side, as well as a so-so defense. It can keep games close enough for the M’s clutch weirdness to show up, and thus we see the M’s doing so well in one-run games (yesterday’s excepted). It’s been enough to give the M’s a 10-games-over-.500 record at home at 41-31 *despite* scoring only 4.14 runs per game there. And it’s that low run environment that means some of those late-inning rallies are going to fall short.

It’s already incredibly difficult to evaluate what this season means. The M’s have four position players who’ll grade out at or above league average: Ty France, Mitch Haniger, JP Crawford, and Kyle Seager. Seager is likely gone after this year, and Haniger’s year has been hurt by some inconsistency, leaving him with a slash line that looks more like 2019’s down year and less like 2018’s awesome one. JP Crawford’s overall value is buoyed by his position, defense, and park – and you could say the same about Kyle Seager. Seager’s overall production is great despite a brutal OBP because he’s hit for so much power. Even in a career year for dingers, Seager’s production is only in the neighborhood of average because his BABIP and average are so low.

The M’s were never going to keep him around, and at this point, they probably shouldn’t: let Kyle choose his own adventure. Don’t tether him to a rebuild, and let him hit somewhere other than Seattle. At home, Kyle Seager has a sub-.600 OPS. Wanting him to return for next year is, frankly, cruel to Kyle.

All of this means that the one thing that this year was supposed to deliver – vital information on the M’s next core group of players – hasn’t really happened. The guys who were supposed to be pretty good were merely pretty good. The prospects… oh man, the prospects… have been atrocious. But again: how much can we separate out the T-Mobile effect, which is bound to be worse for players exactly like Kyle: fly ball hitters who derive much of their value from dingers. The version of Taylor Trammell we saw this year fits that description, and it’s a particularly apt summation of Cal Raleigh (poor Cal is hitting even worse on the road, though). Strangest, given his scouting report, is that it has applied to Jarred Kelenic. As in yesterday’s game, he’s shown pop at times, and perhaps more than some scouts thought he’d show – at least this yearly in is career. But what’s missing is the gap hitting, bat-to-ball skills that he’d shown in the minors. Kelenic has a .525 OPS at home. Sure, it’s bad on the road, too, but I still wonder how much of these struggles we’ve seen from the youngsters is due to an inability to get comfortable at home.

They’re a very different team with a very different narrative this season, but it all kind of reminds me of the Mets. The Mets score even fewer runs than the M’s, but give up just as few. They’re trapped in 2014 a bit, the peak season for pitchers in the past few decades. It hasn’t worked out for them, exactly (though they were leading a bad NL east for much of the summer), but they feel like they’re more or less as expected: a team whose pitching would carry them. They’re also a team who’s succeeded at home despite a more or less total inability to score runs there. The Mets are scoring just 3.7 runs per game in Queens (!), but are giving up a Dead-Ball-Era-style 3.37. Despite losing Jacob de Grom, they’ve managed to emulate 1968 baseball here in 2021.

But again, how much of this is dominant pitchers, and how much of it is the actual park? Sure, Francisco Lindor had himself a night last night, but he’s clearly underperformed this year, and a big part of that is a .238 home BABIP. Kelenic, incidentally, would kill for a home BABIP that high; his sits at .169. I’m just not sure that these things are purely bad luck. Citi Field and T-Mobile were notoriously difficult to homer in, and so both adjusted their outfield wall dimensions several years ago. More recently, both parks introduced humidors like the big hitters’ parks in Arizona and Colorado. These changes – reduced OF area making XBH harder to come by, humidors reducing fly ball distance – combine with the various changes to the baseball’s drag, and produce… we don’t really know. The fact that we still don’t know is frustrating, and it makes Jerry Dipoto’s job – already tough – that much harder. He’s going to have to untangle which guys are struggling due to factors outside of their control, and which guys are struggling due to deeper issues within themselves and their skillsets.

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

Tacoma won the first game of a doubleheader today in Tacoma, beating Sacramento 8-4. They’re tied late in the game in the nightcap. Jake Fraley homered in his rehab assignment in Game 1, and Taylor Trammell is 2-2 with 2 BBs in Game 2.

Modesto’s still sidelined with that Covid outbreak, and it was a rough weekend for Arkansas, who got blasted by Springfield on Saturday and Sunday.


One Response to “Game 143, Red Sox at Mariners”

  1. Stevemotivateir on September 14th, 2021 1:41 pm

    For me, the question regarding Seager’s future has already been answered. The questions about Kikuchi, Dunn, Sheffield, and Crawford have been answered as well.

    But there are three questions I still have:

    1. Should they move Haniger in the offseason?
    2. Should some of these rookies start 2022 in the minors?
    3. Who else is expendable or better off getting moved?

    I have my ideas, but what I expect differs.

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